2019 Missoula County Democrats Questionnaire
Do you currently hold or intend to seek any endorsements in this election? If yes, from whom or what organization?
Currently, I hold no endorsements. I do intend to seek them from almost all current members of Missoula City Council, The Missoula Area Labor Council, Montana Conservation Voters, and several private residents of Ward 5.
How has your work and community service in Missoula prepared you to positively contribute as a City Council Member?
Upon graduating from UM in 2008, I have had the opportunity to work in education as a high school English teacher, as a driver and laborer in the construction industry, and for the last 7 years as the owner of Missoula Process Serving. My professional resume gives me a unique perspective not just in one sector of Missoula’s economy but in three very different industries that have helped me appreciate and understand the diversity of perspectives in our community, and I believe that understanding is critical to justly representing my constituents as a City Council member. As a Process Server, I possess strong communication skills and am confident in my ability to empathize with and truly understand the issues of my constituents.
As the Vice President of the Jeannette Rankin Elementary Parent Teacher Organization and a member of the Miller Creek Neighborhood Council leadership team, I am experienced in working as a team to develop goals and objectives and rolling up my sleeves to get the job done. I thrive in a leadership role and am confident in sharing my ideas and making difficult decisions when necessary. While I am eager to continue to learn and grow in my new position, I will most certainly draw on the skills and abilities honed in my professional and volunteer background as a member of Missoula City Council.
What would be your top three objectives, if elected?
My top three objectives as a member of Missoula City Council are Taxes, Housing, And Communication. Most Missoulians are no strangers to my first two objectives, taxes and housing, and unsurprisingly these are two of the most complicated issues. As a fellow homeowner and taxpayer, I support exploring creative solutions for reducing individual tax burdens, but I also fully understand the City of Missoula budget relies on this income for critical city services and realize the opportunity for budget cuts is small. As such, my plan to address concerns with taxes is to help educate Missoulians about potential alternative revenue sources, such as a local option sales tax or VAT, and to inform my fellow citizens what their hard-earned tax dollars are actually paying for.
My objective when it comes to housing is to figure out solutions in implementing the newly adopted housing policy and my ultimate goal would be to cultivate a way to fund it through private investment, grants, non-profit groups and other sources that do not include ballot measures. If we can move this policy forward without having to put any extra burden on the taxpayers or have to ask Missoula to vote on a ballot measure, I think the policy will be seen to completion and success and be viewed in a positive light by the majority of Missoulians. I believe that Missoula is the type of community that will get behind this policy as it develops and through the efforts of many people, we can find creative ways to fund and accomplish the goals that it lies out.
My third objective is communication. I will not say the word “transparency” here because the City of Missoula is already very transparent and information and data is available to anyone, but it is not easy to find. If elected, I commit to improving communication between the City Council and the citizens of Missoula through a variety of mediums. There are simple and cost-effective ways for the City of Missoula to better communicate with Missoulians about how their tax dollars are being spent and foster opportunities for citizens to engage with their government and share opinions via social media, digital marketing, and good old-fashioned tabling.
What is the percentage of the city budget that should go to fire and police, separately and collectively?
For the FY 2019, the city budget allotted 23.6% to fire and 26.9% for the police department. I know that the FY 2020 budget will tentatively include several more FT police positions and increase both of these budgets, which is great that Missoula will be able to do that with the additional revenue. I think these numbers are fair and in an ideal budget I believe 50% allocation to fire and police is appropriate, although I support additional spending on a case by case basis to cover extra expenditures when necessary.
What parts of the housing policy recommendation under consideration by the current City Council do you support or not support? Why or why not?
The recent housing policy developed by Eran Pehan and the MHCD is a great first step in trying to solve Missoula’s housing issues. In the current state, I support the housing policy it in its entirety and believe the guiding principles used to develop the policy are sound. I acknowledge the policy is, at this moment, just a plan and the processes involved for operationalizing the policy may evolve over time. I am encouraged to see Missoula take action on housing and I look forward to the benefit it will bring to our community.
