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.

Want People to Pay Attention?

Quote Shakespeare.

Wednesday, June 20

A Fair and Equitable Process

Something very interesting is going on; a presently outsourced function (operation and management of the animal shelter and animal control functions) is being re-evaluated by the city for operation by either the present, private (but non-profit) contractor or a city agency.

I would categorize this as an attempted in-sourcing of a presently out-sourced function. At least in federal procurement, there are rules governing how that is supposed to happen. Those rules are written in an Office of Management and Budget circular called A-76.

Now, the city has no obligation to follow federal rules of procurement. However, these rules are time-tested and have been proven to be both fair and equitable. I challenge the city to apply similar rules to their procurement process for animal control functions. To do so would remove any doubt about the fairness and honesty of the city's final decision.


I guess I am not the only person questioning why the city is apparently ram-roading a $330 thousand increase in expenditures in order to give the GFPD responsibility over animal control functions. Last night, a citizen was thrown out of the city commission meeting and arrested over her comments on just this issue.

There is a healthy discussion going on over at Geeguy's place over the three minute rule. My 2¢ about that is as long as it is equitably and fairly enforced it is probably OK. However, that is not the subject of this post. I would rather use this space here to talk a little bit about the problem that this unfortunate woman raised.

I brought this up yesterday. I would like to see it articulated exactly where the Humane Society has failed to perform their contract. If they have, this point is moot and they should probably be fired from this job. However, if they have performed, why is the city even considering such an expensive replacement?

Worse, this procurement process seems to be flawed. All I know about this is what I read in the paper. However, what I have read does not reasonably equate with what I know of how the government is supposed to procure goods and services.

Tuesday, June 19

Comments to City Commission, 6/19/2007

Madame Mayor and Honorable Commissioners;

My name is Aaron Weissman, and I am the chairman of Neighborhood Council 7.

At our last neighborhood council meeting, concerned neighbors brought to our attention no less than five problem properties plagued by petty crime, gang graffiti and drugs. In addition, we have been made aware of continued vehicle break-ins during the night.

I would like to also take this opportunity to encourage my neighbors and all city residents to take common sense actions to avoid vehicle break-ins. Do not leave anything of value in your vehicle, and especially not in visible areas. Lock your vehicle. If at all possible, park it inside or in a lighted area.

All of these problems seem to be centered on the lower North side, mostly along the 9th Street corridor. Our council feels that the only way to positively affect these problems is for the city to spend increased attention on the area.

Unfortunately, the same neighbors that came to us about their neighborhoods also reported slow responses to their complaints from the police department.

We all know that the summer brings out the worst in some people. As the season progresses, we need to increase our attention on the problems to keep them from getting out of control.

In addition, our council would like to thank the city for beginning a study of traffic on 9th Street. We continue to feel that the speed of traffic along this street is inappropriate for the neighborhood. Please keep us in the loop as to the results of your study and for your ideas to control that traffic.

Is it worth $330k to fire the Humane Society?

Color me puzzled. In last Sunday's Trib, I read this article. Apparently, the city is re-competing its requirements for animal control and operation of the animal shelter.

The city received two bids, one from the Humane Society for $186 thousand, and one from the Police Department for $516 thousand. The Humane Society is the incumbent contractor.

What confounds me is that with a $330 thousand difference in bids received, the city is not automatically awarding the contract to the incumbent contractor who is also the low bid. Instead, the city has given a copy of the Humane Society's bid to the Police Department (by the by, the other bidder for that contract) for their critique. Is this really how things are (or should be) done? Has the Police Department's bid been given to the Humane Society for their critique?

Now, I freely admit that I haven't paid a great deal of attention to how the Humane Society is doing in their operation of these functions in recent years. I adopted my dog from the shelter several years ago, and found it to be a rather depressing and underfunded place -- but run by caring and dedicated people. In any case, many citizens in Great Falls are attempting to build a new shelter, funded through private donations. In any case, the status of the old, city-owned building is not something that should be blamed on the Humane Society.

If the city awards this contract to the GFPD for $330 thousand more than the next lowest bid, then they will certainly have to explain why it is worth a third of a million dollars to give this additional work to the police department.

