This is the third of a series of interviews with U.S. Congressional candidates from Montana

Missoula City Councilman takes aim at stewardship, conservation issues in early campaign

By Taylor Anderson

Dave Strohmaier considers himself a
steward of the land. A fourth generation
Montanan, Strohmaier was first
elected to the Missoula City Council
in 2005 and is serving a second term
while working as a historian for Historical
Research, Associates, Inc.
Since announcing his campaign in
June, Strohmaier has traveled the state
displaying his focuses on the importance
of transportation infrastructure
and preserving cultural heritage in the
state of Montana and nationwide. He
also wants to bring back the sense of
citizens, rather than consumers and
taxpayers.
TA : What do you think about making
the jump from Councilman to Representative
and how are your chances?

DS: I chair the city’s public safety
and health committees. I worked for
the Bureau of Land Management and
Forest Service for about 17 years, so
I’ve got experience working with land
management agencies and likewise.
Working with municipal government
as an elected official puts you in touch
with the communities. I really am the
first line elected official that people go
to whether its public safety or homelessness
in our community.
I think folk do not recognize the power
of their local government. I would not
be running for U.S. Congress if I didn’t
think it was important, but I think
people need to realize the importance…
at the local level.
TA : What are some issues that you see
a direct correlation between regarding
a move from city council to U.S.
Congress?

DS: [I’ve worked] on implementing
tax increment finance districts that
have helped in dramatic ways and have
revitalized certain areas in our community
that have been blighted or needed
a shot in the arm. So why not take that
at the local level and try and implement
that at the national level?
Trying to get passenger rail service to
Southern Montana. We haven’t seen
Amtrak service since 1979. With
increasing fuel prices, increasing concerns
over how emissions are impacting
global climate, there’s a real concern
that we need to embrace multi-modal
transportation. The only way we’ll see
that happen in our lifetimes here in
Southern Montana is to have a champion
for that issue in Congress and I
intend to be that champion.
TA : Another one of your core issues is
agriculture. Elaborate on your idea of
adding value to Montana commodities.

DS: I ask the question: Is there a way
in which we can either enhance current
value-added operations to the state or
attract them rather than export raw
products only to buy them back at a
local grocery store? I want to make sure
we can capture and add value to those
in the state and in turn add employment.
While working on the city council
I’ve been pretty outspoken in terms
of preserving agricultural soils –
more in our areas adjacent to urban
Montana than out in the hinterland.
I’ve seen some of our agricultural
soils swallowed up by subdivisions.
That does not keep our focus on
future generations.
TA : What other ideas do you have to
invigorate local economies?

DS: One example: What can we do
analogous in rural areas to the tax increment
finance districts that have been so
impactful in urban areas? In Missoula
we’ve adopted urban renewal districts
where we’ll cap the income property
tax level and over time, as new business
is established and the amount of taxes
taken in that area of town increases,
that increment of revenue above the
baseline is … put back into the area
rather than being absorbed in the city
general fund. This will revitalize that
part of our community.
How might we adopt something
similar at the federal level that might
have a beneficial impact upon rural
areas throughout the nation and rural
Montana?
TA : Another issue you’re taking up is
conservation. Would you take a stand
against big money interests? How?

DS: What I tell folks as I’m driving
around the state is in order to get
from one place to the other is I have
to put gas in my car. That comes
from somewhere. It’s not to say we
shouldn’t develop green energy,
but… traditional industry, such as
mining and energy development,
is going to have an enduring role in
this state.
We call Montana the “crown of the
continent” and there’s a reason for
that. There are some places that
ought not to be explored for certain
development activities, and ought
to be protected for their natural
values. The Rocky Mountain Front
is a good example.
There are other places that are okay
to be developed, provided we do
so in a careful manner that doesn’t
create problems for us decades
down the road.
It’s a matter of finding and striking
a balance. For too long there’s been
oppositional politics where some
have said no to any development
and others have said yes to development
everywhere.
TA : What are your thoughts on the
national budget crisis and the public’s
loss of trust for our politicians
to do their jobs?

DS: As I talk to people across the
state, I hear from folks that are
sick and tired of the inability of
our elected officials in Congress to
[compromise].
People are tired of that wrangling.
The budget ceiling deal that came
out of Congress was not much of
a compromise, [and] it didn’t deal
with some of the big issues, such
as the revenue side of the Federal
budget. Things such as the Bushera
tax cuts continue to harm us.
It boils down to the wealthiest
Americans and corporations [needing
to share sacrifice]. There’s been
plenty of sacrifice but it hasn’t
been shared by all.
We need to determine as a nation
what our priorities are, what we
want from the government, and
how to pay for it. I don’t see public
as a dirty word, and I don’t see the
word tax as a dirty word. We need
a notion [of] citizenship in this
country. We’re not simply taxpayers,
and not [simply] consumers, as
some say [of] the American public.
It means doing together what we
cannot do individually.