Do you support or oppose the interim rules for Townhome Exemption Developments? Why or why not?
I do support the interim rules for Townhome Exemption Developments (TEDs). TEDs are a great way to develop housing in Missoula and add to our overall community value, but the Hillview Crossing development has exposed some weaknesses in the program and it is necessary to put some rules in place to address a few key concerns. Missoula City Council must think and plan strategically, and although we want additional housing in Missoula as quick as we can get it, short cuts and hasty decisions will only cost us more in the future.
The city contributes $100,000 to Mountain Line’s fare free transit service. Do you support this partnership and subsidy? Why or why not?
Yes, I do support the partnership with and subsidy of Mountain Line. Many Missoulians rely on and derive great benefit from our zero-fare bus system which also reduces traffic congestion and carbon emissions. Additionally, Mountain Line is a big piece of the puzzle in Missoula reaching its “Zero by Fifty” goal and City Council’s ongoing support is vital in keeping this community resource.
In 2016, Missoula’s City Council enacted an ordinance requiring a background check for all private gun sales within city limits. If you were on the Council, did you support that ordinance? Why or why not?
If you were not on the Council, would you have supported the ordinance? Why or why not?
While I was not on City Council in 2016, I would have supported the ordinance. Although I see some issues with enacting and enforcing municipal gun laws, I do believe that small steps like these are necessary in moving forward as a country toward the common sense gun laws we so desperately need. A national gun registry and background checks on all gun sales would increase the safety of American citizens, and although practically enforcing a city limits background check ordinance could be challenging, it would be a small step in the right direction.
How would you advance Missoula’s progress toward its carbon neutrality goals and 100% clean electricity resolution, in partnership with Missoula County?
The Missoula Zero by Fifty plan is an incredible and bold undertaking by the City and I support this goal wholly and believe it is attainable. As a City Council member, I believe that trusting the Zero Waste Committee and Zero Waste Leadership committee and assisting them by passing policy wherever possible is the best way to help Missoula reach this goal. As with all policy decisions made, I also think City Council can help by educating the public about these decisions and sharing tangible ways citizens can be involved in achieving this goal.
Is the city on the right track in determining local property taxes? How would you go about aligning your priorities with limited resources and communicating those decisions to the public?
Are there other potential sources of revenue that would not burden current residents?
Yes, I think the city is doing everything they can with limited revenue streams and that the current property taxes are reasonable and fair. There is a communication gap between the city and citizens as to the detailed breakdown of what taxes are going to, but as I mentioned in a previous question, this is something I aim to work on and improve. We have a large tourism economy in Missoula and as we move into the future, the ongoing pressure from city council and the citizens of Missoula will hopefully result in state legislation to at least give the option of putting a VAT tax on the ballot. For now, each decision must be carefully weighed and measured and any creative ideas to cut costs and generate additional revenue are all we have.
Do you support the use of TIF as a tool for development?
Yes, I am fully in support of the use of TIF as a tool for development. I think Ellen Buchanan and the MRA are doing amazing things for Missoula and a stroll through downtown Missoula is great evidence of what the program, has accomplished in a short time. As a member of City Council, I will completely support TIF and will make it a personal priority to help my fellow Missoulians understand TIF in effort to cultivate support for this tool.
How would you promote the creation of sustainable jobs that pay livable compensation and their retention?
What tools and/or incentives would you utilize to boost healthy economic development?
As a member of city council, I would support the creation of sustainable jobs by first supporting the existing large employers of Missoula such as the University and the health care sector. These are currently the two biggest employers in Missoula and by helping to aid in their success, one helps to keep and create jobs. City council also has the ability to continue their contributions to the Missoula Economic Partnership and working with them find creative ways to incentivize and attract employers to Missoula though incentives and the overall great quality of life that Western Montana offers. Tools that we have are limited, but the MRA does a great job of using TIF and other programs to help in developing Missoula. The recent addition of Opportunity zones from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 presents a way for private investors to make a difference in Missoula and may also be a tool that City Council can use down the line to attract employers to Missoula.