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The nine candidates for four seats on the Bozeman City Commission shared their thoughts on how to address housing and child care issues in the city during a forum hosted Wednesday by the Bozeman Area Chamber of Commerce.

During the forum at Riverside Country Club, the candidates, along with the three running for the Bozeman municipal judge seat, had six minutes to share their platforms and address focus areas the chamber provided, which included homelessness, affordable, workforce and emergency housing, public safety and child care.

Joey Morrison, who is running for a two-year seat left open by the resignation of Commissioner Michael Wallner, said all those issues connect back to safety.

“All these components of our community, having access to affordable housing, having access to child care, those are all safety concerns, they’re all things that when we invest in them ... they make us all safer,” Morrison said.

One of Morrison’s opponents, Commissioner Jennifer Madgic, said she would be interested to look into what it would take to fund a permanent shelter in Bozeman, and noted that every candidate and current commissioner is taking the housing issue seriously.

The other candidate in that race, Evan Rainey, said one way to address housing would be too look at the unified development code, which the city is already looking at. He said it doesn’t need adjustments, but that it “needs to be torn apart.”

Commissioner Christopher Coburn, who is running for one of the two four-year seats, said he wants the city to look at making it easier for people to build housing, including backyard accessory dwelling units.

Coburn also said he supports investing in Streamline Transit, child care and other services to help residents thrive. Commissioner I-Ho Pomeroy said she would continue to work supporting services like the Bozeman Warming Center.

Emily Talago, who is running against Coburn and Pomeroy, said the number of people experiencing homelessness in Bozeman is a failure of the city.

“I don’t know how much a city commissioner can actually affect this and improve this,” Talago said. “I do know that we can make it worse. And I believe we are, with the oppressive, huge amount of regulations that absolutely need to go away.”

The only tense moment of the forum came when mayoral candidate Christopher Brizzolara challenged Deputy Mayor Terry Cunningham, who is also running for mayor, criticizing the amount of money he has raised — over $20,000 — and calling him “Terry Bloomberg Cunningham.”

“If I’m calling people names I guess that means I’m Trump, right,” Brizzolara said.

Cunningham brushed off Brizzolara’s comments and turned his attention to his platform, which he said comes down to regional collaboration.

“My belief is we are all, as institutions, working on the same problems, but working in silos; whether that’s affordable housing or child care or any of the ills that we are facing and that we can combine resources and be much more efficient,” Cunningham said.

The other mayoral candidate, Brian LaMeres, said he is in favor of funding a year-round shelter, but said he’d like to see the city try to get federal or state money for other efforts, like emergency housing or child care.

When it comes to affordable housing, LaMeres said he thinks the city should turn to private business.

“I think we need to be a little bit more patient about letting the free market address our problem,” LaMeres said.

Chamber CEO Daryl Schliem said after the forum that these topics — housing, child care and public transportation — are all critical issues facing businesses in Bozeman. The chamber doesn’t endorse candidates, but does take positions on ballot issues. Schliem said the chamber is supporting the county’s bid to fund a new Law and Justice Center and the city’s ballot question to fund the relocation of fire station 2.

However, Schliem said the chamber is not planning to support the city’s other two ballot questions: one to fund repairs at three parks and recreation facilities and the affordable housing levy that would raise $9.5 million over 10 years for the city’s housing initiatives.

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Nora Shelly can be reached at nshelly@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2607.

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