E-City Beat recently submitted three questions to each of the six Great Falls city commission candidates and published the responses from the four who answered our request. Tracy Houck and Jasmine Taylor did not respond.
We thought it would be helpful to post each question one at a time and include each of the candidates responses together so voters can compare.
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.
No, the level of trust is not what it should be. The lack of transparency and the conflicts of interest in our city commission have done great damage to the public trust. The remedy is to elect city commissioners who will unfailingly adhere to the Title 2, Chapter 21 Code of Ethics requirements in the city code.
I don’t feel the current relationship between the citizens and City Commissioners is a positive one. Due to the past actions of closed door meetings, lying, taking funds for personal gains and lack of transparency. As a citizen of Great Falls I know our needs and desires are at the very bottom of the spectrum.
Our city government needs to realize they work for the citizens. The only way to make a change is to vote. Vote for two candidates that have no personal agenda! Candidates that will put citizens first! We have to make a change with in our City Commission to see a positive change for Great Falls.
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.