City Council candidate questionnaire: Ward 5 Lynn-Wood Fields
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 5council candidate Lynn Wood-Fields.
1. While this is a non-partisan race, how do you align politically?
I am a democrat and a proud supporter of labor and unions. However, on the city council, I serve my constituents and their needs regardless of political affiliation.
2. What do you see as the top issues facing the city at this point in time?
I think the top issues in Missoula are around safety in our community, homelessness, attainable housing and how to fund our city budget beyond raising property taxes. To elaborate, we need to support our police officers, growing need for our fire departments, the unhoused population and rising property taxes as the means to fund city budgets.
3. What would you bring to the table to resolve your top issue?
I actually ran for office because I have many ideas around how to solve these issues that are outside the box. First and foremost, the shift of funding everything through property taxes rather than industry is taking its toll on so many Montanans and we need to address this issue immediately.
I think for now, we need to go through our budget and “pause” items that are wanted instead of needs at this moment. Fund the essentials line items. Simultaneously, we need to organize for 2025 legislative session around turning down the property tax amount (which they could have done in 2023 but did not even after the DOR warned them of the increase) We also need to promote alternative funding sources, like taxes that target higher income earners, second homes, and re-writing the ordinances that would allow “Tourist Tax” to include places like Missoula with million of visitors each year for music and sporting events.
I grew up in Whitefish and the members of city council went to the legislature to get this passed in 1996. We went from the worst roads to having tourists’ dollars pay for them. Missoula should not be subsidizing the visitors to use our roads and community. Whitefish has raised over $45MM and is now using 10% of this funds for affordable housing.
Finally, I believe there are some private sector solutions around the homeless issue like a debit card from a non-profit bank that funnels a percentage of sales to a non-profit who could fund the needed services instead of property taxes.
4. Do you support funding police and fire, and how would you help them gain the resources they need to do their job?
I very much support the police and fire. I believe they need to be one of our top priorities in our city budget. I would go through our budget and find places to “pause” our spending and make sure to properly allocate the funds to these services. I also believe we have opportunities with upcoming federal grants to incorporate line items that include safety growth needs in the application.
5. In what way do you support local businesses, both big and small?
As a small business owner for the last decade, I am a huge supporter of local businesses. I have worked for 3 legislative sessions on the MEDIA Act (Montana Economic Development Industry Advancement) that has incentivized film productions to use Montana businesses with a brick and mortar address for over 2 years with 25% of their direct spend.
This bill has led to over $195 million in direct spend in the state of Montana. I also work for AccelerateMT, an organization that focuses on helping both big and small businesses thrive through workforce development, business plans, funding resources and employer/employee connections. This kind of macro level organizing and connections can be useful in community micro solutions around business success and job growth.
6. The city is facing a budget crisis. How would you address it?
First off, this is the place I am most excited to work on as a city council member. I am an Executive Producer and business owner who has successfully run million dollar budgets. I believe we are working off an old budget that was created years ago around the past vision of the city.
I believe reworking this budget to fit the current needs of our community is essential to both reach our goals and to also help our community not feel the pressure of growing costs. I would sit down with each department and ask questions about their expenses. I would make sure to vet each line item. I am also curious about our health insurance policies, lobbyist pays, fees for memberships and the amount we spend on our technical and computer services.
7. What areas would you cut to help the city balance its budget next fiscal year?
I have already looked through our budget and talked to multiple people who specialize in this arena and there are many areas that can be changed to help our budget. We can look at the amounts we spend on subscriptions, memberships, cost of our IT/Tech, cost of what we spend on lobbyists, cost of health insurance for city employees and many more little items that can be shifted to save and fund other needed departments at this time.
8. How would you help address homelessness, and how does personal accountability come into play?
Compassion is key. I believe everyone should have a safe place to sleep. I also believe families and community members deserve to feel safe in parks and in their city. I am also aware of the concern around how to pay for these issues.
Right off the bat, I feel Missoula as a municipality needs to structure all the organizations and who they can help into one website. As of now, all of the organizations that can help seem siloed. My first recommendation is to triage the situation with simpler communication to the community. People don't seem to know where to go or where to send people who need help.
There is a difference in strategy between needs for women leaving abusive situations with kids rather than the needs of those with mental and addiction issues and we need to help communicate and organize these resources. I know many organizations in Missoula are working on this and a one-stop website of communication will help with transparency and community understanding around the solutions being implemented.
I also think we are in need of some very out of the box and create solutions like this debit card idea from Seattle that profit shares with a non-profit based off transactions.
9. How can the City of Missoula play a stronger role in supporting businesses and growing jobs?
The mayor sets the vision and the tone for a community. We need someone who has the communication, social capital, vision, connections and energy to connect opportunity to the multiple stakeholders in these sectors. I believe that the mayor brings the right people and organizations to the table to make these opportunities a reality. I believe with the Inflation Reduction Act and the legislative bills around CTE opportunities, Missoula can lead the nation with climate reduction jobs and trade job possibilities.
10. How would you support housing development in Missoula without turning to subsidies like the Affordable Housing Trust Fund?
I am grateful to live in a community that is really trying to address and resolve this issue. With our Code Reform we have the opportunities to create solutions for multiple living opportunities.
I am very excited about the ADU element that is allowed in Missoula. Not only does this provide more rentals, it can be an extra revenue source for homeowners.
Creative solutions around co-op opportunities that are already happening in Missoula and can be replicated. This story is a powerful example of outside of the box solutions.
I support the city council looking at TOPA and COPA policies when well implemented, can help move buildings out of predatory ownership, improve building conditions, and preserve critically-needed affordable homes.
Finally, I would promote green area build that creates community focused developments. These communities would have biking with small grocery stores and food options that are great and help our environment and connect communities.