(And ours)

Community has to be first

Born and raised in Billings, I grew up on the South Side–that neighborhood–where every year presented a new group from another part of town self-appointed to come and “save” us. The closer one got to adjacent downtown, the more honest the message got: “decorative” rails were installed on planters and dividers on benches to keep the homeless away.

But my experience was different. I saw people struggling to get by, dealing with the generational effects of poverty, but taking care of each other in the process. My family was part of a group of friends that started a restaurant and community center. My dad coached and later ran for state legislature, while my mom juggled graduate school and parenting on a limited budget. I must have heard more talk about “neighborhood” issues than most kids hear about chores or homework.

I learned early the ethic of putting community first. We as a family couldn’t succeed without our friends and neighbors doing the same.

Boom towns - good for everyone?

When my wife and I came 2 hours west to Bozeman, we didn’t see the struggle the way I did growing up, but we soon encountered it. Buying a home was out of the question, and we quickly learned that we were lucky spending half our income on housing alone.

We saw that “success” comes at a cost: two incomes meant one would go almost entirely to childcare (if we could get it), while access to affordable healthcare disappeared. We were well-educated, from white, middle-class families. My wife had a great job with a well-known non-profit. I was well positioned for law school. How was this possible?

It didn’t take to see that our story repeated itself over and over through the lives of thousands of families in the Gallatin Valley. Resort towns rarely show it on the surface, but they depend so heavily on service worker and real estate investment that those at the bottom find themselves trapped in low wages and high costs, while those in the middle get continuously squeezed.

Is this what we want?

Ask Bozemanites what their top concerns are and they’ll tell you: housing, housing, and housing. As this place has transformed into a global destination on the back of a real estate gold rush, more and more of us are getting left behind. 60% of residents make less than they need to cover regular needs. Those who live comfortable daily lives are saddled with debt and one emergency away from disaster.

That would be bad enough, but it gets worse. Our growth is threatening our water supply, climate change is bearing down on our forests, farms, and ranches, and low wages and soaring costs-of-living continue to put families’ futures on the line. The very rich may be able to delay the effects for a while, but eventually few of us will be able to enjoy the quality of life we brag about today.

As a former pastor, I know what that means: our community will continue to be torn apart. We’ll continue looking for someone to blame. Depression and mental illness will spread as more live on the razor’s edge of survival–in a state with the highest suicide rate in the country. More children will be born into generational poverty and trauma. Our wild places that we so cherish will not stay frozen in time, no matter how many dollars we put toward conservation.

It's not too late for greatness!

I’m running for City Commission because I don’t want to lose our future to something we could be preventing today. I don’t want my grandchildren to ask what went so wrong. Can we prevent the worst damage to nature? No, but we can start planning and showing the rest of the country what’s possible before it’s too late. Can we go back to the sleepy ski and ag town that once existed? No, but we can create the kind of community where all are welcome, where everyone is taken care of, and where our relationship to nature is a mutually beneficial one.

I’m running because I believe in the power of a community that cares, I’ve seen it first hand, and I can’t accept any less than the best in us working towards that goal, whatever it takes. Our future is stark, but it could yet be bright. Let’s take this chance to dream big, get real, and tackle this step by step. I sure can’t do it without you.

9

Reasons

I'll make your vote worth it

  1. I know that I can’t get anything done on my own. We have to commit to a community-wide effort together.
  2. I’m the only candidate talking about the long-term issues that affect our livelihood.
  3. Our current Commission won’t live to see the long-term consequences of current policy. My family knows what it’s like to struggle with these issues every day.
  4. Housing is on everyone’s mind: I know the issue like few do, and am the only one with a plan that isn’t more of the same.
  5. I won’t pretend to be an expert where I’m not. These are complex problems. I’ll work twice as hard to understand them inside and out.
  6. I’ve committed my life to sticking up for the poor, which is why I’ve been busy supporting tenants who have nowhere else to turn.
  7. Montana means more to me than a nice view and a sweet vacation spot. It’s been my family’s home for generations and I’m personally invested in its future.
  8. My background in faith and politics has taught me that policy is never faceless. I’m interested in how well we’re all doing, not what makes me look good.
  9. I’m banking on talking about hard-nosed issues and amplifying the voices of everyday citizens. If I’m elected, you won’t have to go to City Hall to find me.