Q&A with Ward 3 candidate Councilwoman Stacy Rye

by jhwygirl

1 – You have shown that you have a good understanding of the importance that Affordable Housing is the community. You have also publicly lamented that City Council does little or no actual ‘planning’, which certainly affects the ability to deal with the Affordable Housing problems that Missoula faces. What ‘planning’ would you like to see tackled?

Affordable housing is the most complex of the issues the City faces. I think about the only way the City can get at the major cost of housing – the cost of the land- is through regulations. I also think that there has to be a given that most people understand the lack of affordable housing in the community and have the will to enact some measures to alleviate the problem. I’d like to see us take a look at inclusionary zoning, a real estate transfer tax, small lot development where it’s already zoned for apartments or commercial, and working through some of those regulations with land trust organizations and private developers. Another way we could do it is through redevelopments districts and have some portion of the increment go towards affordable housing, again working with private agencies.

I would look very forward to the community having a conversation about any of the above planning measures. We cannot continue to have a vibrant economy without addressing the housing issues and the many people who want to live in Missoula proper for its quality of life.

I also think planning boils down to Council giving each other the benefit of the doubt regarding the willingness to entertain new ideas. There have been discussions about different ideas such as inclusionary zoning and redoing the planned neighborhood cluster ordinance and it’s been difficult to talk about any legitimate ideas rationally. At the end of the day (or year), if every idea gets shut down, the community is left with a cumulative nothing.

2 – City Council has been so divisive for what seems forever. Why do you still want to be on City Council?

We actually do quite a bit of work that lands on the consent agenda. Only a few items make it to committee reports and those are the most controversial. The Council’s job is three fold, really. The first is to respond to requests and concerns from people who call or write regarding issues. I think there’s probably more immediate gratification at the local level like getting an abandoned vehicle to go away pretty quickly. Other times the issue is much more complex and actually leads to evaluating a policy on the books that needs changing.

Policy work is incredibly interesting and we have some council members who are very good at looking at either new policies or evaluating old laws to see if they need updating. Dave Strohmaier is a policy wonk machine in this regard. This part of the job can be very stimulating when ideas can be honestly debated for their merits. I like it when other council members with whom I disagree with at times, like Jerry Ballas, bring up points that I haven’t thought of. I loved working on public power and the bid to acquire Northwestern Energy. It was the most exciting project a city council person could possibly want to work on.

Staff generally brings the other part of the job to us and we evaluate the requests. Staff does an excellent job of bringing proposals and working on behalf of the community. The Missoula Redevelopment Agency (MRA) is but one example of a city agency that’s very open to new ideas. Working with them makes it easy for the Council to go forward with great projects.

3 – A zoning rewrite is underway. What do you hope to see from the zoning rewrite?

I’d like to see the zoning re-write get us ahead of the growth curve. Regardless of what the population is in the Valley in 2050, it’s going to be a lot bigger. The re-write has the capability to move the community along in a more orderly fashion.

The city is behind the curve in terms of transportation and growth at the moment which leads us to struggle with each and every transportation decision and subdivision proposal. We need a bigger picture and the rewrite help us get at least part of the way there.

I hope the Council of the future is happy with what comes out of this and doesn’t end up scratching their heads at the decisions we make in the next few years with the zoning rewrite. I often do that now, for instance, when we struggle with assessing people for sidewalks for a subdivision that was approved without them 50 years ago.

4 – What makes you the best choice for representing Ward 3?

Well, I’m competent at the job and I’ve built good relationships both with current council members and staff. I also have good relationships with the local State delegation in Missoula and like to work with them on how the State impacts local government. I’m accessible and I can relate to problems people call with or when I bump into just about everyone at the Food Farm which is a big community gathering place. I’m pretty open minded and naturally curious about most things and I take representing 10,000 people seriously; especially in a Ward that is extraordinarily plugged in to local government.

I’ve also learned how to compromise so I can vote yes instead of no and I’ve been part of the majority most times so the city can move forward with most of its projects and ordinances. I haven’t passed on more than one thing that I can think of in four years. I think passing is a cop-out. I’ve initiated things like domestic partner benefits for city employees, more funding for the urban forest, a sidewalk coordinator, and a big conference on growth (the Sopris Foundation conference this past year at the Wilma).

5 – Assuming you could build some consensus, what would be the first thing you would tackle with the next City Council?

