Gazette opinion: City elections require decisions this fall

2011-09-12T00:10:00Z 2011-09-16T16:00:06Z Gazette opinion: City elections require decisions this fall The Billings Gazette
September 12, 2011 12:10 am

So much cash and comment has been expended on 2012 national and state election campaigns as to nearly obscure a fact that Billings residents need to know: There’s a city election this year on Nov. 8.

The issues on that ballot will be seats on the City Council and a library building bond.

The choices made this November can affect the lives of Billings people as much or more than the state and local races they will see on 2012 ballots.

Half of the 10 City Council seats are up for re-election. Incumbent Jani McCall is running unopposed for her second term. Voters in the four other wards have choices to make:

In Ward 1, Brent R. Cromley, Todd A. Royal and Frank Steven Keele Sr., are running for the seat now held by Peggie Gaghen, who cannot seek a third consecutive term under the City Charter.

Incumbent Denis Pitman and Joy Stevens are running in Ward 2.

In Ward 3, Brian Kenat and Becky Bird square off to replace Vince Ruegamer, who is term limited out.

In Ward 5, Dennis Ulvestad, Jennifer L. Olsen and Kenneth Crouch are vying for the seat now held by Dick Clark, who is completing his second consecutive four-year term.

Municipal Judge Sheila Kolar is running unopposed to retaining the job she was appointed to in January when Mary Jane Knisely moved across the street to become a District Court judge.

So the only citywide decision on the ballot is a proposed $16.3 million general obligation bond to build a new public library next to the site of the present building in the 500 block of Broadway.

The last $300,000 in the proposed $16.3 million issue would cover costs of issuing the bonds, Library Director Bill Cochran said at last week’s Library Board meeting.

Library donations

Library advocates have been raising money to reduce the taxpayers’ expense of constructing a larger, more user-friendly and energy efficient public library. The proposed project would cost $18 million. But an anonymous donor of $2 million is paying all design and engineering costs, reducing the taxpayer cost to $16 million.

The Parmly Billings Library Foundation is seeking additional private donations. As of last week, the foundation reported to the Library Board that its capital campaign had raised $2.2 million in addition to the anonymous $2 million gift. This puts the campaign within $800,000 of its $5 million goal.

Most of the $2.2 million is in pledges, rather than cash.

If voters approve the bond issue on Nov. 8, funds raised by the foundation will be used to help repay the bonds, thus cutting taxpayers’ costs.

October mail ballots

Most votes are expected to be cast before Election Day. The county elections office will mail ballots to all active registered voters in Billings around Oct. 19, according to election chief Bret Rutherford.

Residents who aren’t yet registered to vote can still register by Oct. 11 and get a mail ballot.

This off-year election hasn’t garnered much attention yet. However, these city government decisions merit careful consideration. Candidates and library proponents will be speaking to community groups and asking for your vote. Be a well-informed voter.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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