Thoughts on the Mayoral Forum

Mayors Forum:

Is it just me, or did it seem like dirty pool to hold the Forum in the Commission Chambers? Is it really fair to put the incumbents in the seats they occupy twice a month while forcing the (visibly nervous) candidates into the incumbents' home court?

I heard Mayor Gray say over and over how well managed Great Falls is by Manager Lawton. Yet the questioners never really seemed to push the issue of the water park losing money, the golf course losing money, the Lewis and Clark Event losing money. What have we seen for economic growth? Mayor Gray said these things "take time." True, but it's been 10 years for him and I think he said John Lawton has been here 13 years. How long is enough time? Is it terribly managed? Perhaps not, but its not like we've been riding a string of Lawton's successes, either.

City Management, Part 2. Recently I have been contacted by people related to City Government or its employees. Perhaps the reason it is so easy for Mayor Gray to laud Manager Lawton's performance is because so much that goes on is never made public. For example, the public doesn't know about the two married (but not to each other) City Department Heads cavorting about together on City property. The public doesn't know about the City employee caught sending and receiving very lurid emails on City time and City property, yet going unpunished for it while the individual who discovered the fact lost her job. The public doesn't know about the amount of alcohol imbibed on the trips to our "Sister City" Naryn, Kyrgyzstan. Perhaps if our local media were a bit more aggressive, it would be a bit more difficult for Mayor Gray to crow about what a great manager we have.

Speaking of Kyrgyzstan, can someone explain to me how it benefits me to have city employees travel to and from Naryn while being paid by us? Oh, yeah, cultural exchange. Kind of like what we got for a half a million dollars on the Lewis and Clark Event. Boy, that cultural exchange is sure expensive.

The candidates were asked what the legislature could do for us. Dona Stebbins said, basically, 'nothing.' She pointed out that we need to run our own affairs. Mayor Gray, on the other hand, wants permission to levy a sales tax in Great Falls.

The candidates discussed citizen involvement in government. Mayor Gray lauded the Commission on how open it is. He's right. Anybody (well, except Stu Lewin) can come to the meetings and speak as much as he or she wants. (And if you're anti-gaming, it doesn't even have to be on topic!) But his answer begs the question. It's one thing to stand up there and yack, and its another thing to have one's views taken seriously. Case in point: After the second of two public hearings on the sign code, where the Commission heard overwhelming opposition to the Code, Mayor Gray voted for it because it was "what the community wants." Sure, you can talk, but no one's listening.

Mayor Gray said jobs are number one on his agenda. This from a Commissioner/Mayor who wants to raise taxes, voted for a sign code that makes it more difficult and expensive for businesses to operate, and voted for a zoning code that makes it more difficult and expensive for a business to find an appropriate location. See, these types of issues are not pertinent to big, national companies that come here. Either they're irrelevant, or the City will grant variances in their rush to pat themselves on the back for landing a big one. But for us little guys, trying to make a living here who do not receive the special dispensations, these things matter.

Vote for Dona Stebbins.


SallyT said...

Thanks for being GF's online alternative media, G.
This forum made me realize two things:
1) that the "official" story is usually all that citizens hear/read, since the local media rarely go beyond the Lawton/Gray spin..and, I suspect, wholeheartedly approve of their elitist visions.

2) that the local media, as well as the City, have a lot to answer for concerning keeping the public informed. The City certainly does committee things to death, but they do the minimum to engage the public's input.

And the media rarely bother to notify the public of upcoming ordinances or code overhauls (at least, until the citizenry is up in arms at the final decision), and certainly don't do any coherent analysis of the impact on taxpayers or businesses.

If you want change, I'd add vote Burke & Stevens--time to boot all incumbents.

Jim Rohrich said...

I'm with sallyt. Boot them all out.