Ward 5 Councilman Shaun Brown is seeking a second four-year term to represent the fastest-growing area of Billings.
Dennis Ulvestad is making his sixth run for a Ward 5 City Council seat. He unsuccessfully challenged Brown four years ago. Ulvestad is a member of the City Zoning Commission and previously chaired the West End Task Force. We appreciate his service, but we can’t recommend him for the leadership and decision making job on City Council.
Ullvestad simply doesn’t think things through. For example, he met with editorial board members recently and said the Police Department needs to get rid of School Resource Officers and the newly approved city park ranger to shift those officers to traffic enforcement.
The officers in schools are doing important work on public safety, preventing and investigating problems involving our youth. Also, the schools pay a portion of the officers’ salaries, thus stretching limited resources for the benefit of the entire community. Furthermore, citizens deserve to be safe in our parks as well as our streets.
Ulvestad is a regular attendee and commenter at City Council meetings. With that investment of time, we would expect him to have helpful knowledge of city government; he doesn’t. Ulvestad waved copies of pie charts that he said showed the city was spending too much because its budget showed more annual expenditure than revenue.
Asked if he considered the new wastewater treatment plant now under construction with millions in reserves saved for that purpose, Ullevstad was confused.
This growing city of 110,000 needs leaders who can understand the budget and ask critical questions to ensure that they are getting the best value for citizens’ money.
Brown has proven to be a critical thinker. He supports school resource officers and the park ranger position. He wants to work on getting more money to strategically strengthen police service.
Brown impressed board members with a passionate plea for Billings to step up its business recruitment efforts. “Boeing went to Helena, a large processing plant went to Great Falls,” Brown said. “We’ve got to figure out how to attract employers offering careers, not just jobs, or we’re going to be a retirement city.”
“We need to work a lot harder with the Chamber, with BSEDA and tourism,” Brown said. “We need to understand why we are not getting those opportunities.”
Brown said the city needs to look at incentives, using tax increment financing and work with the county government.
Brown moved to Billings 37 years ago after dropping out of school. He earned a bachelor's degree and is working on a master’s degree in information technology and now is president of the IT systems consulting division of a Montana company. His management skills have helped him along the steep learning curve every new council member faces.
People who have worked with Brown describe him as professional, logical and cool working through problems.
We sometimes disagreed with Brown’s council votes, but he has demonstrated the analytic abilities needed to make sound decisions. We recommend that Ward 5 voters keep Brown on the council for a second term.