Saturday, May 31, 2008

Electric City Power Board

Their meeting scheduled for this Monday, June 2, has been rescheduled to June 9 because of scheduling conflicts.

Last year one meeting was canceled due to illness and one meeting was unofficial because a quorum was not present.

We are only six months into 2008 and already the following has happened:

February - met, but didn't have a quorum to conduct business
May - meeting canceled
June - meeting canceled and rescheduled

And Randy Gray, former mayor of Great Falls and staunch proponent of HGS, hasn't attended one meeting in 2008 and missed four meetings in 2007. It's time he's replaced.

Friday, May 30, 2008

They're Going To Start To Build In November

According to this article out of Billings, SME is going to start building "other parts of the plant", even though the state has an order requiring a new pollution analysis.

SME still claims they don't have the financing.

What is Gregori up to now?

City Commission Meeting, June 3, 2008

Consent Agenda, item #12:

General Fund: Legal

Payment to Browning, Kaleczyc, Berry and Hoven in the amount of $15,700. Anyone know why Marathon Oil sued the City of Great Falls?

There were also payments to them in February for $5,600. and April for $10,900.


Electric Fund:
Payment to SME for April's power bill, $709,529

They Don't Want Your Opinion

I know. You already know that, but here goes:

City Commission Meeting, Tuesday, June 3, agenda item #8:

"On May 20, 2008, staff recommended the adoption of Resolution 9749 creating an Animal Shelter/Enforcement Advisory Committee to assist the Commission in a variety of issues relating to the animal shelter and animal control".

At that meeting, the commission voted to table the ordinance.

"However, members of the City Commission have advised that they are comfortable in making immediate decisions necessary, and that an advisory committee, as is contemplated in Resolution 9749, should be postponed until shelter and enforcement operations have been finalized".

It couldn't be more obvious. Certain members of the City Commission do not want public input, especially from folks, like neighborhood council members, who may not have their own agendas. Heaven forbid if there would be unbiased opinions and suggestions given about animal operations.

Any guesses which commissioners vote in favor of denying this ordinance at Tuesday night's meeting?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Humane Society of Cascade County

Here is a letter that Humane Society board member Jan Cahill wrote to City Manager Greg Doyon.

Let's hope this organization can finally get a decent response from the city.

No To Public Safety Levy

In today's Tribune, City Manager Greg Doyon says he does not suggest a public safety levy at this time. He does not think there would be enough time to "launch a campaign for a special levy this year. Plenty of work would need to be done to explain a public safety levy to residents."

The mayor doesn't think its a good idea during this "economic downturn".

I agree that it is not a good idea, but I think the reasons it would have a difficult time passing have more to do with the fiscal mismanagement of ECP and the boondoggle of SME and HGS.

How could the city realistically explain they need to raise taxes for emergency services when they, seemly without concern, have given SME hundreds of thousands of dollars and continue to run ECP in the red?

We are starting to see the fallout from the actions of a few.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Decoration Day

Memorial Day used to be known as "Decoration Day" and was a day set aside to honor the nation's Civil War dead by decorating their graves. It began to be widely observed on May 30, 1868.

Neighborhood Councils, Week of May 26, 2008

This is a slow week for council meetings. Only one special meeting is scheduled:

When: Tuesday, 5/27 at 7:00pm
Where: Great Falls Clinic Specialty Center, 3000 15th Avenue South


Whether to meet during July and August

Dog Ordinance, 100 Years Ago

I enjoy reading the "Montana Album" in every Sunday's Tribune. It includes tidbits of goings-on in the community and surrounding areas from 25, 50 and 100 years ago. In yesterday's paper was a timely tidbit from 100 years ago:

The dog question was brought up before the City Council by Alderman Bottomley, who was opposed to the principle of taxing dogs highly as a cure for the dog nuisance.

