Julie Merritt

Ward 6 City Council candidate Julie Merritt

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Ward 6 encompasses the River Road and Franklin to the Fort neighborhoods. Longtime Ward 6 representative and City Council Chair Marilyn Marler is leaving her seat open this year, endorsing Julie Merritt, who is running unopposed.

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?

People are the strength of the Ward 6 neighborhoods. Through my volunteer work, I’ve met people who grew up and raised their children in the Franklin neighborhood. River Road has many passionate people willing to invest in their neighborhood, e.g. volunteers who fund-raised for Lafray Park. We need to keep homes affordable so those who want to stay in these neighborhoods can. Negative aspects are lack of good sidewalks and parks. Sidewalk installation and repairs continue to be needed to provide safe routes to school, work and services. Parks are also important for quality of life, especially as density increases.

2. Is there a way to change the current budgeting process to better benefit citizens?

From what I understand, the majority of expenditures go to essential services like public safety, water and sewer. We must pay competitive rates to retain qualified employees and we must continue to invest in our infrastructure and services. I don’t believe this leaves much room for cuts on the spending side. Increased revenues are key to offsetting the need to raise property taxes. We won’t always be able to count on booming growth to provide this revenue. We need to look at other sources e.g., attracting more businesses with well-paying jobs to the area to build the tax base. 

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?

I drive Sixth Street to work on a regular basis. When I bike to work I use the trail system. The lack of a bike lane on Sixth Street between Russell and Higgins is problematic. A solution that matches the problem would be to convert one lane of Sixth to a bike lane from Russell to Higgins with turn lanes for vehicles at the intersections. I don’t support modifying either street where bike lanes already exist. Pull-outs for buses need to be incorporated; it would be a mistake to reduce Sixth to one driving lane without adequate space for bus stops.

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?

The Mountain Water acquisition was certainly costly both in terms of money and ill-will generated by the contentious legal battle. I understand the desire to own our water system, to have our fate in our own hands. I was dismayed at the assertion that Mountain Water Company did a poor job of managing the system. I hope we can heal from the divisive legal process. In regards to EKO Compost, I understand it will play a part in future management of our waste stream. As the city grows, we will need these options. I trust that our leaders acted in our best interest with this decision.

5. Affordable housing is a near-constant concern in Missoula. What can (or should) the city do to help make housing more affordable?

Increasing the supply of available housing will improve affordability. This means maintaining the pace of development we have seen over the past two years or possibly even increasing it. The cost of land is a major hurdle the city cannot really mitigate; however, we can look at current regulations that may be preventing us from maximizing our usage of developable property. To keep costs down, we need to focus development in areas that already have access to city services. We should consider modifying parking space requirements, fence setbacks, and provide more flexibility for recreational areas in multi-family dwelling unit projects.

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?

My family and I LOVE Missoula’s trails and parks. Many summer Saturday mornings will find us riding to the Clark Fork Market and enjoying food and coffee from one of the awesome local vendors. As so many other Missoulians do, we love the river for paddle-boarding, swimming and watching wildlife. My favorite pick-me-up? Black Coffee Roasting's cold brew.

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