After taking a few weeks to think about whether to join the Vibrant Futures Consortium, no one changed their minds and a party-line 4-4 vote forced Mayor Tim Solomon to decide, choosing to join.
Havre now joins other city, county and tribal governments in the consortium to think together about regional issues and how to reach common goals.
The debate began with council member Allen “Woody” Woodwick explaining why he thought the city should join.
“I think it would be a good idea, especially if it doesn’t cost any money, ” Woodwick said. “It puts more tools into our hands and Bear Paw Development Corp. to give us a leg up in grant applications. ”
Council member Janet Trethewey asked whether the city had voiced its support for the consortium to get it started. Mayor Solomon said he had written a letter of support in October 2011, which Trethewey said the council should uphold.
“To not join now would be disingenuous, ” Trethewey said.
Council member Bob Kaftan expressed his concern about possible strings attached to the city’s involvement, obligations to the consortium or the federal government.
“We don’t get their approval, ” Trethewey said. “We approve, and they lend their expertise. ”
Council member Rick Dow said he didn’t like the reliance on federal money this would entail and worried about the availability of those funds in the future.
“We are now making federal grants central to our economy, which is not how it’s supposed to be” Dow said.
Dow added this morning that he is wary of the consortium’s resemblance to the United Nations’ Agenda 21, an initiative set up in 1992 to begin “a new global partnership for sustainable development, ” according to the agenda’s preamble.
“This Vibrant Futures program and this private and public alliance, I can’t help but think how similar they are to the U. N. Agenda 21, ” Dow said this morning. “It’s more centralization of power rather than innovation and grassroots. It’s more top down rather than bottom up. ”
He asked what the city would be giving up to enter this contract Council member Gerry Veis chose to answer.
“You’re guaranteed losing absolutely nothing, ” Veis said. “This is about a commitment to the city you live in, Rick. ”
Veis explained that the costs are paid by the federal taxpayers, of which he feels to be a particularly high contributor, and added that if Havre says it doesn’t want the money, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would be more than happy to send that money to his constituents in that state.
“I would like to thank Mr. Veis for his contributing to the $1.5 million of the grant, ” Council member Brian Barrows said.
How they voted
Democrats Bonnie Parenteau, Janet Trethewey, Allen “Woody” Woodwick and Gerry Veis voted yes.
Republicans Brian Barrows, Bob Kaftan, Rick Dow and Andrew Brekke voted no.
Mayor Tim Solomon, a Democrat, cast the tie-breaking vote in favor.