This brought out the reading of the proposed dog ordinance which was something of a corker. It provided a license of $5 for males and $20 for females. Also for putting of muzzles on all dogs running at large whenever the mayor issued a proclamation to that effect, also forbidding the keeping of dogs who howled or barked so as to disturb neighbors; also forbids trespass of dogs on other people's property or damages done by them; the penalty on the dog for violation of these provisions to be death in 24 hours; all impounded dogs to be sold in 48 hours for not less than $2, plus license due, or execution without benefit of clergy.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Test Your Reaction Time

This is a simple test to judge how fast your reaction time is. I improved with practice. (-:

Friday, May 23, 2008

One-Way Conversion Study

The city has now completed its study of returning 1st and 2nd Avenues South and 5th and 6th Streets to two-way roads. Page 4 gives the city's conclusion.

More information can be found here.

$Tips To Save Gas

Here are six tips that might help you save gas. Happy Motoring!!

Don't Hold Your Breath

This past week we learned the Animal Foundation was given the impression, apparently some time ago, they would be receiving $1.5 million from the city.

I attended a public meeting this week where Commissioner Bronson indicated that, during recent budget hearings, the requests of various city departments for FY 2008-2009 have exceeded the funds available by $1.8 million. According to Mr. Bronson, these were frugal requests.

I don't think the Animal Foundation is going to get it.

Bonnie and Clyde

Today marks the 74th anniversary of the deaths of Bonnie and Clyde.

My, How Times Have Changed

It seems John Lawton's opinion was unsolicited. Regardless, the Tribune erred by not endorsing Greg Doyon's efforts until there was a CYA e-mail received from Lawton.

John Lawton agrees the new city manager is correct to be taking a "fresh look" at the city's involvement with SME.

At this point in time, I don't really care what John Lawton thinks, but I guess it's important to the Tribune.

The story about Greg Doyon taking a "fresh look" broke almost a week ago and the Tribune's editorial board didn't say a word about it until they heard from John Lawton. (Was his opinion unsolicited as the Tribune paints it, or did they ask him what he thinks)?

Further," he (Lawton) said, "what else could he and the City Commission do when SME is asking them to be part of a new entity? Signing on with a new entity and a new concept will require a public discussion and Commission actions."

What a convenient change in attitude; Lawton indicating there will need to be public discussion and Commission action; two actions that didn't seem to be too important at times on his watch.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Let's Give Him A Chance

Thanks to those of you who voted on my "would you be willing to gather names for a coal plant initiative?" poll. Eleven of you said you would be willing to gather signatures and twelve of you said you would not.

After this poll was posted, we learned that our city manager, Mr. Doyon, is taking a "fresh look" at the city's continuing involvement in this boondoggle. He also mentioned at Tuesday's (5/20) city commission meeting that a few new things have come up with regard to SME and before he reports to the commissioners, he wants a thorough understanding of what these things are and what they mean for the city.

I would have been in favor of an initiative, if Mr. Doyon had not come forward with his intent to reexamine the city's role in this fiasco. Right now, I'm content to give him a chance to get a handle on this complicated situation and hear his recommendations before thinking again about an initiative.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


The City Commission decided at tonight's meeting to table ordinance #9749, which would have created an Animal Shelter/Enforcement Advisory committee, until June 3, the next City Commission meeting. And for good reason.

According to Mayor pro tem Bronson, commissioners received phone calls from citizens asking questions and wanting more time to think about what the staff report indicated before they voiced their opinions. This report only became available to the public last Friday.

It's a good sign, and one we aren't used to, when commissioners respond to the citizens like they should. Let's hope the trend continues.

A Job Well Done

At tonight's City Commission meeting, Mayor Stebbins was absent so Mayor pro tem Bill Bronson conducted the meeting. He did an excellent job. There was no question he knew what he was doing.

He never "forgot" to ask for public comment on the agenda items, which is something Mayor Stebbins does on a regular basis. He also told a citizen, who brought up a complaint about the city, that the city commissioners, if they chose to, would respond to her concern at that portion of the meeting. When that time came, he reiterated to the commissioners they could respond to her if they wished to. Both he and Commissioner Jolley had comments for her to which she responded without stepping back to the podium or being told she already had her five minutes to speak.

It was very refreshing to experience a meeting conducted in a professional, yet relaxed, non-threatening manner. Too bad we can't have it at every meeting.

