Friday, December 7

Neighborhood Council 7 December Agenda

Monday, December 10, 2007
Longfellow School Library, West Entrance
6:30 p.m.

Please note: This agenda format allows citizens to speak on each issue prior to Council discussion. We encourage your participation. In the interest that all parties can be heard, please limit your comments.

  • Appointment of Secretary for December meeting
  • Approval of November minutes
  • Installation of Ole Johnson as interim councilor
  • 9th Street Left Turn Safety Issues
    • -->Deb Little and Principal Cal Gilbert
    • -->Jim Rearden
  • Problem Properties
    • -->512/516 6th Street North -> neighbors’ report of unauthorized tenancy
    • -->916 3rd Ave North -> court action in November
    • -->1021 5th Avenue North -> complaint by neighbor of trash in yard
    • -->116/112 12th Street North -> complaint between neighbors
  • Downtown Street Conversion -> Letter from Jeanne Wilson
  • Resurgence of Graffiti at Skate Park
  • Status of City Water Main replacement on Lower North Side
  • Other Old Business
  • Zoning at Quality Exhaust Building, 812 15th Street North -> Kevin Willems
  • Absentee Landlord Regulation--discussion
  • Confirmation of time and date of next meeting
  • Swearing In and Neighborhood Council Orientation--Patty
  • Neighborhood Concerns
Weed and Seed
Downtown Task Force
Police Advisory Board


Friday, November 9

Agenda for Neighborhood Council 7 meeting on 11/12/2007 at Heisey Memorial

Monday, November 12, 2007
Heisey Center, 313 7th Street North
6:30 p.m.

Please note: This agenda format allows citizens to speak on each issue prior to Council discussion.  We encourage your participation.  In the interest that all parties can be heard, please limit your comments.


Approval of October minutes
Pedestrian safety assemblies at Whittier and Longfellow Schools
Problem properties
512 & 516 6th Street North
916 3rd Avenue North
Others ?
Northside bicycle thefts
Replacement of Councilman Gaskell

Animal Foundation update—Melanie Lattin
Code violations on her block—Gudrun Linden
December meeting location
Carlie Boland—Montana House of Representatives
Neighborhood Concerns

Police Advisory Board—Donna Sadler
Weed & Seed—Jayci Braaten
Downtown Task Force—Erin Tropila
Council of Councils—Aaron Weissman

Next meeting December 10, 2007  

Wednesday, November 7

Thank you for your vote!

I was pleased to finally learn this afternoon that I had been re-elected to Neighborhood Council 7.  Thank you for your vote and support.

Great Falls First has Election Results; Congratulations Mayor Stebbins

These results come from Tim Austin's site.  100% of precincts reporting; it looks like most of the absentee votes broke to Susan Kahn.  Congratulations to Dona Stebbins, Mary Jolley and Bill Bronson.

Tim also bemoans the lack of any published Neighborhood Council results.  Why the dearth of news?


Great Falls, Montana - Election Results

Great Falls Tribune - Montana Election Results - VIDEO
KRTV - Great Falls, Montana - Montana Election Results
Beartooth NBC - Election Results - Montana Election Results
Fox News - Election Results
ABC News - Election Results


Includes votes cast at the ExpoPark: 10,344
About 100% of total votes counted.
Updated: 5:00 a.m. - November 7th, 2007

Dona Stebbins: 4,100 - with 40.7% of the votes
Ed McKnight: 3,824 - with 38.0% of the votes 
Susan Kahn: 1,404   - with 14.0% of the votes
Larry Steele: 704 - with 7.0% of the votes

Bill Bronson- 4,150 - with 21.3% of the votes
Mary Jolley- 5,148 - with 26.5% of the votes
Diane Jovick-Kuntz- 3,582 - with 18.4% of the votes  
Stuart Lewin- 3,445 - with 17.7% of the votes 
Elna Hensley- 2,069 - with 10.8% of the votes 

We are unable to find any information from any news source.
Hard to believe that elected council members cannot
find out who won in their Neighborhood council districts.
How do we change this???

Thank you for Voting - Great Falls

Why Not Publish Neighborhood Council Election Results?

My paper just arrived at my door.  I eagerly looked inside for the results on the Neighborhood Council races (there are six people running for the five spots on council 7).

For all the talk about Neighborhood Councils being a bright spot in our community, don't you think that they should rate some mention in our paper?  At least some results, buried and a font size of only four points?

I mean, c'mon ...

Initial Election Observations

As of the insanely early writing of this post (yes, I am an election junky), the Tribune is posting some early election results.  Right now, the following information is available;

7,164 votes have been cast, which represents about 79% of the total.  A little basic extrapolation, and we see that about 9,068 votes were cast in this election.

The votes for Mayor recorded thus far are as follows:
  • Dona Stebbins; 2,867 votes
  • Ed McKnight; 2,697 votes
  • Susan Kahn; 985 votes
  • Larry Steele; 455 votes
The votes for City Commission recorded thus far are as follows:
  • Mary Jolley; 3,561 votes
  • Bill Bronson; 2,981 votes
  • Diane Jovick-Kuntz; 2,427 votes
  • Stuart Lewin; 2,404 votes
  • Elna Hensley, 1,465 votes

Now, tempers ran hot in this race, and everyone seemed to have an opinion.  This number isn't so different from two years ago and two years before that.  I was expecting a higher number of votes cast, especially due to the wonderful weather yesterday.

Why is the vote so low?  I submit to you that a lot of that blame can be placed on the boneheaded decision of the Cascade County Clerk and Recorder to combine the voting locations at the Expo Park.  While it might have made her job easier to count the 4,000 votes made at the polls there, there could have been more votes to count if she had decided to do the job we elected her to perform.

So, I will fire the first shot for the 2008 elections; Lance Olson's job for county commissioner will be up for re-election next November.  My vote will go to a competent candidate that will vote to give me back my local polling place.  I hope that this becomes an issue in that race.

