Missoula mayoral candidates explore city’s role in climate change
(Missoula Current) Over the past decade, the City of Missoula has taken the lead in Montana with local plans to address the climate crisis, including clean electricity, zero waste and eliminating tailpipe emissions from the city's fleet of vehicles.
In that time, the city has slowly added new positions to complete the work, but some goals remain unfunded. The five candidates running for mayor discussed the city's climate goals on Monday night and what else can be done to move the effort forward.
“We have a zero tailpipe commitment, and nearly 50% of our buses are electric buses, with two more grants producing buses that will soon get us to 90% in about two years. It's one area where we can continue to stay focused, which is reducing our emissions.
“With partners like Home Resource, Climate Smart Missoula and Mountain Line, we have an opportunity to step up and access federal investments through the Infrastructure and Jobs Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act. It's a huge opportunity for us as a city to bring in capital and capacity building to our community through partnerships.
“We have the opportunity to bring in industry and bring in jobs, and not only reduce the consumption of our city buildings in terms of electricity, but also to our residents to reduce our cost of living.”
“A mayor is not responsible for everything. What I do know about Missoula is that everybody is passionate about everything they do, and they want to do it great. So if the mayor goes out and says I want to go as green as possible, find the solutions within your reach, then the people that work and live here want to show us how much they stand up for.
“While I may not have anything that these guys have at all, my thing is supporting people about being who they are. I think Missoula should just lean in and find solutions but do it in a way where we can all still live here and catch people that fall.”
"There's so much good stuff going on in this space. When I was at the University of Montana as the transportation director, we brought the first electric buses to Montana and the first modern, battery electric buses to a college campus in America. It's excellent that Mountain Line followed.
“The bipartisan infrastructure law and Inflation Reduction Act have a ton of opportunities. The City of Missoula was just accepted into a cohort through the U.S. Department of Labor and the National League of Cities for a clean-energy workforce development pilot project. Our project is to focus on workforce development for clean energy jobs with a target audience of single mothers.
“In a partnership with Mountain Home, we're taking a traditionally male-dominated field and we're providing opportunities to create career pathways for single mothers to enter the clean energy trades. It's an extremely exciting opportunity.
“There are 16 cities accepted of 250 that applied for this program, and we're all doing something different. By working together, we'll build the next clean energy workforce around the country. This is not only an exciting opportunity for Missoula, but an exciting opportunity for us to learn from and take advantage of these partnerships with other communities.”
“I'm committed to everything the city already has committed to. We're working to put those in practice. The mayor and I have had good conversations around that.
“When it comes to the conversation around climate, it often overwhelms individual people. We've got a lot of things in place at the city. We've got staff members working on this as their full-time jobs. We're looking at things we can do as a community. We have a chance right now to really do something. We have the tools in place.
“Composting is also something that's right there. Recently, the Montana Public Service Commission has allowed a competitor to come in, and we've seen the rates and competition between garbage haulers in this community. That's a perfect opportunity to look at and ask what else we can do as a community. We can bring people to the table to look at how we take this program that has clearly worked in other places and implement it right here. We have the tools in place to let individuals have this good impact as well.”
“I'm proud of the work we've done on the work with Mountain Line getting to electric. I even drive an electric car for my work doing estimates. The problem is, we don't have the infrastructure. If we could magically make every car electric today, we would not be able to charge these cars.
“We're still using fossil fuels for a lot of it to make electricity. We need to work with NorthWestern Energy and the city and get it to where people can put solar and wind generators on their homes. We have all this real estate on these rooftops. We're not going to have any more land to put wind farms and solar panels on. If we want to get to clean energy, we need to use all our rooftops.
“NorthWestern Energy should be chipping in with Missoula, the state and the federal government as well, to use the resource of all these rooftops to make all this electricity so we can charge our electric cars, because it's the wave of the future.”