It's Never A Good Idea To Keep Secrets

This is a six page letter written to Mr. Doyon from the Animal Foundation in response to his meeting with them and subsequent letter written on May 5, 2008:

On page 1, Mr. James indicates, "we have no objection to the formation of a committee to advise the City on shelter management and operations". Who cares if they have an objection or not? The City is a separate entity entitled to have a committee depending upon the vote of the commissioners. (This issue is on the agenda for tonight's City Commission meeting)

The City Commission voted to table this issue.

I guess though their attitude is somewhat understandable given the remark Mr. James made on page 2:

"The Animal Foundation and the City have proceeded since 2002 on the assumption that a joint facility would be the better option. That decision by the former city administration is certainly subject to change".

It sounds like some kind of a deal, now to the tune of $1.5 million, was made at least five years ago with John Lawton that never made its way to the city commission.

Hmm. Where do you suppose the money was going to come from? I know! Those same funds that the $1.4 million was taken from to give to SME as a "deposit".

The Animal Foundation doesn't run city government and their "our way or the highway" attitude is not commendable. This has gone beyond animals.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Neighborhood Councils - Week of May 19, 2008

The following meetings are scheduled this week:


Where: Great Falls Clinic Specialty Center conference room at 3000 15th Ave. South
When: Monday (tonight) at 7:00pm

* National Trails Day
* Community policing officer Sgt. John Schaffer


Where: Heritage Baptist Church at 900 52nd Street North
When: Thursday at 6:30pm

* National Trail Days
* Community Policing Officer Noah Scott
* City code enforcement information concerning citizen complaints

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Maybe No Longer The Lone Voice Of Reason?

Maybe Commissioner Jolley will finally have some company. It seems that Commissioner Bronson thinks "it's just prudence. Some of the circumstances are changing".

This quote is in response to City Manager Greg Doyon wanting to take a "fresh look" at the city's involvement in the power plant. It also seems that Mr. Doyon is not clear on what kind of additional investment would be needed and if the City or ECP has the means to put additional money into the power plant.

Does this mean Commissioner Bronson would be willing to come to the table with an open mind with regard to this situation? To date, he has voted with the majority of the commission on all issues regarding HGS, SME and ECP.

I hope, Commissioner Bronson, this is a sign that you are stepping up and out of the Lawton stranglehold on the City Commission.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Animal Foundation Blackmail?

The Animal Foundation wants to build a $3 million animal shelter and wants the City to pitch in $1.5 million. If the City doesn't, then the City will have "to find a way to hold animals picked up under municipal ordinance which could include continuing to operate some functions out of the existing shelter".

If I'm understanding this correctly, the Animal Foundation is saying that if they don't get half of the new shelter paid for by the City, they would not go ahead with the construction of a full service facility and the City would have to continue to use the old building.

This is news.

According to the Animal Foundation's website, their goal is $3 million and they are "nearly halfway there!" I did not find any mention about the city's "contribution" to this endeavor.


* How long has city staff known about this demand?
* Why wasn't the public informed about this before now?
* Who decided that the city's share of this project would be half the cost?
* Does the new shelter really have to be $3 million to be a good one?

Before a decision is made, the commission will be voting Tuesday night (5/20) to adopt resolution #9749, which would create an Animal Shelter/Enforcement Advisory Committee.

This committee's responsibility would be to "find the best course of action for the community to provide humane treatment of animals in the care and responsibility of the City of Great Falls within the limits of the City's financial means". The committee will also be "charged with recommending an appropriate level of City financial support to the new shelter and to the City's ongoing responsibility of enforcing the municipal animal ordinances".

Members of this committee would be made up of two members recommended by the Humane Society of Cascade County, two members recommended by the Animal Foundation and three members from elected Neighborhood Council members.

I am very glad to see that members of the Neighborhood Councils would be involved. These folks are elected, and as such, their input from the grassroots level is very much needed.

Thanks very much Mr. Doyon for not allowing this to become another expenditure without public knowledge or input.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Did You Know This?

Sometimes life can get way too serious. This is an e-mail we received from a friend, which talks about aluminum foil and Saran wrap.

