City Council candidate questionnaire: Ward 2 Mirtha Becerra
The Missoula Current sent a candidate questionnaire to all City Council candidates ahead of the General Election in November. Below is the response from Ward 2 council candidate Mirtha Becerra.
Becerra's challenger for the Ward 2 seat, Rebecca Dawson, didn't respond to the questionnaire submitted to City Council candidates.
1. While this is a non-partisan race, how do you align politically?
This is a nonpartisan race, and a non-partisan job, and a non-partisan way to bring the voices of my constituents to local government. I am endorsed by the Missoula County democrats but over the years I have served on city council, I have worked hard to represent everyone in my ward and work collaboratively on council with everyone regardless of political affiliations.
2. What do you see as the top issues facing the city at this point in time?
Housing, Growth and development, Homelessness, and property taxes. Many of these issues are interrelated and I believe that in order to address one issue we need to think about all of them wholistically. How much and where we grow will influence our housing stock availability, it will impact the ability of people to afford a place to live, it will affect our ability to provide shelter and eventually housing for our unhoused neighbors, it will impact our infrastructure and traffic, etc.
3. What would you bring to the table to resolve your top issue?
As a land use and transportation planner I understand the importance of addressing these issues in an intentional and comprehensive manner. Having a professional understanding of these issues allows me to make informed and educated decisions and to better communicate with my constituents.
Serving on the city council has allowed me to gain experience and a deeper understanding of what it takes to address these challenging issues. I believe my professional experience combined with my tenure on the city council will make me an effective and well-informed representative.
4. Do you support funding police and fire, and how would you help them gain the resources they need to do their job?
Yes, public health and safety are core services our community expects and deserves. I will continue to support investments that result in our community being safe. I will continue to prioritize investments in our fire department so our resources meet the demand of an increase in population.
5. In what way do you support local businesses, both big and small?
On a personal level I try to shop locally whenever possible. As an elected official, I always support policies that will bolster or help local businesses. I support the city’s partnerships with our business community. I have and will continue to support efforts to provide safety across Missoula, so businesses can thrive.
I will continue to support transportation and land use decisions that revitalize or encourage a healthy business environment. I will continue to support policies that will create workforce and affordable housing which is a key component for businesses to thrive.
6. The city is facing a budget crisis. How would you address it?
The city’s budget is multilayered and complex, and its funding sources are limited. We need to continue to find ways to diversify our funding, so we don’t rely almost exclusively on property taxes to fund our budget. We have been successful at getting federal funding via federal grants to pay for bigger community projects. With a new administration starting this year, I look forward to a budget season that is more comprehensive so we can find ways to better align our budget to Missoula’s needs.
7. What areas would you cut to help the city balance its budget next fiscal year?
Before we cut any programs or services from our budget, we need to understand the ramifications of ending or reducing funding for these services or programs. Looking at how we prioritize investments and determining if they are still meeting the needs of our community is the responsible first step. Given the financial constraints we are under, it will be even more important to look closely at where we are allocating funds and, through a lens of equity and efficiency, decide if that’s how we need to continue to provide services to our residents.
I will advocate for a budget review process that allows ample time for city council and the community to examine the different budget components, I will advocate for creating benchmarks for programs and services we fund, and I will advocate for more public involvement opportunities during the process. Essential services such as infrastructure maintenance, safety and security will always have priority for me as I believe those investments reflect the core values of Missoulians.
8. How would you help address homelessness, and how does personal accountability come into play?
I believe this challenge requires a coordinated citywide effort. Local government, Missoula’s faith community, educational institutions, private sector, resource providers and the community in general, will need to be partners in this endeavor. Through partnerships and collaborations, we can begin to manage this challenging issue.
Examples of successful collaborative work in Missoula include the Temporary Safe Outdoor Space and the Trinity project, with a navigation center and a robust housing component as a long-term way to address houselessness. I will continue to support efforts like these. I will also continue to advocate for an increase in State funds and resources to address some of the underlying causes of homelessness such as substance abuse and mental health.
9. How can the City of Missoula play a stronger role in supporting businesses and growing jobs?
The Missoula Economic Partnership (MEP) has been instrumental in developing and fostering a successful business and investment environment in our community. Continuing to support the work the MEP does is one way the City can play a role in supporting businesses.
The city can also play a role in supporting businesses by addressing the underlying issues that are important to creating a healthy business environment such as affordable housing, childcare, and safety. The city could also strengthen its role as facilitator for apprenticeship programs, internships and collaborations with higher education and employment centers.
10. How would you support housing development in Missoula without turning to subsidies like the Affordable Housing Trust Fund?
I would support programs, policies, regulations and projects that help housing development. Some of the expected outcomes of Missoula’s zoning code and growth policy updates that can help with housing development include identifying areas for future growth and streamlining the review and approval process for developments.
I believe Public-private partnerships are another way to increase housing development. Lastly, I think the legal ability the Missoula Redevelopment Agency now has to invest Tax Increment Financing dollars in workforce housing will be a significant step towards adding more affordable housing stock in Missoula.