Now, of the 7,164 votes counted and published by the Tribune, the race for City Commission seems to be a pretty done deal.  There is a 500 vote gap between Bronson and Jovick-Kuntz; I don't think that Lewin or Jovick-Kuntz are going to be able to overcome that kind of vote gap with only 2,000 votes left to be counted.  I could be wrong, but I think that we can safely say that we have winners in that race, and they are Jolley and Bronson.  I don't think this result is a real surprise to anyone.

However, look to the 3,561 votes achieved by Jolley.  As the most level-headed coal plant opponent in this race, I think that those votes most cleanly represent the side of our electorate that want a change in our city government.  With that in mind, look to the mayoral race.

You can see that McKnight and Kahn, together, represent about 3,600 votes.  That voting block would have been enough to catapult any single candidate to the mayoral position.  However, as GeeGuy observed last week, as two candidates they split the vote.  McKnight is the clear choice of that bloc; and the 985 votes siphoned by Kahn make her the spoiler in this race if McKnight doesn't pull a rabbit out of his hat.

Don't get me wrong; this is still a horse race.    There are only 170 votes separating Stebbins and McKnight.  Let's see what news the morning brings.

Wednesday, October 31


I went a bit overboard in an earlier post about the October 20 candidate's forum.  I used a word, jail, that was not mentioned by any candidate.  However, to be fair, at least one candidate, Stuart Lewin, did talk about referring "stuff" to the Attorney General.

Mary is right.  Neither she nor any other candidate specifically said that they wanted to put people in jail.  That was only my inference.  So, I apologize.

Tuesday, October 30

Revised Cost Estimates for One Way Conversion

I just got back from the Council of Council's meeting. Andrew Finch,
the senior transportation planner for the city, gave a presentation
on the BID's proposal to convert downtown one way streets to two way.

I will spare you from the entirety of the discussion. However,
remember the city's original estimate of $500,000 to perform the
conversion? Mr. Finch told me that the State transportation
department added some requirements to any conversion that will push
the cost of the conversion to the range of $1.5 Million - $2.5 Million.

Anybody still think this is a good idea?

Logically Critical shutters its doors

One of my favorite podcasts is Logically Critical.  It is funny, thought provoking, intelligent and extremely well-produced.  Unfortunately, as of October 28, it is also no more.

Great Falls Citizen Council Agenda and Minutes

TSJ's notes:  Does anyone find anything interesting about the list of attendees at the last meeting?  Or rather, by who is not on this list?
Council of Councils Meeting

Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Gibson Room—Civic Center—7:00 p.m.

Please note:  The Great Falls Citizens Council agenda format allows citizens to speak on each issue prior to Council discussion.  We encourage your participation.  In the interest that all parties can be heard, please limit your comments.

CALL TO ORDER—Chairperson Ron Mathsen—Neighborhood Council #1

 Approval of minutes from the last meeting

Disaster Preparedness—Asst. Fire Chief Steve Hester & Emergency Preparedness Officer Sarah McCafferty (15 minutes)
One-way conversion—Sr. Transportation Planner Andrew Finch 
(15 minutes)

Council information sharing

Great Falls Citizen's Council
Council of Councils Meeting Minutes
May 29, 2007

Delegates and voting members of the Council of Councils present were: Ron Mathsen, Neighborhood Council #1; Phyllis Hemstad, Neighborhood Council #2; Tim Austin, Neighborhood Council #3; Tawny Newth, Neighborhood Council #5; Matt Ott, Neighborhood Council #6; Aaron Weissman, Neighborhood Council #7; and Gary Schoenthal, Neighborhood Council #9.  

Others present were Brandyce Berg, Emily Costea, Shelby Lilley, Ashley Lilley, Shannon Newth, Betty Stimac, Larry Stimac, and Patty Cadwell.

The meeting was called to order at 7:05 p.m. by acting Chairperson Gary Schoenthal, Delegate for Neighborhood Council #9.

The one order of Old Business was a discussion, and subsequent consensus of opinion, on the proposed Neighborhood Council boundary changes.  All delegates present agreed that leaving the boundaries as they are would be best and several commented that "if it's not broken, let's not try to fix it."  All agreed, also, that a goal of trying to match Council boundaries to voter precincts would be unattainable, now and in the future.  Matt Ott, NC #6, and Phyllis Hemstad, NC#2 both expressed their concern about the already small size of their Councils.  Gary also reminded everyone that the County has decided to have the single voting location at the Montana Expo Park, but for those who can't or don't care to vote there, absentee ballots are available for any reason.  Aaron commented that he believes the single voting location will present a hardship for many of the citizens in his Neighborhood Council area.

The only item of New Business was a presentation by General Deltoro, Commander of the Montana Air National Guard (MANG).  He was accompanied by and introduced Colonel Mike McDonald who will soon become the new Commander of the 120th Fighter Wing of the Guard.  He stated that MANG also oversees the 219th Red Horse Squadron.  He explained that MANG's responsibilities are to uphold the Constitution of the United States and to uphold the Constitution of the State of Montana.  The members of the Guard are local people who stay here to protect the citizens of Montana.  They all have been or will be deployed to Iraq, acting to protect the Constitution of the US, but they work for the Governor of the State of Montana all the time.  He pointed out that concern for new missions at Malmstrom may not be GF citizens' highest priority—that building on the capacity of both MANG and Malmstrom would be the best benefit locally.  Currently, MANG is working to implement a program where experienced MANG pilots will work with inexperienced Air Force pilots for the benefit of both.  Other things MANG has done recently include development of a wireless system that enables MANG, GFPD, and Great Falls Fire Rescue to communicate, and chemical and biological detection and containment systems for disaster response.  Future training for the Guard includes a train derailment exercise in August and a FEMA level exercise next year.  General Deltoro also made a recruitment call to anyone in the audience who might be interested.  Ron Mathsen and Phyllis Hemstad addressed the General on their concerns around the airplane noise containment issue which affects both of their areas.