Monday, June 11

NC7 Letter to County Commission on Polling Place Consolidation

Neighborhood Council 7
PO Box 5021 * Great Falls, MT 59403
Representing the Lower North and South Sides of Historic Great Falls
June 11, 2007

Cascade County Board of Commissioners
The Honorable Joe Briggs
The Honorable Lance Olson
The Honorable Peggy Beltrone
525 2nd Avenue North, Room 111
Great Falls, MT 59401

Dear Commissioners Briggs, Olson and Beltrone;

We write today to address your recent decision to consolidate polling locations in Great Falls to the fairgrounds. Quite simply, we believe that this decision will serve as a detriment to the people in downtown Great Falls and will discourage them from voting. We encourage and ask you to revisit that decision.

We understand and agree that this move will make things easier for the administration of the election. However, we suggest to you that some difficult things are worth the effort. Neighborhood polling is one of these things.

Winston Churchill once said that “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” He was right; it is a messy and complicated business to keep an election running smoothly. However, that does not mean that we should abdicate our efforts. It would surely be easiest to not have an election at all.

The 7,000 people that live within the borders of Neighborhood Council 7 are the ones that are least likely to own vehicles or other modes of transportation. They are also the population most likely to throw up their hands at any complications in their voting process. Mail ballots are not the answer. If this decision moves forward, we believe that it will result in the de facto disenfranchisement of many of our downtown residents.

Again, we ask you to revisit this decision. We submit to you that neighborhood polling places are inherently beneficial. They encourage local civic discussion and participation. Please do not eliminate this benefit just to gain a little efficiency.


Aaron Weissman
Mike Taylor
Erin Tropila
Donna Sadler

Friday, June 8

Neighborhood Council 7 Meeting Agenda

Monday, June 11, 2007
Gibson Room, Civic Center
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 May minutes
824 6th Avenue North—drug activity--Aaron
9th Street traffic--Aaron

Mitch Tropila—report from MT Senate and questions
Single poling location—letter to County Commissioners--Aaron
916 3rd Avenue North—abandoned property--Aaron
Riverfest booth--Aaron
Neighborhood Concerns

City Commission
Council of Councils
Police Advisory Board


Next Meeting – July 9, 2007, Heisey Center

Tuesday, June 5

Those Darned Rose Colored Glasses

Remember the survey last Summer on the pools? You know, the one in our water bill where about a solid majority of the people in Great Falls told our City Commission that neighborhood pools were worth saving. Well, whoever that was adding together the figures was certainly pulling something out of somewhere.

If you remember those surveys, our options were to spend nothing (and close down the neighborhood pools) or to spend $2.2 Million in repairs to the Jaycee, the Water Tower and the Mitchell.

Well, $2.2 Million seems to be not quite accurate. Now that we have committed to spend the money, the lowest bid is coming in at something like $2.5 Million. That’s about 14% over the estimate.

This is not the first error in estimation that the City has made in our very recent history. Not by a long shot.

If we move the decimal place over a digit or two to the right, we can recall the city’s estimates for the cost of the coal plant. You remember current cost estimate for the plant we were originally told would cost $515 Million plant is now hovering somewhere around $678 Million.

Moving back in time a few years, we can recall similar unrealistic cost estimates for the golf courses and other public works projects. Moving away from costs, there were a number of similar unrealistic revenue expectations for city ventures, most notably the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Party and the White Water Elephant.

Now, I am not alleging anything inappropriate here. I think that city planners did a study and really thought that the repairs to those pools would come in at the lower number. However, whoever was doing the math and studying the work involved made some major errors. Fourteen percent is a pretty huge variance.

Now, I am pretty sure that Great Falls taxpayers would have supported $2.5 Million to revitalize our neighborhood pools. However, we never got the chance to make a statement either way since the numbers on which most of us based our vote had only a tenuous relationship with reality.

Which leads me to the point of this particular post. Over at ECB, Geeguy has been doing a great job telling truth to power over the seeming inability of city estimators to plan for worst cast scenarios. Our recent news just highlights the point. This is a very important obligation, because these estimators are playing with our money.

I grant you that estimating public works projects is something throwing a dart at a moving target. However, it ain’t rocket science either. At the very least, the city could have put out some informational/non-binding requests for proposals; the responses to those RFPs would have given the city some important information as to the actual costs involved.