Mayoral Forum-Stream of Consciousness

1. Is Great Falls' City Government broken? Why or why not? If so, what do you propose to do to fix it?

No. City government works. We have a police department, a fire department and, for the most part, 'the trains run on time.' If anything, our present administration tends to move from initiative to initiative with a fairly short institutional memory for the previous issue. If elected, I would always vote to remain focused on our primary obligations to the citizens, which are the provision of basic infrastructure and administration services.

2. Should the City of Great Falls be in the electric utility business? Why or why not? If not, what will you do as Mayor to extricate the City from the utility business?

No. The City lacks the experience and expertise to operate this high dollar, extremely complex business. The City's involvement tends to distract the City's administration from its primary mission, the provision of basic services.

If elected, I will ask staff to study the alternative methods by which Electric City Power could be dissolved with minimal future liability. Based on the results of that information, I would draft a resolution that I would offer to the City Commission for a vote. This resolution would involve negotiating the City out of its existing contractual obligations and dissolving Electric City Power.

3. Should the City of Great Falls continue its investment in the Highwood Generating Station? Why or why not? If not, what will you do as Mayor to extricate the City from the Highwood Generating Station?

No. The City's involvement in the coal plant was debatable, but at least understandable, when the goal of the plant was to provide power to residents. When the Public Service Commission removed that option from the table, the City should have recognized the significant nature of this change in direction, and withdrawn completely from the project. This City has enough issues facing it, without the distraction of trying to operate a merchant power company. (See No. 1, above).

I would draft and offer to the City Commission a resolution or resolutions calling for the immediate withdrawal from SME, and would offer a resolution directing the City Attorney to attempt to take all steps necessary to recover our investments to date. I would offer a resolution directing counsel to immediately research possible defenses to the Water Service Agreement. I would offer a resolution asking the Cascade County Commission to deny the requested zoning change and, whether or not my resolution passed, I would personally lobby the Cascade County Commission to do so.

4. What, if any, role should City Government play in economic development?

Very little, beyond its support for the Great Falls Development Authority. If asked, the City should do what it can to assist in economic development efforts, but otherwise its best contribution to the task would be to do its job well: the provision of basic infrastructure and administrative services.

Our City staff has many friendly, competent, hard-working people. I would personally lobby these individuals to always approach their tasks from the standpoint of "yes, and here's how," instead of "no." I would offer a resolution to create an ombudsmen position strictly for the purpose of assisting businesses and developers navigate the waters of City government.

5. How, if at all, would you govern differently from the present City Commission.

I would attempt to be much more pro-active. If there were an issue in our community, I would offer initiatives to address it, rather than simply asking our staff what we should do or waiting for staff to make a suggestion.

I would be more open to public input.

I would ask the Commission to address the possibility of some sort of subcommittee specialization to address the extreme volume of information. Perhaps the various subject areas of interest before us could be broken down into categories, and subcommittees of two Commissioners could be responsible for each category, reporting to the whole. This would allow much more in depth consideration of issues by those in elected positions.

I would propose a new set of procedural rules that would require information on issues to come before the Commissioners (and therefore the citizens) in a more timely fashion. There are very few true 'emergencies' in government. Most issues offer the time for consideration, and the Commission and the community must be given that time.

I would vote always to move the City away from its present policy of retaining outside, paid consultants to do nearly everything, rather than expecting our present employees to utilize their expertise on behalf of the City. For example, I believe that our present Human Resources department contains bright, motivated individuals. Can they not advertise for a City Manager? Why can we not allow these exceptional people to do the jobs we have hired them to do?

I would offer a resolution that would start the process of considering whether this community should transition from its present system to one in which City Commissioners are full-time, fully compensated City employees.

6. Please comment on the Land Use Code and the Sign Code, including their conception, adoption, and implementation.

Both were ill-conceived and poorly implemented. Contrary to what advocates said at the time, increasing regulation on business and development activity does not help it. The answer to this question helps bring together the answers to several that precede it.

First, the sign code was passed over much objection; citizen participation was, to that extent, ignored.

The sign code and land use code are enforced only erratically, if at all. This is an example of the City bouncing from one thing to the next. We spent umpteen thousands of dollars and hours to draft a sign code only to ignore it. "Oh, that's so yesterday. We're a utility now!"

Rather than fostering economic development, the City has taken action to hinder it. To what end? What results have you noticed?

We paid outside consultants thousands and thousands of dollars to draft the land use code, a code that is extremely convoluted and is really nothing more than some people imposing their wills on others.

