Thursday, November 3

My impression of the Commission Forum

First, David did us all a big favor by live blogging the mayoral forum, and posting his almost verbatim notes here. Geeguy has also posted some very relevant thoughts here. The Tribune wrote about the forum here.

However, this post will not be about the mayoral forum. Don't worry; I will have a post about that forum a bit later. Here, I want to discuss the earlier forum among the commission candidates. After all, the mayor is just another commissioner, with no more power or vote than any other member of the city commission.

Despite not-quite getting over the flu, I attended the forum. While I already knew who had won my vote for the mayoral race, I had not yet made up my mind among the commission candidates. I was very impressed by the two challengers, John Stevens and Ryan Burke. Burke was the only candidate that kept on coming back to common sense answers to the meth problem plaguing North-central Montana.

What is Burke's solution? The radical idea of more cops on the street. Not that he poo-poo's billboards and TV ads; but he understands that patrolling the streets actually works. Burke brought up a fact I did not know; in 1965, the Great Falls Police Department recommended to the City Council that the number of police officers in our town should be about 100. Forty years later, with more intractable problems, and we are not there yet.

The one thing that Burke did not address was how to pay for the almost 25% increase that he is advocating for the police department. Let me make my opinion clear; I would be glad to pay more city taxes if we could use those resources to get a handle on this scourge that is destroying the lives of so many families in Great Falls.

I also was dissapointed by Burke's answer to a question about how to attract more "young people" to Great Falls. Burke talked about concerts and other forms of entertainment. I have a clear opinion about this; concentrating on bringing more forms of entertainment to Great Falls is allowing the tail to wag the dog. The only way to attract more "young people" is to ensure that they have the means to make an honest living. Everything else will follow after we have the jobs to employ more "young people."

I did not expect to be impressed with John Stevens. After all, his resume was a former actor, and the man is only a year short of eighty. Poppycock. He is bright, engaging, funny and honest. He ran circles around his three opponents. He is focused on the main problem that affects Great Falls; we have been stagnating since Anaconda Copper pulled out 35 years ago. I suggest to you that we have not found an ecomonic reason for existing since "The Company" pulled out. New voices and ideas, even if they come from an eighty year old, are exactly what we need.

The two incumbents, Bill Beecher and John Rosenbaum, defended the record of the city government over the past decade. They rightly pointed to the city's new employers and some of the infrastructure that has been replaced. The city has had successes. However, it has also had expensive failures. Much has been made of the $531 thousand lost due to the lack of attendance at the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Event. However, I am more interested in other expensive failures, like the Wave Rider and the money that the city golf courses are siphoning from our treasury.

Beecher and Rosenbaum point to the fact that taxes are not going be raises since we are covering these expenses with city reserves. However, these reserves will have to be rebuilt. The only way to do that is with increased taxes. The fact that we have banked the money does not mean that we don't have to pay for the loss.


GeeGuy said...

You cannot convince me that, in a town of this size, the GFPD does not know where 70% of the meth is. Go hassle these people. I really don't care if the arrest sticks, just get the stuff off of the streets.

We all have stories about the GFPD and the County Attorney's office. No one says anything out of self-preservation.

david said...

I caught the last half of the Commissioner forum...I was favorably impressed by two of them, especially John Stevens. Very engaging fellow.

dona stebbins said...

Of course, this morning the Tribune endorsed both of the incumbents. Any surprises there? Not for me...