Monday, May 31, 2010

City Advisory Board Openings

Five city boards are currently looking for members:

Advisory Commission on International Relationships - Three openings are available on the Advisory Commission on International Relationships for three-year terms through March 31, 2013. The Commission consists of nine to eleven members. The Commission provides support, coordination and exchange of information for international programs in the community. Meetings are held on the fourth Tuesday of each month at 7:00 PM. For more information contact Kelly Audet at 455-8440.

Library Board - The Library Board has one opening for a five-year term. The Board consists of five members who oversee the Library policies and operations including book policies and service to the City, County, and pathfinder Federation of Libraries. Meetings are held on the third Monday of each month at 4:30 p.m. For more information, contact Kathy Mora at the Great Falls Public Library at 453-9706.

Great Falls Housing Authority Board - The Great Falls Housing Authority Board has one opening for a two-year term for a tenant member, representing the elderly, through June 30, 2012. The GFHA Board consists of seven commissioners appointed by the City Commission. The Housing Authority provides safe, decent, sanitary, and affordable housing for the community’s low income residents. They also set policy for operation and management of public housing properties; HUD-Section 8 programs, and other affordable housing programs. The Board also serves as the loan committee for the City’s Housing Rehabilitation Program. Expertise in the areas of finance, accounting, architecture and engineering are desired. Board meetings are held the third Thursday of each month at noon, for approximately two hours. For more information, contact Kevin Hager at 453-4311.

Parking Advisory Commission -The Parking Advisory Commission has one opening to fill the remainder of a three-year term through April 30, 2012. 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 Planning 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.

Design Review Board - The Design Review Board has one opening for a three-year term through March 31, 2013. The Design Review Board consists of five members appointed by the City Commission. The Board reviews specified types of development proposals to ensure that the design and aesthetics conform to the review criteria contained in the municipal code. The current opening is for an architect. Members are appointed with an effort to achieve a diversity of expertise, background and interest. Board meetings are held on the 2nd and 4th Monday of each month if needed. Applicants must reside within the City of Great Falls. For more information, contact Kim McCleary at 455-8405.

Deadline to apply is Friday, June 4 by 5:00pm. You may pick up an application form at the city manager's office or click here for a pdf version.

City Work Session - June 1, 2010

When: Tuesday, June 1 at 5:45pm
Where: Gibson Room, Civic Center

1.Downtown Safety and Security – Business Improvement District
2.Great Falls Agri-Tech Park Financing Update – Brett Doney
3.Peoples Park and Recreation Foundation Fundraising Efforts Update – Brian Thies

Neighborhood Councils - Week of May 31, 2010

Two councils are meeting this week:

When: Wednesday, June 2 at 7:00pm
Where: Sunnyside School Music room

Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

When: Thursday, June 3 at 7:00pm
Where: Riverview School Cafeteria

Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Filing of Complaint against SME

It speaks for itself.

To: James Santoro, City Attorney
Great Falls, MT.
From: Aart Dolman
Date: May 24, 2010
Re: Filing of Complaint

Dear Mr. Santoro,
The following is a letter of complaint. I a citizen of Great Falls in good standing was prevented from entering the building where SME Trustees were holding a meeting at 9:00am on Thursday, May 20, 2010. The uniformed Billings City Police had responded to a request by the owner of the building not to allow me to park my vehicle on his property and prevent me from entering the building. The Police Officers also told me that the monthly SME Trustee meeting was a “private meeting” and that I was not allowed to attend.

I had received a copy of the SME Trustee Agenda meeting which was to be scheduled for 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, May 20, 2010. The Southern Montana Electric Cooperative Generation and Transmission Cooperative, Inc. (SME, or also known as Southern Montana Electric) have monthly meetings and since no City of Great Falls public official or employee could attend I decided as a Great Falls citizen to observe that particular meeting.

On the previous day, Wednesday, May 19, I had received from the City of Great Falls Administration a copy of this SME Trustee Board Agenda. I had requested this document from the Mayor of Great Falls during the regular scheduled City Commission Meeting.

In early January 2010, I had requested that the City of Great Falls Commission provide me with a copy of the 2008 IRS Form 990, line #14, p.6, which stated that this non-profit SME Cooperative had a policy on the Retention and Destruction of Documents. The IRS tax filing of a non-profit organization is a public document, and I felt that I had every right to request from SME copies of its policies.