In Other Business, the Council Delegates commented on their thoughts concerning the upcoming Animal Appeal process and their involvement in same.  Aaron Weissman offered his displeasure with the City Commission for "dropping this in our laps," referring to each Neighborhood Council's option to hear the appeals of Neighborhood Council area citizens denied or revoked the permit to own multiple animals.  Gary Schoenthal saw no problem with the appeal process but did have concerns about the fee schedule that goes with the new Animal Ordinance.  Ron Mathsen pointed out that each Council has the privilege of opting out of hearing appeals.  Tawny Newth was concerned that the Council members would not have clear instructions on how to hear the appeals and Tim Austin also wants training.  Patty Cadwell mentioned that Kory Larsen did indicate that he would do a training prior to the Animal Ordinance's effective date.  Aaron Weissman anticipates problems with hearing some appeals and not hearing others.  Ron Mathsen thought that hearings at neighborhood levels would be positive measures.

Also in Other Business, the Council Delegates expressed concern over the City Commission's lack of response to their February letter requesting that the Commission put in place funding for capital improvements to the City parks.  Patty said she would follow up on that.  Tawny talked about the New Neighbor Packets that were being developed by the members of the ACTION Team.  Also mentioned was an upcoming Leadership training opportunity and the Councils' involvement in Riverfest.

Gary adjourned the meeting at 8:35 p.m.    

Saturday, October 27

0-3-1?? Worst Season Opening in Memory ...

I can't remember a worse October for my Terriers.  However, this looks like it was a good game.

Michigan's goaltender, Billy Sauer, turned away 27 shots on goal in just the first two periods, and held BU scoreless.  I would say that this guy has a future.

Here's hoping to a better November ...

Monday, October 22

Candidate Stand on Downtown Street Reconfiguration

Question:  Do you support the idea to reconfigure 5th and 6th Streets, and/or 1st and 2nd Ave S, as two way roads?

Bronson:  Did not attend October 20 forum.

Helnsley:  Did not attend October 20 forum.

Jolley:  Does not support without more public input.  Thinks this may be "solution in search of a problem."

Jovick-Kuntz:  Did not attend 10/20 forum.

Kahn:  Does not support without more public input.

Lewin:  Does not support, as he feels it will increase traffic on 9th Street.  He thinks that 9th Street creates a "wall" through an existing neighborhood.

McKnight:  Does not support.

Stebbins:  Did not attend October 20 forum.

Steele:  Does not support.

For those candidates that did not attend, or wish to further explain their answer, I offer comments to this post as a public forum on this issue.

Candidate Stand on Southern Arterial

Question:  Last month, the City and State held a public meeting to move forward their plans for a Southern Arterial connecting 57th Street to I-15.  Their idea is not for a bypass, as was the original plan for this route.  Do you support this plan, and if so, what do you envision for this new road?  Will it be like I-115 in Butte, King Avenue in Billings, etc.?

Bronson:  Did not attend October 20 forum.

Helnsley:  Did not attend October 20 forum.

Jolley:  Attended public meeting, and listened to about 70% of attendees that they did not want this route.  She thinks this should be studied further, but wonders why we are building a bypass that will not be used by any through truck traffic.

Jovick-Kuntz:  Did not attend 10/20 forum.

Kahn:  Supports construction of road.  Unclear as to design.

Lewin:  Supports route as good opportunity for well planned commercial development, with service roads, etc.  Does not think route should follow alongside Missouri, thinks it should cross it to minimize environmental impact.

McKnight:  Does not support condemning any private property for public road.  He discussed his grandparent's home in Western Montana, which is now under I-90.

Stebbins:  Did not attend October 20 forum.

Steele:  Thinks a bypass for truck traffic is a good idea.  Agrees with Lewin that it should not be alongside river, as that makes roads icy.

For those candidates that either did not attend or wish to further explain their answer, I offer comments on this post as a public forum on this issue.

Candidate Stand on Police Staffing Levels

During the last two candidate forums, I have had the opportunity to ask a few questions.  In the next three posts, I will attempt to summarize my questions and the responses received.

Question:  Over the past several months, the Great Falls Police Department has been operating at less than a full budgeted force.  What are the reasons for the staffing shortfall?  If this is a problem, what would you do to correct it?

Bronson:  Insufficient pay is the reason for the problem.  He would offer more pay to officers.  He also feels that the new contract with the Police Beneficial Association will solve much of this problem.  He says that he has reviewed the contract.

Helnsley:  Insufficient pay.  She would offer more.

Jolley:  Insufficient pay.  She would offer more.

Jovick-Kuntz:  Insufficient pay.  She would offer more.  She also feels that it is a problem that communities like Missoula hire officers that we have trained in our police academy, which is recognized to be one of the best in the region.  She feels that we are training individuals and then they are being hired immediately by other communities that offer more pay.

Kahn:  Insufficient pay.  She would offer more

Lewin:  Lewin recognized that insufficient pay was part of the problem, and that we should offer more.  He also referred to "the elephant in the basement," which was duplicative services being performed by both the city and the county.  He would like to work with the county to combine services whenever possible.

McKnight:  Insufficient pay.  He would offer more.

Stebbins:  Did not attend October 17 forum.

Steele:  Insufficient pay.  He would offer more.

For those candidates that did not attend or wish to further explain their answer, I offer comments on this post as a public forum on this issue.

UPDATE -- GeeGuy has posted a video of the candidate's answers on this question up on his blog.  Instead of reading my very sparse notes, go view the candidate's answers yourself!

Sunday, October 21

Lots of Red Meat at Last Night's Candidate Forum

For a good part of the evening, I struggled with the best term to describe last night's event.  Then I read GeeGuy's blog.  Last night was certainly a forum for the anti-establishmentarians out there; both the candidates and the audience.

