At its general meeting on Thursday, August 1, Bozeman DSA will hold a vote to decide whether to endorse a candidate for Bozeman City Commission. The following information is provided to assist our members in deciding how to vote.
To prepare for this process, the Steering Committee of Bozeman DSA emailed the below questionnaire to the three candidates.
- One candidate, Zachary Krumm, responded to our questions. His responses are shown below with the questionnaire.
- Candidate Michael Wallner replied to our email and declined to answer the questionnaire.
- Candidate Mark Egge did not respond to our email at all.
Since only Zachary Krumm responded to our questionnaire, we will not consider the other candidates for endorsement.
The questionnaire follows, along with responses from Zachary Krumm (denoted as ZK).
with responses from Zachary Krumm
ZK: Zachary Krumm
- Position sought:
ZK: City Commissioner
- Are you a socialist? Explain.
ZK: Yes! I believe that we have the resources to provide a better-than-basic standard of living for everyone, but accumulation of wealth and limited control of production by a select few prevents that. We should have worker ownership and control of the workplace as much as possible so that we have an economy that is truly equitable, prosperous, and just.
- Are you a DSA member?
- Have you held office before?
- What would you bring to the office that Bozeman DSA could be proud of?
ZK: I am a 4th generation working-class Montanan who knows our local politics and the challenges we face. I have experience managing campaigns and doing grassroots organizing, am an expert in housing, and actually represent the average Bozeman resident. Our current Commission treats the office like part-time volunteer work. I know how to dig into big, complicated issues, work with a range of experts and disciplines, and am not afraid to question the status quo. Our city should be the kind of community where everyone can be healthy, whole, and prosperous, while we improve our living environment every day that we’re here. I’ll make that my full-time job.
- Why are you running for office? What do you see as the biggest challenges Bozeman faces?
ZK: We are in the midst of a long-running housing crisis. Currently, retirement income is driving most of our local economy, which may dry up in the next decade or two.
Consequently, the city is split into have’s and have-not’s who serve them. We need an economic future that is both sustainable and feasible. Wages are pathetically low for all but the professional classes. Finally, partly because we are not a coastal city and partly because of Montana’s rugged-individualist culture, we tend to shrug off climate concerns, but we are in grave danger and need action fast.
- What are your top three priorities if elected?
1) Housing as a fundamental right, more-than-affordable for all.
2) Eco-socialism: reimagining our city as part of a complex ecosystem that needs to be nurtured, where all living things can thrive well into the future, even in the face of climate change.
3) Building local and statewide coalitions to make our city and state the leader in each of the above
- What is your evaluation of the current City Commission?
ZK: Many of the members mean well, but lack the guts and political will to do what is necessary. They tend to treat the job as a retirement award, not a serious responsibility. If we continue down the path they’ve set, our children and grandchildren will not get to enjoy the Bozeman “lifestyle” everyone “falls in love” with.
Economic Justice and Workers’ Rights
- Wages in Bozeman are abysmally low compared to cost of living. How would you remedy this?
ZK: We need an aggressive minimum wage, better worker protections, and taxes on concentrated wealth, especially the luxury retirement sector which depends on cheap service labor. I would consider a City union program that would provide resources and organizing help, or even a city-wide union itself that all wage workers could join for collective bargaining. This would in turn provide wage transparency and equity. Further, any tax incentives should go directly to employee-owned businesses, not developers.
- Do you support raising the minimum wage? To what amount?
ZK: Yes, at a minimum $15/hour, but I believe cost of living in Bozeman demands $18 or $20. For comparison, a living wage for a family of three here is $25/hour.
a) Do you support indexing the minimum wage to inflation or cost of living?
b) Do you support raising the tipped minimum wage to match the standard minimum wage?
- Do you support the unconditional right of workers to organize unions and card check?
ZK: Yes. In a capitalist system, organized worker power is an essential component of balancing interests and trying to create some sense of justice in an unjust system.
- Do you oppose tax giveaways or publicly-funded incentives to corporations such as special increment districts?
ZK: Yes. Especially in a place like Bozeman, where investors are competing to get into the market, there is no good reason to the City should be giving out corporate handouts. We should be dictating the “cost of admission,” not the other way around.
- Do you support equal pay for equal work and will you fight for pay equity for women?
ZK: Absolutely. The City needs to lead the way in its own pay structure, and tax incentives should be considered for businesses that can show equal gender pay.
Energy, Infrastructure, and the Environment
- Water is an already scarce resource in the Gallatin Valley, the fire season is growing in length and intensity, and climate change is threatening our local ecosystem that so many travel from around the world to visit. How would you propose Bozeman address climate change?
