Gwen Jones

For the past four weeks, I had the honor of serving as Acting Mayor for the City of Missoula after Mayor John Engen’s death on August 15.

John Engen was an institution in our city. I am still wrapping my mind around John not being here with us, as are many in Missoula. But it is time to go forward and figure out the next steps for Missoula.

Missoula now has a new Mayor, Jordan Hess, appointed on September 12, who will bring his own approach and new relationships to the office. I look forward to supporting Mayor Hess in advancing the City’s goals, as well as the innovation he brings to the office.

In collaboration with City Council and staff, Mayor Engen had created a thoughtful strategic plan with priorities that direct how our municipal government tackles issues. Some of the guiding principles of our Strategic Plan are that all people should have full and equal access to opportunities, power and resources; our community should have economic growth and sustainability based on diversity and fairness; we should all enjoy a healthy environment for job creation; we believe in providing safe and healthy homes that Missoulians can afford; and we believe that a sustainable, green infrastructure promotes human health. The City Council and staff of the City of Missoula strive to implement all our work using this framework for our value system and goals.

As we approach the November election and settle in with a new mayor, I want to highlight several of the City’s strategic goals:

· Provide lifesaving services for Missoula’s vulnerable populations.

· Partner with community organizations to ensure adequate shelter for people without a home during the winter months.

· Partner with community organizations to assess and make recommendations to improve Missoula’s behavioral health crisis response system.

For the last eight months, Mayor Engen worked to implement these goals by helping to craft the Crisis Intervention Levy, which will be on the ballot in November. Even while he was ill, he used his energy and position to help others in our community. We need to turn our attention now to this important initiative.

This levy is our opportunity to create a safety net for some of the most vulnerable people in our community. The levy will fund our Mobile Support Team, which provides mental health intervention to those in crisis; it will also fund programs that provide the housing foundation for those who are without homes in our community. Helping them to survive Missoula's winter and to get back on their feet benefits all in our community.

Additionally, the levy will fund crisis intervention training for our first responders; pretrial supervision and reentry programs; the Crisis Receiving Center for those otherwise destined for jail or the emergency room; and the Crime Victim Advocate Program. These are the programs that ensure that our residents have support and resources so that in the long run they contribute to our community, create a better quality of life for all and cost taxpayers, our hospitals and our jail less money in the long run.

Asking Missoulians to dig deeper into their pockets is difficult; but I feel strongly that in the long run, our Legislature will address tax reform and ease the property tax burden by implementing additional revenue sources. However, now is our opportunity to support programs that truly make a difference in our community.

Mayor Engen emphatically supported these programs, and I hope you can join me in voting yes on the Crisis Intervention Levy.

Gwen Jones is the president of the Missoula City Council