It was very disappointing that the incumbents, those that support them, and all of our local media chose to skip this forum.  About three dozen people attended the forum, which was a 'debate' among Mary Jolley, Ed McKnight, Susan Kahn, Larry Steele and Stuart Lewin.  And yes, most of the questions were about the coal plant.

However, these candidates responses among what ended up to be a mutual admiration society or campaign rally were still instructive.  Quite frankly, I was horrified when Jolley, McKnight and Kahn suggested that the new commission spend its time investigating current city employees through use of its subpoena power.

Let me say that again.  Jolly, McKnight and Kahn said that they want our commission to hold hearings and investigate current city employees over past acts.  They want to exercise the commission's subpoena power, and they want to put people in jail.

I submit to you that we don't need a commission that spends our time and money making themselves into a Starr chamber.  We have real problems in our city government and neighborhoods that need to be solved.  Prosecuting a vendetta is not helpful to anyone.

Our city police department has been operating at less then full force for months, and I submit to you that this is part of the reason we have had a mini crime wave in the Lower North and South sides.  Part of the reason for these department vacancies is not enough pay being offered to new recruits and current officers.  However, a big part of the problem is that the city's recruitment officer, Lt. Lockerby, has had his hands full trying to run a dog pound.  This is one of the unintended consequences when the commission goes half-cocked into ill advised adventures.

Lewin was actually the most reasoned and moderate of the candidates last night.  He has it right; we need to move forward.

Thursday, October 18

Bypass??? What Bypass?

Dave over at Dave's Gift Shop Weblog has an interesting post up on his site supporting the idea of a Southern bypass.  (Dave, I would have left this post as a comment on this site, but didn't want to deal with the tsuris of creating an account on your wordpress).

Now, I think that a Southern bypass is a good idea.  I think that it has been a good idea for the 30 years it has been proposed.  My only question about the current plans for the "Southern Arterial" is that the current plan is NOT a bypass.  It will not be an "Interstate 25."

According to current plans, we are to spend between $100 Million - $162 Million for a 2 to 4 lane local road with controlled intersections every mile or so.  The likely speed limit on this road will be 40 MPH.

So, why are we building this?  It isn't to get a bypass.  It is to get an Arterial; one that likely will be not too much more than an opportunity for commercial development.

Now, commercial development isn't a bad thing.  However, it isn't a bypass.

Wednesday, October 17

Attend Candidate Debate Tonight

As I have been posting, two local bloggers are sponsoring a mayoral and city commision candidates debate tonight. I encourage any reader of these pages to attend the debate.  See you there!

October 17, 2007
7:00 p.m.

Northwest Center
2201 Northwest Bypass

View Larger Map

Admission: $5.00

To Vote for a Winner: $10.00

Sunday, October 14

Bike Thefts in Lower North and South Side

Over this Summer and early Fall, there have been a rash of bike thefts in the Lower North and South sides of our fair city. I haven't been unaffected by this; some young punk broke into my locked garage and stole my son's brand new West Coast Chopper bike, which we had given him for his birthday.

The city should do more to prevent bike theft. This is a gateway crime, that encourages punks to think of private property as something that is not worth respect.

In addition to taking bike thefts seriously, Great Falls should follow Missoula's lead and institute a voluntary bike registration program. A bike owner should be able to register the particulars about his or her bike, including serial number, with the GFPD. Pawn shops should be required to check against this registry before they are able to buy a bike. The registered owner should be contacted by the shop or the GFPD whenever a bike is brought into a pawn shop, and it should be returned to the lawful owner if it was stolen.

I understand that the management of such a registry database is a bit daunting. However, the fact that the city just pooh-poohs current thefts is deplorable.

More Ideas for Questions

Well, I think that is enough questions from one source. However, there are a lot more issues that the Commission candidates should be prepared to tackle. Here are some ideas;

  • The 5th-6th Street/ 1st Ave-2nd Ave South reconfiguration idea. Should those streets be converted to two way? What issues and challenges do the candidates see in that reconfiguration?

  • Working to Ensure Northcentral MT remains a Medical Center. Many jobs come to Great Falls because of our medical facilities. All of Northcentral Montana utilizes our medical resources. However, I submit to you that the ongoing and continued spat between the Clinic and Hospital reduces both the morale and the effectiveness of these resources. In addition, many elderly residents of communities like Havre, Ft. Benton and Shelby have no way to get to Great Falls, as there has been no regular bus service between our communities for about three years. Our City Commission should work to make sure that our medical facilities remain effective and they continue to serve all of Northcentral Montana.

  • Promotion of Bringing Canadian Tourism Dollars to Great Falls. The strength of the Canadian Dollar presents a real opportunity to bring many outside dollars to our community. We should be doing everything in our power to make it easy for Canadians to spend their loonies and toonies here. These currencies will be strong for the foreseeable future. However, many Great Falls retailers will not take these dollars, and even have signs up saying that they will not accept Canadian change. This is largely due to policies at local banks.

    We should be be doing more than just promoting our shopping opportunities to residents of Lethbridge and Calgary (however, we should be doing more of that). To start with, we should begin accepting Canadian currency in our parking meters. While I would not support getting the city into the currency exchange business, we should support and encourage those in that business to set up shop here. What will our City Commission and Mayor do to promote Canadian tourism here?

Those are a few ideas off the top of my head. The candidate forum is on 10/17. More information can be found at and the Electric City Weblog.

Fifth Question for Candidate Forum; Point of Sale System for Golf and Swim

This is my fifth question I submit for consideration for the upcoming candidate's forum:

In recent years, Park and Rec officials have stated that they cannot provide firm numbers on the usage of our Golf Courses and Swimming Pools because they do not have a Point of Sale computer system to track entrances to these parks. They have proposed spending about $100 thousand on such a system. Is this a valid concern?

If so, would you support the acquisition of such a system? How much would you propose spending?

