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Ward 3 — Aldo Rowe, Danny Choriki

Rowe, Choriki

The two candidates running to represent Ward 3 on the Billings City Council are driven by a desire to give back to the city. 

Danny Choriki has specific plans and a number of ideas on how to make that happen. Aldo Rowe spoke more in generalities about the city's needs and how he would address them if elected. 

"I've always been involved with community," Choriki said, pointing to the traffic safety council he served on in high school. 

The key to being effective on city council, he said, is the ability to anticipate problems and having solutions ready to solve them. The policy that guides a city needs to be based on reality and not ideology, he said. If one solution doesn't work, try something else, he said. 

Rowe spoke about revenue and said the city needs to find ways to cut expenses first before going to voters seeking a tax increase. 

"How do we now bring revenues in without taxing everyone," he asked. 

He wondered aloud if there was a way to draw money from the tens of thousands of visitors who come to Billings each month to shop and recreate. 

"I don't have the specific answers myself," he said.

Rather, he'd rely on city staff and council discussions to find the solutions. 

Choriki spoke fluently about the areas in which the city's budget had shortfalls, pointing directly to the gap in public safety spending.

The crime rate in Billings has grown, and if the city wants to avoid the reputation of being Montana's most dangerous city it needs to take action, get a public safety mill levy passed and increase the number of police officers and firefighters in the city, he said. 

He has no problem spending more on public safety and expressed frustration with council members who have declined to do so because they consider themselves fiscal conservatives. 

"They're fiscal cheapskates," he said, "because they don't want to pay for anything." 

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Billings is already fiscally conservative by law, Choriki said. State law requires the city to carry a balanced budget every year.

Smart spending will help the city attract its next generation of workers and help young people stay here or return here, he said.

To that end, Billings needs to show that it's safe, invest in walkable communities, and foster a welcoming atmosphere, he said.

Rowe agreed, saying he supports the public safety mill levy and that creating industry in town and investing in amenities like parks and trails will help Billings draw in a young workforce. 

They split on how best to make Billings a welcoming community, speaking specifically about whether the city needs a nondiscrimination ordinance.

A city-level nondiscrimination ordinance asserts that residents have a right to housing, employment and city services regardless of their religion, ethnicity, sexuality or gender.

While Montana communities like Butte, Bozeman, Helena, Missoula and Whitefish have passed NDOs, Billings has not. The last time it came up for a vote in city council in 2014 it failed 6-5.

Choriki said it's important for the city to take a stand and show that it welcomes everyone by passing an NDO. However he doesn't believe an NDO will solve all the problems.

"I can see it passing and having no legal effect," he said. 

But it's an important statement to the surrounding region and will signal to outsiders that Billings is an open and friendly city. 

Rowe said he wouldn't support an NDO, explaining that all residents are already protected. He pointed to his traditional religious upbringing and said Billings is a conservative city and many want to see it stay that way. 

"I lean toward leaving Billings conservative," he said. 

City council elections will be held Nov. 5; ballots will be mailed out Friday. 

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