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Opinion: Time for new day for Missoula
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Guest column

Opinion: Time for new day for Missoula

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It is critical to note that our city government has a spending problem. During Mayor Engen’s first term of office, fiscal year 2006, Missoula’s total debt obligations were $49,885,319, and today they stand at $216,468,550, an increase of over 400%.

We will never be able to spend our way out of our homeless problem, since it has never worked before. The mayor's "10-year plan" to reduce homelessness exemplifies a strategy that has failed.

What we need are new policies that will produce different outcomes! My approach is a combination of tough love, compassion and common sense. People who are homeless must be redirected from a life of self-destruction to a life of prosperity through treatment, rehabilitation and job training.

We will impact our homeless crisis by allowing builders to develop affordable housing for people in our community down on their luck — excluding transients.

In addition, we will collaborate with a group of nonprofit partners and seek funding from our state government to expand mental health and addiction programs.

Our administration will not shield people from adversity; in fact, doing so would likely shield them from the things that give them the strengths to do for themselves. Instead, we will create opportunities for our friends and neighbors to do for themselves.

I believe that all humans possess certain human capital and may achieve success if given opportunities to do so without cumbersome government regulations and handouts!

Fiscal Responsibility

As taxpayers (owners and renters), we have consented to turn over to our government a portion of our hard-earned paycheck. In exchange, our local government owes us a limited range of services, primarily relating to public infrastructure, safety and freedom to pursue our economic endeavors.

However, single parents, university students and families on a fixed income are scarcely getting by with high rent costs in Missoula. In addition, senior homeowners and business owners in Missoula struggle to afford the rising cost of property and business taxes.

Missoula’s high burden of taxation is a direct result of its rapid government growth. As Missoula’s next mayor, I will focus on keeping spending growth consistent with economic growth. Lower tax burdens and the right kind of government will best promote growth in Missoula.

Housing Affordability

Missoula’s housing affordability results in part from regulatory policies that inhibit growth and restrict housing supply. When you have less demand and more supply, housing prices stay low.

Across the country, we know that areas with the highest homelessness rates are the places where it is most challenging to build, rents are high and vacancy rates are low. As Missoula's next mayor, we would start by easing zoning restrictions such as minimum lot size, parking requirements, accessory dwelling units (ADU) and low-cost housing options to enable builders to build — increasing supply. Moreover, we will implement uniform tax incentives that encourage growth for everyone, such as a tax abatement on all property investment and construction.

Local Businesses

I believe that our local businesses are the backbone of our economy. To encourage our local businesses to stay in our community and prosper, we will implement incentives such as tax credits and exemptions. By doing so, our local businesses will likely boost the job prospects and income of our residents.

It is time for a new paradigm in our great city. It is time for the politics of unity. With your help, together, we will soon walk in the brilliant light of a brand-new day.

Jacob Elder is running for mayor of Missoula. 

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