7. Is 10th Avenue South ugly? Why or why not? If so, what would you do as Mayor to improve it?

10th Avenue South is beautiful. That is what voluntary economic activity looks like in 21st century America. Some of the businesses could use a little spruce up, and the City can encourage the private sector to assist in this. That will be the focus of my "Clean Up Cans" initiative, to be announced later in my campaign.

In conclusion, I think I can help move the discussion forward in this community. While several local pundits and bloggers have been extremely harsh toward our present Commission, I think I can recognize criticism as discussion, not attacks. You and I can disagree about an issue, even harshly, but that does not make us enemies. It does not mean that we can never speak again.

We all love this community, and we all want to improve it.


Anonymous said...

I love this community, not sure that all really do. How could anyone that loves this place what to stick a rotten coal plant in the middle of it?

mary jolley said...

Thank you Geeguy,
My thoughts exactly, except for paying City leaders. Yes it is a part time job. But I think if the election in November brings in three new people, they will not act as if it is part time. I know I will not. Oversight is needed. The present elected officials have been asleep at the switch.
I am sending your post to the Missoula City leaders who I bet have not been told that there is a strong possibility that the new GF Commissioners will attempt to end the ECP fiasco. We need an exit strategy. At the very least the new majority should follow our own ordinance that states "ECP shall sustain itself." There is no PSC oversight. The customers should be paying for the power - not the residents of GF.

In today’s paper a member of the City Design Review Board suggests that a coffee shop “light up the little Bear Sign.” Please don’t nit-pick. Go start you own coffee shop and light up as many little bears as you can afford.

Anonymous said...

So you are campaigning as

1) a write-in candidate for Mayor
2) a write-in candidate for Commissioner
3) a competent City Attorney?

.... dare I attempt a moment of humor?....

4) GeeGuy for President of ECW Fan Club? (joke... humor... laugh)

Anonymous said...

I suggest commissioners be assigned an 'additional duty' to
overwatch PD/FD, another public works, etc. Missoula does use a committee approach to deal with volumes of information and I agree about part-time leadership 'stepping up' to the plate like so many 'unpaid' volunteers do. Commissioners do
get compensation, per diem, etc. and that's more than other communities or do the People want
a full-time commission?

Anonymous said...

I don't want to minimize GeeGuy's efforts here, because I appreciate the mayor forum and the ECW forum in general.

But I have to say its kind of a flop. Why you ask?

Well, first of all, our current mayor doesn't even bother to respond. Susan Kahn vanishes the instant theres a second of criticism. Larry Steele doesnt follow up.

I'm not faulting GeeGuy, I'm faulting the candidates. What the heck kind of people are they? They want to make important decisions that affect all of us, but they don't have time to consider citizen input? They get their feelings hurt when someone disagrees with them?

I don't care if the candidates don't like bloggers. There not talking to GeeGuy, there talking to citizens. Or not.

Is our city commission truly made up of such small people? They ought to be ashamed of themselves for even asking for the opportunity to serve when its really all just about them, them, them.


Anonymous said...

Mary Jolley brings up a great point that "bears" further discussion.

Why is it some bureaucrats get a little power, as they suppose, and then work to exercise government dominion over private enterprise?

If the city keeps increasing taxes to pay government employees to dominate, then absorb private enterprises, who will "bear" the burden of increased taxes?

Who voted bureaucrats the right to tell anyone how to spend private enterprise dollars and hide documents from public oversight?

Oh, I forgot, the current commission can't "bear" to be criticised. It can't "bear" to be asked reasonable financial questions. Commissioners can't "bear" reasonable opposition to check and balance their power.

Great Falls is a great place to live and will continue to be so if freedom of information and the right to vote are not only restored but become the foundation for integrity in government practice.

Spending taxes wisely is the burden government bureaucrats should "bear."

The right to keep and "bear" hard earned money, paid for by the sweat of taxpayer and private business owner brows is not a right city bureaucrats have earned.

Anonymous said...

Pinko makes a good point. Is that you Dona?

I also can understand why the 3 challengers are not responding wholeheartedly to this debate. Yes they are running against each other, but the fact of the matter is they are each out to defeat Ms. Stebbins. One must reserve the best ammunition for the real battle.

Without Stebbins who is still running for reelection last I heard, it becomes lopsided and marginalized.

Now if Ms. Stebbins whats to bring some balance into the mix we can get a real debate underway?

No, there will be silence.....

Anonymous said...

Word in the washroom is the recruiter hunting for Lawtons replacement has orders to find someone qualified primarily to drive the deal with SME to build the Coal Plant.

Running the other business of the city falls lower down the list.