By Martin Kidston/MISSOULA CURRENT
When Adam Hertz served on the Missoula City Council, he often found himself on the losing end of most votes. As the council’s most staunch conservative, he learned to take a measured voice and swallow his political defeats.
Hertz now hopes to have better luck in the Republican controlled Montana Legislature. He filed to run for House District 96 last week and will square off against incumbent Rep. Andrew Person, D-Missoula, to represent the district.
“I’ve been interested in running for the Legislature, but I never quite new when the time would be right,” Hertz said. “I had constituents and friends from across the state encourage me to go for it in 2016. I thought about it, prayed about it, and talked to my wife and family about it.”
Hertz, who served four years on the Missoula City Council, plans to inform the Legislature on the challenges facing local government. Few state leaders have experience in budgeting and taxation at the city level, he said.
“I’m a fiscal conservative and believe in sending the state’s surplus back to the taxpayers,” Hertz said. “I believe in a pro-business regulatory structure and tax structure, and getting the economy moving forward and working.”
Hertz also believes the Legislature must take a closer look at Urban Renewal Districts. The districts are widely used in Missoula and have achieved a number of public projects, from the resurgence of downtown Missoula to improvements taking place in Midtown and south Missoula.
“There’s a big misconception on how URDs work, and there are some issues that need to be cleaned up at the state level,” Hertz said. “Cities have taken advantage of them in positive ways, and some not so positive.”
Hertz points to the success of downtown Missoula, though he believes the Garden City has too many URDs in place. That, he said, diverts tax money away from schools and local government.
While the districts are often created to combat blight – such as the case with Southgate Mall – Hertz believes the state’s definition of blight may need to change. He also questions the current practice of giving tax increment financing to nonprofits that don’t expand the tax base.
Last year, the Missoula City Council approved using $488,775 in tax increment funds to purchase land for Homeword, a nonprofit building 26 units of affordable housing in the Old Sawmill District. Hertz voted against the measure, saying the city had already subsidized the district to improve public infrastructure.
“When we’re using URDs to give large amounts of money to nonprofits that don’t expand the tax base, we’re acting contrary to the URDs and their goals,” Hertz said. “The definition of blight needs to be cleaned up at the state level as well. Do we want to allow the likes of Southgate Mall in the districts, or should the definition of blight be more specific?”
Hertz, who often found himself on the losing end of most votes in the City Council, won his seat to that position by five votes. The narrow margin – combined with serving as the lone opponent to many city initiatives – taught him to take a measured voice.
“It’s been a good experience governing as a minority, and not a little bit of a minority, but often as the one vote against something,” Hertz said. “That perspective and frustration I dealt with would be a positive thing to bring to the Legislature.”
More than 140 people have already filed for office, including 10 candidates from Missoula. They include Democratic incumbents Andrew Person, Dick Barrett, Ellie Hill, Kim Dudik, Andrea Olsen, Sue Malek, Bryce Bennett and Will Curdy.
Democrat Marilyn Ryan will square off against Republican Susan Cundiff in the race for Missoula’s H.D. 99.