When a month later Judge Phillips’ ruling allowed citizens to examine SME documents, I thought that it was unusual for me to wait several months without a response from the City of Great Falls and SME. When I requested again during the April City Commission meeting that I had not heard about my request, the Mayor requested that the City Clerk sent Mr. Gregori a letter requesting a response. A few days later, I received a copy of a letter signed by Mr. Gregori that my request would be honored by SME in a “timely manner.”

After receiving the SME Trustee Agenda for May 20, 2010, Agenda, I was thrilled that under item VIII the trusties would discuss the document issue during their meeting. Thus I traveled to Billings to attend that monthly SME Board of Trustees meeting. Since Judge Phillips had ruled that SME documents were open for public examination, I had no reason to doubt that I would not be allowed to hear and witness the discussion by SME Trustees.

Shortly after 8:00am, on May 20th, 2010,I arrived at the building where the offices of SME are located on 3521 Gable Road, Billings, MT., and parked my vehicle in the south side parking area next to the side walk. I waited there for Beartooth Electric Cooperative members who were also interested in attending the SME Board of Trustee meeting. About fifteen minutes later Arleen Boyd and Larry Luhoff, and three others came and parked their vehicles in the same area. There was a continued flow of people in and out of the building. Because it was a multipurpose business building, the SME Trustee meeting was scheduled to be in the building’s ECI Conference Room.

About 8:25a.m, a Billings Police car arrived in the parking area and continued to the main entrance of the building. A uniformed Police Officer went into the building and a few minutes later he left the main entrance and walked directly to our group. He introduced himself as Officer Peterson and I introduced myself as a citizen from Great Falls. After the introductions, he informed the group, without asking our reason or purpose of the visit, that the owner of the property wanted us to leave the parking area and go to the nearby sidewalk and to continue our conversation with him. He also maintained that the meeting inside the building was a “private meeting” and that we could not enter the building.

After Arlene Boyd explained and informed the Billings Police Officer Peterson that we were here to attend the SME Trustee meeting, she showed him a packet of information which included a copy of the SME Trustee Agenda and the “Open Meeting” statement by City of Great Falls Attorney Mr. Santoro. To no avail the Police Officer stated repeatedly that this was a “private meeting” and that the owner of the building would not allow us to be in the parking area and the building for it was his private property. After a few minutes of conversation, I requested from the Police Officer where I could obtain a copy of this incident report and he told me that since this was a civil matter, not a criminal one, that there would be no police report. In the meantime, I had been informed that Police Officer Peterson was off-duty and had been hired by the owner of the building for the specific purpose of keeping our group of this property. This was puzzling and troublesome for me because the owner of a multi-use building prevented me from entering a building while others were free to enter and leave. So I requested from Police Officer Peterson that I meet with his shift commander. After a short discussion, the Police Officer walked a few paces away from us and when he returned he told me that SGT. Berry was on his way to meet with us.

In about 15 minutes, Billings Police SGT Berry arrived and joined us in the parking area next to the side walk. He also stated that we could not enter the parking lot or the building. This was at the request from the owner of the building and that the SME Trustee meeting was “private.” The public was not allowed. During our discussion with the police SGT, he read a copy of the Great Falls City Attorney ruling on “Open Meetings.” After a lengthy discussion, I asked for a copy of the police report and was told that this was a civil issue and not a criminal one; therefore there would not be a report. A police report would only be filed if there was a criminal incident. Again this conversation was troublesome and puzzling for me, and I wanted to ask if there was a Police Report of an earlier incident in the same building. Some of the members of our group had been trying to observe a SME Trustee meeting last February. I had seen the video where they had been ill-treated by SME Trustee members and the owner of the building in the hall way and were insulted by negative language including in offensive gestures while they were waiting for the Billings Police to arrive. I did not want the same pattern to occur. Therefore, I asked SGT Berry that, as a law abiding citizens, how I could enter the building and observe a meeting for which I had every right to attend? Certainly, a law obeying citizen would respect the order given by the Police but yet it seemed strange that the Billings Police would allow an illegal meeting. This was the reason for my request of a Police Report. Sergeant Berry informed me that there was already a record because someone with a video camera was present. After some more amicable and civilized discussion, SGT Berry promised me that he would write a report of this event. He then requested that we give him our names, addresses, and social security numbers. The group provided him with our names, etc.

