Small Town, Big Government?
City Commission

Small Town, Big Government?

After a lively couple of weeks, the City has decided — in advance of its previously scheduled March 6 meeting — that the Children’s Museum will not have to pack up and move, at least for now. The fiasco surrounding the CMOM highlighted a larger issue, though: the City’s desire to grow our government.

Let’s take a look at some recent statements made by City officials. Here’s Mayor Kelly, on February 17 in the Tribune:

Great Falls Mayor Bob Kelly said, ‘It would be silly to start a big construction project if the museum comes to us when the lease expires in ’18 and says they’ve outgrown the space.’

Here’s Kelly again, 10 days later, via KRTV:

‘We have a couple things that are happening. One right now is we have additional personnel that we need to hire for Marcy’s Law. Our legal department is getting squeezed out right now, ideally we would like to have them all together. The other thing we have added some personnel to our Planning and Community Development group. We have also hired a human resources person and we are looking to group those folks together, as well as out risk managers,’ Kelly explained. 

From the January 3, 2017 City Commission work session:

City Attorney Sara Sexe commented that it is dysfunctional trying to supervise the prosecutor’s office since it is separated from the civil department. She further commented that it would be helpful to have a well functioning department all under one roof. City Attorney Sexe reported that once Marsy’s law becomes effective it will enhance the level of involvement between the two departments. She noted that the Assistant City Attorney is currently utilizing the Human Resource Director’s office space.

Also, and from the same meeting:

City Manager Greg Doyon reported that the impact of Marsy’s Law will fundamentally change the operation of the legal department.

That’s a lot of generalized talk about Marsy’s Law, so one naturally wonders how many new employees the City will hire to cope with its requirements. Well, if the City hires the same amount of staff as Billings, a community twice the size of Great Falls, the number of new employees would be exactly… one.

From the Billings Gazette:

Brooks said he plans to ask the city council for one new employee, at $66,000 per year plus an additional $2,000 for a computer and equipment, to comply with the law. For 10 years, his office has received no additional staff, and other Montana communities, including Bozeman, Great Falls, Gallatin County and Missoula County, are requesting new employees ranging from one half-time employee (Bozeman) to two employees (Missoula County).

Honestly, how responsible would it be, then, for the City to invest in “a big construction project,” or to take over a facility as large as the Children’s Museum? And why does there seem to be such fervor within City Hall to grow government? Does anyone think that Great Falls is experiencing population growth at a rate commensurate with this proposed growth in bureaucracy? How many additional HR staffers does the City intend to hire, and moreover, do they really need to hire any at all? We certainly don’t hear this type of “big government” rhetoric from the Cascade County Commissioners.

It is possible that one day the City of Great Falls will find itself in a position that necessitates a larger municipal campus. Our region’s economic outlook, however, is not especially rosy. Great Falls is an ag community, and is bolstered by oil patch activity. Agricultural commodity prices have tanked, and so have oil prices. By and large, and over the course of decades, Great Falls’ population has grown very little. It would be laughable to forecast a significant population surge anytime soon.

Great Falls, Montana population

Maybe, then, the City should focus on improving the government it has now, rather than on the larger government it wishes to have. Last we checked, the golf courses are bleeding money, the swimming pools don’t sustain themselves, the parking program is a loser, and taxes and fees keep going up, up, up…

Maybe more government isn’t the answer.

March 14, 2017

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ECB Staff


14 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Small Town, Big Government?”

  1. Amused says:

    You clearly have no clue as to what you are talking about.

    • don petrini says:

      would you explain why you say that Amused

    • Jim R. says:

      The mediocrity of the small town mind.

    • Monica says:

      Amused, please do elaborate.

    • Jeni Dodd says:

      I spy….a troll calling itself “Amused.”

      I haven’t heard a deadline or date from the city for hiring more personnel to deal with Marsy’s Law, which is supposed to take effect July 1, 2017. Another consideration is the possibility of a court challenge to this law because of this: Section 36. Rights of crime victims. (1) …a crime victim has the following rights, beginning at the time of victimization…
      (f) to privacy, including the right to refuse an interview, deposition, or other discovery request and to set reasonable conditions on the conduct of any interaction to which the victim consents;

      It does appear to fly in the face of the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which generally allows the accused the right to confront witnesses, including his or her accuser, face to face. Indeed the Montana ACLU has already stated the that they, “will monitor the consequences of this overreaching addition to Montana’s Constitution and will consider necessary steps to protect Montanans’ rights, including the possibility of legal challenges to CI-116.”

      So before the city starts hiring new people to deal with the “burden” of this law, they might consider taking some time after the law takes effect to determine the impacts, or they could end up with unnecessary expense and staff. Or is the city using Marsy’s Law as a ruse?

      “The greatest tyrannies are always perpetrated in the name of the noblest causes.”–Thomas Paine

  2. don petrini says:

    No we don’t need more government we need a government that will stand up and run our city right. A government that can and will make the right decisions and adjustments when needed .A government that can stay neutral and listen to what the people want and to help anyway they can to establish in getting it done .

    • Amused says:

      How are they supposed to “help in any way they can to establish in getting it done” when there isn’t enough staff to do so? Do you want to get things done or do you want a “small government”? You can’t have it both ways. I would submit to you that the government did listen to what the people want. Obviously Marsy’s Law is still a big question mark because it’s an entirely new process and I don’t think anyone knows exactly how many man-hours it’s going to take to comply with that unfunded mandate. Perhaps they listened to the outcry when they finally decided to hire competent and adequate legal staff to keep the city on the straight and narrow. I could go on but alas I fear it’s a waste of time.

      • Rick Tryon says:

        Amused, whoever you are you clearly have no idea as to what you are talking about.

      • don petrini says:

        why hide behind a fake name why you so afraid ???

        • Gregg Smith says:

          Don’t miss the point, Don. It’s not the fake name. It’s the fact that “Amused” hasn’t made one actual argument about the original post, but has only made smug suggestions of his or her superior knowledge. Until s/he has something to say other than how we “wouldn’t understand it nor accept it if it was made painfully obvious,”…well, yawn.

          S/he’s trolling you.

  3. Jesse Oldham says:

    Funny, I thought a Tracy Houck was the trouble maker over the Children’s Museum but I didn’t see her mentioned here once.

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