Editors note – last month we asked each of the six candidates running for the Great Falls city commission to submit answers to three specific questions. We will be publishing the answers from the candidates who responded, in the order we received the responses, exactly as submitted and without editorial comment, starting today.
What do you consider to be the most important issue for Great Falls right now and if elected how would you respond to it. Please be as specific as possible by describing why you consider the issue to be the most important and the action you feel is necessary to address it?
While there are several issues that need to be addressed or need to continue to be addressed, I believe that our most important issue is population growth. According to data released from our Development Authority, Great Falls has the second lowest per-capita personal and commercial property taxes of any city in Montana. If we are to raise the funds needed to properly insure public safety, add to and maintain our city’s infrastructure and promote growth we need to increase tax income to the city. I believe that the best way to accomplish that is to add to our businesses and population and thereby spread the required tax income across a larger number of tax payers.
Accomplishing that is not a simple or short term task. The second goal listed on the City Commission’s list of goals is, “Manage growth to preserve our resources, environment, and sense of community.” I couldn’t agree more with that goal. As is obvious by the number of “Help Wanted” and “Now Hiring” signs in front of city businesses, we don’t need more jobs as much as we need more high salary jobs that require education, skill and experience. With our current unemployment rate at less than 3%, a business seeking new employees will almost certainly have to “steal” them from other local businesses. In addition, the current shortage of appropriate housing for medium to higher income workers inhibits business efforts to recruit those workers to our city.
Do you or any of your immediate family members, business partners, employer, or employees hold any positions, professional or volunteer, recent past or present, that would constitute a conflict of interest, or appearance thereof, for you while conducting city business as a commissioner? If so how would you deal with the potential conflict?
In a word, no. I have been retired for ten years and hold no particular allegiance to any of my former employers or coworkers. My wife, Roxanne, works for Easterseals Goodwill and my son, Sean, is a mechanic at Lithia. While I am proud of them and the work that they do, I hold no allegiance to their employers. Same holds for the boards of directors on which I served. I have resigned from the River’s Edge Trail Board of directors and from the EPA/DEQ Technical Advisory Group. I have chosen to remain on the Missouri-Madison River Fund Board based on assurances from the Great Falls City Attorney and the River Fund that doing so does not present any conflict of interest concerns.
Do you consider the current relationship between the city commission and the citizens of Great Falls to reflect an adequate level of mutual trust, respect and engagement and how would you improve that relationship?
The City Commission continues in its efforts to be completely open and transparent in all its activities. Commission work sessions and Commission meetings are open to the public and simulcast to the community. In addition, they are recorded and made available on the City’s web site. The City holds scheduled public information/comment meetings when appropriate as well
as public comment periods in every Commission meeting. The City’s web site is an excellent source for Commission, government and community information. When major issues are under consideration, mailings are sent to citizens which provide basic information and web links for more detailed information.
Conversely, citizens have an obligation to seek information regarding issues that concern them. The City’s web site is a great place to start, but one of the best methods is through the City’s nine Neighborhood Councils. The Councils are a two-way conduit for information to and from City Government. Citizens can get information and clarification on neighborhood and city-wide issues as well as have their comments and concerns transferred to City Government.
Engagement is a two-way street. Ongoing participation and desire for improvement by Commissioners and citizens alike is essential for government to be effective from both viewpoints. At the same time trust and respect can only be accomplished through appropriate, two-way engagement. Increased engagement in Neighborhood Councils and Commission Meetings by citizens and City Government officials will automatically increase trust and respect.