In the meantime, Arleen Boyd had made four telephone calls to the Billings City Attorney Mr. Brooks on my private cell-phone and on the last call she discovered that he had a meeting with the Billings Police Chief and another official discussing our case. They requested that we give them a copy of the SME Trustee Agenda. Since we had given our copies to others so we had none to give to SGT Berry. Arleen Boyd then suggested that the SGT ask Mr. Gregori inside of the building for a copy of the Trustee Agenda. After about twenty minutes the SGT returned and stated that he could not get a copy of the SME Trustee Agenda from Mr. Gregori. Our group promised him to email a copy to the Billings Chief of Police and City Attorney.

After shaking hands with the Police Officers, I left the parking lot at approximately 10:15am after I received a card from Police Officer Peterson which stated the number, 10-21746, for a police report.* (See attached exhibit)

Neighborhood Councils - Week of May 24, 2010

Only one council is meeting this week:

When: Thursday, May 27 at 6:30pm
Where: Heritage Baptist Church, 900 52nd Street North

Good Neighbor Award to Roger and Bonnie Lane
Discussion of urban chickens
Information on city code enforcement by Heather Rohlf
Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

Natatorium Meeting

What: Meeting with the City Commissioners at the Natatorium
When: 7:00pm, tonight, May 25

Below is a memo from Aaron Weissman, chair of NC#7:

Natatorium Supporters;

I am pleased to relay to you that the Women's 3 p.m. Water Aerobics Class has organized a meeting at the Natatorium tomorrow with the Mayor and the City Commissioners. This meeting will be to "introduce" the Natatorium to the Mayor and Commissioners and to brainstorm ideas to find the funding to keep the Nat open. The meeting will be tomorrow, 7 p.m., at the Natatorium.

The Water Aerobics class would like this meeting to be very positive and respectful. They also would like the Commission and the Mayor to see the broad support the people of Great Falls have for the Natatorium. Please consider attending this meeting tomorrow evening.

I also would like to take this opportunity to thank Tim Austin for offering to write and host a website supporting the Nat. The site will be online soon at the address In addition, Renata Birkenbuel has agreed to give us the benefit of her grantwriting experience. She will begin looking for and applying for grants to support the operation and repair of the pool.

Thank you for your continued enthusiasm,


Monday, May 17, 2010

City Commission Work Session

When: Tuesday, May 18 at 5:45pm
Where: Gibson Room, Civic Center

Water Rights Update – PBS & J and Water Rights Solutions

Neighborhood Councils - Week of May 17, 2010

Two meetings take place this week:

When: Monday, May 17 at 7:00pm
Where: GF Clinic Specialty Center, conference room

Discussion about urban chickens
Information about changes in the Community Development office
Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

When: Thursday, May 20 at 6:00pm
Where: GF Prerelease Center, women's annex

Discussion about urban chickens
Information about changes in the Community Development office
Sheriff candidates Glen Stinar and Bob Edwards
Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

Monday, May 10, 2010

Pea Pod Garden Meeting

When: Monday, May 10 at 6:00pm
Where: At the garden, 901 3rd Avenue North

Areas where help is needed:

* staining the beds
* packing down the soil within the bed frames and around the outside
* picking up rocks and debris
* Organize the shed
* Spray Round Up on the weeds along the outside of the fence and fence line
* Pull weeds within garden area

ECP Bailout

Last week, Larry Rezentes, a CPA and watchdog for the ECP boondoggle, wrote the mayor and city commissioners in anticipation of the May 3 ECP board meeting. Below is his analysis of the resolution reached at that meeting to potentially exit the power business. Included is a link to his documentation:

At Monday night’s meeting, the Electric City Power Board approved resolutions to have city staff develop a city strategy to potentially exit from the electric power business, and for the ECP executive director to approach customers about their willingness to move pricing of their contracts with ECP to cost plus. A major element of the city staff work will be done by our new city attorney in assessing individual contracts and exposures to litigation against the city from ECP customers and from SME. I cover what I believe are premises that should exist to actions by the city, the suggested action course to shut down ECP, and the correction of misconceptions as to the risks presented by the potential for customer and SME litigation, in the attached material, and so I won’t belabor them now.