I’m one of twelve people; I’m not a committee of one and none of us accomplish anything alone. I’d like to see a bunch of things happen. I’d like to see how to fund the Parks department at a decent level. I’d like to work with the State and County on figuring out how to pay for Russell and 3rd St. I’d really like the Council to work seriously on how the City could help in the affordable housing area. We have some very talented non-profits that do great work and it would be very easy for the Council to partner regulations with the work they do.

Most of these things have to do with funding and I’m sensitive to tax issues when we get letters from constituents who say they are close to the tipping point on paying taxes, especially when they come from people who generally support things like open space.

Funding for local services is a tricky issue, particularly when the feds are funding less of it and the dollar is devalued by the current federal administration passing the Treasury bond buck, causing us to go deeper into debt at the federal level. I’m happy we get local control over decisions when we fund it ourselves – but the federal debt does the local service issues harm.

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  1. goof houlihan

    Passing?

    Each council member has an obligation to vote. Only a previously disclosed conflict of interest should excuse a non vote.

    ONLY THAT!

  2. goof houlihan

    “I loved working on public power and the bid to acquire Northwestern Energy”

    One of the biggest hits the MPPA took was from Missoula liberals.

  3. Really goof? I thought the conservatives were the ones opposed. Was it both?

    Per the zoning rewrite, I told Pam Walzer last week that I thought people ought to be able to build on those old 30ft “nonconforming” lots like she has, as long as they don’t do a 90-degree on the boundary line. Is that a goal of the rewrite?

  4. To do what you are suggesting Carol – in some zoning districts – would require a reworking of the regs themselves – i.e., changing the minimum lot standards.

    That, I’m told, is not what is supposed to happen.

    Go take a peek at those regs. They’re a mish of mesh – you can’t make much sense of them, and any planner over there has an additional 100 pages or so of “interpretations” coupled with the regs to figure out how to apply them. It’s insane.

    And depending on who you talk to at the counter, you can get an different answer.

    I do – though – find it interesting that you would be OK with development on nonconforming lots. Do know that some lots are 25 feet wide – and I believe we might even have some that are 17 (have to go check old plats though).

    I believe design standards would help – those recent homes built on nonconforming lots (infill) were built setback to setback, as high as they could go with the addition of some ‘bonus’ height allowance – and were completely out of character with the neighborhood.

    What was the real gripe? The “out of character with the neighborhood” gripe? — That the homes had not enough space around them like the rest of the homes. That was about it, essentially.

    I think no height ‘bonus’ if your building on one of those lots – and you gotta have a certain amount of landscaping – grass – impervious surface – non-paved or built surface.

    It would make for different sized homes – one of the ‘solutions’ I seem to hear tossed about: “We need homes of different sizes, so the market has choices.”

    Not everybody needs at 3 bedroom 2 bath starter home. Used to be that 1200-1500 feet was plenty of space for a starter home.

  5. petetalbot

    Goof, your goofing again. There we’re a few “liberals” who came out against MPPA — Tom Power, UM Economics Dept. Chair, is the only one I can think of right now — but most of the crowd I hang with (and you can bet they’re all pretty liberal) supported MPPA. As much as it pains me, I’ll have to go with Carol’s comment on this one.

  6. goof houlihan

    ““This may be the worst of all possible worlds – run by part-time amateurs … the utility (could) be insulated from public control,” added Power.”

    By Pete Talbot, 3-17-06
    I’ve always had the greatest respect for Tom Power’s economic analysis but he sure seems to have it in for Montana Public Power. Granted, there are a number of unanswered questions but could MPPI do any worse of a job than Northwestern Energy or the old Montana Power Co. in managing our utilities? Let’s see now — two bankruptcies, our highest utility bills ever, bad energy purchase contracts, million dollar golden parachutes for the CEO’s — my six-year-old granddaughter could do a better job

    What, nastypete, no comparison of Tom Power to Jack Abramhoff? Or do you save that for me?

    by geoff badenoch:”The thing to watch for, in my opinion, is a condition of haste which is foisted on this process because this work has not been done by MPPI, or at least if it has been done, it has not been shared with the public. Are we going to hear the MPPI advocates sounding the warning about “windows of opportunity closing” and the need to act quickly with the promise of figuring out these nagging questions later?

