By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
A Havre businessman is facing a former government public affairs specialist in the Havre City Council election in Ward 1.
Republican Russ Luke, 43, owner of Pizza Pro, is running against Democrat Pam Hillery, also 43, in the Nov. 4 election.
The two both said declining revenue for the city budget is the biggest issue facing the city.
Luke said he isn't sure what the best way to fund the budget is, but he is generally opposed to raising taxes.
"There really is no simple solution," he said. "I don't know (the best solution) without getting in to look at different avenues to bring money in."
As well as finding additional revenue, Luke said, budgets can usually be trimmed, but that has to be done with care.
"I think there's always ways to cut spending, but I don't want to lose jobs, either," he said.
Hillery has a different view. The budget problems have come from the state government offering tax breaks to big businesses, such as reducing business equipment taxes, she said.
"We have to stand up and face the Legislature and say, 'Enough is enough,'" she said. "We have to stand up in a united front and say, 'You have to do something.'"
The two candidates come from very different backgrounds. Hillery worked as a public affairs specialist for the Environmental Protection Agency EPA from 1990 to 2000. She was born in Pennsylvania. Her father was an employee of the U.S. Department of Defense, and his job took the family to many locations, including Ohio, Virginia and Germany, she said.
Hillery received a bachelor's degree in history from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., and a master's in environmental studies from the University of Montana in Missoula.
She worked for the Montana Environmental Information Center, a nonprofit agency, for a year before starting to work for the EPA. In 2000, she moved to Cut Bank, where her husband, Paul Tuss, had been executive director of Glacier Action & Involvement Now Inc. for five years, ending lots of weekend commuting. Shortly after she moved to Cut Bank, Tuss accepted the position of executive director of Bear Paw Development Corp., and the family moved to Havre.
Luke was raised in Chico, Calif., and moved to Glendive in 1978 to work for the railroad. He ended up working in the oil fields instead, Luke said. Luke worked many jobs in and out of the state before buying Pizza Pro in Havre in October 2000, including working on farms, as an automobile mechanic and at his father's plastics business in California.
"I liked Montana," Luke added. "I liked the people. That's really the reason I moved here."
Both candidates said their main method of campaigning was going door-to-door and using yard signs.
Luke listed no contributions in his campaign finance reports. He wrote that he expected the total amount of contributions and expenditures to be less than $500, which requires no itemizing unless the contributions or expenditures end up being more than $500.
Hillery has had contributions from around the country, with many family members making donations of $50 to $100. Other contributors include Democratic guberatorial candidate Brian Schweitzer of Whitefish.
Her total receipts through Sept. 24 were $245 for the general election and $1,024 for the primary. Hillery's expenditures through Sept. 24 totaled $991.97
Both candidates said they are interested in continuing to investigate the creation of a tax increment finance district in downtown Havre to help pay for improvements in the area. As property values increase in such a district for a set period, tax revenue that results from the increased value goes into an improvement fund that can be used to make loans to property owners for further improvements.
Hillery said she supports the idea, citing improvements she saw in Helena in such a district.
"It worked wonders," she said.
Luke said he has heard mixed reviews of the idea, but that most people seem supportive.
"If we can make downtown Havre better, with a working-together kind of feeling, we can keep people here more and attract new businesses," he said.
Luke said he is not sure what the city may be able to do to support the Heritage Center. Funding for the center seems to have improved, including services provided by the city, a cash allowance from the county and approval to move an endowment for the Clack Museum into the Clack Foundation's endowment. Once the endowment reaches $250,000, the foundation can start to draw part of its interest.
Luke said that first of all it needs to be made clear that the museum, which is a county entity, is separate from the foundation, which is a nonprofit group with goals that include supporting the museum. The museum is housed in the Heritage Center.
He said he needs to look more closely at the Heritage Center's situation and the city's finances to see if Havre can do more to support the center.
Hillery said she is a strong supporter of the center, and that maybe the city and county need to look again to see if they can help finance its operation.
"I really believe you have to have a clear sense of where you came from to look ahead," she said.
Both said their campaigns are based on serving the people in Ward 1.
Hillery said she thinks her training and experience in politics - she served on several campaigns, including her husband's unsuccessful campaign for secretary of state in 2000 -and dealing with people qualify her for the job.
She is an officer with the Havre Elementary Parent Teacher Organization, is active with the Hill County Democratic Party and is a volunteer at the Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line.
"My slogan is, 'imagine a better Havre.' We have a good opportunity to make a better Havre," she said.
Luke said he would like to improve the cooperation within city government, and to increase the chance for people to give input on decisions.
"It's very important for the council to have an open-door kind of policy so its members know they are working for the people, not themselves," he said.