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Current Events: Growing population sparks Missoula City Council debate

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Posted at 11:30 AM, Mar 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-10 13:30:06-05

MISSOULA - We talked with our news partner at the Missoula Current, Martin Kidston to learn more about how Missoula’s growth is creating a problem for city council wards.

"So, right now, the big thing before city council is redistricting, or what they call ward boundary adjustments. They [have gone] into this process now for about a month, somewhat contentious this time around because some counselors don't want to give up certain neighborhoods to other wards. They're playing through all these debates and we should have a finalization, probably Monday night,” Kidston explained.

Missoula has the state’s biggest city council with the most members and the town is just exploding and growing.

“So, the population has increased quite a bit since the last sentence census, two years ago, and because of the population growth, that requires the ward boundary adjustments,” Kidston said. “There's a rule that each board has to be equitable, they have to have similar populations," Kidston said. "All the growth that's taking place [is] west of town. You're getting a lot of growth out there. Other neighborhoods that are more traditional aren't seeing as much growth. But because of that, they have to expand or detract from certain wards to keep that equitable within the wards.”

“The change vary...and that's why some council members feel. They have a legitimacy...and claim to their wards, because they think it's different than, say, the word across the street. But other accounts numbers say that's not the case more awards, more representation among city council members,” Kidston continued. "So, it works out better for everybody.”

The Missoula City Council was even considering adding more members because the growth is so explosive.

“So, some council members suggested that instead of adjusting the word boundaries, maybe the city should just add new wards, the accommodate for the growth. Of course, other council members say that's a big decision [and] we need to wait on that and discuss that more in-depth over a longer period of time,” Kidston said. “Missoula already has the largest city council in the entire state of Montana...bigger than Billings, which is the bigger city. They have fewer council members. So, we already have 12."

"It's a debate to be had and it also [has an] impact for voters because voters need to know who their candidates are right? And some voters might find themselves in a new ward this time around. So, they need to familiarize themselves with the candidates and so on and so forth as they head into the spring primaries. It's this big battle that's gonna should be resolved soon...and it's just a battle amongst the city council members. or some on the council. I think. Most [of the] general public, doesn't really care what ward they're in. They just want to know who to vote for and where to go when they cast their ballot,” Kidston concluded.