by William Skink
Yesterday I took my dogs out to one of my favorite spots, but the parking lot was full. In the 15 years I’ve lived in Missoula, I never had problems parking at this spot (the location will remain undisclosed), but in the past year this has become a somewhat frequent occurrence. I have also noticed signs in the neighborhood going up to discourage the overflow traffic from parking on side streets.
I’m not relating this story because I think anyone in Missoula cares about whether or not it’s convenient for me to find parking so I can enjoy the outdoors with my pups. What I do suspect Missoulians care about, though, is how growth occurs in a valley where the land for growth is finite.
Two days ago Stockman Bank broke ground on its flagship bank located on the corner of Broadway and Orange Street. In a piece at Missoula Current, Mayor Engen made a concise statement regarding growth in Missoula, one he might regret saying so bluntly:
Missoula Mayor John Engen joined bank officials in the ceremonial groundbreaking. He said the project will enhance one of the city’s major gateways. It’s the first of several projects planned for downtown Missoula over the next two years.
The projects include student housing and a $30 million Marriott Hotel on Front Street, and the $150 million redevelopment of the Riverfront Triangle – a project that includes a conference center, retail, housing and office space.
“The fact that Stockman Bank has elected to not only invest in Missoula but to invest in the heart of Missoula – that is on this particular corner – is a big deal,” Engen said. “I firmly believe that over the course of the next 10 years, we’re not going to recognize downtown Missoula, but that will be in a good way.”
While growth in Missoula moves full steam ahead, problems at the University are festering, problems downtown are festering, the jail is full and housing is getting more and more unaffordable with every new bond passed.
Will there be students to fill the new student housing when student safety is still an open question, especially after UM paid off Jordan Johnson 245,000? Will tourists feel safe in Missoula when downtown is littered with broken people suffering from addictions and mental health problems? Who will be able to afford to live here as the cost of living goes up, but shitty service sector jobs maintain stagnant wages–East Coasters and Californians?
Personally, I don’t think the Mayor’s vision will come to fruition. Why? The economy, stupid. Thanks to the total corruption of our political system, the next economic crash is guaranteed–a matter of when, not if.
If you haven’t heard about NIRP, and if you don’t understand why Larry Summers is the latest economist to call for scrapping the hundred dollar bill, then the coming crash will probably catch you by surprise.
Investors can build all the banks and student housing they want, but if the fundamentals are fucked, then it’s all being built on a foundation of sand.