Well, I'm not telling everyone my age, as most of you already know... BUT... I had to go into the kitchen and check this out for myself. Whoever looks at the end of your aluminum foil box? What a fantastic idea! Now, if someone would just make plastic wrap that didn't stick to itself.

I've been using aluminum foil for more years than I care to remember. Great stuff, but sometimes it can be a pain. You know, like when you are in the middle of doing something and you try to pull some foil out and the roll comes out of the box. Then you have to put the roll back in the box and start over. The darn roll always comes out at the wrong time.

Well, I would like to share this with you.

Yesterday I went to throw out an empty Reynolds foil box and for some reason I turned it and looked at the end of the box. And written on the end it said, Press here to lock end. Right there on the end of the box is a tab to lock the roll in place. How long has this little locking tab been there? I then looked at a generic brand of aluminum foil and it had one, too. I then looked at a box of Saran wrap and it had one too! I can't count the number of times the Saran wrap roll has jumped out when I was trying to cover something up.

I'm sharing this with my friends that did not know this. If you already know this, delete this message and don't e-mail me and make me feel dumber than I already feel. If you didn't know this, e-mail me and let me know so I won't feel so dumb.

I hope I'm not the only person that didn't know about this.

Signature Gathering Poll

OK. GeeGuy said he would draft an initiative to end this coal plant business once and for all.

So, how many of you are willing to help gather signatures? This is the hard part, because it takes TIME and commitment to getting those names.

Vote honestly on this poll. I do not know who you are, so either way, your safe.

Monday, May 12, 2008

What Would Be The Initiative?

Folks are chiming in on a possible initiative, but what exactly would it be?

Mention has been made of forcing ECP to be self-sustaining. Well, ordinance #2925 already states that ECP is supposed to be self-sustaining. Since the city isn't following this ordinance and four out of five commissioners don't have a problem with this, what would make them follow an initiative?

Even though the likelihood of the coal plant not being built is almost a foregone conclusion, that hasn't stopped the city from continuing their love affair with Tim Gregori. So, how about an initiative allowing the citizens to vote for the city's involvement in the coal plant?

If this initiative passed and folks voted against the city's involvement, a lot of problems would be solved. It would get the city out of the SME co-op and stop the spending and the wasting of time with regard to this fiasco.

Refreshing Attitude

By now we all know the school levy failed. In today's Tribune, Superintendent Cheryl Crawley has a short commentary about supporting the school district in this difficult time.

She was not condescending or critical of those who voted against it. In fact, she said she thinks the community is made up of good people who are currently hard hit with a variety of economic concerns. I have never heard her be negative toward those who were not convinced the levy was the way to go.

It has been very refreshing to witness the professionalism that she and members of the school board have exhibited. Board members Mr. Cahill and Mr. Erwin were polite and nonconfrontational when they visited the blogs, even though they were faced with criticisms and very real concerns about this issue.

If only the majority of the city commision would behave in the same manner.

Neighborhood Councils - Week of May 12, 2008

We have another busy week for neighborhood council meetings:

Where: Community Rec. Center
When: Monday (tonight) at 7:00pm

* City parking fees
* Summer program at Gibson Park
* National Trails Day
* Problem properties
* Community policing officer Sgt. Glen Stinar

Where: Meadowlark School library
When: Tuesday at 7:00pm

* Cascade County Search and Rescue mill levy
* Summer program at Meadowlark Park
* Lewis and Clark encampment at Montana Park
* National Trails Day
* Community policing officer Bill Klundt

Where: West Elementary cafeteria
When: Wednesday at 7:00pm

* Legislative candidate forum
* Community policing officer Steve Pre'tat
* National Trail Days
* Cascade County Search and Rescue mill levy

Where: Westgate Mall conference room
When: Wednesday at 7:00pm

* Upcoming residential development at 36th Ave. N.E.
* Cascade County Search and Rescue mill levy
* National Trails Day
* Summer program at Jaycee Park
* Community policing officer Bill Brooks

Where: Great Falls Prerelease Women's Annex
When: Thursday at 6:30pm

* National Trails Day
* Community Policing Officer Jason Mitchell

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

The current celebration had its start durning the Civil War.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Coal Plant Cartoon

In today's editorial section of the Tribune is a cartoon depicting the coal plant as a knight, not in shining armor, but covered in soot and missing his arms and one leg and saying, "Tis But A Scratch".

