Monday, November 7

Who Deserves My Vote for Mayor?

My slant on this race should be fairly obvious to anyone who follows this blog. I have never claimed nor have I attempted to hide my bias against the current incumbents in this race.

However, I have also tried to ask honest questions of both candidates. I don't think that anyone could justifiably accuse me of lobbing watermelons.

Regardless, I think that the city needs a change of leadership. That is why I am going to vote for Dona Stebbins. Is she perfect? No. However, I feel that she is an honest voice that will fight for our city.

In his endorsement of Dona yesterday, Geeguy stated that when it came to economic development, the Mayor was just along for the ride. I disagree. It is true that the successes we have seen in economic development are mainly the result of good work over at the Great Falls Development Authority. However, the mayor is an important piece to this puzzle, and not just as an ambassador.

When a business decides to locate here, they need to know that they will be treated fairly by city officials. After all, it is city employees that provide the permits necessary to build, the city fire department that inspects facilities and it is city police officers that will respond to any potential problems, etc. A positive meeting with a city's mayor goes a long way toward allaying any potential concerns.

I think that Stebbins could provide an articulate and informed voice at such meetings. To be fair, Gray has done a very good job in backing up the Great Falls Development Authority. However, I don't think that his role there is irreplaceable. If anything, Stebbins experience in sales makes her a more attractive choice in this role than Gray.

A few recent comments by Stebbins do give me pause. During the candidates forum, she was asked what could be done to attract more young adults to Great Falls. Her answer ranged all over the place, but basically revolved around the creation of more entertainment venues.

As I posted earlier, I think that this is allowing the tail to wag the dog. It is absolutely incredible when artists like BB King, Yo Yo Ma, and Yitzhak Perlman perform in Great Falls. Entertainment venues do provide a necessary outlet for young people. However, the only thing that will attract young people to Great Falls is a place to work where you can earn a decent salary. Everything else, with the exception of a quality education system, is just gravy.

If our community provides high-paying jobs (and ensures that professionals will be comfortable leaving their children in the hands of our education system) that do not just trade money with other city residents (like medical service jobs), then more people will come to live here. Once they are here, the entertainment venues will follow. In his answer to that question, Gray had the answer right, and Stebbins had it wrong.

However, Gray has also allowed the tail to wag the dog. It was under his leadership that the city built the multi-million dollar white elephant flow rider at Mitchell Pool. We will be paying for this turkey for years (if not decades) to come, and I don't think that any reasonable person has ever suggeted that its operation is expected to break even. My opposition the re-election of our current municipal leadership is based mostly on decisions that allowed white elephants like the flow rider and the skate park to be built. I don't like to be handed an expensive piece of cake after being told that we couldn't afford anything but rice for dinner.

So, you know how I am going to vote in all of the races tomorrow. Whether you agree with me or not, please remember to vote tomorrow. Your vote counts.

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