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 Bob Moretti, Republican Brian Hoven and Libertarian Kevin Leatherbarrow are the candidates in Senate District 13. Moretti and Hoven did not respond to our request.
The top two issues facing Montana and Cascade County concern the educational system and the high crime rate. First, the education system in Montana, and Cascade County in particular, is in need of a full overhaul – financially and systematically. Although many would argue that Great Falls is within the national average for math and reading proficiency, data provided by GEM shows students are missing the mark, particularly for the population size. In addition, graduation rates are low, and administrators have been questionable with their decision-making abilities. Due to my expertise in education, and as the owner of a private tutoring firm in Great Falls, these issues are not foreign to me. I work with families (and taxpayers) daily who have expressed their frustrations with the local school systems, and I understand first-hand the importance of effective education and education reform. As a representative, I would make it a priority to ensure school districts are accountable for their spending and their performance by working with state and local officials to write meaningful legislation that is ACTUALLY for the kids.
The crime rate in Montana and especially in Cascade County is unacceptable. A recent poll was released in the Great Falls Tribune (as well as the Washington Post) that labeled Great Falls as the highest poverty-stricken city in Montana. Neighborhood Scout rates Great Falls as a 5 out of 100 for safety and your chance of becoming a victim of property crime is 1 in 20. Those are “it’s not if but when” numbers. I believe this is directly tied to the fact that it is a dumping ground for parolees across the state. I think the structure of the pre-release center has caused more harm than good for the surrounding neighborhoods, and the drug problems have funneled into the hands of our young people – and so the cycle continues. I don’t exactly live on the “nice side” of town, so I have a front row seat to a lot of the action I speak of. Not to mention the fact that our prisons have had to stop accepting non-violent offenders. Again, when the size of Cascade County and Montana is considered, a full prison is a very concerning issue. As a representative, I would be aggressive in working with officials to find solid solutions to lower the crime rate starting with the pre-release center in Great Falls.
I would work across party lines to establish more school-choice options that best fit the needs for Montana families. I have already had the opportunity to speak to the senate with Democratic Senator Jonathan Windy Boy to promote school choice in the form of bringing charter schools to Montana that would address the needs of various learners across the state including on the reservations. It is important to me that taxpaying families have the chance to use their money the way they see fit for their children, since they know what’s best and are not subject to conforming to the “one-size fits all” mindset found in our current public system.
I would also fight for Montana’s standing constitution that must be adhered to, and protect citizens from being subject to things like permanent levies. Such matters have been recently suggested from across party lines.
Economic growth cannot and will not happen in a city where schools are performing poorly and residents are more than likely to be a victim of crime. These factors need to change first before we can begin to hope for a steady rise in business, arts/entertainment, restaurants (Olive Garden), etc.. The next step is to substantially minimize the amount of non-profit organizations which not only hinder growth for private businesses but also find security in the impoverished. As a legislator, I would examine the effectiveness of these non-profits and their contributions to the growth of the community as well as their employees and those who receive services. Additionally, I would start campaigning to promote a revived spirit of pride within the Electric City.
Does Montana need more tax solutions? I don’t know, ask Dominos.
Really though, I truly believe that a community can be supported by We the People. We the People who know and care for our neighbors. We the People who are business owners and wish to contribute to the community in which we live. We the People who work hard for what we earn and hope everyday that it’s going to be enough without 40% being taken first.
I truly believe Great Falls can be the best city in Montana and I will do my best to see that through to reality. Vote Libertarian for Senate District 13.