Ward 3 has many lovely neighborhoods, where families have lived for three or more generations. One lucky man lives in the house his father built in 1953. His son will inherit that home along with all the shared memories and history of family experiences. Our neighborhoods need these families. As our population ages and retires, how will we maintain our wonderful neighborhoods, honor their histories and stories and continue Billings’ sense of place?
Keeping neighborhoods strong, means providing opportunities for young families to have mortgages and employment that provides those funds. The 2017 Montana Economic Report states that median income for workers over age 24 is $31,800 or 86 percent of the national average of $36,900. That ranks Montana 45th of all states. As the price of housing has doubled in Montana since the early 1990s, this is increasing the local cost of living.
Considering this economic situation, the City Council must be forward in its planning and thinking. Investment in our city from public funds is necessary. We must support, maintain, and develop the infrastructure we have already built. We must support local residents as they grow Billings based businesses. Some businesses in Ward 3 are in buildings that need improvement. Just as West Park Plaza has had a rebirth as the Promenade, other areas need that commitment and planning. I support Ward 3 having a plan with incentives for redevelopment so that disrepair does not take hold.
I support the 2016 Billings Growth Plan. Many groups, business, civic and the general public were a part of developing that plan. It prioritizes growth within the city limits where infrastructure is built and does not stretch city services. Let us start making decisions that are consistent with that plan. Balance the growth throughout the city by recognizing that everything new is not gold. The gold is in the well established neighborhoods, the families that have built and paid for Billings growth. They deserve our respect and continued investment in Ward 3. Young families will be the next generation of residents that will build and pay for our growth. Let us give them the opportunity for that future by investing in areas that will be their neighborhoods.
A economically segregated city cries out for change. Most annexations on the edges of Billings are properties that are segregated by price. Multi-family dwellings are not built next to single family housing. This makes uniform and less diverse neighborhoods. Gated communities are springing up in these expensive properties. In contrast, Ward 3 neighborhoods are economically diverse with welcoming open planning. Neighbors know each other and children walk to school. That is the Billings I learned to appreciate and the future we can build.
Billings can be a thriving, flourishing city and the 2016 City of Billings Growth Plan is an excellent guiding document. We need a council that is committed to its values and ideas. I support this vision towards a city that is innovative, diverse, strong, and family friendly.