Alice Campbell Havre Daily News email@example.com
From the large turnout and the support of the forum held Tuesday evening that gave Democratic mayoral candidates Gary Glock and Tim Solomon a chance to square off, chair of the Hill County Democratic Party John Musgrove said it's apparent people "think it's really time for change." "It's time that more people get involved in selecting who they want to represent them," Musgrove said, "and tonight was a good step in that direction." Ballots are being mailed today for the open primary and must be returned by mail or in person by 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15. The winner of the primary between Glock and Solomon will face incumbent Bob Rice, a Republican, in the general election. Montana House of Representatives Speaker of the House Bob Bergren, D-Havre, moderated the forum held at the Eagles and sponsored by the Hill County Democratic Party. Solomon introduced himself and his family in attendance, thanking them, and said he wanted to see Havre continue to be a good place to live. He stated that "I get very into a job" as a reason that he'd be good in the role of mayor and also cited his experience working in the community with the Hill County Sheriff's Office, the Great Northern Fairgrounds, the Havre-Hill County Airport, the HELP Committee and the Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line. If elected, the former Hill County sheriff said, he would "jump in with both feet and do what I can to help the community." "I get along and play well with others," Glock said. His experience of eight years on the City Council means he "can hit the road running," he said, after also introducing his family and thanking them. After the opening remarks by each candidate, Bergren asked them questions each had been given in advance. Both Glock and Solomon said they are in favor of annexation. Annexation's "purpose is to provide the city with growth in an orderly fashion," Glock said, adding that the city should receive taxes from utilities users to help offset maintenance costs. Glock said an estimated $250,000 would come into the city from the current annexation proposal's completion that could help with city maintenance costs. "In order to have growth, we're going to have to have annexation," he concluded. "The city, that's the only way they have to grow," Solomon said, but to him there are "too many questions" that could have been answered by more long-range planning by the city. Also, businesses being annexed should be given more time to build plans to absorb the city's tax requirements, Solomon said, which could harm businesses. Both candidates also agreed that communication is needed between the city and county governments and that the structure of the governments works well. "I don't have a problem with the structure," Solomon said, and went on to add that the two governments could work together on issues such as snow removal to create a better living environment for everyone. During this past winter, when conditions surprised many, the county might have been able to help with snow removal if asked, Solomon said. "It's not saying our departments don't work great together," he said, but that cooperation needs to be encouraged. There needs to be "more communication and cooperation between the two," Glock said, adding that several services, including a rural fire district and a public library, are operated by the city and county working together. "Are the relationships good?" He asked. "No," he answered. Glock also said that snow removal was an issue. "Snow removal really was bad this past year," he said, but if the governments work together on issues like it and others, "we'll get this done." When asked if he supports the city contributing $30,000 for North Central Montana Transit System, as asked by the system administrators, Glock said he does, although he's not sure where the money would come from. "We just need to help them along because it's a plus plus for the community," he said, because of the money the system will bring to the area. Solomon said that because the system will bring money and health care options closer to town, among other benefits, he supports the system. If the $30,000 is what the system needs the most to make it in the long-term a conversation with the system's director Jim Lyons convinced Solomon that the longevity plan will work "I think we need to look at that real seriously," he said, but he's also open to "sit down, see if we can support it in other ways." Bergren posed a question to the candidates about whether a negotiator is necessary for city contracts and other negotiations. "No, I don't agree with it," Solomon said and added that city officials should be responsible for most of it since they are in contact with residents and know what they need. "We need to pay the negotiator," Glock said, even though it costs the city money, because of the amount of work they do. Then, Bergren posed an undisclosed question concerning what each candidate considers the two most important issues facing the city in the next 10 years. Communication between the city and county and bringing businesses into Havre that can benefit both the city and the county were Glock's top two. New businesses bring in revenue, which can then help with infrastructure work and maintenance, he said, adding that communication will be key to making that happen. Infrastructure and creating a four-lane highway of U.S. Highway 2 from Harlem to Havre, topped Solomon's list. The city needs to be "looking now (at infrastructure needs) so we're not in an annexation situation where we are now," he said. The 4 for 2 expansion would "get people coming up north and using 2," he said. After the given questions, audience members wrote questions of their own on note cards, which Bergren then chose several questions from this selection. One asked if each candidate planned on keeping his job and if so, what he'd do to balance his role as mayor with his other responsibilities. By the time he would take office, he would be released from his part-time, fill-in position of Havre-Hill County Airport manager, Solomon said, but would continue with his work as manager at the Great Northern Fair Grounds and volunteering at the Boys & Girls Club. Glock said he's ready for retirement and would make the mayor position full-time. Another audience member asked what each candidate's platform in the general election against incumbent Bob Rice, a Republican, would be and if the democratic candidate would win. "Absolutely. Get 'er done Bob ain't getting it done," Glock said. "I definitely plan on beating him in the race," Solomon said. His platform would be based on the belief that "we all need to be working together for the community of Havre," he added. On the issue of open meetings and government, Glock said all meetings should be open. "I think that's what we need to do with government," Solomon said, so that people know what's going on. The last question from the audience asked about the candidates' views on Indian relations and how those could be strengthened. Solomon said he worked with authorities at Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation often during his time with the Hill County Sheriff's Office and that cooperation was crucial. "I'm not narrowing down working together," he said. Glock, too, said that relations with Indians are important. "That's the only reason we (Kmart) exist," he said. "We've got to all get along," he added. To close, Glock thanked everyone for attending and reiterated his commitment to communication and the benefits that it could bring. He also said that hopefully annexation would help lower taxes because of the increased revenue the city will receive. Solomon also thanked those in attendance and thanked "Gary for running a great campaign." He took the chance to tout his negotiating skills that he used while working in the sheriff's office and his connections to the community. "We're all in the boat together, and that's (communication's) what it takes," he said about how Havre will move forward. Bergren said he felt sure that the next mayor was in the room after the closing remarks. "I think it went well," Solomon said. "I still feel fairly confident," he said. "I definitely will be working very hard to continue it." "I was nervous," Glock said, but added that he still feels "one hundred percent" about his chances in the primary. "It's time that more people get involved in selecting who they want to represent them," Musgrove said, "and tonight was a good step in that direction." All candidates who filed for office are on the ballot, including city judge and city council hopefuls, although no more than one member from either party filed. Ballots for the general election are set to be mailed Oct. 14.