Just one week ago, the Independent recommended that citizens involve themselves in local government (see “Progress Report,” by Keila Szpaller, Aug. 5, 2004. Gold shoes, by the way, are not a requirement, though they can look sensational). Now, allow us to recommend a forum for your participation in local government: File to run for the city or county review commission. Basically, if you don’t like the way your government works, here’s your chance to figure out why and help fix it. The 1972 Montana Constitution provides an opportunity, every 10 years, for citizens to vote on whether or not to study their forms of local government. In June, you collectively decided that it would be a good idea to take a gander at both the city and the county. Now, consider throwing your individual hat in the ring. At least two folks who served on the 1994 commission remember the experience as the bee’s knees. “It was really an interesting job,” says City Clerk Marty Rehbein, an ex-officio member of the city’s 1994 Local Government Study Commission. Plus, the political science major liked her peer group: “I just thought it was so exciting to be working with a group of people who were elected to do this work.”
The two commissions will study the existing form and powers of city and county governments and the procedures for delivery of local government services. Then it will compare them with other forms available under Montana laws.
Former Missoula Redevelopment Agency Director (and current Public Service Commission candidate) Geoff Badenoch served as a commission member in 1994. In a prepared statement, Badenoch says the following: “Few states, if any, have mandated this exercise of review by and for the people who are governed locally. We in Montana are indeed blessed with this Constitutional protection.”
So far, no one has signed up to review the county at all. Three citizens have signed up to review the city. Each commission requires seven elected members. Badenoch, for one, makes it sound like you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to file for the job: “We need you if you are a man or a woman (the last study commission had five women and two men—it was awesome!), a senior citizen or a new young voter. We need you if you are a business person or a laborer. We need you if you are educated or if you have native common sense. We need you if you are well-off or if you are a low-income citizen. We need you if you have local government experience or if you will look at it carefully from the outside as one of the governed. We need you if you care. Please take a moment and consider this possibility.”
Moment’s up. Trek down to the elections office on the second floor of the county courthouse at 200 West Broadway to file. Bring ID. The deadline for filing is 5 p.m. on Thursday, August 19. And for those of you with a shortage of gold shoes in your closets, Birkenstocks, flip-flops and topsiders are OK, too.