In my most recent article here on E-City Beat I said I would be doing a series of articles focusing on what we can do to build a better Great Falls by looking at what other Montana cities are doing to grow and develop while we struggle to remain stagnant. In other words, what are we not doing that maybe we should be, and what are we doing that maybe we should not be?
There is a lot of ground to cover so I’ll be developing a series of easily digestible sized pieces over a several month period of time. In this first piece in the series I’d like to present a rough overview of what I’ll be covering going forward. There are four main areas to look at with several sub-topics and general ideas for improving our city.
1. Create an environment for more jobs, higher wages and a vibrant, growing community.
- Work towards less red tape and fewer regulatory ‘hoops’ for businesses and citizens, partly by a line-by-line review of city code and policy.
- Create a Development Process and Advisory Review Board along the lines of the Billings model.
- The motto and attitude for all city public officials and staff should always be, “How can we serve you and help you succeed?” and not, “You can’t do that!”
- Economic development should not be the sole domain of the Great Falls Development Authority which has no public accountability and very little oversight. Look at ways to create competition in the business of economic development in Great Falls.
- Develop, attract, and maintain a quality local workforce.
2. Safe streets and neighborhoods.
- Review and revise if necessary city public disorderly conduct, panhandling, and vagrancy ordinances and strictly enforce them.
- More police foot patrols downtown and in high crime areas.
- Prioritize funding of the Great Falls Police Department, adding the necessary resources and personnel to meet the demands of increasing crime.
The motto and attitude for all city public officials and staff should always be, “How can we serve you and help you succeed?” and not, “You can’t do that!”
3. Zero tolerance for conflicts of interest in our city government and demand transparency and honesty at all times.
- Prohibit any employee or board member of any organization receiving taxpayer funds or resources from serving on the committee/board that recommends or approves allocation of those funds or resources.
- Term limits for Great Falls city commissioners and mayor.
- Require all local elected and appointed public officials to fill out and sign annual conflict of interest forms and agreements.
- Require the mayor and city commissioners to make public on the city website a list of any of their personal potential conflicts of interest. This would include business/professional associations and clients, personal and family member affiliations with organizations who lobby the city for resources, and campaign donors who do business with the city or seek official consideration from the Commission.
- When the 10 year local government review and vote comes up again we should seriously consider switching to a precinct/ward system, rather than the current at-large system. for electing city commissioners. At the same time we should consider electing a mayor who would also serve as a paid city manager with direct voter accountability.
4. Encourage more civic involvement from the public by making City resources, meetings and processes more transparent and accessible through proactive, improved communications and public relations methods.
- Allow Great Falls citizens to participate in city commission and other public meetings in real time via social media and email.
- Explore the possibility of setting meeting times for all city boards and councils at times most convenient for the public to attend and make participation by members and the public available via real-time technologies like Twitter, Skype, and teleconferencing.
- Allow Great Falls citizens to use Power Point presentations and other visual/technology aids at city commission regular and work session meetings just as city staff is allowed to do.
Note – some of the conflicts of interest items under #3 have been started and implemented, but only because of citizens speaking up and demanding change, not because of any real desire or initiative on the part of the mayor or commissioners to require accountability.
In the next piece I’ll be looking at the Development Process Review and Advisory Board concept, how it’s worked in Billings and how we could adopt something similar here in Great Falls.