If not, would you characterize current procedures as adequate? If not, would you support the implementation of more rigid manual point of sale procedures at our golf courses and swimming pools?

Fourth Question for Candidate Forum; Skate Park Usage

Here is another question that I submit for inclusion in the candidates forum;

The Riverside Railyard is the most recent park built in Great Falls. It is used by many kids in Great Falls. However, there have been many public complaints about both profane graffiti and hooliganism at the park. Is this a problem, and if so, what would you do to help solve it?

Third Question for Candidate Forum; Police Staffing

Here is my third question for the upcoming candidate's forum:

Over the past several months, the Great Falls Police Department has been operating at less than full force. For what reasons do you think that we have been unable to recruit and retain officers? Is this a problem, and if so, what would you do to solve this problem?

Second Question for Candidate Forum; Southern Arterial

Here is another question I submit for inclusion in the upcoming blogger candidate forum:

In recent weeks, City and State planners have proposed spending $100 - $162 Million on a Southern Arterial, directly connecting 57th Street to I-15. This will require buying and demolishing anywhere from 13 - 21 private residences and building another bridge across the Missouri. Do you support this plan, and if so, how do you envision this road to be used? As a follow up question, what sort of zoning proposals would you support around this new route?

My First Question for Candidate Forum; 9th Street Safety

In the next few posts, I will pose a few questions for our city commission and mayoral candidates. David and Geeguy have put together a great idea for a candidate forum this coming Wednesday, and I hope that they will consider these questions for submittal.

Ninth Street currently has multiple conflicting uses. It is a major North-South thoroughfare through Great Falls, connecting the Riverview area to 10th Avenue South. It also is a residential street, used by hundreds of pedestrians daily. The current location of school zones require pedestrian elementary students to cross this street every day to get to and from both Longfellow and Whittier Schools. Does anything need to be done about the uses for this street, and if so, what?

What are We Going to Get for $162 Million?

With numbers like the ones being bandied around here, you would think I was talking about a coal plant. However, here we are talking about something as mundane as a new road.

Last week, I attended the public meeting for the planned Southern Arterial, which would connect traffic from I-15 to 57th Street. Over the past 30 years, this planned road has been thought of as a bypass, but that isn't what city planners are now thinking.

I have been hearing about plans for this road since I was in kindergarten. This route was first proposed in 1968. However, with the downturn in our economy in the early 1970's, the idea was shelved.

Now, it is back. However, this isn't a bypass to allow truck traffic from Calgary to Denver/Salt Lake to easily go around Great Falls and, in the process, stay off 10th Ave. South. Instead, this would be a local road (probably around 40 MPH), with controlled intersections every mile or so. According to city planners, they envision it to be used by people such as medical professionals living in Fox Farm going to the hospital and USAF drivers going to and from Malmstrom and MANG. They don't envision more than 8,000 - 10,000 vehicles on this road per day. This should be contrasted to 10th Avenue South, which currently has about 40,000 vehicles/day.

Now, I don't see an investment like this staying unused. If built, I see something more like King Avenue in Billings. That route has become a mecca for big-box stores, like the ones that were just built on 10th Avenue South at the Mall. Is that the real idea here?

To build this route, the City and State will have to condemn and purchase anywhere from 13 - 21 private residences. The completed route will cost anywhere from $100 - $162 Million, depending on final route configuration. Another bridge will have to be built across the Missouri.

Is this a good investment? Both City and State planners seem to think so. However, if we are not going to really provide a bypass for through truck traffic, what are we really accomplishing here? I look forward to your thoughts.

Candidates for Neighborhood Council 7, and my Request for your Vote

I am the current chair of Neighborhood Council 7, which represents the lower North and South sides of Great Falls. The council is up for re-election this November.

As of the August 23 filing deadline, the following individuals filed for election to the council. I have marked incumbents with an (i), and listed them in alphabetical order by last name:

Matt Anderson;
Ole Johnson;
Donna Sadler; (i)
Mike Taylor; (i)
Erin Tropila; (i)
Aaron Weissman; (i)

As I am running in this race, I am not going to make any recommendations, beyond asking for your vote (if you live in the downtown area). I don't know anything about the two individuals running for their first term on the council, but thank them both for expressing interest.

The council has five seats. Therefore, one of the six of us that have volunteered our time will not be elected to the council.

I ask for and would appreciate your vote. If elected, I will continue to urge the council to;

  • Slow down traffic on 9th Street. This is a residential street, partially as evidenced by the location of elementary school zones that require kids to cross this street to get to and from school. Since the new pedestrian median when in place on 4th Ave N., I have heard complaints that it has slowed down traffic on 9th. Good. I want the city to build more of these things.

  • Work to make the Make the Lower North and South Sides a Safe Place to Live, Work and Play. Great Falls is changing. The new courthouse and Medical centers mean that more and more Great Falls residents are working outside of the downtown. However, over 7,000 people live in the Lower North and South sides, and thousands of Great Falls residents work here. As the most 'urban' area of Great Falls, we have our problems. However, none of these problems are insurmountable. We need more police officers patrolling our area, more blocks protected by Neighborhood Watch and more proactive efforts by city and county code enforcement. Especially in the Summer months, this area gets too rowdy. It is up to us to make sure that our neighborhood is clean and safe.

  • Keep our Parks Presentable and Fun. Except for the golf courses, most of the city's Park and Rec resources are in the Lower North and South sides. This district includes the Skate Park, the Natatorium, Mitchell Pool and Gibson Park. The maintenance of these areas has significant challenges. These challenges include the profane (the Skate Park), the administrative (Usage of resources like the Nat and the Mitchell is difficult to track because of current cash register procedures) and the mundane (did you know that a Canadian Goose produces 2 lbs. of 'goose grease' per day? Do you know how many geese live in Gibson Park?) While the council has no direct oversight over the Park and Rec department, we will continue to urge the city to maintain these resources.

