Mike Nugent: A better tomorrow – Missoula at a crossroads
As my campaign for mayor enters its final few days, I'm filled with gratitude for the countless opportunities I've had to connect with and listen to my fellow Missoulians. You've told me about your hopes, your dreams, and your challenges. And as I’ve met with the good folks of Missoula over these many months, one thing has become very clear to me. Missoula is at a crossroads. And it’s up to us to decide what path we take and what kind of city we want to become.
While we face several challenges, one stands out as a top priority – ensuring that the hardworking people of Missoula not only work here but can also afford to live here comfortably. As a lifelong resident of this wonderful city, I've witnessed friends and acquaintances forced to leave due to skyrocketing housing costs. It pains me to hear from Missoulians on a daily basis who are grappling with rising rents, feeling like they might never achieve financial stability, let alone get ahead. We must take action.
In the United States, the homeownership rate is 66%. For the state of Montana, it is 69%. Yet, according to a recent presentation from city staff to the council, Missoula lags behind at around 45%. Homeownership is a cornerstone of financial security and housing stability for most Americans. There is so much to love about Missoula, but it’s hard to call our home ownership rates anything but a failure for the people who need that stability the most.
During this campaign, there's been a lot of talk about influence and housing development. Many longtime Missoula politicians have dug in to make sure the policies they have advocated for over the years aren’t questioned. They say things to scare people, but I think what should really scare people is a community that’s failing its workers every day when it comes to housing costs.
I don’t think policies that have driven us to a homeownership rate of 45% should be protected. Indeed, I think these policies should be questioned and examined closely. We cannot be a community that pretends to care about housing opportunities while rejecting anything that challenges the status quo. I’m proud to collaborate with Democrats and Republicans who are working tirelessly on this issue locally, and at the state legislature, and I’m grateful for the support of many of them. Together, we can address this challenge.
As a community, our needs go beyond housing. For too long, we have pushed Missoula’s public safety needs down the road. It’s been more than 15 years since Missoula added to our fire department with positions that actually ride trucks and go to emergency calls. We have a police facility that is below acceptable standards. We have more road and traffic issues than we can tackle with our current pace, and our property taxes are starting to hurt seniors on fixed incomes and our most vulnerable neighbors.
I am honored to have the support and endorsement of a wide range of individuals and organizations, including the Missoula Area Central Labor Council and the Missoula Firefighters IAFF Local 271. I’m especially proud of firefighters’ support, because they’ve seen my leadership up close on city council and they believe I have what it takes to tackle Missoula’s challenges.
As we stand at this crossroads, I believe in Missoula, and that our best days are in front of us. There is so much to celebrate and so many opportunities for meaningful progress. We can protect and enrich what makes this place special to all of us, and work to make it better for our neighbors at the same time.
Time and again I have seen Missoula rise up and meet the moment. I am confident that together, we can do it again. Serving as mayor of my hometown would be the honor of a lifetime, and I can’t wait to get to work.