Suffice it to say, however, that the current parallel track action course to “explore” shutdown and increased pricing is both a trap and an implicit acceptance of the assumption that the city has the authority to continue in its misguided and illegal operation of ECP. This, while ECP loses additional taxpayer money ($234,674 in the first three months of this calendar year) in violation of ECP’s founding ordinance in the meantime, and with the same individuals in charge who were and are in charge while these losses occurred and continue to occur. A trap, because it continues the never ending saga with no decision ever being made to terminate ECP, while giving cover to the city while the losses continue. A mistake, in its implicit premise that to make a decision to shut down ECP there must be assurance of zero risk of litigation in doing so. It is interesting though that suddenly, at this late hour, ECP is going to approach customers to obtain price increases to stanch the losses. A part of the suggested solution of cost plus, incidentally, would come by increasing pricing of power that the city itself purchases from ECP, resulting in the passing on of the burden of ECP losses even more directly to the taxpayers.

I addressed his honor, the mayor, as ECP Board Chair, and suggested others (by inference, the city attorney) could elect to respond on the issue as well, of the basis under which the city continues operating ECP in violation of the law while losses continue to mount. The mayor simply would not answer the question, other than to say that it would take time to exit the business. However, as City Attorney Santoro correctly was quoted in the Great Falls Tribune as stating, the resolutions passed do not even place us in the position of having made a decision to do so.

So, another jovial meeting of city government and staff, while the taxpayers continue to lose money in the interest of the few businesses that have benefited from subsidized pricing that in large measure resulted in the losses ECP has sustained.


Neighborhood Councils - Week of May 10, 2010

Four councils are meeting this week:

When: Monday, May 10 at 7:00pm
Where: GF Recreation Center

Possible Closure of Maroney Natatorium
Downtown Police Officer
Changes in Community Development, Permits--Terre Gift
Montana Legislature Sideboards to Medical Marijuana--Sen. Trudi Schmidt
Introduction from Jean Price, candidate for Montana Legislature
Urban Chicken Ordinance-Charles Bocock
Committee reports
Problem Properties
Neighborhood Concerns

When: Tuesday, May 11 at 7:00pm
Where: Meadowlark School library


When: Wednesday, May 12 at 7:00pm
Where: West Elementary School cafeteria


When: Thursday, May 13 at 7:00pm
Where: GF High School, South campus, room 106


Monday, May 3, 2010

No Work Session

There will be no City Commission work session tomorrow night, May 4.

Doesn't seem quite right given that a few hot issues are facing our city right now that could be discussed:

1. ECP robbing the general fund of nearly $3,000/day to stay afloat

2. Consideration being given to closing the Natatorium because it isn't making money

3. Animal shelter funding

Public Comment Time

It's a good idea that the City Commission has decided to switch public comment back to the end of the meeting. Having it at the beginning was too time consuming and by the time the regular agenda items were discussed, everybody had lost interest and just wanted out of there.

Unfortunately, that's not the end of the story. It seems that City Manager Doyon is tired of public comment time being used as an "inquisition" of his staff. In fact, he's suggested that if it doesn't stop, he will allow them to be excused from the meeting.


If city staff, including Mr. Doyon, can't be bothered one way or the other to respond to questions concerning activities involving their departments, they don't have any business being in the job.

Citizens have the right to make appropriate inquiries at City Commission meetings. Some questions are easily answered, which has been demonstrated, while others may take some research. That's fine. Folks understand that not every question can necessarily be answered on the spot. It is expected though that an answer be forthcoming in a reasonable amount of time and not simply ignored.

It's high time that our well-paid city staff, including our city manager, remember that they work FOR US, not the other way around.

By RICHARD ECKE • Tribune Staff Writer • April 30, 2010

The public comment period will be moved toward the end of City Commission meetings, commissioners decided this week.

In December, City Manager Greg Doyon suggested the commission's public comment period be moved toward the beginning of its meetings.

"I think the flow would be a little better," Doyon said at the time.

Commissioners tried the approach for four months. The comment period, called "petitions and communications," on the agenda, can last 20 minutes or even an hour, depending on how many people want to speak.

At an agenda-setting meeting Wednesday, commissioners decided to give up the experiment for now.

"I really, really think that it's better at the end," Commissioner Mary Jolley said.

