City Staff Can Use PowerPoint At Commission Meetings, City Residents Cannot

A number of folks don’t think that’s fair, and none more so than the Ol’ Colonel, Richard Liebert. It’s something Liebert has wanted to see changed for years, to no avail. On Friday, Liebert submitted the following written petition to Great Falls City Commissioners, urging them to grant residents the same multimedia privileges as City staff.

Liebert’s “ticket,” which can be found here, reads:

“Dear Mr. Mayor and commission,

I applaud your decision to deny the Calumet tax abatement and also promoting the message we do not stand for intolerance. I ask for your help collectively and or individually to make some modest amendments to Resolution 10072 so citizens can utilize multi-media (only at hearings, for five minutes only and slides submitted to city clerk prior to the meeting) to effectively articulate a postion – pro or con – that SAVES time, promotes greater understanding, reduces paper handling and costs to citizens and builds up public trust in government when citizens know you’re helping them participate more effectively.

Zoning issues like Thaniel, Fox Farm, and other projects are examples of where images, charts, slides and maps presented to the entire chamber lead to greater understanding of the issue in the limited amount of time allowed.

I am available to help work with the commission to meet this goal that will benefit us all. The Cascade County Commission, Great Falls School Board and every other major city in Montana allows citizens to utilize multi-media and powerpoint to promote better and more open government.


Lt. Colonel (Retired, USA) Richard Liebert”

Liebert’s suggestion is a good one. It adheres to existing time constraints and would empower citizens brave enough to step up to the podium. Why does “every other major city in Montana” allow this, but not the City of Great Falls?

Reader interactions

5 Replies to “City Staff Can Use PowerPoint At Commission Meetings, City Residents Cannot”

  1. You’re right Richard. It would surely help make for a clearer presentation in many cases. It’s also unfortunate that sometimes the city fails to use PowerPoint effectively. At the last city commission meeting, with a contentious rezoning ordinance at issue, the city didn’t have a map prepared to put up on the screen. I know there was one in the agenda packet, but they ran out of packets. It would have been helpful for them to have the map in their PowerPoint where all could have seen it. Folks at the meeting expected as much…


  2. Jeni, as a former DoD contractor I have my 10,000 hour Powerpoint “patch”. I’d like to suggest that at least 3/4 of the people that use Powerpoint do not use it effectively. It can be a great tool, but it often detracts rather than enhances comprehension. Best used, PowerPoint only supplements what the speaker is saying. Too often (and usually during City presentations), we see a speaker droning on and on reading the same text as displayed on the screen.


    1. Lt. Colonel (Retired, Army) Richard Liebert March 15, 2017 at 1:18 PM

      Aaron, I agree with ‘Death by Powerpoint’ and BELIEVE ME having used in throughout my military and contractor career I agree with you. It is still a GOOD tool, and any images a citizen wants to show – maps, charts, slides – and WITHIN the five minutes of a hearing. I’ve taught briefings, communications at the US Army Command and General Staff College to hundreds of students and any multi-media presentation must be done right. No citizen should have to show a ‘Powerpoint’ merit badge so as that would intimidate and diminish citizen participation with IS the essential argument here. At city work sessions and meetings, Powerpoint is often used to ‘sway’ the commission, raise fees, taxes and citizens deserve EQUAL right to free speech and participation. As for slides, more is less, less is more and I’ve seen commissioners use Powerpoint themselves during their agenda period at meetings to highlight, elaborate positions while citizens considered ‘peasants’ with crayons and paper.


    2. I hear you, Aaron. I’ve sat through plenty of PP yawn sessions. If the city insists on using PP, they also could be smarter about using it. Holding a meeting about a proposed zoning change without posting a map on the screen so everyone can see it–the city could and should do better than that.


      1. Lt. Colonel (Retired, Army) Richard Liebert March 16, 2017 at 9:01 PM

        I’ve watch HUNDREDS of Powerpoint briefs, and the WORST thing is the presenter READING the slides word by word which is TORTURE! The briefer keys the audience to read it themselves, and then the brief hits the high points, or might emphasize one of the bullet points. I’ve tried to offer my military briefing and decision-making experiences to City Hall for illustration and some help, but ignored, although some just like to have a ‘yellow ribbon’ ….


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