Wow-Part 2

I was wrong. Susan Kahn was not the only one doing her homework to answer County Commissioner Joe Briggs' questions about City Government.

Ed McKnight, too, spent a great deal of time researching and formulating answers to these questions. Without further ado:

1) How much time PER DAY will you be able to devote to the commission should you be elected?

I am retired and have an open schedule.

When elected my plan is to spend about 30 hours per week using this as a tentative and flexible schedule guide: MWF 9-5 T/Th 1-9 p.m.

2) What experience do you have in the analysis of complex situations and what problem solving techniques do you employ?

My problem solving skills using risk analysis, cause and effect, system diagram(s), drill down, and appreciation are rated superior in my field of Electronics Systems Analysis.

Information is the commodity of my former employer the National Weather Service. The loss of information is considered a critical problem directly related to public safety. My skills and success in analyzing the complexity of accomplishing the transitional office move for the NWS office in Great Falls rewarded me with additional opportunity to organize, manage and implement the move for the Glasgow office.

My skill sets, experience and training exceed the minimum requirements for a mayoral candidate.

3) Can you read and understand financial statements?

My formal training is highly math intensive. Not only can I read but I can read and understand financial statements.

I am easily able to decode a phone bill, I am equally comfortable managing my investment portfolio and do all my own taxes.

4) What experiences do you have that you believe have prepared you for this position.

· As a youth I began learning life and leadership skills in the Boy Scouts.
· In my young adult life I served in the military while taking advantage of many training, leadership and educational opportunities.
· As an Electronics Systems Analyst I have experience in supervising and training subordinates.
· For 22 years I have owned and managed my rental properties.
· Now that I am retired, I continue to own and manage my rental property.

5) Would you vote to set a maximum contract term for the new city manager? Why or why not and if so, what length of time would you set?

Currently the law states: Appointment of manager. The manager shall be appointed by the commission for an indefinite term on the basis of merit only and removed only by a majority vote of the whole number of the commission.

The law is broad enough to allow a reasonable and standard contract to be negotiated with the manager candidate. Here is Mr. Lawtons contract from July 1st 2006 to July 1st 2007. The contract is one year and clearly spells out in accordance with Montana law and city charter that employment may be terminated at any time.

MCA 7-3-4361: Appointment of city manager. The commission shall appoint a city manager. He shall be appointed without regard to his political beliefs and may or may not be a resident of the municipality when appointed. He shall hold office at the will of the commission.

Great Falls City Charter, Article II - City Commission, Section 2 - Duties and Responsibilities, b) Appoint and supervise, and may remove, the City Manager.

6) Would you support City Commissioners having a shared office and scheduled office hours within the Civic Center? Currently, no office space is being made available for use by the commissioners.

Sharing office space is a great idea and yes, I support it.

7) Would you support the creation of a single staff position reporting directly to the commission rather than the city manager to assist in research and responding to citizen concerns and complaints?

Currently the law states: MCA 7-3-304 Duties of manager. The manager shall: (8) report to the commission on the affairs and financial condition of the local government.

It’s hard to imagine how expanding or adding another layer to government will restore public confidence. Montana Code requires the manager to report to the commission. It does not prohibit commissioners from becoming self-educated by seeking out additional or independent sources of information.

Experience has taught me to work within the system before suggesting any changes. Using analytical and problem solving techniques with a documentation trail it is possible to discover choke points or a single point of failure. Once a problem is correctly identified then appropriate action can be taken to rectify the problem.

So I could only support a change if it is necessary and sufficient to remedy an identified problem not addressed within the current system.

8) What do you believe is the role of the City Manager in the policy setting process?

The city charter defines responsibilities of the manager

Article VI - City Government Administration, Section 4 - Duties of the City Manager...The City Manager shall:
a) Carry out policies established by the City Commission,
d) Administer the affairs of the City,
f) Make recommendations to the City Commission.

The City Manager should supervise gathering complete information so issues or proposals are approached in a rational, factual manner. The manager should also participate in healthy discussions and debates when policies are presented to the community and again before the commission votes. It is important the manager, when administering the affairs of the city, feel an obligation to wisely spend and account for taxpayer dollars.

9) What do you believe is the role of each Commissioner in the policy setting process?

The City Charter, Article II - City Commission, Section 1 - Composition... “The City Commission shall be the legislative and policymaking body of the City of Great Falls.”

Section 2 - Duties and Responsibilities, The City Commission shall:
a) Adopt policies and procedures and enact ordinances and resolutions as necessary for the proper execution of governmental functions and
d) Adopt as necessary an administrative and personnel code and/or policies.

Each commissioner should also aid in defining issues, seek out and supply relevant information for discussions, and participate in healthy debate as necessary for revisions to policies or items submitted for a vote.

10) As a Commissioner, what methods would you employ to monitor whether or not city policies are being enacted correctly, consistently and effectively?

The standard delegation and review methods are in place through the manager and advisory boards with advice from legal counsel.
Keeping all avenues of communications open and maintaining an open government policy is paramount to the public accessing information. Enabling citizens to feel ownership in presenting documented facts to support or oppose city policy will help.

Using the latest communications methods and tracking processes will enable broader oversight and more participation by the public.

11) If elected would you be willing to step back and review the initial assumptions involved in the city’s decisions regarding ECP and SME to examine whether or not they remain valid today? If yes, can you do so in a balanced and unbiased manner based on standard business practice and models?

Before any intelligent decision can be discussed, everything the City Manager, Mayor, and Commissioners have read must be accessed, analyzed and properly assessed. Having all the facts for consideration is the only possible way for anyone to come to an unbiased and balanced conclusion.

