I have heard several statements from folks recently such as, “the Mayor is mostly ceremonial and doesn’t really have any influence” and “the Great Falls City Commission is just a technicality, the city manager has all of the power.”
These kinds of misconceptions are not only wrong but they are also part of the reason that Great Falls struggles to remain stagnant, because they lead to apathy and cynicism. Why should folks give a rip about our city elections if the outcome is inconsequential?
Why vote? Why not just treat our municipal election like a popularity contest, high school prom royalty, or a vote for ‘The Nicest Smile In Town’?
If the City Commission doesn’t matter then why have an election at all?
Well, because it does matter – a lot. The City Commission is equivalent to the legislative body for Great Falls and the City Manager is equivalent to the Executive. Equivalent, but not exactly the same, because the City Commission is also responsible for hiring, evaluating and negotiating the terms of employment for the Executive, our City Manager.
In addition, the City Commission is charged with approving major expenditures, setting development and growth policy and direction, voting on city ordinances, approving a budget etc. All of that and plenty more.
None of us should be apathetic about any election, including our city election, in fact, especially our city election. If we want to see our town live up to its full potential then we need to be engaged and informed about what our local government does.
This stuff matters. It really, really matters.