Seeking reelection: Ward 3 council member Gwen Jones in her own words

Gwen Jones (right), representing Ward 3 on the Missoula City Council, has filed to run for a second term. (Missoula Current file photo)

Editor’s Note: With the ballot set, the Missoula Current asked each of the City Council members who are seeking reelection to articulate why they’re doing so, and what they hope to achieve in another term. This is the first of the responses. The Missoula Current will also run similar articles on the other candidates who have filed for City Council over the coming weeks.

Why are you running for reelection?

My experience on City Council is that it took 1 to 2 years to really get up to speed in order to be effective.

Understanding the numerous city departments, building relationships with other councilors and staff, understanding a multi-million dollar budget and numerous enterprise funds, and learning in depth how Missoula is growing and changing takes a long time.

But it is necessary to create that base in order to ever successfully pass legislation or influence decisions being made in terms of Missoula’s future. I still have much to learn, but would like to build on my experience on council to continue to contribute to our beautiful city.

What would you do with another term?

With a second term, pressing issues are affordable housing, climate change and tax reform. Specifically, I look forward to initial implementation of specific elements of our affordable housing policy. Regarding climate change, as the chair of the Parks and Conservation Committee, these issues are addressed in my committee. We have some great policies in place, but must now focus on implementing those policies – a difficult and expensive endeavor.

Finally, a linchpin for all of this is tax reform. I think we need to do a better job of explaining how our archaic, obsolete and dysfunctional tax system based on natural resources (from which numerous industries have receded) needs to be reformed to pull dollars from our growth industries in Montana (i.e. tourism).

We need to acknowledge that legislative decisions made for the last few decades have shifted the burden onto commercial and residential property taxes, as well as federal and state cuts in spending that have pushed costs down to the local level.

When combined with a tax system tied to property values, our rising Missoula property values create the perfect storm, in which we will continue to see dramatically rising property taxes, yet have difficulty funding our local schools, county and city government.

I don’t think it is fair to our citizens for local government to be the backstop on taxes, but if we are, then we should be given tools by the Legislature to broaden our tax base and get revenue from sources other than property taxes. This means being able to decide, as a community, if we want a local option sales tax targeting tourism dollars and luxury spending.

As a second term city councilor, I would like to lobby and communicate with other communities in Montana to see the necessary changes made at the state level, to make our tax system function well again. My understanding is the Legislature passed a tax study bill this last session, and I plan on giving public comment in that committee this fall as to the need for tax reform.