    My point, and I think Tom Powers’ point is, energy in Montana is so critical to the health of our economy, the soundness of household economies, the budgets of our public institutions, etc., we cannot afford to rush ahead without giving this proposal the most thorough and transparent examination of anything we do. Skepticism is healthy in this regard. ”

    Then a rejoinder of the half hearted support from Missoula liberals, and the outright attack by Power, which did require quite a bit of damage control:

    By jeff, 6-14-06
    Well, the second guesser perfesser has gotten his way. The back seat drivers and sidelines sitters and yes, Geoff, those ignoring the warnings that “the window of opportunity is closing” now see the fruits of their kvetching and dithering.

    The only goofing, nastypete, is from YOU. Yes, liberals dithered and kvetched and forgot to email their governor, or their PSC, or provide any support for Kadas and the Board. And if I recall correctly, you all then came unglued over public power from Great Falls, too.

  7. I haven’t looked at the zoning regs in 10 years. I just think the 5400 sq ft minimum shouldn’t have knocked out someone’s right to develop a lot that was already platted. In fact, I thought that right was grandfathered in, but maybe it’s lost on conveyance.

    After taking care of an acre for 5 years I’m sure missing my little lot on Philips.

  8. petetalbot

    Goof,

    You’re confusing me here. You blast “liberals” for not getting behind MPPA but then seem to side with them and use the quote, “… Skepticism is healthy in this regard.”

    Actually, I think you’re making my point for me: that most “liberals” supported MPPA. You mention just two people, Power and Badenoch, who weren’t that supportive. As I mentioned earlier, Power is UM’s Economics Dept. Chair. Badenoch was running for PSC at the time. Neither could be considered rank-and-file “liberals.”

    Stacy and a majority of council at the time (not all of them “liberals”) supported MPPA.

    As for “liberals” not emailing the gov., PSC, or providing support to Kadas on the MPPA issue, I have no idea. Wouldn’t have helped much anyway as the decision was in the hands of Northwestern Energy and it didn’t want anything to do with public power.

    Finally, you say: “you all then came unglued over public power from Great Falls, too.”

    I don’t know about the “you all” but I’m a strong advocate of public power if it’s clean and cost efficient. The Great Falls coal-fired power plant was neither.

  9. goof houlihan

    No pete, I quoted two liberals banging on the MPPA and one lame comment that “a six year old could do better”. Wow, that’s activism. At no time did I side with Geoff or Tom in either post.

    In Bozeman, a conservative majority led commission voted 5-0 to support the effort. What was the vote in Missoula?

    “It wouldn’t have helped anyway” is exactly the kind of fatalism I’d expect from you. I guess Stacy Rye was wrong to even try.

  10. goof houlihan

    I’m sitting here doubting you’ve ever “stongly advocated” for a public power project.

    And I didn’t “blast” liberals. this is my direct quote, “One of the biggest hits the MPPA took was from Missoula liberals”. It was the Tom Power appearance which was published all over the state at a time when MPPA needed support. Coming from a UM economist, it was a tough pr setback, right in Kadas’ power base.

    When I blast someone, Pete, you’ll know it.

  11. goof houlihan

    Anyway, getting back to Stacy, she’s got a great yard sign.

  12. goof houlihan

    And I’m thinking I’m a little hard on Pete. Sorry.

  13. Stacy Rye

    Geesh, I should’ve known the public power thing would set it off. We knew the effort had support – Lee Enterprises did a poll that year which showed huge support for public power, around 65% statewide and I think it was 2005. Did the lack or show of support hurt or help the effort? I’m too close to it to know. I was disappointed more groups who work in the electric/gas power arena didn’t come out and support it. I was disappointed that Missoula’s vote was the closest out of the five cities to support it. But I did know from just talking with people that they did support it. I think most people who think we’re (the Council) doing the right thing at the time tend to not comment as when people think we’re doing the wrong thing.

    Thanks for the yard sign shout-out. I like them too.

  14. petetalbot

    “I’m sitting here doubting you’ve ever “strongly advocated” for a public power project,” says the Goof.

    I worked my ass off for the Buy Back the Dams Initiative. It was one of my biggest disappointments. Of course we were outspent by a 50-to-1 factor but it still hurt.

    Since then, I’ve consistently backed public power issues, and PSC candidates, legislators and local officials who would advance the cause — with my time, energy and checkbook.

  15. goof houlihan

    I think the five cities and their representatives felt awfully lonely.

    Call it a hunch.

    When Tom Power added his Missoula voice to the naysayers, it was a solid blow. Five towns fighting a two front battle, really, it was too much.

    The MPPA was a solid and well thought out proposal.

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