Lewistown government disconnected from its citizens

Dear Editor,
In a News-Argus article on a Government Study meeting a few months ago, I was quoted as saying that the City Commission was “lazy and dysfunctional,” but the facts that I presented to back up that statement were never reported on, so I would like to justify my position.
Local Government expert Dan Clark has stated that the way that our current manager form of government is supposed to work is that a citizen brings a problem to his commissioner, the commissioner forms a resolution which he presents to the City Commission for a vote, and if it is passed, it’s handed off to the manager for implementation. The way that our local government has been working is a far cry from that.
In Kevin Myhre’s first 12 months as manager, there were 98 items that came up for a vote in the City Commission meetings. Forty-three percent were presented by Mr. Myhre, 39 percent were presented by Commissioners, and 18 percent were presented by others. In his last 12 months in office, there were 103 items voted on. Mr. Myhre presented 77 percent of them while the Commissioners presented only 13 percent, and 10 percent were brought by others. Virtually 100 percent of the items passed, 89 percent of them unanimously.
During Kevin Myhre’s tenure, the commission has become a rubber stamp committee, showing up twice a month for two-hour meetings and collecting a $200 paycheck for raising their hands. There is usually little discussion and citizen input is almost non-existent, because attendance by citizens is dismal. When an issue prompts large numbers of citizens to attend (Boy’s and Girl’s Club, Castle Butte annexation), their opinions are dismissed because the commission follows the agenda set by the Manager, who is supposed to be their underling.
Do you know anyone who has ever been contacted by a commissioner to survey their opinion? Do you know any business owners who oppose the current government that are not afraid to speak out about it? There is a major disconnect in this city between the government and its citizens.
Can this disconnect continue under a mayor? Certainly. But if disconnect becomes discontent, as seems to have currently happened, the citizenry can vote a mayor out, an option that is impossible with a manager.
It’s time for a change in order to get some accountability in our local government. Vote for the Mayor/CAO/Commission form of government.
Tom St. John



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