Q. What are the most challenging economic growth issues facing Kalispell, and what solutions do you propose for handling growth?
A. Kalispell is one of the fastest-growing communities in the state. With that growth comes jobs, new opportunities and increased tax revenue for our community. But as we all know, increased growth also comes with additional burdens, including the creeping loss of our family farms and open space lands, increased traffic and a lack of available affordable housing. I will use my knowledge and experience in planning to lead the city in revising codes and regulations to ensure more efficient development that minimizes the loss of open-space land and lessens the need to travel by vehicle. I will also work to make our community more pedestrian and bicycle friendly through revised design standards and the creation of necessary infrastructure. Addressing the need for affordable housing will be a top priority.
Q. Is the city of Kalispell doing enough to address affordable housing and increasing the cityís housing options?
A. Many Kalispell residents are struggling with the lack of affordable housing in our community. Stagnant wages nationally are an important factor, but our rental vacancy rate is about 1%, so even if one could afford rental housing, they have trouble finding it in Kalispell. City Council and staff point to the number of approved rental units and feel satisfied that they are adequately addressing the issue. Itís true that increasing supply helps bring down costs. But the city is flying blind. It hasnít conducted a needs assessment to determine how available supply matches with what residents can afford based on their incomes. Nor do they know whether the increased supply is keeping pace with increased demand. There are many other tools and strategies available to address affordable housing and I intend to lead the city in adopting an affordable housing plan that is based on the need.
Q. What are Kalispellís biggest infrastructure challenges, specifically regarding streets and utilities?
A. Rapid growth puts a strain on all of our infrastructure. Whether it is roads, water, sewer, stormwater or solid waste, growth will present challenges and the need for upgrades. It is important that new development, rather than current tax payers, pay for the upgrades to the extent feasible. The wastewater treatment facility will require upgrades in coming years due to growth and legal requirements. The facility is the city governmentís biggest energy consumer. When it is upgraded, I will push to explore installing on-site renewable energy sources so the facility helps generate its own power and we save in the cost of buying grid energy. Completing the bike trail downtown, implementing the Downtown Plan and keeping Main Street to two lanes around the Courthouse will be important priorities for me. Traffic on Reserve Drive will also need to be addressed by designating Reserve Drive a state highway.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for your ward?
A: With my background in planning, work to conserve our precious open space lands and my leadership in the community, I have the experience and the vision to preserve our livability as we grow. And as a parent of a young child, I will work to make Kalispell safer and even more enjoyable for families. I have been walking Ward 3 talking to voters at the door every weekend. I have heard their concerns and ideas. I will take what Iíve heard with me to the City Council and also pursue three top priorities. I will balance growth and livability through mixed-use, pedestrian and bicycle friendly development with access to parks and trails. I will develop and implement an Affordable Housing Plan that ensures affordability is an integral part of future growth. And I will pursue cost savings through energy efficiency in city operations.