In advance of the 2019 primary and general elections for six Missoula City Council seats, Missoula Current asked each of the 15 candidates a series of questions based on issues facing city leaders in the years ahead. Their answers will be reprinted verbatim.
In Ward 2, two candidates are vying for one seat. The winner will be determined in the Nov. 5 general election. City Council races are non-partisan; each term is for four years.
Ward 2 includes Missoula’s Westside, Grant Creek, Mullan Road area and Pleasant View neighborhoods.
Mirtha Becerra is the incumbent and is seeking reelection. Her challenger is Brent Sperry. Here are Sperry’s responses to Missoula Current’s questionnaire. Becerra’s responses are attached to this post as well.
Brent Sperry, Ward 2
Q: Do you support the use of tax increment financing as a tool for economic development, job growth and expanding the city’s tax base?
A: I think tax increment financing (TIF) has put a large burden on the citizens of Missoula. Many of the projects that have been funded by TIF with promises of large returns in tax revenue will not come to fruition for many years down the road. To me this would be similar to going to a bank to get a loan to fund a retirement account. Meanwhile the residents of Missoula need to pick up the additional cost of services required to serve these new developments.
Q: Do you support the city’s new housing policy, and what would you do to implement the recommendations?
A: Affordable housing is becoming a real issue in Missoula. I do not believe housing subsidies are the answer as this will most likely just magnify the problem. I think there is a lot of work that needs to be done on this still but a good start would be reducing the red tape that developers have to wade through to get these started. All of the costs that they incur are passed onto the homeowners raising the price per home significantly.
Q: What would you do to expand the city’s tax base to pay for essential services and the increasing cost of providing those services?
A: I do not believe the City has a revenue problem. The budget can be prioritized to provide for essential services. The FY 2020 budget is around $178,000,000 that is approximately $2300.00 for every man, woman and child that lives in the city. There is more of a need to balance the budget rather than expanding the tax base.
Q: Do you believe a series of tweets sent out by President Donald Trump targeting four minority members of Congress this month were racist? Why or why not?
A: I feel this question is purely meant to bring division into politics at a local level however here are some of my thoughts: I have no problem with diversity in our city and welcome it. It was great to recently read about all the folks in Missoula going through the process and becoming naturalized citizens. I condemn racism in all forms and there is no place for it in society.
Q: What would you do to ensure the city continues to meet the wide range of citizen demands while keeping an eye on taxes?
A: Again this will fall under prioritizing the annual budget. We cannot keep going back to the tax payers year after year asking for an increase. City Government should be focused on essential services first and foremost.
Q: What more can the city do to accommodate non-motorized transportation to achieve the goals in the Long Range Transportation Plan?
A: I think the city has done an adequate job of addressing the non-motorized transportation in Missoula. I believe it is time to now return focus to the traffic flows in this city. A lot of money has been spent on non-motorized transportation and the infrastructure has been neglected causing congestion in almost every corner of town. With so many people having to commute from out of the city to work here non-motorized travel is not an option for the majority of people.
Q: What would be your primary goal as a member of the City Council? How would you fund it?
A: My primary goal as a member of the City Council would be to lower taxes and get the spending under control, bring accountability to the city government. The city is getting close to being in the top five for largest employers in Missoula, over 600 employees now. This is approximately one employee for every 120 city residents, this is an alarming stat.