In advance of the 2019 primary and general elections for six Missoula City Council seats, Missoula Current asked each of the 15 candidates a series of questions based on issues facing city leaders in the years ahead. Their answers will be reprinted verbatim.
We begin with Ward 1, where three candidates are vying for one seat. That number will be winnowed to two candidates in the Sept. 10 primary election. City Council races are non-partisan; each term is for four years.
Ward 1 includes downtown Missoula, the Rattlesnake Valley, Marshall Canyon and the Northside. Heidi West is the incumbent and is seeking reelection. Her challengers are Amber Shaffer and Elizabeth Weaver.
The candidates’ answers will be presented one at a time on consecutive days, in alphabetical order.
Amber Shaffer, Ward 1
Question: Do you support the use of tax increment financing as a tool for economic development, job growth and expanding the city’s tax base?
Answer: There are instances where tax increment financing can be a good tool for our city. For example, the new YWCA project which will help address family homelessness and domestic violence. I think we need to make sure that tax increment financing (TIF) is being used in situations that benefit Missoulians, not just developers. We need to better educate the public on how TIF works.
Q: Do you support the city’s new housing policy, and what would you do to implement the recommendations?
A: I support the new housing policy and I would focus on creating incentives for builders. Incentives need to beneficial for all parties involved and appealing enough to be used often and continuously until our housing needs are met.
Q: What would you do to expand the city’s tax base to pay for essential services and the increasing cost of providing those services?
A: I would focus on looking at our current budget and making cuts where at all possible. I would not make any cuts from emergency services such as our police or fire departments. We need to focus on providing the services our citizens need before approving any unnecessary spending. Since the Missoula Redevelopment Agency and current City Council has tied up much of the new city tax revenue we’ve gained in the last few years in Urban Renewal Districts under tax increment financing, I would focus on making sure TIF funds would be used to benefit the long term well-being of Missoulians.
Q: Do you believe a series of tweets sent out by President Donald Trump targeting four minority members of Congress recently were racist? Why or why not?
A: I felt they were not only racist but also inaccurate, since only one of the four targets was even born outside the United States. Implying that as women of color they are not as American as their white counterparts is disgraceful.
Q: What would you do to ensure the city continues to meet the wide range of citizen demands while keeping an eye on taxes?
A: In addition to my answers to Question 3, I would like to see more research done as to whether our property assessments being done every two years is beneficial to our citizens. Listening to the stress my neighbors have felt over their projected property taxes has only strengthened my resolve that there must be better options.
Q: What more can the city do to accommodate non-motorized transportation to achieve the goals in the Long Range Transportation Plan?
A: In my ward, a clear answer would be increasing police staff. I’m very cautious about letting my children walk with friends to their school park or even using the pedestrian bridge with me, as it is not always a safe option.
Q: What would be your primary goal as a member of the City Council? How would you fund it?
A: My primary goal would be to reduce unnecessary spending to ensure basic needs such as emergency services and infrastructure are being met. I wouldn’t need funding to do this.