Ward 3 stretches through the city’s center from the Big Ditch near Parkhill Drive south across the Yellowstone River to Briarwood. When Denise Joy talks about running for the Ward 3 City Council seat, she says she wants to help young families who struggle to buy their first homes. She wants the City Council to support established neighborhoods.
Nadja Brown, the mother of three young children, told us that she wants to be a voice on the City Council for young families. “The city has to start living within its means,” she said.
Brown, who owns a small business with her husband, is concerned about tax increases. She said her property assessment went up $200, and that paying $100 more is too much for some neighbors.
We are pleased that Joy and Brown are running for the open City Council in Ward 3. We encourage both of them to stay engaged in local government, regardless of who wins the Nov. 7 election.
However, in making a recommendation for a council member to take office in January, Joy is the clear choice. She has been attending City Council meetings since January. Her four years of volunteering at the community garden in Amend Park has given her a good understanding of our city park system’s benefits and challenges.
Joy also impresses us with her grasp of the diversity of Billings and her passion for championing individuals who are often marginalized. She is an advocate for people with disabilities and works as an aide for special needs students at Ben Steele Middle School.
Joy grew up in Hardin and Billings, then left to earn degrees in political science and to do graduate work in public administration. She has been involved with local historical preservation projects, including board service.
The value of education, Joy said, is that “you never lose that ability to think critically.”
Brown studied business at Montana State University Billings. She told us that she started attending City Council meetings in June and had been meeting with the Central Terry Task Force for about four months.
According to a local news report, Brown hasn’t voted for more than a decade, although she was eligible as a Billings resident. Asked why she hadn’t voted before she became a candidate, Brown told us she “wasn’t aligned” and she “chose not to vote.”
“I’ve always been a voter,” Joy said. “I grew up in a politically active family.” The suffragette struggle for the right to vote weighs on her, so she votes.
Joy said she was “compelled to run” in March after the City Council turned down a proposal for Artspace to help provide affordable housing and studios for local artists. More than the no vote, it was the attitude of council members that spurred her to action: “The council didn’t seem to appreciate and respect what younger people had to say. We need to respect the aspirations of young people.”
Joy also indicated that she can sort the council’s important work from the less important. The council needs to carefully consider the recommendations of its advisory boards, vote a matter up or down and then move on — instead of wasting time revisiting issues, she said.
Brown and Joy are making their first runs for public office on Nov. 7, having finished at the top of a five-candidate primary field. We commend them both, but in this election, Joy has done more research and brings more experience in civic engagement. We recommend that Ward 3 voters cast their ballots for Denise Joy.