ZK: We need to go carbon-positive by 2030 at the latest. We should be partnering with local utilities to pioneer pilot projects in distributed and renewable energy systems, and developing neighborhoods with smaller lots and essential business and services within walking distance. We should explore forms of transit-oriented development inspired by the spirit of the streetcar, with an emphasis on reducing car use over time. We already know where and how to develop to minimize watershed impact. This should be codified immediately. The City needs to change its waste system, incorporate a top-to-bottom recycling program, and ban the most egregious single-use materials. Finally, we should build on Montana’s agricultural legacy by growing as much of the food we eat as close to home as possible.
- Would you support a 100% renewable energy mandate? By what year?
ZK: Yes by 2030 at the very latest.
- Cars are one of the largest sources of carbon emissions. Some cities are planning to ban them outright. What would you do to address this problem locally?
ZK: Montana has a strong identification with car culture; it’s time to give people good reasons to leave their car in the garage. We need to begin investing in alternative transport systems that rival cars in comfort and convenience. Public transit needs to be free at the point of entry, accessible, and reliable.
- Are there any other steps you would take to secure our environmental future?
ZK: Yes! We need to be actively consulting with leading ecologists, urban planners, climate researchers, and engineers to stretch our notion of what’s possible in development. The Greater Yellowstone Area is considered by many to be a center of conservation; why aren’t we leading the way in building cities that improve our relationship with nature?
- What is your vision for transportation in Bozeman?
ZK: Much larger cities are getting the attention in terms of transit, but cars play such an important role in shaping our cities and environment everywhere, often for the worse. We need to get serious about what a robust, clean, efficient transportation system would look like for a small city such as ours. We should learn from older cities developed before the automobile, where people move freely between close neighborhoods with unique character.
Equality Under the Law and Social Justice
- Do you support efforts to demilitarize and disarm our police departments?
ZK: Yes, there is no excuse nor need for military-grade equipment or attitudes in law enforcement.
- Do you recognize the increased police presence in our schools as the start of a school-to-prison pipeline and so support removing police officers from school, and providing thorough and free mental healthcare as an alternative means of safety for our children?
ZK: Yes, even in seemingly safe and affluent communities like ours, we need to support children in their development, not put them under surveillance.
- Do you recognize sex work as work and support the decriminalization of sex work?
ZK: Absolutely, to the extent that we can legally decriminalize it locally, we should.
- Do you recognize transgender rights as human rights and support the inclusion of both gender identity and expression as protected classes in all legislation?
a) Do you support the right of all individuals to use the restroom with respect to their gender identity and expression and so oppose so-called bathroom laws that attempt to restrict use of public services by the sex assigned at birth?
b) Do you support adding a third gender option of “X” on City forms and in City recordkeeping for those who don’t fall within the gender binary?
- Do you support classifying and publicly announcing your jurisdiction as a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants?
Housing and Social Services
- What do you consider to be the root cause of our housing crisis and how would you go about fixing it?
ZK: Housing should not be a commodity whose primary purpose is to turn profit and accumulate wealth. We already know that the vast majority of people never make money from their home; homes should be places to live first and foremost. Worse, housing in Bozeman is driven by out-of-state movers, capital, and real estate speculation. The result has been soaring prices, making it unaffordable for all but the well-off to live here. We need a system that prioritizes homes as a basic need, just like water or electricity. This should include guaranteed housing for the homeless, robust public housing, publicly financed construction and loans through a public bank, and taxes that target second homes, empty lots and units, and high-end homes.
- What do you think the City’s role should be in providing for the homeless?
ZK: The Housing First model, in which the homeless are given real housing, no questions asked, has been proven both socially and fiscally successful around the world. It’s time that Bozeman follow suit.
- Do you support public and/or cooperative housing to meet the city’s needs?
ZK: Yes, we need a way to bring down the price of existing homes, but new development should involve a lot of public housing, using existing City land where possible, so that everyone can afford a quality home. Public housing works for traditional renters and homeowners, without being tied to a mortgage or the subject to a potentially hostile landlord.
a) If yes, how should it be funded?
ZK: We should use high-end home transfer taxes and second-home taxes, plus the lending potential available from the public bank, to capitalize development.
- How do you feel about the City’s current Affordable Housing program, including the Affordable Housing Ordinance?
ZK: It is complete garbage.
- Do you support a vacancy or speculation tax?
ZK: Yes, we should tailor tax policy, as much as possible given state property tax limits, to encourage people to live and work here full time, in modest homes, not vacation mansions.
- Would you support changes in zoning and lot sizes?
ZK: Yes, people love our historic district for a reason: it feels cozy because the lots are small and the streets are narrower. Had we built the rest of the city that way, it would have been half its current size. We should limit lot sizes and create neighborhood-based zoning, instead of encouraging unnecessary high-rise developments that inevitably go to luxury units anyway.