In addition to these overarching goals, if elected I will urge the council to continue meeting with the Neighborhood Watch and I will begin rotating meetings to locations throughout our council area, including the Lower South side. I am currently attempting to have our December meeting at the gym at Longfellow school.

Again, I ask for your vote. If you have any questions, please contact me at your convenience. A comment on this post is an excellent way to contact me. Thank you.

Thursday, September 27

Debate Format is Brilliant

Want a chance to make up your own mind in our upcoming election for Mayor and City Commission?

David over at and GeeGuy at the Electric City Weblog have put their money in place of their mouths (or in this case, keyboards) to sponsor a candidates debate on October 17, 2007, at 7:00 p.m. at the Northwest Center (lcoated at 2201 Northwest Bypass).

David and Gregg have taken some flak from a few locals over their choice of debate format here. The controversy? Instead of opening the doors, they are charging $15 admission. $5 of the admission price goes to rental of the hall (with any overage donated to the CMR Debate Team, which will facilitate the event) and $10 goes into a pot, which will be distributed to the debate winner, chosen via polling the audience after the debate.

I am impressed with this methodology. I think it is unique, and quite frankly, a breath of fresh air from the standard town hall or talking head format debates that offer no clear winner except for a room full of spin doctors. Charging admission should also serve as a disincentive for campaigns to pack the hall with their supporters; there is more chance of a real independent audience.

Now, I recognize that this might not entirely be the case. A savvy campaign could bankroll a plethora of supporters to stack the ending poll in their favor. However, unless the debate is very well attended, it would be very expensive for a campaign to do so, as they only stand to gain 2/3 of their investment plus the 2/3 of the other attendees.

Further, such an effort might well reflect well on the candidate that does the stacking. If nothing else, pulling off such a feat will prove that the candidate possesses organizational skills that should prove useful if that individual is seated as our mayor or commissioner.

Several commenters have also decried that such a format makes the debate nothing but a popularity contest. Now, I suggest that this complaint rings hollow. What is an election but a popularity contest? When we all vote for someone to hold office, the most 'popular' wins due to the rules of the game.

Again, kudos to David and GeeGuy. I am looking forward to attending. I will also be sending you several questions.

Friday, September 21

An easy fast ...

For my fellow MOT, I wish you an easy fast. May you and yours be signed and sealed in the book of life for a happy, healthy and sweet new year.


Well, what would have been unthinkable even five years ago has now happened. The Canadian dollar is now roughly equal to the US Dollar. As of this writing, the Loonie is equal to .99730 dollars, but was trading higher than the US dollar yesterday.

Why did this happen. Well, right now, everyone is pointing to the Fed rate cut this week. That might have been the impetus for this particular decline, but it isn't the real answer.

Part of the answer is that Canada has what we all want; oil. Another part of the reason is the fact that collectively, the US market has been buying goods on credit for far too long. We buy more than we sell, and as a result, our creditors (primarily China) are banking huge reserves of US Dollars.

Since about 2003, our Administration has been pushing a weaker dollar as part of the answer. Ideally, it should be strengthening our exports and putting the cold water on imports.

In any case, hopefully we will see more Alberta plates in front of our shopping establishments.

Wednesday, September 12

L'Shana Tova Tiketavu

May your new year be as sweet as apples and honey.


Monday, September 10

Recipes on the Spoon!

Long time readers of these pages will know that I occasionally post a recipe or two. I enjoy cooking; it is often my best and most favorite relaxation technique.

Anyway, the inestimable Dave Budge has created a new MT foodie blog called "The Spoon." It is going to be hosted up at

Anyway, I have a few recipies posted up on the site. Go enjoy, and happy cooking!

Saturday, September 8

MAJCO statement at the Installation of ELCA Bishop Jessica Crist

This morning, I had the honor of representing the Montana Association of Jewish Communities at the installation of Bishop Jessica Crist. Bishop Crist has been a friend to the Montana Jewish communities for many years. I was honored to give the following remarks:

Twelve years ago, the Montana Association of Jewish Communities and the Montana Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America entered into a unique and I think historic compact. For the first time since Martin Luther, representatives of our faiths set aside hundreds of years of ethnic and religious animosity and misunderstanding, and committed ourselves to mutual concord and cooperation. This compact would not have existed were it not for the vision, coordination and hard work of the Reverend Jessica Crist.

I am honored today to represent the Montana Association of Jewish Communities, and witness the occasion of the Reverend’s installation as a Bishop within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The Jewish communities in our State send their welcome and and congratulations to the Reverend Crist and the Montana Synod.

Our faiths have a shared heritage dating back to Abraham. Unfortunately, that shared heritage has been marred by too many people and too many ideologies that were were more interested in fostering division than in dialogue.

However, since the the ELCA’s 1994 “Declaration of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to the Jewish Community,” Lutheran-Jewish dialogue has continued to grow and prosper. Indeed, today our synagogue in Great Falls shares space with an ELCA church. We welcome this dialogue, and continue to thank the Reverend Crist for all her efforts over the years to work toward understanding between our faiths.

While much has been accomplished, much work remains to be done. Centuries are not overcome in moments. However, we have built a strong foundation. With that foundation, I and Jews throughout our great State look forward to continuing to work with Bishop Crist to celebrate our diversity and to deepen our shared appreciation of our traditions and our cultures.

Mazel Tov, Bishop Crist!

Friday, September 7

Downtown One Way Streets and Avenues

Lately, there has been a fair amount of talk about the most logical configuration of the one-way streets and avenues in our Downtown. Local business leaders have complained that the current status of 5th and 6th Street, and 1st and 2nd Ave S, make it difficult for shoppers to park near their businesses. They want those streets reset as two-way roads.

I blogged about this once before, last April, here. Since that time, the problems I brought up about 9th Street have not changed. I think it is not debatable that making 5th and 6th Street two way will increase traffic on 9th.

When this issue came up in the Tribune last week, local businessman Phil Kiser expressed his opinion that he believed 9th Street should be widened to four lanes.