"I agree with that," Commissioner Bill Bronson said.

Mayor Michael Winters also said he agreed for the time being. Winters said television news people complained that holding the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting prevented them from staying to hear many hotly debated issues because of their deadlines to meet for a 10 p.m. newscast. The commission's regular meetings start at 7 p.m.

Bronson added that he has received telephone calls from a Tribune reporter to his cell phone during meetings after the reporter left the meeting to meet deadline.

"It's your meeting," Doyon told commissioners. "Thanks for humoring me for a few months."

Some regular speakers during the commission's public comment period this year are John "Johnny Angry" Hubbard, Mike Witsoe, Ron and Kathleen Gessaman, Brett Doney, Aart Dolman, Larry Rezentes, Richard Liebert, Travis Kavulla and Stuart Lewin.

During Wednesday's discussion, Bronson said he thinks speakers should be reminded to address commissioners and not mug for cable Channel 7 cameras in the room.
Jolley said she believes members of the public have the right to turn their heads in any direction they choose. Winters sided with Bronson on the head-turning issue question.

Liebert, chairman of Citizens for Clean Energy, rapped commissioners Thursday for trying to tell the public where to look when speaking at city meetings.

"I vigorously disagree with that," Liebert said, terming the suggestion "intolerable."

Doyon also told commissioners during Wednesday's meeting that he does not believe the public comment period should serve as an "inquisition" in which city staff members are subjected to accusatory questioning from the public.

"To put staff on the spot is unfair sometimes," Doyon said.

He said residents could just as easily ask department heads for the information during the week, when officials are more likely to have the needed information at their fingertips.

Otherwise, Doyon said he could opt to allow department heads to leave the meeting when the comment period begins.

"Some of us will have to stay around," he added with a chuckle.

Winters, who runs the commission meetings, said he believes there are two sides to the issue.

"This is the public's house," Winters said, adding that he tries to have city staff
resolve issues, within reason, on the spot if that is possible.

"Sometimes the answer is easily available from staff," Jolley added.

"There needs to more discretion exercised on that," Doyon said, noting that staff members may not have an answer at the meetings and not have the necessary information on hand to find the answer.

Doyon said he would reserve the right to excuse staff members from the meeting if questioning gets out of hand.

Liebert said he did not object to the public comment period being moved toward the end of city meetings, but he criticized Doyon for trying to "circle the wagons" and shield city staff from questions.

"I think it can be done politely," Liebert said.

Electric City Power Board, Meeting Tonight

When: Monday, May 3 at 5:30pm
Where: Gibson Room, Civic Center


1.Bylaw Amendment


1.Financial Reports
2.YVEC vs. Southern Montana Electric Generation and Transmission Cooperative Inc ETAL
a.Plaintiff YVEC’s Motion for Scheduling Conference
b.Order Setting Trial and Case Management

1.Discussion and Direction regarding City’s representation on Southern Board
a.Memorandum From James W Santoro regarding Public’s Right to Know/ Participate in Southern/ SME Board Documents and Meetings
b.Responses from Southern
2.Miscellaneous topics
a.Discussion of future agenda topics as proposed by Commissioners/ ECP Board Members

1.Accept Board Meeting Minutes from April 5, 2010
2.Enter Board Meeting Minutes from March 1, 2010 into record as reviewed and revised by prior Board Members
3.Rate restructuring. Discussion, consideration, direction


1.NWE Natural Gas Utility Unit Rate Adjustments/Proposed Rates & NWE Monthly Electric Supply Tracker Rate Change Detail – May
2.NWE Natural gas USBC Rate Adjustment letter
3.Handouts from April 5, 2010, meeting
4.Public Comment

◦June 14
◦July 19
◦August 2


Neighborhood Councils - Week of May 3, 2010

Two councils are meeting this week:

When: Wednesday, May 5 at 7:00pm
Where: The music room at Sunnyside Elementary

* Info. from Public Works concerning the proposed special improvement district for paving and sidewalks at 11th, 20th and 21st Avenues South
* Info. on urban chickens
* Committee reports
* Neighborhood concerns

When: Thursday, May 6 at 7:00pm
Where: Cafeteria at Riverview Elementary

* Info. on proposed annexation of the Great Bear Innovation Industrial Park
* Info. on urban chickens
* Committee reports
* Neighborhood concerns