Tim Warburton – Ward 4
I believe it’s important that the city has diverse leadership, and with one current City Councilmember under 40 with children, I do not think that is very representative of the size of this demographic in our city. I’m running to be a voice for a younger generation that is facing the challenges of parenting in addition to all the other challenges our society faces. I have a vested interest in the success of this community, since I plan on living here another forty years, and hopefully will have contributed to a community that my children feel comfortable choosing to make their home as well. In the end, I’m running to show my children that it’s important to be an engaged member of your community and that it matters who sits in these leadership positions. After years of encouraging others to become more engaged, it was time to put myself out there as well and step up for the community. I believe we need people who have been engaged and have a working knowledge on how the city operates and let those without become familiar by serving on a city Board or volunteer in another way.
Addressing public safety, investment in our civil infrastructure, and the continued development of a welcoming and diverse community. Various policies will help address all of these, but I think the priority is public safety. Without a community that people feel safe to walk around in, enjoy our parks and trails, as well as the many opportunities for wonderful food and different types of art, the rest doesn’t really matter. We could have the best parks in the world, but if they are not safe to enjoy, they do not have a chance to become an asset in our community that is used to attract the workforce we need or be an outlet to an increased quality of life. Investment in our roads, trails, paths, water infrastructure, as well as addressing an increasingly erratic climate due to climate change, is going to be vital if Billings is to continue being a destination for starting a new career, family, or place tourist can enjoy.
The best tree is one that was planted 30 years ago, and so our community today is the result of policies and leaders who were envisioning this city over the last 30 years. We can improve in our vision for this community, as at times it seems like we are often developing our infrastructure in a reactionary way as opposed to having a vision, putting it in place, and working to make it happen. I believe the biggest issue we should be focused on when it comes to increased growth is our current tax structure and the heavy burden our property owners share in the installation and maintenance of the infrastructure that will need to be available for this growth.
I am in support of the PSML, absolutely. I was in support of the ask last year and thank the community for voting in support as well. I appreciate how the Police Department seems open to including some additional interventions with certain segments of our population and are willing to look at other modalities when it comes to responding to calls. I thought it appropriate, and applaud the Council, for including money in this upcoming vote to substance abuse and mental health interventions. We reduce our crime, as well as our collective trauma, by focusing on treating the entire person, not just focusing on incarceration. I’d like to see our jail be used for violent offenders and others steered towards treatment, housing, and other community resources where we can invest in the people in our community instead of just warehouse them at a high cost to the taxpayers. This levy will be a success if we can more effectively respond to our communities needs, if our businesses downtown start to see an increase in visits to their establishments because people feel safe, and the police department has the resources they need to effectively do their job which is to protect and serve.
I believe it’s very important to prioritize these developments and loved the idea of having anchor developments. I thought the plan for the One Big Sky development was well thought out and was generally supportive of the idea. I think the current challenge the city faces is having members of the City Council who do not understand how TIFs work or how they can be used to benefit the city, or worse yet, those who do understand yet are fundamentally opposed to TIFs use and will be actively working during the next legislative session to remove TIFs altogether. TIFs are a great way to have a more targeted approach in investments in our infrastructure and development of our business community. It makes sense to me that a private business would see the city’s priority in investing in a particular area and then want to choose to open their business in that same area, knowing the city is committed to that area and its success. To me, TIFs are a commonsense solution and a great tool that city currently has at its disposal, and as a member of Council I’d be supportive of their use and expansion.
I absolutely support a local option authority and believe this should be the first question any statewide candidate is asked next year as they decide to run for office. Our tax structure is not sustainable, at least not for the type of community most residents would like to live in. Property owners in Billings provide the infrastructure and city services to a region that serves close to a million people, as well as tourists that pass through our community who use this infrastructure, and use our resources, without the ability for us to capture any tax on that use. Billings needs to be a leader in the state in revamping our tax structure, as the current model is unsustainable for the average resident, and extremely challenging for property owners.
I think this question should be directed towards those who spread misinformation about PD1 and helped create this issue in the first place. I would hope that PD1 is reauthorized by the voters and could be used just like all the other assessments we have here in Billings that Council approves every year. As a member of the Parks Board the previous four years, I advocated for using PD1 in this manner to help build out parks that continue to sit empty and an increase in the amount we are spending on our replacement cycles and repairs. As the purchasing power of PD1 decreased significantly, resulting in a parks system that was failing to keep up with the minimum replacement plan on equipment and assets, having some on Council that failed to understand the use for PD1 and was actively advocating against this tool was a disappointment. I will continue to be a supporter of PD1, as well as an advocate for the parks system and its role in attracting people to our community.
Billings is experiencing not just a housing shortage, but affordable housing options are lacking, creating a huge problem where anybody trying to join the workforce here could struggle to find a place to live. New housing helps, but the key is to ensure the housing is affordable. The Council should continue using the tools they have to best address new and old neighborhoods, either zoning newly annexed property appropriately to allow for both single and multifamily housing to be developed, as well as using TIFs to revitalize specific sections of the city that then could lead to an increase in infill development.