Emotions Erupt on Homelessness With Missoula Mayor on City Talk
Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - It was an emotion-filled City Talk segment of KGVO’s Talk Back show on Friday, as Missoula Mayor Jordan Hess took calls from listeners on two main topics, city taxes and the homeless issue in Missoula.
Emotions erupted from City Talk callers taking Mayor Hess to task for the homeless situation, including the Johnson Street Shelter following the public meeting that occurred on Tuesday evening at Franklin School.
A City Talk Caller Called for Mayor Hess' Recall
Read here the full statement of a caller whose frustration can be clearly seen as he addressed Mayor Hess on Friday’s Talk Back.
‘It was so obvious that people do not want this. We don't want you to make it safer. We don't want you to tell us where we're wrong on how we're going to be unsafe and how it's going to make things worse. We want you to not do this. So you're telling us that you said it' incumbent on us to do something. Where am I wrong? It's incumbent on you to do what the people want you to do. Your job isn't to do what you personally want to do, or what you personally think should be done. The people don't want this, you need to reverse this. The reason there's a crisis here is because of all the benefits that you give the homeless, and they keep coming here in droves because you keep giving them more. The one gentleman at the meeting said ‘When you build it, they will come’ and that's exactly what's happening. You're creating a bigger crisis. Look, we can go on and on like this and it sounds like an echo chamber because it's just going on and on the same things are being said. But the bottom line is, if you're not going to represent the people, there's no reason for you to be in office. So my question to you is, how do we remove someone from office? I don't know this. I'm not a political person. I'm just a guy who works hard every day. I had to work and work hard every day and be with my family and you took away my home. With all the tax increases, I was forced to sell my home because I couldn't keep up with it. So now I'm one of the homeless. So my question is, since I don't know these things, what is the process of removing an official from office? Can we have a special election? I understand there's something like a recall, and everyone within the sound of my voice, I think everybody here wants you to reverse the benefits for the homeless. Not only don't continue what you're doing but reverse what's already been done. Stop and take all the money that's already been allocated, and give it back to us the taxpayers, and reverse these things. And you know what, if you don't do it, I'm going to do everything in my power to find out what the process is to get you removed from office and remove everyone from office who isn't doing what the people want you to do.’
Mayor Hess Maintains he wants to Find Common Ground on the Homeless Issue
An emotional Mayor Hess, shaken by the caller’s comment, sought some common ground on the issue of homelessness in Missoula.
“You know, the notion that there's this monolithic view of what people want is challenging for me,” he said. “I think what we have to do is walk a line of trying to find common ground and trying to figure out how to keep people on the whole happy, and that's what's going on here to me. There are really charged views on all sides of this and we're trying to walk a path down the middle.”
On the subject of taxes, with a 9.7 percent tax increase for city residents, Mayor Hess explained why taxes have had to be increased.
Mayor Hess also Addressed the City's 9.7 Percent Tax Increase
“I've worked really closely with our financial staff, as far as what we could do to not increase taxes at all; to maintain a 0 percent increase, and that would require $6 million of cuts,” began Hess. “Now that's because of inflationary increases. Inflation is eating us alive at the city of Missoula, and there are a number of things that have caused that. Emulsified asphalt is up 72 percent since 2017, and over the same time frame, our fire department calls for service are up 52 percent. We've all seen inflation but the cumulative impact of inflation on the services that government provides is higher than it is in other sectors.”
Mayor Hess also explained why certain expenses require tax increases.
“It was a bright line for me,” he said. “I was unwilling to cut police and fire because that is 43 percent of our tax-supported fund budget. There are some things where we have some statutory obligations such as courts, and the health department where we have a contractual obligation. When you really look at it, it leaves 13.8 percent of our budget that goes to Public Works and 13.2 percent that goes to parks. Both of those are $13 to $15 million budgets, and cutting $6 million out of either of those would be cutting a substantial part of our streets maintenance and cutting a substantial part of our parks maintenance. People talk about trimming the fat and this is not trimming the fat. This is amputating a limb.”
Listen to the entire hour of City Talk with Mayor Jordan Hess here.