Editor¹s note: On Sundays and Wednesdays, the Missoulian is featuring stories on the candidates for Missoula mayor and their thoughts on the issues. Next up: the proper relationship between a city and its citizens.
Crowley: Focus on neighborhoods, work environment and economic planning
Lou Ann Crowley¹s top three priorities if she¹s elected mayor all come from what the public tells her they want, she said.
She plans to respond by leaving behind a government that¹s a fine-tuned machine, accountable and responsive, when she leaves office.
Toward this end, she¹ll work to create a productive working environment. She¹ll begin a Walk a Day in My Shoes program, in which she spends one day a month with one city department or individual employee.
³Then the mayor finds out what the day-to-day challenges are and what resources they need,² she said.
She¹d use the monthly experience to review policy and procedures to make sure regulations are clear and concise.
³It enables them to serve the public better,² she said. ³Everyone ends up being on the same page in their department and clear in their objectives.²
Second, she¹ll serve neighborhoods at a new level.
³Oftentimes, neighborhood issues don¹t filter up to City Hall,² she said. ³So I want to bring City Hall to the neighborhoods.²
Crowley plans quarterly meetings with neighborhoods, which would include their City Council representatives and the related neighborhood councils and neighborhood associations. Sometimes, a city department head might attend.
³This way, perhaps longstanding issues that people have been talking about can reach resolution,² she said.
³Being on City Council for nine years, I¹ve seen things work and not work,² she said. ³Best results begin with listening. And that¹s how you build leadership people trust.²
Third, Crowley said, she will bring an economic plan to the city.
People talk about it all the time, she said, but the city still needs an overarching economic plan. The other half of the city¹s housing conundrum is wages. The price of housing doesn¹t seem to be going down, Crowley said, so we should turn to economic development to prosperity.
Economic development figures into the overall wellness and vibrancy of the town, she said.
First, Crowley would update indicators of quality of life using such things as the Missoula City-County Health Department¹s Missoula Measures. They¹d include housing availability, general health of the population, drug and alcohol use among youth, unemployment rate and the like.
³Then we start pooling the resources and talents from the university, the business community, the economic community, the unions, nonprofits, Job Service, the county, low-income advocates,² she said. ³It¹s everybody.²
She wants to focus on jobs for the future how to build on what we already have and attract new jobs that reflect Missoula¹s values. A comprehensive plan is much more than jobs, she said.
Crowley doesn¹t want a plan that stays on a shelf, she said. And she wants it to set attainable goals and lay the framework for meeting the continual challenge and staying ahead of trends.
³It¹s ongoing,² she said. ³As the world changes, we are stepping up.²
Engen: Open space bond, increase housing and rewrite city¹s regulations
If Missoula¹s voters elect him mayor, John Engen will set to work with these three things at the top of his priority list.
First, pass a new open space bond. To do that, he said, he¹ll work with city staff, citizen advocates, and private and public entities to define the scope of a bond and then promote it.
³It¹s a huge collaborative effort,² he said. ³I¹ve been talking about it for six months. And I¹ll talk about it as long as I have to to get it done.²
³Quality of life² in Missoula means different things to different people, he said. But the valley¹s open hillsides, river corridors and trail system are valued by just about everybody.
³They¹re a big, tangible chunk of what this community values,² Engen said, ³and how it defines itself.²
Voters passed Missoula¹s last open space bond, for $5 million, in 1995. It¹s down to its last $130,000. The money went to protect large parts of Mount Jumbo and Mount Sentinel, with the taxpayers¹ money working in concert with fundraising by conservation groups.
Second, Engen said, ³we are going to work to build more houses.²
Engen will ask the City Council to define where Missoula is going to build houses, not where it¹s not going to build houses, where the conversation has focused the last few years.
³We all have a responsibility in this,² he said. ³I don¹t think we can shut the gates. I think instead of spending the next four years talking about where we don¹t want to build, let¹s first preserve open space and then talk about working together on where we want folks to live.²
That does not mean ³jamming people together in the neighborhoods we love,² he said. And it does not mean covering the valley floor with houses.
³It does mean we renew, we reuse, we redevelop,² he said. ³We take advantage of opportunities that can be as big as a Champion mill site or as small as a half-block of an abandoned commercial use.²
When developers come to the city proposing new neighborhoods, ³we make them as nice as the ones we love,² he said.
The mayor is only part of this, he said.
³I think we create an environment of trust and openness,² he said. ³Then we make sure that kids and older people have places to live.²
Engen believes homeownership is vital to a healthy community and a healthy and prosperous middle class. Owning equity in a home gives people freedom and security.
Third, Engen plans to rewrite the city¹s rules and regulations. Starting with consultant Sally Mullen¹s report to the Office of Planning and Grants earlier this year, he plans to work with the county on rules governing zoning and subdivisions.
³That¹s a big piece of work,² he said.
The city¹s sign ordinance needs some attention, too.
A mayor with fresh eyes and ears and different experience can energize an old situation, he said.
³There¹s new energy, and we come to new solutions,² he said.
Engen was first to declare his intent to run for mayor, on Feb. 4, three months before filing opened. He¹s been campaigning since.
³This is a really long job application,² he said. ³The proof is in the pudding.²