Viewpoint: Candidate Sam Kulla eyes homelessness, housing
My name is Sam Kulla, and I'm running for Ward 3 City Council against long-time incumbent Gwen Jones. Although incumbents have historically held an advantage in name recognition, I urge voters to look beyond the name, and consider what I offer, who I am, and how I can better represent the will of the people regarding old and new issues facing Missoula.
For months, I've been diligently knocking doors and engaging with residents. I've learned that voters have a strong desire for change. Here’s what I’m hearing: Door to door, a persistent request is to address problematic un-affordable housing through concrete policies designed to be widely beneficial and long-lasting.
This can be solved by correcting the city's commitment to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) to accommodate contemporary needs. We should also strive to encourage the Missoula Redevelopment Agency (MRA) to increase allocations to affordable and workforce housing.
Affordable housing remains a concern that sharply impacts lower and fixed income Missoulians. Rentals exceeding $2,000 per month don’t align with the definition of affordability. To bridge this gap, we need compelling incentives, genuine affordability measures, and fair wages for all.
To the voters I’m meeting, responsive government is vital. We need policies aligned with real-world community needs. For housing affordability, we need innovative solutions, such as grant programs for infill development with a condition of contributing a percentage of revenue to the AHTF. This approach has potential to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, supporting fixed-income earners and promoting affordable housing.
Another critical issue as I knock is homelessness. I’ll drive an updated approach, looking into authorizing temporary campsites, thereby complying with Martin vs. Boise, while mitigating environmental degradation through essential services like trash disposal, sanitation, and device charging. This also assists service providers in reaching those in need, reducing ER visits and jail bookings, ultimately saving taxpayers money.
Investing in shelter space, mental health, and addiction support for our future is imperative. Once these services are fully scaled to meet demand for official pathways to assistance and positive outcomes, we can reconsider banning camping within city limits. One location I canvassed, hoping to talk Missoula politics with residents, was the recently built and hotly debated Reed, a high-end luxury development overlooking the river. The lobby was locked, so I walked around the side and called up to a resident on her balcony. I explained I was a local candidate, and asked if I might pass her some campaign literature. “No thanks,” she replied, “I don’t vote in Montana.” I waved and nodded, and walked back to the neighborhoods.
In the upcoming election, the choice is clear. We can maintain the status quo, on track for further gentrification and sprawl, or we can choose a representative who understands the daily struggles faced by Missoulians, dedicated to developing practical responsive solutions.
Our city is evolving, and council representation must evolve with it. Fresh ideas from within the community, active listening, and innovative approaches are essential to address new and ongoing challenges. The changing landscape of Missoula demands a forward-thinking perspective and bold enthusiasm.
As a parent, renter, and full-time worker, I share the same concerns as many of you. I was born in Western Montana and have been in Missoula since age five. I’ve seen the good old days, and I’ve seen our growth issues develop. I love Missoula and want to make it good for us, our kids, and grandchildren.
Please explore my platform and reach out with questions. I'm asking for your vote in November to build progress, inclusivity, and a more practical Missoula.