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The original item was published from 11/13/2014 8:58:51 AM to 11/28/2014 12:05:00 AM.

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Butte-Silver Bow

Posted on: November 13, 2014

[ARCHIVED] BSB gets neighborly advice from Great Falls

Officials from Great Falls gave Butte-Silver Bow a primer Wednesday on how neighborhood councils work in their city, saying they have increased citizen participation in local government.

But they stressed repeatedly that what has worked for Great Falls might not work for Butte.

“We do not try to sell it as something that you should copy line-item by line-item or page by page,” Great Falls Commissioner Bill Bronson told about 30 Butte officials, commissioners and residents during a presentation at the Archives.

Butte-Silver Bow officials, at the urging of some residents, have been considering steps toward neighborhood councils for months and even had an ordinance drafted to establish them. Several Montana cities have them, mainly as advisory groups to elected city officials.

But some commissioners here are concerned about establishing another layer of government and wonder whether there would be enough interest and participation in neighborhood councils.

Chief Executive Matt Vincent has pulled back on the proposal here, saying more study was needed. He asked the Great Falls officials to come to Butte.

Bronson said Great Falls took an initial stab at councils in the mid-1970s, enacting them through an ordinance he said was much too complex. Each neighborhood group was required to have 25 people for a quorum to make recommendations, which – in hindsight – was far too many, he said.

“It was a system of mini-town meetings,” he said.

Neighborhood council members were appointed by the city commission, he said, which was a top-down approach that played a part in the system’s demise in the 1980s.

But a new system was established in 1996 that allowed for as many as 13 neighborhood councils in Great Falls, with members elected by their neighbors. There are nine councils there now.

Each has five voting members, agendas are more easily defined by each group and that system has largely been successful, Bronson said.

Six Butte-Silver Bow commissioners attended the presentation, as well as numerous county officials and department leaders. Only a handful of residents attended.

Butte has only a few organized groups – one in the Emma Park area, one in Centerville and one in the Greeley neighborhood on the Flat. The Centerville group is loosely organized and wants to stay that way.

Read the full story in the Montana Standard
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