When I ran for Commissioner in 2012, it was because I believed that, with the demise of the $750,000 Comp Plan that citizens and staff had spent years developing, the county had suffered a collapse of long-term planning and thinking.
I ran because I believe that local government should inspire residents to envision a fair and healthy county. I ran to restore public trust and confidence in County government. I believe we are now moving in the right direction.
Do you want to hear a scary statistic? Our county population is projected to explode from our current 54,000 residents to an estimated 85,000 by 2035. To preserve our county’s beauty and health, to keep this home to both wild life and ranchers, to attract high quality employers, we need to plan carefully.
Everything I do is with an eye to the future, to preserve and improve this county so that my kids – and yours! – will have great jobs in a still stunning, still friendly place.
Without long-term planning, every decision is a decision all by itself; we don’t learn from our failures nor build on our successes. I believe that long-term planning – having a comprehensive plan about where to encourage development and all the infrastructure needed to support it – protects and strengthens property values. That’s why I pushed so hard for the County to re-engage in citizen-based dialogue through the Planning Commission. Just as we wouldn’t begin building a home without architectural drawings, we shouldn’t be building out our county’s beautiful lands without great care given to designing for the result we want to achieve.
Revenues from natural gas development are low due to national lack of demand, but the need for county services never goes away. Our increasing population impacts our county roads and bridges, the sheriff’s office, human services, and the building, planning, and engineering departments tasked with making growth viable.
Because of shrinking gas revenues, and because the county’s current property tax is the 4th lowest in the state, the Fiscal Sustainability Steering Committee has recommended that we:
Though currently toxic, our local environmental problems could actually stimulate local jobs and growth.
I have also called for the passage of H.R. 963, the Hardrock Mining Reform and Reclamation Act of 2015 which would create a fund to clean up abandoned and inactive mines by establishing an 8 percent royalty on all new hard-rock mines on public lands, a 4 percent royalty on existing mines on public lands and reclamation fees on all hard-rock mines, including those that were “purchased” for pennies under the 1872 Mining Law. Montana’s experience with abandoned mine restoration projects suggests that mine reclamation can create more jobs per dollar spent than mining itself.
I have been responsive to public concerns, both large and small – whether it’s been citizens wanting to ensure funding for the Sunnyside and Fort Lewis libraries, or a dangerous road intersection needing some additional signage, or too much commercial traffic to and from mines, or too many bears in too many trashcans, I have acted. There are no easy answers. I’m hoping that together we can determine how we can effectively deal with these issues without breaking the bank or increasing the budget – how we can make improvements without adding additional staff.