Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Since expanding KGVO’s Talk Back phone lines from four to seven, seldom has any one guest filled up all the phone lines, but it happened on Monday with mayoral candidate Mike Nugent.

KGVO spoke to Nugent during the entire 9:00 o’clock hour on topics related to his race for the mayor’s office as well as his work on the Missoula City Council.

Nugent dubbed Talk Back All Star for Filling Phone Lines

The city budget was highlighted by several callers, and Nugent said no one can describe the budget as being ‘lean’.

“The reality is, and I said this last week at city council and you can go back and watch the meeting, we are going to have to figure out a way to set priorities,” began Nugent. By priorities, I mean programs that people like from one to 10 that might not be able to be here anymore or might not be able to be funded the same way they are, because we can't just keep going on this trajectory. Last year the spending increase was 12 percent, this year, the spending increase was 9.7 percent, and it's called a lean budget. I mean, no budget that I've ever been a part of, would this be considered lean.”

Nugent hearkened back to a time when the City of Missoula did ‘zero-based budgeting’.

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Nugent Favors 'Zero-Based Budgeting' for Missoula

“Now there have been times in the history of Missoula where we have done zero-based budgeting, which is basically when you start from zero, and you kind of rebuild the department's budget,” he said. “There have been times where that has led to a handful of staff reductions or other things. That is not something that seems was done very well in the last decade to be perfectly honest, and I think the reality is given the situation that we're in that we have to get back to that.”

Regarding the homeless problem and the Johnson Street Shelter, Nugent said he, as well as others in Missoula, are frustrated by the process.

“It's frustrating because there was an emergency declaration made in June, and all these moving parts have been happening,” he said. But (city) council and the community didn't get to weigh in until last week, and to me, that's a big problem. So for them for it to be presented to the council as ‘Oh, if we don't do it now you're going to delay it all’ is really frustrating because the council is supposed to be an equal branch of government in the policymaking branch, and that seems to happen over and over again. It's a frustration of mine of how the two bodies kind of work together.”

One of the final questions Nugent faced in the hour was the proposed Higgins Avenue ‘road diet’ and how it might affect the business and traffic patterns in downtown Missoula.

Nugent weighed in on the Proposed 'Higgins Road Diet' Plan

“I actually think that a change in traffic pattern might be a good thing,” he said. “I don't like losing the parking and that's something I'm going to stay actively involved in to try and help as much as I can and to find solutions. However, I also think that when the city is setting out to do these big things to apply for these grants, we need to think of the other neighborhoods in Missoula, I asked on the council floor, why we were focusing on downtown because I think we're chasing perfection downtown, while we've got other neighborhoods like the North side and like River Road where they are feeling the pressure, but we haven't helped the infrastructure.”

Nugent is one of five individuals who are running for mayor, including interim Mayor Jordan Hess, Andrea Davis, Shawn Knopp, and Brandi Atanasoff.

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