I'm a native of Billings and a lifetime resident. I attended local Billings' schools and am a Vietnam veteran. I have been the state vice president for Distributive Education Clubs of America. I've spent the past dozen years engaged in various areas of local government. I originally became involved with the West End Task Force and eventually served as its chairman for four years. While involved with that body we attempted to convey sound advice to the city concerning various matters taking place on the city's West End.
I also served four years as co-chair of the city's Animal Control Board. During my participation we made difficult decisions in regard to various concerns such as dog parks and chickens. The past four years, I have been proud to serve on the City Zoning Commission. Frankly, I consider that body second only to the council itself in significance and importance. The Zoning Commission must make many difficult decisions that directly affect the development, growth and progress of our city. I regularly attend council meetings and am quite familiar with the city budget. My experience would allow me to step into the job with a short learning curve. The new council will immediately face many important issues. I'll touch on a couple of examples below.
The first, must be the current shortfall in the public safety portion of our budget. Police and fire protection currently take up about three quarters of our annual budget and the council has been forced to dip into reserves to fund it. The problem arises because first, we have a large number of people who live outside our city limits, pay no city taxes, yet work, shop and play in Billings.
Secondly, Billings is also a retail trade mecca to tens of thousands of shoppers coming here each week. These nonresidents necessitate a greater police presence than our population would normally demand. Nevertheless, we benefit considerably from that outside retail trade in the form of additional businesses and the jobs they provide, so it becomes imperative that we fund adequate public safety. Therefore, I would support a mill levy to fund the shortfall in public safety. Unfortunately, we have no other way to gamer the income necessary. However, the city also needs to organize and go to work early on our state legislators. Billings, and the other large cities in this state must be allowed the right to pass local option taxes.
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Billings is singularly fortunate to enjoy a diverse system of beautiful parks and a myriad of walking and bike trails throughout our wonderful city. Recently, Billings TrailNet and our Public Works Department suggested that $2 a month be assessed on all city utility bills in order to help fund our parks and trail system. It would be a voluntary assessment similar to State Parks funding. I would certainly support such an assessment and work hard toward its realization. However, I would also like to scrutinize the costs of some of these projects. A million dollars a mile for a bike trail from Zimmerman to Swords Park seems excessive.
A City Council position is a full-time job. It requires that an inordinate amount of time be devoted to that post. Since I'm a retired widower, I have the time available, as well as the dogged tenacity to put forth toward that duty. You won't see many of my signs. Unlike some candidates, I don't have thousands of dollars to put into a campaign. However, if elected, I'll do the best job I can for my hometown.