City Council: Ward 3 candidates strive for quality of life, but differ on approach

Daniel Carlino, left, and Dori Gilels detail their plans if elected as the new member of the Missoula City Council representing Ward 3.

The two candidates vying for an open seat representing Ward 3 on the Missoula City Council both look to maintain Missoula’s quality of life and address issues around affordability.

But their thoughts on doing so varied, with one taking a strategic approach to the city’s challenges and the other calling for public investments to ensure housing, transportation and child care are affordable in Missoula.

Still, both Dori Gilels and Daniel Carlino believe affordability is an issue.

“I’m campaigning for livability, because we need to pay attention to all the things that make our community livable,” said Gilels. “I want to help Missoula continue to envision who and what we want to be 20 years from now, and make sure we shape all the parts needed to support that.”

Gilels, an entrepreneur and member of various advisory committees, brings her business acumen to the race. She’s racked up a number of notable endorsements, including the Missoula County commission and other community leaders.

As a former business owner, Gilels said the city’s challenges can bring opportunity.

“I’m acutely aware of the challenges associated with running a business in this town and what it takes to keep the doors open,” she said. “We need local policy makers that understand the context of that work and are capable of building a unified and strategic approach to problem solving. I believe our greatest challenges can be opportunities.”

Carlino, who recently ran for the Montana Public Service Commission, enters the race as a climate activist and self-described renter. As such, he said he has first-hand knowledge of the challenges facing many city residents.

Alongside environmental concerns, housing affordability tops his agenda.

“I’m bringing forward bold, urgent policy solutions that help protect our environment, to help ensure we have affordable transportation, affordable child care, and truly affordable housing for all Missoulians,” said Carlino. “I’m running for City Council to make sure we preserve our community’s culture and character by keeping it affordable for everyday people.”

Carlino in the past has advocated for fully funding the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund and preventing “out-of-state developers” from “controlling” Missoula’s housing market.

He also advocates for inclusionary zoning which, as he has described it, would “mandate that developers build a portion of affordable housing units for low-income Missoulians on all new housing developments.”

Such suggestions aren’t new, though they remain controversial, with some contending that government cannot force a private builder who is using private funding to subsidize public housing.

Carlino also has called for regulating vacation rentals and Airbnbs. It was an issue that surfaced on Tuesday during a forum hosted by the Downtown Missoula Partnership.

“I’d like to see us limit the amount allowed in each neighborhood, possibly per capita,” Carlino said. “I do not want to lose our residential neighborhoods and see the housing crisis get worse by developers wanting to turn all our houses into Airbnbs and vacation rentals.”

While Carlino suggested developers were to blame, Gilels said establishing a property as a vacation rental was a choice made by the property owner. She noted that Missoula City Council has funded a study to explore the true scope of vacation rentals in Missoula and their impact on the housing market.

The data, she said, will help reveal the path forward.

“I think that’s important,” she said. “I also think it’s important that as a community we’re able to allow people to run an Airbnb business if they so choose, but we need to make sure it’s not consuming our supply of affordable housing for renters. I do think renters in our community are some of the most vulnerable members of our community with this housing crisis, so it’s something we need to look at.”