Running for city commission has been a great learning experience for me. Unfortunately, some of what I have learned about the city’s current leadership is disturbing.
There has been a mass exodus of employees leaving our city government due to the toxic environment. Those remaining are fearful for their jobs, fearful of being demoted and are always looking over their shoulders. I hear words used like “dictatorship,” “disrespect” and “nobody listens anymore.” Instead of collaboration, employees aren't allowed to talk with other departments like they used to, resulting in many inefficiencies. No surprise morale is at an all-time low. They call this “Positive Change.”
It’s interesting that with all the vacant positions, there are few applications, and those that do accept, don't stay long or hear the horror stories and decline the offers. Now the city manager is bringing in people from out of state to fill these positions. We have plenty of qualified people in the state with Montana values. We don't need to be outsourcing these positions. But here’s the big concern… How can the current commission sit by and allow the city manager to do this much damage, to continue to threaten and intimidate staff, even after her mandatory “management” training? It's happened under their watch and they hired her!
As we are beginning to see, services are starting to decline by this current leadership or lack thereof. Look at the overdue budget. It's hard to put a budget together when there isn’t even a department supervisor and it gets dumped on an already overworked staff.
Let's talk about advisory groups like the Civic Center Advisory Board, the Golf Advisory Board, the Helena Open Lands Advisory Board and the City/County Parks Board. I'm hearing there is an effort to dissolve or consolidate them. This means all the people in Helena that want a voice, to help advise our leaders, are trying to be eliminated. Why, maybe because they don't agree with the current commission's agenda?
The current commission claims they have improved transparency. This couldn't be further from the truth! So much happens behind closed doors and it must stop. They have started sneaking in all sorts of assessments to your tax bill, just wait and see. They're not allowed to raise taxes by more than a certain percent, so this is how they're doing it and I don't feel it's even legal, let alone fair to Helena taxpayers. Sean and I plan on looking into this.
Remember the Hill Park fountain that was taken away from us? I feel this should have been voted by the people of Helena. And now we're replacing it with a piece of art from California? Like we don't have a handful of extremely talented artists right here in Helena, let alone in Montana? I will fight for our historical monuments and history.
There are numerous other concerns and priorities I will focus on. We need to fix the parking meter fiasco downtown, what the heck were they thinking? I feel sympathy for all the businesses downtown that are suffering because of this. I will promote businesses to bring good paying jobs to Helena. I will fight for affordable housing and look for creative ways to make it easier for people to get a roof over their head.
I will support our Open Lands and Parks. Helena has some amazing hiking and biking trails right out our back door, and I will make sure everyone gets to share them.
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We can do better with recycling like our neighbors to the north. Canada has some amazing recycling programs and it's time we take a serious look and make this happen for Helena.
I will support our law enforcement, they are our first line of defense against the increasing crime problem in Helena. Helena doesn’t have a police chief or fire chief, are you kidding me? They say we don't have the budget. Oh, but we have the budget to bring on a sustainability coordinator and a public information officer to put out the “fires” they've created?
I've met with the former mayor and department supervisors and asked about our budget and if it has ever been a problem, and they have always made the budget work. I believe they are creating a scare tactic to fund their agenda.
Relationships with critical partners continue to be threatened. The city’s relationship with the county is at an all-time low due to the commission and city manager’s questionable management style. The city and county need to function as a team once again, I will make sure this happens.
I will continue to work with the people on the front lines like the Friendship Center, the Helena Food Share, YWCA, God’s Love and other folks who take care of the homeless and less fortunate people in our city.
The bottom line is, Helena is in trouble. Read the newspaper, talk with anyone who works for the city, they will tell you what is going on. Vote both Sean Logan and myself to even the odds.
I'm a successful businessman who would love to use my skills to bring the team back together and make Helena the best it can be! This is a critical election for our beloved city, so if you haven't voted, we have until next Tuesday to get your ballots in! Thanks for your support!
Greg Painter is a candidate for Helena City Commission.