Pardon, what was that? Four lanes? This is his answer to the neighborhoods question about pedestrian safety on a road that must be crossed by elementary school children to get to their schools? Talk about unhelpful ...

The next issue is the Avenues. What would be the affects of resetting these East-West roads to two-way?

While I think that the affect of this change would not be as severe as that of the North-South proposal, I have been approached by the Great Falls Transit District, wondering how they would navigate city buses into the bus depot if these roads are reset. These questions deserve analysis.

Unfortunately, the city planning department doesn't seem to be asking many questions at all. Last week, I read their "analysis" of the proposal to reset the one-way streets and avenues. In a 50 page paper, there was mention of neither repercussions on 9th Street and nor bus issues.

I understand the concerns of downtown businesses. I agree that we need to take any logical step to increase business opportunities in our downtown. However, we have to be very careful before we take action that has negative impacts.

We will be discussing this issue at our Neighborhood Council meeting on Monday evening. Please either come to the meeting or let me know any concerns you would like to see raised.

Too long since I have posted, mea culpa

I know, I know. These pages have been filled with anything but fresh posts for much too long.

I would try to make excuses, but they would be lame. We all have lives, kids, jobs and volunteer activities that keep us busy. The truth is that I haven't posted because, well, I haven't felt like posting.

I hope, however, that the old writer's block is lifting and that you will see the resumption of more regular posts here very soon.

NC7 Agenda for September

Monday, September 10, 2007
Civic Center, Rainbow Room
6:30 p.m.

Please note: This agenda format allows citizens to speak on each issue prior to Council discussion. We encourage your participation. In the interest that all parties can be heard, please limit your comments.



  • Approval of August minutes
  • Downtown One-Way Reconfiguration—Andrew Finch, etal; Business Improvement District
  • Problem Properties
  • GFPD pedestrian safety presentation at Whittier School
  • Skate Park grafitti
  • Northside Neighborhood Watch—shall we continue meeting with them?


  • Community Policing—Sgt. Stinar
  • Neighborhood Concerns
  • Absent Council member—do we replace?
  • November meeting—Nov. 12—City Holiday
  • National Good Neighbor Day—September 23, 2007


  • Police Advisory Board
  • Downtown Task Force


Next Meeting – October 8, 2007, Gibson Room, Civic Center

Wednesday, August 8

City to Reconfigure 9th Street at 4th Avenue N

I guess the squeaky wheel does occasionally get some grease. Regular readers of these pages know that I have been harping on about the autobahn, or 9th Street, for some time. The traffic there is too fast for what is really a residential street.

The city did a study, and is going to reconfigure 9th Street at 4th Avenue North before the school year starts this year. As the photo to my left shows, they are going to install concrete pedestrian "islands" at the 4th Avenue North crosswalks. This will allow pedestrians more time to cross the road, as they only have to cross half of it at one time.

This is not without controversy, however. In return for this commonsense measure, the city would like to remove the school crossing at 3rd Avenue North. They say that their studies show more kids crossing at 4th, and they want to encourage the use of the islands.

Well and good, but kids -- especially those that walk to school without parental supervision -- are going to cross 9th at their first opportunity. For many kids, that is 3rd Ave N. As Whittier Principal Mende Kloppel noted at our most recent NC7 meeting, the playground is on 3rd, and that is where they are going to want to go.

The other controversy is parking. Installing these islands means that parking on 9th Street will have to be removed from "4th Alley North" to "5th Alley North". That is regrettable, but I think necessary.

At our meeting on Monday, NC7 voted to endorse the city's plan except for the removal of the 3rd Avenue crosswalk. We voted to retain that school crossing, and hopefully install identical islands on 3rd at some point in the near future.

Expect to see these islands installed this month.

Monday, August 6

Lower North Side and Black Eagle Awarded Weed and Seed Grant

For the past year, a team of people around Great Falls have been working on a grant application from the US Department of Justice for the Lower North Side and Black Eagle to be named a site in the Weed and Seed program.

I just received word that the application, which had to be submitted last Winter, was successful. This is HUGE news, which will allow our community to increase law enforcement in the area. Many congratulations are due to the team, and in particular Jayci Kolar, for a job well done.

Sunday, August 5

All Comers Swim Meet TOMORROW

The city All-Comers Swim Meet has been rescheduled for TOMORROW at the Mitchell Pool at 6 p.m. It was going to be last week, but was postponed due to weather.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to compete this year. NC7 is meeting at virtually the same time at the Civic Center.

However, I encourage all of you to try your hand at the sport. Doesn't cost ANYTHING.

Thoughts on Ubuntu?

Linux is one of the operating systems that I use regularly. My distro of choice has always been Mandriva/Mandrake.

However, I am hearing more and more about ubuntu lately. I would be interested in any thoughts you might have about comparisons between the distributions.

Hope to be Posting Again ...

I have been pretty slow to post this month. I have a family member in a pretty tough medical situation, and been in the middle of a major project at work. However, the project is (almost) finished and the medical situation is almost stabilized. Hopefully, I will be able to add something to the community discussions going on around here ...

I can't believe I was able to do it ...

Lately, I have been reading the 43 folders blog as a means of personal organization. The blogger, a guy named Merlin Mann, just gave a talk at Google about something called Inbox Zero.

It took me a few hours of processing on a weekend, but my email inbox now has ZERO messages in it. This is the first time I have had a completely empty inbox since 1994.

What a cathartic experience. I recommend it heartily.

Friday, August 3

Neighborhood Council 7 Meeting Agenda

Monday, August, 2007
Civic Center, Gibson Room
6:30 p.m.

Please note: This agenda format allows citizens to speak on each issue prior to Council discussion. We encourage your participation. In the interest that all parties can be heard, please limit your comments.


