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.
We continue the series with Ward 3, where three candidates are vying for one seat. The field will be narrowed to two candidates in the Sept. 10 primary election, with the winner chosen in November’s general election. City Council races are non-partisan; each term is for four years.
Ward 3 includes Missoula’s Rose Park, Riverfront and University Area neighborhoods. Gwen Jones is the incumbent councilwoman; she is running for reelection against two challengers, Dakota Hileman and Drew Iverson. Their responses will be published on consecutive days, in alphabetical order.
Dakota Hileman, Ward 3
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: For the most part, yes. When deciding where to allocate TIF (tax increment financing) funds, we need to be more scrupulous on examining where and when to allocate them–because we need to make absolutely sure it is going to benefit Missoulians in the given area, so that we aren’t mindlessly spending taxpayer money. Furthermore, we also need to make sure that we aren’t subsidizing private corporations with TIF funds unless it is ultimately going to help the average Missoulian in everyday life, because we fundamentally need to be serving the average person in our city and not the interests of corporations. Overall, there are instances where TIF is used appropriately, and others where the money is being used inappropriately, and the measure for that is how much impact it has on Missoulians and whether those impacts are positive or negative.
Q: Do you support the city’s new housing policy, and what would you do to implement the recommendations?
A: Yes, I am a strong proponent for the city’s new housing policy! Fundamentally, I believe that this policy is a profound step in the right direction towards building more affordable housing, which is absolutely crucial to an economy that is equitable for everyone’s overall health and success.
Also, we need to make sure that we are being very cautious on where to build more expensive projects and examine if they are truly necessary, because we ultimately need to make sure that housing prices aren’t skyrocketing and inherently forcing Missoulians out of their homes. Therefore, when I’m elected, I will make sure to keep the city from gentrifying existing affordable neighborhoods, but also making sure that we aren’t going to make potential affordable housing areas unaffordable. Overall, we need to keep our current affordable housing neighborhoods affordable, while also being mindful of not prohibiting potential affordable housing projects in the future.
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: Well actually, I think we need to be looking at how to hand off more of our tax burden to the wealthiest people in our city, because the lowest earners and even the middle class, shouldn’t be paying as much as they currently do–I personally see our current city tax system as unacceptable. So essentially, this wouldn’t be expanding the tax base, it would just be making sure that most of our tax burden isn’t being forced onto those who can’t afford it.
Moreover, I also believe that if we are frugal on whom to subsidize funds to in regards to private corporations who request money to develop here, we will have no need to continue raising the taxes because we simply won’t be spending as much.
And finally, I do not support implementing a sales tax, because I presume that it would put more of a burden on the less financially fortunate, which I always want to steer clear from.
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: Yes, I do believe that these tweets were inherently racist, but also extremely disgraceful. The United States President should be a reflection of who we, as a country, are supposed to be: accepting and loving of absolutely everyone, regardless of their background. Therefore, we need to make sure to elect Progressive candidates up and down the ballot in 2020, so that we can create an America that is equal and equitable for all people, and so that we have leaders who don’t sow division and hatred. Ultimately, we are stronger together and when we are unified.
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: I think if we are more frugal on which developments to subsidize, then there would be absolutely no need to raise taxes. The people of this city are sick and tired of the wasteful spending by our city council, and we need to be listening to their needs, not the needs of the rich. End of discussion.
Q: What more can the city do to accommodate non-motorized transportation to achieve the goals in the Long Range Transportation Plan?
A: The city should be working toward creating a more robust, efficient and accessible transportation system spanned across the entire city. To do this, we should invest in more electric buses to transport people around the city quicker, we should invest in a light rail system, and we should also be making biking paths safer and much more accessible.
Overall, I believe that this would alleviate a lot of the need to expand roads and bridges due to people using more public transportation, but this will also be much healthier on our environment due to less pollution and carbon emissions.
Q: What would be your primary goal as a member of the City Council? How would you fund it?
A: One of my primary goals would be to create a more fair economy for everybody. I think that our city council is oftentimes out-of-touch with the everyday Missoulian. Our council has often times spent way too much on projects that only end up hurting the average person, while also making their taxes go up exponentially–which is unacceptable. Our city council tends to forget that most people in our city aren’t rich, but a lot of people are living paycheck to paycheck, so we need to vigorously address their needs before we address the needs of the ultra-wealthy. Honestly, I think that if we stop spending so much money on corporations, and we instead spend that money on helping middle and lower class Missoulians, we will inherently create a more equitable economy so that our people don’t have to struggle just to get by.
Overall, I will not be a City Council member that fights for those with the thickest checkbooks, but instead I will be a dauntless fighter for those struggling to make ends meet. I will make sure that I am a voice on the council, representing their everyday needs and desires. I will be a fighter for them.