His missing appendages are on the ground, lying in their own blood. His arms represent the federal loan and Yellowstone Co-Op. His leg is the air quality permit.

Sometimes a simple cartoon can say more than a thousand words can.

Inspiration for the cartoon was by an anonymous post found at GeeGuy's place.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Simple Life

Sit back and enjoy!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Good Job

The Tribune today has a good editorial about the city's neighborhood councils.

If you have never attended a meeting, give it a try, and if you're not sure which council you belong to, click here. (This link is also found at this site on the right side of the page under Other Links).

All meetings are open to the public and you do not need to be a resident of the neighborhood to attend that council's meetings.

To learn more about Neighborhood Councils and their role, the city has a good FAQs page or you can call Patty Cadwell, Neighborhood Council coordinator at 455-8496.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

NC #7 - May 12, 2008 Meeting

Monday, May 12, 2008
Longfellow School library
7:00 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 April minutes
*Parking fees—Mike Rattray, GF Community Development
*Discussion of Problem Properties
5th Ave N and 5th Street
*916 3rd Avenue North; status of Neighborworks purchase
*Status of Left Turn Late at 6th Avenue South and 9th Street
*Downtown Grocery Store
*Other Old Business

*Gibson Park summer program—Rebecca Richards, Community Rec Center
*Gibson Park lighting—Marty Basta, GF Park and Recreation
*Community Policing—Sgt. Stinar, GFPD
*National Trails Day—Kristen Cooper, VISTA volunteer @ RSVP
*Neighborhood Concerns

*Weed and Seed
*Downtown Task Force
*Police Advisory Board
*Other Reports



Next meeting June 9, 2008—Community Rec Center, 801 2nd Avenue North

It Leaves One Almost Speechless

At City Commission meetings, there is always an opportunity for the city manager to give a report. In all of the meetings I attended when John Lawton was manager, I could count on one hand the number of times he gave a report.

Well, Mr. Doyon is much different. He actually tells us what he is doing. These are some of things on his agenda this week:

*Continuing to work on the budget and learning the wants and needs of the various departments
*Meeting with the fire union
*Meeting with ambulance company owner
*Will arrange a water rights work session with whom the commissioners would like to see attend

And he reiterated he will let the commissioners know the results of these meetings.


Off The Hook, For Now?

At last night's City Commission meeting, Ed McKnight, former candidate for mayor, compared the actual bottom line for ECP with what was budgeted for the past four years. (One year it was actually budgeted to earn $1,000,000). As has been reported many times, the fund has lost money since its inception and continues to do so. (According to Mr. McKnight, it is budgeted to lose over $400,000 for 2008).

He requested an honest accounting be given and asked the commissioners what they thought.

Commissioner Jolley was the only one who gave an actual answer. She wants an honest accounting to be given.

Commissioner Beecher told Mr. McKnight that he could submit his findings in writing and they will be compared to the audited financial statements. An accountant will then review. At no time did I hear Commissioners Beecher, Bronson and Mayor Stebbins say they would then answer Mr. McKnight's question and address the situation. (As far as I can remember, Commissioner Rosenbaum never responded to the question. He started talking about something else).

I have a strong feeling that after the accounting comparisons are made, Mr. McKnight will be back at the podium, asking for their answers to his question.

Stay tuned.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Speaking Of The School Levy...

Here, school trustee, Jan Cahill, indicated he would get back to us about some programs offered at Great Falls High that I questioned.

"I will provide information on the three positions (upward bound, vision and golden triangle) tomorrow", which would have been around April 24th.

He didn't. Did he forget or did he think going into details about these programs might not ensure positive votes?

