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Mayor, committee spar over business licences

 

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The failure of businesses to voluntarily register with the city of Havre has prompted a dispute between some City Council members and Mayor Tim Solomon.

Members of the council's Planning and Zoning Committee said Tuesday night they had wanted to make the licensing procedure mandatory, but had backed down and agreed to Solomon's request that businesses voluntarily register.

But now, committee Chair Janet Trethewey said she felt like the mayor had "thrown us under the bus."

And fellow committee member Pam Hillery said Tuesday night that Soloman's conduct had reminded her of the action of former Mayor Bob Rice, who Solomon defeated in the November election.

Last month, discouraged by the poor response from businesses, committee members asked Solomon to write an op-ed piece for the Havre Daily News. They also directed that a letter be sent out to the 400 businesses the city knew of, asking them to obtain a license.

Members said the information was necessary to help compile the new zoning laws.

But Trethewey said the mayor refused to send out the letter and Hillery said the op-ed piece "lacked oomph."

Trethewey said Solomon asked her to write a draft of the op-ed piece. She prepared one that was roughly three times as long as Solomon's final version.

"I just write differently than him," she said.

Member Andrew Brekke said the mayor tasked the committee with finding out the information but then failed to back up the committee's efforts.

Trethewey said Solomon told her the city staff didn't have time to send out the letters. She felt they did have time.

"He told me he didn't want to get into a dispute with the business community," she said. "We don't want that either, we just want the information."

As of now, 20 businesses have responded to the city's request.

Hillery said the council should stand up for its rights.

"We made a decision that something had to be done ... and he negated everything we did," she said of her fellow Democrat.

"We are becoming a weaker and weaker council," she added.

Contacted this morning, Solomon said he would have preferred that the committee members come to him rather than discuss the matter in a public meeting.

But he defended his actions, saying the mayor clearly has the authority to direct city staff.

Sending the letter would not be helpful, he said. The point was to find businesses the city was not aware of. Sending a letter to businesses the city knows are there would be a waste of time.

He said the lines of authority between the mayor and the council are clear.

"They are responsible for passing ordinances," the mayor said, adding that he has the executive authority and is responsible for enforcing the laws.

"It's very clear," he said.

"I was surprised by this," he said. "I wish they'd have come to me."

He said he thought the committee should go ahead with its work on rezoning the city.

When the preliminary law is ready, the public will get a chance to see it. If businesses feel they are not in the correct zone, they will have an opportunity to stand up and be heard, Solomon said.

The failure of businesses to voluntarily register with the city of Havre has prompted a dispute between some City Council members and Mayor Tim Solomon.

Members of the council's Planning and Zoning Committee said Tuesday night they had wanted to make the licensing procedure mandatory, but had backed down and agreed to Solomon's request that businesses voluntarily register.

But now, committee Chair Janet Trethewey said she felt like the mayor had "thrown us under the bus."

And fellow committee member Pam Hillery said Tuesday night that Soloman's conduct had reminded her of the action of former Mayor Bob Rice, who Solomon defeated in the November election.

Last month, discouraged by the poor response from businesses, committee members asked Solomon to write an op-ed piece for the Havre Daily News. They also directed that a letter be sent out to the 400 businesses the city knew of, asking them to obtain a license.

Members said the information was necessary to help compile the new zoning laws.

But Trethewey said the mayor refused to send out the letter and Hillery said the op-ed piece "lacked oomph."

Trethewey said Solomon asked her to write a draft of the op-ed piece. She prepared one that was roughly three times as long as Solomon's final version.

"I just write differently than him," she said.

Member Andrew Brekke said the mayor tasked the committee with finding out the information but then failed to back up the committee's efforts.

Trethewey said Solomon told her the city staff didn't have time to send out the letters. She felt they did have time.

"He told me he didn't want to get into a dispute with the business community," she said. "We don't want that either, we just want the information."

As of now, 20 businesses have responded to the city's request.

Hillery said the council should stand up for its rights.

"We made a decision that something had to be done ... and he negated everything we did," she said of her fellow Democrat.

"We are becoming a weaker and weaker council," she added.

Contacted this morning, Solomon said he would have preferred that the committee members come to him rather than discuss the matter in a public meeting.

But he defended his actions, saying the mayor clearly has the authority to direct city staff.

Sending the letter would not be helpful, he said. The point was to find businesses the city was not aware of. Sending a letter to businesses the city knows are there would be a waste of time.

He said the lines of authority between the mayor and the council are clear.

"They are responsible for passing ordinances," the mayor said, adding that he has the executive authority and is responsible for enforcing the laws.

"It's very clear," he said.

"I was surprised by this," he said. "I wish they'd have come to me."

He said he thought the committee should go ahead with its work on rezoning the city.

When the preliminary law is ready, the public will get a chance to see it. If businesses feel they are not in the correct zone, they will have an opportunity to stand up and be heard, Solomon said.

 
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