A wise woman once said, “There’s a world of difference between truth and facts." Facts can obscure the truth. Between truth and facts, the philosophical point of difference is personal experiences.
While some facts can add up one way on paper, my campaign has been hearing Missoulians’ personal experiences. During campaign season, some may label sharing these personal experiences as “noise.” I believe that type of thinking does a disservice to Missoula. Listening to others should be part of the mayor’s balancing act.
Here are some truths to consider:
• The city property tax assessment has been lowered this year. Property value is up and the tax base has expanded. Yet, the truth for many is these facts don’t matter. When home values have gone up so rapidly in the last few years, the possibility of a lowered city property tax one year doesn’t make a big impact for many who are already living on a burdened budget. I live with this truth too and that’s part of the reason I’m running.
• We now join the rest of the state in owning our water system. We’ve been told this purchase would not raise our taxes. Months later, the truth is many don’t understand how a purchase with legal bills that ended up being 20 times the original estimated amount, won’t cost them down the road. On top of that, the city still refuses to release the legal documents related to the acquisition. Facts would make more sense if those documents were shared.
• Development has and continues to happen in Missoula, that’s an undeniable fact. Still, over the course of the last few months, so many developers and business owners say the truth about Missoula is it’s not business-friendly. Some businesses and developers have received city help but not most. Most find there are too many hoops to jump through and with overcomplicated processes. I think we can make our economy more robust and business-friendly by following a similar path to Bozeman’s economic strategy plan.
Whatever the facts say is the most expensive city in Montana, Missoula still doesn’t come up as affordable. Housing prices keep rising and wages aren’t keeping up, a basic combination for unaffordability. Stating that “folks being taxed out of their homes due high prices is a myth” is deeply insensitive, especially since many are seniors who helped shape this community. No matter how you slice it, we have to improve affordability, and being thoughtful of others’ experiences is key.
It’s a fact that many things have been accomplished in the last few years, but I believe it’s time to listen to Missoulians and make progress using their truths. I’m ready to use a combination of market-based solutions to address Missoula’s lack of affordability. There’s value in taxes, so no, working to lower taxes won’t fix everything but it might help Missoulians that don’t have an extra couple hundred dollars to spare. Just building more apartments won’t fix the housing crisis, there needs to be a solid economic strategy. Business is complicated and some processes can’t be eliminated — but with input from business owners, we can help streamline processes. This just briefly summarizes some of my solutions.
The truth is not all of you will vote for me, but I do have a favor to ask. Take some time to listen to your friends, family, neighbors and people whose experiences and truths in Missoula are vastly different from your own. There are facts but there are also truths. I want to use both to make a difference, and that’s the real balancing act.