I am deeply disturbed by the way members of the Helena Civic Center Advisory Board were treated by the City Commission at the last two meetings. The disrespect these volunteer members of the community were subjected to was shameful.
Testimony from members of the Civic Center Advisory Board was characterized as “hyperbole” and “misinformation” and “insults” by one commissioner. When they expressed their concerns in writing, their letter was called “inflammatory, full of untruths and miscommunications” by another commissioner.
Is this really the way we want elected officials treating citizens? The city asks a lot of the people who volunteer to serve on the various advisory boards, working groups and organizations like the Business Improvements District, the Helena Housing Authority, and the Ten Mile South Collaborative. The least the city can do is treat these people with respect and show them common courtesy when they appear before or communicate with city officials.
Over the years this particular advisory board, under the leadership of its long time chairwoman Judy Kline, has raised over $2.5 million for the Helena Civic Center. Where did the money come from for those new seats in the auditorium? The Civic Center Board. Enjoy the Helena Symphony. Money for the new glass railings, the chandeliers, the level floor in the ballroom? Civic Center Board. Enjoy the Festival of Trees. Money for the carpets, curtains, the lavatories, the kitchen? Same. Enjoy the All Night Senior Party. These contributions and the people who made them ought to be appreciated instead of humiliated by the Helena City Commission.
Some of these folks remember the time the Civic Center was in a state of serious decay. The city stepped up and purchased the building and asked the advisory board to help with the fundraising required for ongoing improvements. This was a homegrown Helena solution that has worked well. Yes, the Civic Center operations do not always pencil out, fiscally speaking. Neither do other event centers in mid-sized western cities like Fargo, ND and Casper, WY. Previous city leaders have understood that basic reality. They have directed staff to be innovative and economical, but they have been willing to work with the fiscal reality because they know the people of Helena want and need their Civic Center.
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I hope people will keep this in mind when they vote in the city elections on Nov. 5.