What I keep hearing over and over on the campaign trail is that so many decisions affecting all of us are made by a few people and behind closed doors. Once the decisions are made, it is announced that we as taxpayers will pay for those choices that we had no input.
We need to start inviting transparent constituent input, accurately soliciting input on projects over a certain dollar amount – knowing that there is valuable input from Missoulians, not just from backroom deals and special interest handouts. The input should be solicited in a manner that doesn’t ask questions the way the administration wants them to be answered but in a forthright manner, actually seeking and valuing opposing views because that could ultimately lead to better solutions.
Missoulians should be heard and have a say, whether it’s through a respectful process at City Council meetings or an informal polling process regarding major spending projects. We need to focus on working with people, not against them. Instead of adding more and more roadblocks, we need to find a way to make the processes we encounter user friendly, yet keeping the infrastructure in mind.
Citizens and reporters should not have to turn to filing public record requests and inquires for invoices to try and piece together how City and taxpayers’ money is being spent. Nor should Missoulians who take the time to attend City Council meetings find that the public comment is closed after a single speaker more often than not. Transparency and accountability from the top will set the tone for the culture of business in Missoula.
What is a quick example of the City lacking accountability?
The Mountain Water purchase comes to mind as an example. As the price tag on the acquisition kept rising, in March of 2016 Councilman Harlan Wells proposed a referendum where the purchase would go to a public vote. While this referendum was never realized, many wish it had been, especially since the bill for the purchase has come in at nearly 20 times the original price tag.