Ward 2 encompasses the Westside, Captain John Mullan and Grant Creek neighborhoods. Incumbents Jordan Hess and Ruth Swaney are both running unopposed. Ruth Swaney did not return a questionnaire.
1. What is one positive aspect and one negative aspect of your ward? What would you do to change the negative? How would you foster more of the positive?
Ward 2 is a microcosm of Missoula. Our ward is diverse — we are people from varied incomes and backgrounds living in a mix of housing styles in neighborhoods with very different characteristics. Our diversity is our strength, but representing such a ward is difficult, because it is not homogeneous. My approach to cultivating the positive while changing the negative is to listen to the residents of the ward and represent their concerns.
2. Is there a way to change the current budgeting process to better benefit citizens?
The city provides an array of services at a great value, but we need to find alternatives to property taxes to pay for these services. Local option sales taxes, gas taxes, or other mechanisms to capture revenue from visitors and out-of-town residents would require action from the Montana Legislature, but cities and towns across the state would benefit from them. As a state, we need to diversify the revenue sources available to cities and towns.
Public participation in the complex and nuanced budget process is critical, and we need feedback about what programs are important to residents.
3. What are your thoughts on restriping proposed by the Fifth and Sixth streets study and the Higgins Avenue study – is there a better way to serve all modes of transportation on some of our busiest streets?
While the proposed Higgins Avenue study has not been funded, we don’t need to look much past a Saturday Farmer’s Market to realize that Higgins is the lifeblood of our community and the center of active transportation. We can surely create a streetscape that functions better for all users and supports the Hip Strip businesses.
Our transportation network is a complex ecosystem of drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians and transit riders. Every person who chooses to bike, walk, or ride the bus makes our roadways more accessible for all users. We need to plan for and accommodate all modes of transportation. The City of Missoula’s Complete Streets Policy directs the city to support safety and mobility for all modes of transportation. I fully support its implementation.
4. What are your views on the city’s recent purchase of two private entities — Mountain Water Company and EKO Compost — and subsequent promises to invest heavily to upgrade them, ultimately bettering services for the community. Is this the job of the city, or is it overreaching?
Beyond essential life-supporting utilities, I believe that government should step in to provide services that are not adequately provided by the private sector. EKO Compost, a willing seller, sold their business to the City of Missoula. The compost operation is critical to our wastewater treatment operations and is an important part of the city’s energy and climate goals. Like the water purchase, the purchase of EKO Compost is revenue-neutral to the city’s General Fund.
Before the city acquired its water utility, 128 of 129 cities and towns in Montana owned their own water supply systems. The acquisition of Mountain Water will not raise taxes, will provide stability in our water distribution system, and allows the city to bring the system up to industry standards. Ownership of our water supply will benefit our future generations.
5. Affordable housing is a near-constant concern in Missoula. What can (or should) the city do to help make housing more affordable?
Our zoning code should be refined to support affordability. Tax increment financing should prioritize development of affordable housing. Transportation infrastructure investments should make it easier and cheaper to get around Missoula. The city should encourage wage growth to support home ownership while supporting private and non-profit developers that provide affordable housing. I support the mayor’s effort to create a comprehensive housing policy; every development decision the City Council makes should support housing affordability.
6. Missoula’s full of outdoors opportunities and killer restaurants and breweries. What’s your favorite outdoor activity in town and where’s your favorite place to get food or a drink afterwards?
In my neighborhood, I watched Draught Works transform a blighted, empty building into an essential neighborhood gathering place. Down the street, the city is working to redevelop the Riverfront Triangle to include businesses and improved river access. We’re fortunate to have so many opportunities in Missoula — I can leave work and be at the river with my dogs within a few minutes. We have many of these opportunities because of our commitment to open space and our development efforts. Our outdoor spaces and our thriving businesses embody an ethic of caring about the place we call home.