Approval of July minutes
Pedestrian safety measures on 9th Street & 4th Avenue North
Marty Basta, Jim Rearden, Jerry McKinley of Public Works Department
Problem properties
Weed and Seed application status
Single poling place letter response
Whittier Principal’s letter

Neighborhood Concerns

City Commission
Police Advisory Board
Downtown Task Force


Next Meeting – September 10, 2007, Gibson Room, Civic Center

Neighborhood Council 7 Meeting Date CHANGE

Neighborhood Council 7 will be meeting this coming Monday, August 6. This is a change, due to the scheduled availability of City Staff that will be discussing safety issues on 9th Street.

Agenda to follow ...

Monday, July 9

NC7 Agenda

Monday, July 9, 2007
Heisey Center, 313 7th Street North
6:30 p.m.

Please note: This agenda format allows citizens to speak on each issue prior to Council discussion. We encourage your participation. In the interest that all parties can be heard, please limit your comments.




    1. Approval of June minutes
    2. Problem properties

      1. 824 6th Avenue North
      2. 512/516 6th Street North
      3. 916 3rd Avenue North

    3. Graffiti on 3rd Avenue North between 9th and 10th Street
    4. 9th Street Traffic – results of city study
    5. Mitchell Pool
    6. Weed and Seed Application Status
    7. Riverfest booth
    8. Single Polling location letter


    1. Downtown Task Force – Brett Doney from GFDA
    2. Problem properties

      1. 112 12st North – per email from Mike Taylor
      2. 601 5th Avenue North —Dona Walker

    3. 2nd Avenue South Sidewalks – Aaron Weissman
    4. Neighborhood Concerns


    1. City Commission
    2. Police Advisory Board


Next Meeting – August 13, 2007, Gibson Room, Civic Center

Tuesday, July 3

You Get What You Pay For

Recently, there have been a lot of complaints about how our city commission does little other than rubber stamp the decisions of city staff. I wonder why we are all so surprised. I also wonder why anyone would run for such a position.

We pay our city commission nothing. We pay our mayor about $9k a year. Therefore, we have created a situation where all we can hope to get in these jobs are part-time volunteers.

I believe that our current mayor and commissioners are a group of decent, hardworking and committed volunteers. However, that is all they are. They are part time amateurs who depend on full time professional city staffers. In addition to "overseeing" a $90 Million organization (that pays them bubkis), they also have to find ways to put food on their plates and a roof over their heads. Is there any wonder why they are ineffective?

We, the people of Great Falls, have determined that we want to be governed by staff and with loose oversight by our elected public servants. When you have a deadline at work, do you put it aside to handle something going on at an organization for which you volunteer? Is it reasonable to expect more out of our commission?

Yes, they did run for those jobs. Yes, they should be held accountable for their decisions. However, we all need to realize that we are lying in a bed of our own making.

Animal Welfare and City Oversight

I have spent a great deal of time reading through (at least some) of the information that has been posted on various websites on this issue. Unfortunately, this looks like a situation where unprofessionalism and lack of communication have exploded into an unnecessary crisis.

First and foremost, we, the citizens, owe Geeguy a debt of at least gratitude for the time he spends researching issues that affect our body politic. A lawyer's time is a very expensive commodity, and I do not see where Geeguy is spending that time in any way that personally benefits him (other than as a citizen of our community). Geeguy, thank you very much for the thorough and balanced information and opinions you have presented. Unfortunately, you will see nothing so thorough in these pages.

However, I would also like to put in my 2¢. What I am going to say has less to do with the specifics of animal control issues in our town and more to do with a general philosophy of how to run this particular railroad.

In this case, we have a contract set to expire. This is a great time to reevaluate how things are to be done and for a governmental agency to define its requirements. It is also a great time to continue the evaluation of an incumbent contractor.

It is not, however, the best time to first discuss problems that the incumbent contractor may have had with the operation of their existing contract. Like many that have posted on this subject, the first I heard that there was a problem was when it came up on the front page of the paper. Now, I hear that there is a dysfunctional board and many complaints about the Humane Society's operation of the facility.

The time to bring these issues up is DURING contract performance; most specifically during regular contract progress meetings. If performance was bad, why have there been no written letters, cure notices, meeting minute notes, etc.? Why are we just hearing about this now?

Worse, the problems we have heard about seem minute, unsubstantiated and subjective. Even more shocking, the story published today in the paper (but not online) said that city officials have not investigated even problems.

So, because of unsubstantiated allegations that have never been documented, we are being asked to pony up hundreds of thousands of dollars in increased annual expenses. I can't wait for the justification for the coming bond issue.

Now, I haven't looked at the RFP the city put out this Spring. However, for a contract of this size (five years at $200k - $500k/year), it would be very reasonable to expect a contract with a rigidly defined Statement of Work / Performance Work Statement setting specific requirements and performance objectives. These specific requirements and performance objectives should be constructed in ways to make them measurable. Then, the resulting metrics should be analyzed during regular contract performance review meetings. To be really innovative, contract payments could be tied to those metrics (incentives for performance?? Shocking!)

Quite frankly, I have read reports in blog comments that I certainly hope are not true. However, we should all hold our city leaders accountable if (when) they present us the bill for their lack of management.

Back in town

Wow; leave for ten days and it looks like a whole year worth of city news happens. I think there are more than 100 blog posts on ECB and Firefly that look extremely relevant. That, and trying to find my desk for all the stack of papers.

The wife and I took our first vacation of more than a few days in about a decade. We drove to Washington and visited some incredible wineries along I-5 South of Portland. We stayed in campgrounds (usually KOA) along the way; it was a great amount of fun.

Anyway, it looks like tonight's city commission meeting will be fairly interesting. More later ...

Friday, June 22


Heard from the son yesterday;

"Can I have beef jerky in my lunch today?" asked my six year old boy.

"But, you don't like beef jerky. Why?" said my wife.

"I know. But my friend likes beef jerky, and that way I get his fruit roll-up!" replied the little stinker.

Well, at least he's honest.