Not a bit of partisan mud was slung. Neither innuendo nor name calling marred the hour long discussion.
The Coffee with Council forum organized by The Billings Chamber of Commerce early Wednesday morning offered voters the opportunity to hear directly from Ward 3 candidates and to ask them questions. The 26 people who gathered that morning at Bitterroot Sip and Paint, 1238 Central Ave., sat in a large circle of chairs and couches surrounded by Chareese Jorgensen's spacious art studio.
Police, fire, parks, trails, transportation, taxes, city budget, infrastructure, economic development and small business entrepreneurship were part of a wide ranging discussion that gave each candidate ample time to express his views. Candidates Danny Choriki and Aldo Rowe answered respectfully with enthusiasm and good humor.
What a refreshing example of positive public discourse!
The good news is that the Chamber and local businesses will present 8 a.m. coffee forums over the next two weeks for candidates in Wards 4, 5 and 1.
Rowe and Choriki will be the only candidates on the Sept. 10 primary ballot in Ward 3, so both are guaranteed to proceed to the Nov. 5 general election.
Matthew S. Melvin also filed for the Ward 3 seat, but his name was removed because he failed to file a brief form stating whether he planned to spend more than $500 on his campaign, according to the Yellowstone County elections office. Montana law requires all candidates for elected office to file that form, which is sent to the Commissioner of Political Practices in Helena.
Voters in every other Billings ward will have the choice of more than two candidates on Sept. 10.
Three candidates are running in Ward 1: Kendra Shaw, John S. Armstrong and Jim Ronquillo.
Four candidates are running in Ward 2: Incumbent Roy Neese, Michael Richardson, Randy Heinz and Roger Gravgaard. (The Chamber held a forum for them previously.)
Six candidates will be on the Ward 4 ballot: Pam Purinton, Daron Olson, Gordon Olson, Carmelita Dominquez, Nicole Gallagher and Matthew Senn.
Five candidates will be on the Ward 5 ballot: Dennis L. Ulvestad, Leilahni Kay, Mike Boyett, Jennifer Merecki and Frederick Wilburn.
The Chamber invites the public to attend upcoming forums, which will run from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. There is no charge, but those who plan to attend are requested to RSVP to daniel@BillingsChamber.com so that sufficient seating can be available.
Here is the schedule:
- Ward 4: Wednesday, Highgate Senior Living, 3680 Parkhill Drive.
- Ward 5: Aug. 7, Billings Association of Realtors, 2021 Overland Ave.
- Ward 1: Aug. 15, First Montana Title, 2737 Montana Ave.
The City Council is elected on a nonpartisan basis to offices that are more about community service that politics. We call on all candidates to follow the example Choriki and Rowe set last week. Run clean campaigns, focus on city issues and remember that we all care deeply about our hometown — even though we might disagree about what it needs or how to meet those needs.
Primary ballots will be mailed on Aug. 23. It's time to get to know your candidates.