Missoula City Council candidates to face off in forums ahead of November election

With the field narrowed and the November election looming, candidates running for a seat on the Missoula City Council will appear in a series of forums starting this week.

Hosted by the Office of Neighborhoods, the event will see the two remaining candidates from each ward answer questions posed by the audience. Each forum will take place at City Council chambers on Pine Street in downtown Missoula starting at 6 p.m.

“We do it the same way every year,” said Jane Kelly, the city’s neighborhood coordinator. “The League of Women Voters will be the moderators of all four forums.”

This year’s issues range from the city’s housing policy and how to implement it to climate change and ways to address it at the local level. Most candidates also have talked about taxes, with several calling for reforms to Montana’s tax system by the Legislature.

Kelly said the audience will pose the questions to candidates. The Missoula Current also will seek specifics on their answers in the weeks to come.

“Each candidate is given two minutes to give an introduction,” said Kelly. “The League hands out the little cards and people will write their questions on it. Each candidate is asked the same question and they usually have a minute to answer it.”

Candidates will also be afforded an opportunity for closing remarks.

This year’s races include three City Council incumbents, including Heidi West, who is being challenged by newcomer Amber Shaffer in Ward 1. Council member Gwen Jones is looking to defend her seat in Ward 3 against Drew Iverson.

City Council incumbent Mirtha Becerra also is seeking reelection in Ward 2 and is challenged by Brent Sperry. Wards 4, 5 and 6 will each see two political newcomers vying for a seat representing their district.

Getting the candidates together is easy, Kelly said.

“We did split Wards 1 and 2 due to scheduling problems, though we usually do them together,” said Kelly. “We try to keep everything as even-keeled as possible. We make it work somehow or another every two years.”

Given past attendance, Kelly expects around 50 people to attend each forum.

The schedule includes:

Ward 1: Sept. 18

Amber Shaffer and Heidi West

Ward 5: Sept. 19

John Contos and Alex Fregerio

Ward 6: Sept. 19

Nick Shontz and Sandra Vasecka

Ward 3: Sept. 24

Drew Iverson and Gwen Jones

Ward 4: Sept. 24

Alan Ault and Amber Sherrill

Ward 2: Sept. 25

Mirtha Becerra and Brent Sperry