Havre Daily News
Both candidates for the Ward 3 Havre City Council seat say they have the experience needed to do the job.
Democrat Bob Kaul, a former carman who spent seven years on Burlington Northern and BNSF Railway safety committees, and Republican Bob Kaftan, a former Northern Montana College education professor, will ask residents for their votes on Tuesday.
Kaftan said his years of experience working with people is good reason for voters to pick him. He said he loves Havre and wants to make it better.
“I want the area to grow,” he said in a recent interview. “My children live here. I'd like to see good opportunities for their employment here.”
Kaul said he thought of running for office years ago, but didn't have the time then to devote to the City Council.
“Now that I'm retired, I have the time and energy to do it,” he said in an interview. “I figured now was the time to give back to the community.”
Both candidates say they see problems with communication in city government.
“I definitely see a communications problem,” Kaul said. “If you come in and want to ask a question, it doesn't seem like there's enough continuity ... so that everybody knows that they're all talking about the same thing.”
If elected, Kaul said he also would hold meetings to listen to people in his ward.
Kaftan said City Hall needs to do more to communicate with the public.
“I would like to see improved communications,” he said at a candidate forum last week. “I think one of the things that is necessary is for the elected officials to keep in touch with the residents of this city.”
Some have said that Kaul's opinion in the debate over where the enhanced-911 call center should be located does not represent the best interests of Havre. Kaul has long maintained that a resolution passed by Hill County voters in 1996, which gave the county $4.3 million to build a detention center, meant the jail should have housed consolidated emergency dispatching for Havre and Hill County.
The city-county 911 board decided earlier this year, after much debate, to locate the e-911 call center at the city's communications center, with a backup center at the Hill County Detention Center.
Kaul said the e-911 is not the main issue behind his candidacy.
“It is not an ax I will grind as a City Council member,” he said. As part of their compromise on the call center location, the city and county agreed not to raise the issue for five years.
Kaul said the issue may need to be studied again in the future for the benefit of all county residents, including those in Havre.
Kaul urged the city-county 911 board to seek a legal opinion on whether the language in the resolution adopted by voters required the center to be located at the county jail. Hill County Attorney Cyndee Peterson said the board could proceed with its plan because the resolution made no specific mention of e-911 services or the location of an e-911 call center.
At the candidate forum, Kaftan said two call centers duplicate service in a way that may be in the best interest of Havre residents.
“If the city controls the 911 call service or the county does, it doesn't make any difference to me, ... but I want to see the best service possible. If that duplication provides better service, then I'm still for it,” he said.
Both candidates would like to see the city take a hard look at connecting to the Rocky Boy's/North Central Montana Regional Water System, a proposed project that will bring water treated at Lake Elwell to more than 18,000 residents across the region. The Havre City Council in September voted to join the system's regional authority, the second-to-last step in becoming part of the water system.
Kaftan said he is interested in the project as a supplemental source of water for the city.
“Havre is poised to grow,” he said. “I'm most interested in making sure the city has adequate water now and in the future.”
Kaul said the public should be given more opportunity to review a study outlining the cost for the city to connect to the system. He also said the city needs to look at what residents would pay for water if the city is part of the regional system.
“We still need more information, so we know actual day-to-day costs,” he said.
Racism has been a local issue recently, and both candidates said the issue can be addressed if people learn to respect each other.
“I honestly believe there is a problem in Havre with racism,” Kaul said. “I have seen it personally, and I don't like it.”
He said the problem can be solved “through communication and education.”
Kaftan said he was surprised to learn that some residents think racism is a problem. “It's certainly in the news. I've lived here for a long, long time. I was surprised. I didn't think that was an issue here. I think we accept people pretty well.”
He added, “Native Americans have made contributions that need to be acknowledged.”
At the candidate forum, Kaftan said annexing land outside the city is a “no-brainer.”
“We want the city to grow,” he said. “You take the good with the bad. In some cases, it would work to the city's advantage. In others, it would work to the city's disadvantage.”
Kaul said the city should have been annexing properties as they were developed.
“I think annexation is something that should've been going on all along,” he said. “We do it right. We do it economically. We do it for the good of the people.”
Neither candidate is a Havre native, but each has lived and raised families here for almost four decades.
Kaftan moved here in 1966 from North Dakota. He taught counseling classes at Northern Montana College before retiring in 1990, and also owned a bookstore for about six years. He volunteers as a counselor at the Assembly of God and also works part time as a counselor at Head Start, where he talks with parents about children's social and behavorial problems.
“I'm a strong family advocate,” Kaftan said at the candidate forum. “I'm a sympathetic listener. ... I hope I can do that as a councilman.”
Kaul was born in Vandalia and graduated from Glasgow High School. He moved to Havre in 1968, and received “an education I couldn't have gotten in college” while working for the railroad. His years on the BN and BNSF safety committee taught him the value of research, he said.
He told listeners at the forum that “it takes a tremendous amount of digging and research before you do anything.”
He left his job with disability pay because of back problems and later retired, he said.
Ward 3 is in south-central Havre.