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?
I believe the lack of population growth to be the most important issue. We can’t grow our tax base without an increase in population and development. I have seen first-hand that one of the reasons is because Great Falls has a reputation for being non-development friendly. Developers are building homes and commercial businesses in the County where the regulations are less, time-frames are shorter, and costs are predictable. This directly decreases the tax base to bring needed services to the city and our school system.
We need affordable workforce housing so existing businesses can recruit employees, and new businesses will trust we have the resources for potential employees to view Great Falls as a desirable place to live and work.
The permit numbers for the last five years identify that homes are primarily being built in the County by double the amounts being built in the City.
Permit Totals for Single Family Homes
2019 2018 2017 2016 2015
Great Falls 33 45 54 52 39
Cascade County 63 89 108 87 71
We must decrease the over regulation and partner with land owners and developers to jointly create a vision of how we want our city to grow.
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?
No, currently I am not sitting on any boards and have declined two offers since I filed as a candidate. Professionally, I lead the Realtor advocacy efforts with community projects related to homeless and disadvantaged youth. Currently, I am participating in the Converge task force comprised of various community members that is meeting to create a youth resource center under the direction of Alliance for Youth. My husband and step-son are on the MT Expo Park Board which is a board of the County not the City.
I have been a certified Professional Standards Administrator for the Great Falls Association of Realtors for 12 years. In this capacity, I manage the code of ethics complaint process between the public and Realtors, and complaints between Realtors. I think it’s unfortunate the city had to create an ethics board.
I have a clear understanding and responsibility to remove myself from any potential conflict of interest while conducting city business.
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?
No, I would say it’s not at an adequate level by either the commission or citizens. Creating better communication and trust between the public and commissioners is one of my priorities. Constituents who have talked to me prior to and during the campaign have voiced frustration about the lack of access to commissioners. Citizens feel the commissioners have their minds made up before a vote so why should they participate in the public hearings. Clearly, citizens may not be familiar with the work sessions that are open to the public, and are where commissioners discuss city business weeks prior to any vote.
I believe the key is educating the public on how city government works and where to find the information. Last year the city hosted City 101 Academy – Building Community Engagement. I encourage staff to proceed with conducting future sessions.
I served two terms on Neighborhood Council 3 where no more than three or four neighbors were present at any meeting. As a candidate, I will have visited eight of the nine councils. With the exception of Council 5 conducting the candidate forum that was well attended, there are very few neighbors in attendance at these meetings. It’s unfortunate because the councils are a great place to gather information and share concerns because they have direct access to commissioners and staff. As a commissioner, I will visit the councils periodically to interact with citizens directly.