When elected, yes, I will read, review, and reassess all facts.

12) The city’s charter grants broad power and latitude to the city government. Please describe any areas where you feel there needs to an adjustment made to the powers granted by the charter.

There is a distinction between powers granted and the appropriate exercise of power. Blocking citizen involvement, revoking the public right to vote or being unresponsive and insensitive to citizens seems to be an abuse of powers. The powers of city government are limited by the Montana Constitution with specific provisions by Montana law. Further limitations are derived from the exercise of powers in Article 1 section 4 of the charter:

“All powers of the City of Great Falls are vested in and derived from the people of Great Falls. These powers shall be exercised by the City Commission unless otherwise provided for by this charter or by Montana law.”

Diligence is required by citizens to provide a check and balance autonomous actions of the Commission and Manager. Voters should work to maintain their right to vote on the powers granted to any government official or commission in the City of Great Falls.

The Charter should be specifically written to prohibit the Commission from revoking the citizen right to vote so the balance of power is in the favor of the people.

City Charter, Article II - City Commission, Section 3 - Administrative Review

“On a majority vote of the whole number of the City Commission, the City Commission may review, inquire, and investigate any operation, management decision, administrative function or other affairs of the City.”

Since the Charter prohibits a single commissioner from inquiring into the business of the city, voters might petition to open the process to include a commissioner in conjunction with a citizen be allowed to review, inquire or investigate any operation, management decision, administrative function or other affairs of the City.

Article VII - Citizen Involvement in Government, Section 1 - Initiative, Referendum, and Recall - "The qualified electors of the City of Great Falls may exercise the powers of Initiative, Referendum, and Recall as provided by Montana law."

Loose oversight by a part time commission is a weak method for monitoring in detail all affairs of the city. I suggest a need to reduce the power of the city manager, which appears to be a position with excessive administrative control.

I have suggested veto power may be necessary perhaps using neighborhood councils in a case where commission/manager are taking a course against the will of the people. The time consuming and burdensome tasks of Initiative, Referendum, and Recall are not quick enough to stop commitments made by the commission/manager.

Ed McKnight
Quality Leadership in City Government


Harlow B. said...

Mr. McKnight has offered some well thought out answers to these questions.

david said...

Wow -- color me impressed. Ed and Susan are off to a very good start.

Anonymous said...

1. You do know how to read,
2. And you do seem to understand what you read,
3. And better yet you seem to be able to give substantial thought to your reasoning.

Great Job in taking time to post your thoughts. I just knew you were researching and putting something together!



Anonymous said...

Time to flip a coin! I like Ed, and I like Susan! EITHER one is a vast improvement!


Anonymous said...

Ed, question 8. It sounds like you think the city manager sets policy. Would you please clarify?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Post at 8:58 PM, September 03, 2007

After re-reading Mr. McKnight's question 8 post it is difficult to understand how you can suggest "It sounds like [he thinks] the city manager sets policy."

Would you clarify how you pulled that thought from what Mr. McK has written?


Anonymous said...

I understand the observation by anon.

Our present city manager is making de facto policy.

I for one do not want a self serving unelected city manager parroting his policy through a CLUELESS mayor and commission holding a rubber stamp.

The policy making needs to go back into the hands of a self thinking commission.

I want candidates that will take this responsibility very seriously and not be lead around by another city manager.

Mr. McKnight, I figure you can agree with that? I know Mary Jolley thinks for herself and questions the facts as presented by the C.M..


Anonymous said...

But the observation made by Anon is not in the answer given. It appears to be his/her commentry.


Anonymous said...


Speak for yourself, not me. Also to be fair let Mr. McKnight speak for himself too. TL got the point.

The convictions of each commission candidate are important to me. I want to know where they each stand on a personal level on the vital issues we are facing in this city. I want to know they are capable to determine policy without undue influence from an overly aggressive city manager. A soon to be city manager hired to shove a coal plant down our throats as the first job requirement listed I might add.

I can read the city charter on my own thank you very much. Just posting them is not a very revealing answer of your personal beliefs to the question.

So Mr. McKnight, now that I have cleared this up for PL, are you prepared to set city policy or will you be more inclined to roll along with the city managers recommendations as status quo?

anon 8:58 PM, September 03, 2007

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon -

At no time did I speak for you or Mr. McK. I just wondered how you came to your point in what you read.

Thanks for restating your thoughts and clarifying your words.


Ed Mcknight said...

Going over the law/City Charter again and again is an important step in answering questions. It helps define appropriate government roles when we take a minute to read, understand and follow the law.

The policy setting process begins with collecting information, ideally from all citizens.

Collecting information is a large administrative task requiring supervision and coordination. That is the duty of a City Manager.

Although the commission must delegate responsibility for the mass collection of information from city workers and citizens to the City Manager, the commission is not prohibited from seeking, collecting or considering credible information on an individual basis.

Commissioners must use their own judgment and opinion when discussing and debating any policy. The commission, in a position of authority over the city manager, has ultimate responsibility for all aspects of policy setting.

That said, I can only speak for myself in stating my convictions are expressed in what you have seen me do in attending City meetings. I ask questions when I believe there is insufficient information to formulate a decision.

Ed Mcknight
Quality Leadership in City Government

Anonymous said...

Commissioners must use their own judgment and opinion when discussing and debating any policy. The commission, in a position of authority over the city manager, has ultimate responsibility for all aspects of policy setting.

This was the type of answer I was looking for - thank you