- Would you support rental licensing and inspection?
ZK: 100%. That should have happened a long time ago.
- Do you support rent control?
ZK: I would support a 5-year rent freeze, minimum, though I believe a full rent control scheme would be problematic, and may ultimately be more trouble than its worth.
Childcare and Education
- Two thirds of Gallatin County residents do not have access to childcare. Should childcare be a basic right?
a) If yes, how would you implement it at the local level?
ZK: If we cannot get the state to fund universal childcare, we should explore the feasibility of doing so locally.
- Schools in Bozeman tend to have inequities based on location and demographics, largely due to the ability of parents to fundraise for programs for their child(ren)’s school. How do you feel about this?
ZK: It’s not good. Raised funds should generally go into a pool, unless the Board or a separate representative committee approves exceptions.
- 20% of Bozeman’s population during the school year is comprised of MSU students. How would you rate the City’s cooperation with the university?
ZK: I have both seen and heard that they barely cooperate at all. This needs to change.
a) How would you improve it?
ZK: MSU students should know they are a major constituent part of our community and have a big effect on it. We need to incorporate MSU into city government thinking and planning, and push university leadership to do the same. After all, we occupy the same space.
- Should charter schools play a role in our school system?
ZK: I am comfortable with private schools for now, though I do not support a sanctioned charter or voucher program because it inevitably hurts the poorest among us.
- How would you improve education in Bozeman?
ZK: We need to partner with the school district to raise political support for widely increasing teacher pay and resources. We say that education is crucial to our children’s future; it’s high time that we mean it.
Democratic Justice and Political Power-Building
- Does Bozeman have a representation problem?
ZK: Yes, the makeup of our current Commission consists entirely of professional-class or independently wealthy, older, mostly white folks. In contrast, half the city makes less than $50,000 and consists of much younger people. Our leadership does not represent us demographically or in terms of our interests.
a) If so, how would you fix it?
ZK: We’ve got to flip those seats! Further, economic and social justice standards
need to be written into City policy and strategic planning documents. We need
to set goals based on actual need, not merely public comment from those with the free time to attend meetings.
- Do you support public financing of elections?
ZK: Yes, to whatever extend that would be legally possible within the City.
- Do you support districts for City Commissioners, rather than at-large seats (as we currently have)?
ZK: Absolutely, the city is already too large to have adequate representation via at-large seats. We need local leaders that know their neighborhoods and represent them well.
- Montana is a right-leaning state with a strong Republican majority in the state legislature.
ZK: Trying to accomplish significant change at either the national or state level right now is extremely difficult, yet issues such as housing and climate change demand immediate action. I’m convinced that cities are the future for real political change, and given its international appeal and connections, Bozeman could be a leader in this area. I would work relentlessly to ensure we demonstrate the value of better policies in action, continue to organize and build support through vehicles such as DSA while in office, and use the platform of the office to speak out.
- How would you work with other city leaders around the state?
ZK: It’s high time we had close working relationships with other city leaders across the state. If we could win seats and encourage similar policies in the other urban areas in Montana, we would build the kind of political power to completely change state politics. I’m convinced this is the future for political change, going up to the national level. I would develop personal relationships with other leaders, help recruit future candidates, and work on information sharing so that we can all learn from each other.
Government Accountability and Fiscal Policy
- Would you support greater taxes on the wealthy to fund social programs?
ZK: Yes, our cost-of-living crisis is in large part due to the influx of the wealthy here. It’s only fair that those who have been enriched on the backs of wage labor should pay a greater share to ensure that the working class have their basic needs met. This is the minimum we ought to ask of the wealthy
- The City of Bozeman currently enjoys nationally-high per-capita property taxes. Should the housing bubble collapse or the economy move into a recession, city revenues could drop. How would you structure tax policy to ensure responsibility, equity, and fairness?
ZK: We need to be prepared to restructure tax rates to suit our current budgets, while rigorously hunting down wasted spending (our city seems to have a love affair with expensive consultants, for instance). Further, we need to start planning now for a more an economy that is both green and can grow in line with our community goals.
- Are there areas where the City should change spending?
ZK: Yes, for our record-breaking tax revenue, we provide very little in the way of valuable social services. We should consider reducing public safety spending where possible (other comparable cities spend half what we do), pay City employees well and more equally, and rely on tax revenue (including a resort tax) that more accurately reflects who benefits most from our town.
- Would you support a local and/or state public bank?
ZK: Absolutely, we should be the first in the country! It would allow us to make very cheap home loans, develop local infrastructure, and provide essential financial services for our residents, without the overhead and exploitation that big banks bring with them.