Monday, September 28, 2009

Candidates Casual Meet And Greet

Please join city commission candidates

at a casual meet-and-greet at Baker Bob’s Big Stack Bakery, 112 Central Ave.,
this Thursday, Oct. 1, from 5-7 p.m.

Ask Me No Questions And I'll Tell You No Lies

"One of the reasons we weren't transparent before was because no one was asking questions," Prinkki said.

This quote came from John Prinkki, newly re-elected Beartooth-Co-op president and a director of SME, at Beartooth's annual meeting this past Saturday. This gem of an admission came after members commented about the need for more transparency concerning their relationship with SME.

At the same meeting, Prinkki said that long-term financing for the gas plant "appears probable within the next few months". He did concede after the meeting that "we've been here three times. There are no guarantees".

Can anybody out there remember how many times Gregori has told ECP that financing was not a problem?

(Hat tip: R.L.)

Neighborhood Councils - Week of Sept. 28, 2009

Only one council meets this week:

When: Thursday, Oct. 1 at 7:00pm
Where: Westgate Mall

Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

Friday, September 25, 2009

New Planning Director

According to an article in the print version of the Tribune, the city now has a new planning director. (Last year Ben Rangel retired and Bill Walters has been the interim director since that time).

Michael C. Haynes, who is currently a planning resource manager in the private sector in Orlando, FL, will take over in late October.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Neighborhood Councils - Week of Sept. 21, 2009

Three councils are meeting this week:

When: Monday, Sept. 21 at 7:00pm
Where: Great Falls Clinic Specialty Center

Committee Reports
Neighborhood concerns

When: Wednesday, Sept. 23 at 12:15pm (special meeting)
Where: Federal Courthouse - Westbank Park

Tour of the Federal Courthouse
Neighborhood Concerns

When: Thursday, Sept. 24 at 6:30pm
Where: Heritage Baptist Church, 900 52nd Street North

Emergency Preparedness workshop (rescheduled from last month)
Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

DEQ Meeting In Great Falls

When: Wednesday, Sept. 23 from 6:30pm-9:00pm
Where: Civic Center - Commission Chambers

To answer questions on the draft Montana air quality permit #4429-00 for Southern Montana Electric Generation and Transmission Cooperative, Inc., Highwood Generating Station Natural Gas Plant.

See here for the permit.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Good News - Bronson Not A Shoo-In

I agree wholeheartedly with Travis, although I knew from the get-go that my chances were diminished when Mike Winters entered the race. Name recognition is not something one achieves overnight.

Winters did not campaign. Bronson went over the top; 500 signs (sometimes 4 in one location), radio, TV. Interesting, considering he was never in jeopardy of losing his seat. With all of the $$s he spent and his "experience", he only beat Winters by about 350 votes. Not a good sign (no pun intended) for "Mr. Positive". (His signs touted that he is the "positive choice").

Perhaps this quote in today's paper from Bronson is a warning as to what the next several weeks might bring:

"Bronson said he is not sure what kind of mayor's race will develop in the fall, but added he and Winters have been cordial in the past. We'll just have to kind of wait and see, Bronson added". (emphasis added).

Yes we will.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Thanks Everyone

Many thanks to those of you who supported my mayoral candidacy.

While I am disappointed not to move on, I am glad to have had the experience.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Advisory Board Openings

Two city boards are seeking applicants. Applications are available at the city manager's office or online. Deadline to apply is September 25, 2009.

Board of Adjustment:
One opening for three-year term. The Board hears and decides appeals regarding zoning, housing, and building codes and ordinances; hears and decides requests for variances from standards set forth in zoning ordinances; hears and decides all other matters referred to the Board regarding zoning, housing, and building ordinances. Members must be residents of the City of Great Falls, and must be qualified by experience or training in construction matters. Expertise in Montana State Law is desirable but not required. The Board meets on demand, approximately ten times per year, generally at 4:00 p.m. For additional information, contact Kim McCleary at 455-8405.

Parking Advisory Commission
The Parking Advisory Commission has two openings; one is a three-year term through April 30, 2012; and one to fill the remainder of a three-year term through April 30, 2010. The Commission consists of five members, appointed by the City Commission, and an ex-officio member appointed by the Business Improvement District. Experience or interest in the Great Falls Central Business District is helpful but not necessary. The Commission advises the City Commission, City Manager, and Community Development staff on matters related to parking issues within the Parking Districts. Applicants must reside within the City of Great Falls. For more information, contact Kim McCleary at 455-8405.

Work Session - Sept. 15, 2009

When: Tuesday, Sept. 15 at 5:45pm
Where: Gibson Room, Civic Center

Interoperability of Emergency Radios – Police Chief Grove
Mill Levy Process - Melissa Kinzler

Neighborhood Councils - Week of Sept. 14, 2009

Three councils meet this week:

When: Monday, Sept. 14 at 7:00pm
Where: Great Falls Recreation Center

APPROVAL OF July Minutes

Neighborhood Violence; Discussion
Complaints regarding apartment building at 801 4th Avenue North and 800 5th Avenue North
New Whittier Principal—Ryan Hart
Neighborhood Concerns

Lowering Speed Limits on Park Drive near Gibson Park, MDOT discussion—Greg Hall
County’s plans for 4th Street alongside Courthouse
Whittier & Longfellow speed petitions
Gibson Park Lighting, where do we go from here?
Problem Properties
Other Old Business

City Commission
Other Reports

Next meeting -- October 12, 2009, 7 p.m., at Neighborworks of Great Falls

When: Wednesday, Sept. 16 at 7:00pm (rescheduled from Sept. 9)
Where: West Elementary School cafeteria

River's Edge Trail
A zoning request change for a mulit-family unit
Commission reports
Neighborhood concerns

When: Thursday, Sept. 17 at 6:30pm
Where: Women's Annex of the Pre Release Center

Community participation
Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Good Job, Mary

In today's paper, the Tribune editorial board published their thoughts concerning ECP; Electric City Power. Commissioner Jolley has a counterpoint, which unfortunately I could not find online. (See below for a scan of her thoughts).