Finally, An Anti-Levy Letter

In today's Tribune, there is finally one anti-school levy letter to the editor (published one day before the election). It is in response to the "you've got to be kidding" guest opinion written by local attorney, Elizabeth Best, about two weeks ago. Unfortunately, I can't link to today's letter, because unlike the Billings Gazette, the Tribune does not post letters to the editor on their free online publication.

After reading Ms. Best's opinion, the writer is voting against the mill levy. The gist of the writer's argument is that even though one may not support the war in Iraq does not mean one does not support the troops; likewise the levy. Just because one does not support the levy, does not mean one does not support the kids. "We must vote no on this levy to send a message...we will not be cowed into supporting a levy which is much higher than it has to be".

Maybe it's just a coincidence that this letter was published when it was, but it does give one cause to pause about the timing of it.

Neighborhood Councils - Week of May 5, 2008

This is a very busy week for the councils:

NC# 6
When: Wednesday, May 7 at 7:00pm
Where: Music room at Sunnyside Elementary School - 1800 19th Avenue South

* City code enforcement information concerning citizen complaints
* Community Policing Officer Daniel Smith
* Cascade County Search and Rescue mill levy explanation
* Condominium development proposed by Ralph Randono
* National Trails Day information

When: Thursday, May 8 at 7:00pm
Where: Great Falls High School South Campus, Room 105 - 1900 2nd Avenue South

* Lions Park summer program information
* Community Policing Officer Otis Dilley
* Cascade County Search and Rescue mill levy explanation
* Verizon special-use permit request to install a cell tower on a water tank
* National Trail Day information

NC#7 and 8:
Special combined meeting

When: Thursday, May 8 at 5:30pm
Where: Community Rec Center at 801 2nd Avenue North

Plan a Weed and Seed-sponsored project that will increase community involvement.

For more information about neighborhood councils, contact Patty Cadwell, council coordinator at 455-8496. You may also contact any council member for more information as well.

All meetings are open to the public and allow for public discussion.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

ECP Board Meeting Canceled

Tomorrow night's (May 5) ECP board meeting has been canceled at the request of Coleen Balzarini, executive director. She wants more time to gather information for the board since Yellowstone Valley dropped out or was pushed out of the coal plant project.

Why not still have a meeting and get some input from the board and public with regards to this new situation? Greg Doyon, city manager, also attends these meetings and I think any time he can hear input, especially from the public, keeps driving home the fact that there is more than one side of the story to this fiasco.

There's no way now to hold Ms. Balzarini's feet to the fire to get answers to some of the questions I'm sure would have been asked at tomorrow's night meeting had it been held.

Raise your hand if you think that by the time the board meets again they will only be hearing what Tim Gregori wants them to hear.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Neighborhood Councils Work Session

Neighborhood Councils 7 and 8 will hold a special work session meeting on Thursday, May 8 at 5:30pm at the Community Rec Center (801 2nd Ave. North) to discuss the mailing of public safety information that will be sent to residents from the councils' weed and seed funding.

All meetings are open to the public.

Cautiously Optimistic

It sounds like yesterday's City Commission agenda meeting may have been productive.

They discussed the Lower North Side's serious problems with crime. Mayor Stebbins indicated that part of the problem has to do with absentee landlords. According to this post by Aaron Weissman, chair of Neighborhood Council #7, the landlords who own the properties, whose tenants are causing most of the problems in this area, seem to live right here in the city.

Kudos to the city manager for suggesting a "disorderly ordinance" that would hold landlords responsible for their crime causing tenants. And I do agree with Commissioner Bronson that the ordinance should apply to any residence. Whatever is decided, and hopefully soon, it will have teeth in it that holds people accountable for their actions.

What do you think of city manager, Greg Doyon, working on recommendations for the city commission to "decide where our level of involvement needs to be" with regard to the coal plant? It's better than what we've gotten in the past; spoon feedings by John Lawton and Coleen Balzarini that told us nothing but what Tim Gregori wanted us to hear.

We're in this thing up to our eyeballs and even though we had no business getting into it in the first place, we did. But just maybe, from now on, whatever transpires will be transparent.

Heck, for all we know, one of the recommendations may be to scuttle the whole thing!