As part of E-City Beat’s continuing effort to help our readers make informed decisions as voters, last month we sent questionnaires to all local legislative candidates in the upcoming general election informing them that we would publish their responses without editorial comment.
Here are the four questions we asked:
- What do you see as the top two issues facing Montana and Cascade County in the next 5 years and why are you the best candidate for the district you’re running in to tackle those issues?
- Identify at least one issue you see as an opportunity to work across party lines on and describe how you will do that to accomplish what’s best for your constituents.
- Why is Cascade County/Great Falls so far behind other Montana cities and counties in growth and economic development and what do you plan to do about it as a legislator?
- Do you think we need some form of a sales tax or other solution in Montana to help offset property taxes and why or why not?
Democrat Barbara Bessette and Republican Mike “Mac” McNamara are the candidates in House District 24. Bessette did not respond to our request.
Mike “Mac” McNamara
1. Lagging economic growth and rising crime are the two issues that will most affect Montanans. Economically we rank 41st in state domestic product and 37th in personal income. Worse, almost 12% of Montanans live in poverty! Every neighboring state, except Idaho, is doing better. That’s scandalous. I’ll champion cutting regulations, and ease the burden on businesses looking to start or move to Montana, especially in the manufacturing industry. I want jobs that pay well, will support families and keep our youth in Big Sky country.
From a crime perspective, drug offenses, aggravated assault, rape, and motor vehicle theft are at all time highs. Violent crime, robbery, larceny, and burglary are increasing. Murder has doubled since 2013. DUI’s are relatively unchanged, but at unacceptable levels. Why the people of Montana don’t scream for a solution, I don’t know. The legislature must act now. We must focus on serious crimes and drug interdiction. We must reform sentencing, diverting some offenders to DUI, Drug and Veterans courts where we are seeing good results, and increase penalties for several serious crimes.
As a retired Army officer I have a reputation for being tough on crime and I’ll fight to enact legislation that will make all Montanans safer.
2. I’ll work across the aisle with legislators who will help create jobs and combat crime.
I have over two decades of experience developing cost-effective solutions to tough problems, negotiating and implementing them. Experience is what voters want and I’ll deliver it.
3. Great Falls and Cascade County lag behind other Montana cities in growth and economic development. Why? Our area’s growth and economy has been relatively static. Our city had sixty thousand residents back in 1970. Since then we have lost the jobs at the smelter in 1980 and the Air Refueling Wing in 1992. On top of that we have a lagging birth rate, the average age of our people is getting older, fewer couples are married, children move away to attend college or find work, the list goes on.
In 2007 we reached our highest median household income at $49,721. In 2016, we were at $45,138, while the rest of Montana was at $50,027. The city and county must streamline permitting. Numerous companies have looked at Great Falls and turned their noses up at us because of long delays getting permitting approved. Other companies have stated that they would like to see the I-15 interchange at NW Bypass fully developed. Brett Doney and the Great Falls Development Authority are doing yeoman’s work trying to attract businesses that offer higher-wage jobs and we need to support them. MSU Great Falls has also done a fantastic job in tailoring its curriculum to our local needs. We need to see more of that. As a legislator I’ll fight for all of Great Falls and Cascade County to bring prosperity back.
4. Implementing a sales tax has been a controversial issue for several years. Look, I’m a pragmatist. I’m open-minded and I research and look at every issue through a variety of lenses before deciding. And given the information available, coupled with my discussions with many experts in the field, implementing a sales tax might not be the wise thing. Even the Washington Post, back in September 2014, ranked Montana as having the fairest tax system in the United States. In contrast, one of our neighbors, Washington, was ranked least fair, because of its reliance on sales tax.
This first step in this process, before we even begin to think about taxation, has to be controlling spending. I believe government should be a small as it can be to get the job done. According to our Department of Labor and Industry about 18% of Montana jobs are government jobs. That’s almost one in five! We can find places to cut. We should outsource tasks the government does not do well to the private sector.
The best representative is one who has knowledge and experience, courage to do the right thing even when no one of looking, a strong desire to serve the people, practicality and good communication skills. I have exhibited these characteristics as an Army Special Operations officer and financial planner. See my website at Mac4Montana.org.