Ward two City Council candidates differ sharply on spending budget, economical housing, gun laws ~ Missoula Existing


Incumbent Ward two City Councilwoman Mirtha Becerra, left, faced off with challenger Brent Sperry, proper, on Wednesday evening. (Dave Stalling/Missoula Existing)

Though the two candidates operating to represent Ward two on the Missoula City Council agreed that development and connected website traffic challenges are the most significant challenges facing their neighborhood, they disagreed on challenges connected to the city spending budget, economical housing, tax increment financing, addressing climate modify, assisting the homeless and firearms restrictions. 

Incumbent City Councilwoman Mirtha Becerra faced off with challenger Brent Sperry Wednesday evening at the final candidate forum hosted by Missoula’s Workplace of Neighborhoods and moderated by the League of Lady Voters.

Ward two incorporates Missoula’s westside, Grant Creek, Mullan Road and Pleasant View neighborhoods. 

Each candidates agreed that the city should really wait for approval of a $23.two million federal Construct grant, and building of new infrastructure in the Mullan and Reserve Street locations, prior to moving ahead with many proposed subdivisions.

“We have been waiting about now for a couple years for the Construct grant to address website traffic,” Sperry mentioned. “I feel perhaps that is from the city getting reactive rather of getting proactive. There’s no secret exactly where we’re going to make in this town, and we only have so substantially space left to make on. The city requirements to be additional forward pondering.” 

Sperry mentioned the city puts a lot of income into upgrading infrastructure for industrial buildings, and requirements to do the very same for neighborhoods. He also mentioned Missoula could use additional police to enforce website traffic laws and security issues.  

Becerra mentioned that when it comes to rezoning and improvement: “I really feel extremely strongly that we can’t count our chickens prior to they hatch. I am definitely hopeful we will be awarded the Construct grant, but I feel we need to have to wait till that occurs prior to we place in any additional developments.”  

With regards to zoning for multi-loved ones, higher-density housing, the candidates disagreed. 

“I feel we need to have to let for that kind of zoning all through Missoula, just not everywhere in Missoula,” Sperry mentioned. “There’s locations it tends to make sense, exactly where it is close to infrastructure, but I do not feel we need to have to be slapping it into each neighborhood just to spend for infrastructure.” 

But Becerra mentioned higher-density zoning is the “equitable” issue to do.

“It eases the burden for these who cannot afford housing in our neighborhood,” she mentioned. “I feel there are some challenges, such as locations restricted by environmental constraints and opposition by homeowner associations, but I feel we need to have to appear all of our land and see how and exactly where we’re going to address this extremely critical concern that we’re facing these days.” 

Becerra mentioned she “absolutely” supports Missoula’s newly adopted economical housing policy. “I’ve been involved in all the arranging and stakeholder meetings, and searching at all the possibilities that we have, and generating an inventory of all the tools that we have, in order to be as efficient as feasible in addressing this.”

Sperry mentioned he supports some elements of the economical housing policy, but not other folks. “Anything that has to be subsidized by the city creates a bigger dilemma,” he mentioned. “There are a lot of people today on the verge of getting taxed out of their residences, and if they get started seeing their taxes raised to subsidize housing for other folks, I feel we’re going to produce a larger dilemma than we’re attempting to repair.”

He described the availability of a lot of apartments as economical solutions, and recommended that people today take a comparable method as he did when he began out.

“My initially residence was a trailer residence on Mullan Road,” he mentioned. “Then I sold that and moved to a residence in Lolo mainly because it was additional economical to reside out there than the city of Missoula, and I just kept functioning my way up. It was about eight or nine years ago I was capable to acquire a residence in Missoula. I do not feel that is a undesirable route to take for new property owners.” 

Becerra mentioned there is a need to have for additional diversity of solutions, which includes multi-loved ones residences, “tiny homes” and single-loved ones residences. “I also feel we need to have additional infill improvement, and need to have to feel creatively and collaboratively,” she mentioned. “Some of it will have to be funded by means of public sources, and some of it will have to be completed by means of incentives.”

