This letter was submitted via the Missoula Current’s Facebook page.
Unfortunately, what Jesse Ramos is good at is using sound bites and making complex problems appear simple. Property taxes are a problem, but it is not as simple as government overspending or prioritizing wants over needs.
Notice how he accuses “the government” of various deeds when it is the citizens of Missoula who have stepped forward to say the arts, parks, trails, pools, etc are important. Also, read between the lines. While Jesse presents himself as advocating for the middle class and those with lower incomes, nothing could be further from the truth. In Jesse’s world, government would not fund pools or trails or parks.
Government would not chip in to help fund fare-free bus service. Government would not help fund the arts. While these services are available to and benefit everyone, they most benefit those who aren’t wealthy. As Jesse recognizes, the wealthy can afford to join a country club and use its pool. Do you think if Splash was run by a private corporation it would cost 6 bucks to get in? The slides in Columbia Falls cost almost 30.
The wealthy can afford to buy large tracts of land to have their own open space and trails. Do you think the local multimillionaire would let you have your kid’s birthday party in his or her yard? The wealthy can afford cars, insurance, gas, and parking. Do you think they’ll let you borrow their car for free? The fact is, these services are available to and benefit everyone. And we as a community have said they are important.
I grew up in Missoula. I’ve seen a lot of changes, some I like, others I don’t. I don’t discount the impact that rising property taxes have on everyone, especially those with low or fixed incomes. It is something I’ve been concerned about for years.
But the cause is not as simple as Jesse leads people to believe. We have cut taxes on the wealthy and corporations with the promise that those cuts would lead to wild growth and higher wages. They haven’t.
The state has decreased its share of funding for schools requiring local taxpayers to pick up the tab. The state has refused to allow local governments to devise tax systems that would work best for the particular area-what works best for Missoula doesn’t necessarily work for Malta. Overall wages in Montana are low while the cost of living is not.
There are myriad other factors that contribute to the problem. Unfortunately, Jesse has chosen to ignore those and pretend everything will be okay if we just limit government to police, fire, and roads.
Jesse has the ability to be a good council person. To question assumptions and cause others to think about what they’re doing. To offer a different perspective. Unfortunately, he’s choosing to be a demagogue who fans the flames without addressing the underlying issues.
And in the end, that doesn’t help anyone.