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 5 council candidate Bob Campbell.

1.     While this is a non-partisan race, how do you align politically?

I’m running as an independent in this race. I consider myself a fiscal conservative, social moderate.

2.     What do you see as the top issues facing the city at this point in time?

Housing - Increase housing supply, particularly to increase rental vacancy rates so rents become more affordable. Streamline the development review process, ensure the newly-created growth policy allows a variety on housing types in appropriate areas and densities.

Fiscal Responsibility - being a good steward of the people's money, realizing where the money comes from that the city spends.

Emergency Services - Fully support and fund our Police and Fire Departments.

3.     What would you bring to the table to resolve your top issue?

The housing crisis facing Missoula is two-fold: developers having to utilize an antiquated development review process and lack of affordable housing options for new families (entry-level) and senior housing. I was a land use planner for over 5 years in various capacities in local city and county governments.

Currently the city is undertaking an update of our growth policy and zoning codes in order to streamline the process, give developers predictability in the process, and shrink timelines for development review to minimize holding costs for land, especially in these times of increased interest rated. It also means developing a more flexible code that allows more options for affordable housing where it makes the most sense.

We need to take advantage of low-income housing tax credits when available, as was the case for the Villagio complex being completed. Additionally, let’s provide more options for accessory dwelling units and townhome exemption developments to foster affordable housing options. Renter-owned communities to the extent we can support them using affordable housing trust fund dollars are another option. Community development financial institutions and NeighborWorks Montana can assist in the endeavor as well.

4.     Do you support funding police and fire, and how would you help them gain the resources they need to do their job?

I was a police officer in Missoula for 23 years and one of my top priorities is to ensure our men and women in our emergency services have the best equipment and training available to offer Missoulians the most efficient, professional service available. This means prioritizing funding that meet their needs, as requested by the respective Department Chiefs.

5.     In what way do you support local businesses, both big and small?

Part of my responsibility, I feel, is to ensure local government does no harm to local business. By this I mean not creating or supporting burdensome regulations, fees or new taxes, and by offering transparency to the business community as to what local government seeks to accomplish. I feel that business looking to locate here sometimes feels apprehensive about investing when there’s a lack of transparency and predictability from local government leaders.

6.     The city is facing a budget crisis. How would you address it?

With ARPA dollars running out this year the City is going to have to make some critical decisions coming FY25 next August. As it stands now the shortfall will be around $4M depending on the amount of valuation from new development next year.

We need to look at every department, and in particular those positions that have been funded in the past using ARPA dollars and whether those still make sense going forward. I also see value in zero-line budgeting every 4 years to re-evaluate each Department’s budget in their entirety. Also, we need to be more mindful of TIF financing of infrastructure going forward, and other projects that involve taxpayer dollars.

7.     What areas would you cut to help the city balance it's budget next fiscal year?

As mentioned above, I’d start with those positions previously funded with ARPA dollars. Programs such as JEDI should be re-evaluated as to their success, as well as funding for lobbyists to the State each session.

8.     How would you help address homelessness, and how does personal accountability come into play?

We should sustain what works, such as the TSOS, Villagio, Blue Heron Place and such. I’m against rotating camps around each part of town as recently suggested by Councilwoman Jordan. I believe personal accountability from those utilizing taxpayer-funded services has been severely lacking.

The TSOS has 24/7 oversight, accountability from those using those services, and as a result an almost 45% rate of people transitioning into permanent housing options. For those who refuse services, create public health hazards and commit crimes there must be accountability and there’s nothing in the “Martin” or “Grant’s Pass” decisions that prevent that.

9.     How can the City of Missoula play a stronger role in supporting businesses and growing jobs?

I support development of our infrastructure, both “hard” and “high-tech” infrastructure to encourage industry and business that provide higher-paying jobs. In the City’s growth policy under economic health, infrastructure is Goal #1, as it should be.

10. How would you support housing development in Missoula without turning to subsidies like the Affordable Housing Trust Fund?

As stated before, a new growth policy that streamlines development review and offers predictability in that process will have a positive effect on housing development. Recent legislation from the State will also encourage more townhome, duplex and triplex development – which I believe is appropriate as part of our “focus inward” growth concept. The availability of low interest tax credits from the MT board of housing also play an essential role, as demonstrated by the success of the villagio complex.