When asked what variables have been important contributors to the elevated size of the city spending budget, Sperry mentioned the city workforce is expanding also massive.

“In the most recent spending budget, we’re arranging to employ a different 35 staff to the tune of $1.eight million, and that appears to occur year right after year,” he mentioned. “Currently, the city has about 630 or 640 staff.”

To lower spending, Sperry mentioned: “We need to have to cease the bleeding. Freeze the hiring. I feel additional methods like that will aid us make do with what we have. I feel all our division heads need to have to go by means of the spending budget and appear at what we need to have, and exactly where they can reduce. I can assure each 1 of them can obtain locations to trim and would go a extended way in minimizing our taxes.”

Becerra didn’t agree, and attributed  budget increases to development. “The additional people today we have, the additional solutions we need to have to present,” she mentioned. “Things also expense additional than they applied to. We need to have to spend our staff, and we need to have to raise our staff to meet the requirements of a expanding population. All these items add up to the query of how do we place additional income in our spending budget?” 

Amongst her ideas: “We need to have to take a challenging appear at our spending budget and see exactly where we can save income,” Becerra mentioned. “But I also feel we need to have to diversify our tax income, and take a additional critical appear at tax reform. I feel we need to have to appear at the truth that we have a thriving tourist economy, and appear at approaches of taxing that in a way that is valuable to our neighborhood. I feel there’s a lot of area for conversation, and I feel that could be a way to produce an influx of income that could preserve us from growing taxes.”

Becerra mentioned she is opposed to a state-wide sales tax, but would assistance a neighborhood sales tax if she have been assured it would be a “benefit and not a burden” to the neighborhood. 

Sperry, on the other hand, mentioned he was “completely against” a sales tax. “Tourists will be paying it for the duration of the 4 months or so of tourist season, but we’ll be paying for it the rest of the year,” he mentioned. 

They also disagreed on the use of tax increment financing. 

“I’m against TIF funding,” Sperry mentioned. “I feel the income generated would go substantially additional if it was straight going to the schools and other solutions from the get go. I feel all the corporations coming right here are coming right here for the precise very same causes we reside right here, mainly because it is a terrific city. I do not feel if they did not get aid to place up a creating that they wouldn’t make it.” 

Becerra named TIF is a very good, prosperous enterprise tool that has helped increase the Missoula neighborhood. “People want to move right here, and people today want to function right here, mainly because we have created terrific investments in our neighborhood,” she mentioned.  

The candidates also differed on how the city should really address climate modify. 

“I feel this should really be up to men and women, and has to be voluntary, not mandated,” Sperry mentioned. “I do not feel we need to have to get started passing ordinances on plastic bags and items like that.”

Becerra mentioned she was committed to the city’s purpose of attaining zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050. “We need to have to allocate the funds to make that occur.” 

They also disagreed on supplying additional shelter for the homeless. 

“Places like the Poverello Center play a essential function in our neighborhood,” Becerra mentioned. “These are people today in or neighborhood that need to have aid, which includes households and kids, and we need to have to obtain approaches to aid them.”

Sperry mentioned he does not feel most of the homeless in Missoula are from right here, but come from other locations, and that supplying aid will only bring additional homeless people today right here.

“I see Missoula as a mini-Seattle,” he mentioned. “I do not feel creating additional facilities and solutions is a resolution. It is only going to magnify the dilemma.” 

With regards to firearms restrictions, such as requiring background checks for private gun sales in Missoula:

“I feel we have a gun violence epidemic,” Becerra mentioned. “We need to have to safeguard our neighborhood and our kids. Access to guns requirements to be much better controlled.” 

Sperry disagreed. “We have a violence epidemic, not a gun violence epidemic,” he mentioned. “Guns are just tools. We have a mental well being crisis, and need to have to concentrate on that, not guns.” 

Ward two voters can make a decision in between the candidates for the duration of the basic election on Nov. five. Ballots for the all-mail election will be sent to voters in October.


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