I'll start first with the Trib's editorial, which is definitely in favor of this venture continuing:
At a Great Falls election forum last week, several candidates referred to the city's supposed loss of "millions" of dollars in what they say is the ill-advised pursuit of energy self-sufficiency.

Our memory is long enough to include the circumstances that led to the city's effort and the way the Legislature pulled the rug from under the city's original plans.

This past week, the City Commission heard a report from Fiscal Services Director Coleen Balzarini that the city is getting set to write off a portion of the almost $2.3 million it has invested in pursuit of a power plant east of the city by the Southern Montana Electric Generation & Transmission Cooperative.

She said a yet-to-be-gauged portion of the investment was specific to trying to build a coal-fired plant and would have no application in the new plan for a gas-fired plant. The balance, though, would be applied to proceeding with the gas-fired plant. The city, through ECP (of which Balzarini is executive director), is a partner in SME, along with five Montana electric co-ops.

Some commission and mayoral candidates and other area residents say the city has no business adventuring into electricity generation and transmission — traditionally the realm of private enterprise in Montana.

City Commissioner Mary Jolley makes just that case, compellingly, below.

There's no denying the city has dipped a toe — maybe even a whole leg - into untested waters, but we still don't fault the city for making the attempt.

The city's problem was that the rules kept changing after ECP was set up almost four years ago.

All the same, if a significant portion of the investment still will go toward the proposed gas-fired plant that received its preliminary air-quality permit last week from the state, and if construction of that plant leads to a stable supply of affordable electricity for the city and its ECP customers, then the investment won't have gone for naught.

There's little doubt the proposed Highwood Generating Station — burning natural gas instead of coal — would be a boon for the area's economy and tax base.

Whether the city of Great Falls should continue as a direct investor in the plant is not as clear.

The picture should clarify substantially within a month.In that time frame, we can expect a report by the consultant hired by the city to evaluate ECP's prospects.

There are signs the venture has turned a corner toward profitability; we hope the report by consultant Burns & McDonnell confirms that.

Also, Sept. 30 is the deadline for commenting on the proposed gas plant's air permit and related environmental assessment.

Clearly, the city needs to do a better job of making the case for being a power provider.

As with any investment, the city needs to continue to evaluate the risks and rewards of its ECP investment as circumstances continue to change.If it finds the risks outweigh the benefits going forward, the city needs to be willing to pull the plug.

If the potential benefits still justify the risk, the city needs to do a better job outlining those benefits to taxpayers.
Commissioner Jolley's remarks:

Monday, September 7, 2009

What Happened to $1.25 Million?

Gregg has a good post up about the $1.25 million (page 13) that Southern/SME borrowed from 1st Interstate Bank. According to Yellowstone Valley Electric, the co-ops paid it back, but the monies weren't used to pay off the loan.

Don't forget when reading this, that 1st Interstate Bank is a member of the pilot program.

DEQ Gives Tentative Nod To Permit

The DEQ gave SME tentative approval for an air quality permit for their natural-gas plant.

Folks have until September 30 to comment.

Here is the 125 page permit ruling.

Neighborhood Councils - Week of Sept. 7, 2009

Three councils are meeting this week:

When: Tuesday, Sept. 8 at 7:00pm
Where: Meadowlark School library

Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

When: Wednesday, Sept. 9 at 7:00pm
Where: West Elementary cafeteria

Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

When: Thursday, Sept. 10 at 7:00pm
Where: Great Falls High, room 111, South campus

Loitering problems
Plans to update Lions Park
Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Candidate Forum

At last night's candidate forum, 11 of us were asked various questions that were decided by the groups that sponsored the event; the Chamber of Commerce, the Association of Realtors and the Home Builders of Great Falls. Here and here are the articles from the Tribune.

The commissioner candidates received slightly different questions than those of us running for mayor.

When we were first told about this forum, we were told we would receive a copy of the questions a few weeks in advance in order to prepare. They decided not to do that so the first time any of us had any idea of what was going to be asked was 1 hour before the forum.

It did not come as a surprise to me that no question dealt with the pressing issues facing Great Falls; ECP, SME/HGS, Budget, Animal Shelter, Safety Levy, etc. We all know that the incumbents, Bronson and Rosenbaum, do not have worthy track records concerning these issues. Why would organizations they belong to set them up for failure at a forum?

Unfortunately, the questions that were asked gave little to no opportunity for us to hammer home why we are running for our respective positions. I question how many in the audience had ever heard of TIF (Tax Increment Financing) and Impact Fees, much less how these things work? Both of these are complicated topics that can't be addressed on the spur of the moment and with only a minute to speak.

When a question from the audience was asked about funding for the police and fire departments, I was able to get in a comment about ECP being subsizded by the general fund.

Many thanks to all of you who came up afterwards and thanked me for running and agreed with my platform of OTAG; Open, Transparent, Accountable Government.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

No Surprise Here


The city's fiscal service director has finally acknowledged that a portion of the "investment" into the Highwood Generating Station will have to be written off. Since SME is no longer pursuing a coal plant, some of the city's $2.3 million "investment" can't carry over to the gas plant.

But, according to Ms. Balzarini, we should be looking on the bright side: "It's not surprising and I don't think we can be disappointed," Balzarini commented on the planned write-off. She said assets often can lose value over time".

What asset did we ever have?