Information Provided For Local Government Issue

Area officials provided information regarding the local government ballot issue during the Sidney Chamber's power hour held at the Extension building on May 21.

The requirement of asking the public for a government review at least every 10 years was a result of the 1972 Constitution Convention in Montana. The goal is to make sure political power is from the citizens.

Area voters will have the decision to make regarding Richland County, the City of Sidney and the City of Fairview.

Stephanie Verhasselt, Richland County election administrator, explained that depending where you live, your ballot could feature the question for only the county, for the county and Sidney or the county and Fairview.

County Commissioner Duane Mitchell said there are five different forms of government including the three commissioner system used in Richland County, a system with a county manager appointed by commissioners and another with an executive elected by voters.

Sidney's city officials reported that the city's forms include a commission (council)/executive format, a council-run government and a city manager form.

If voters decide in the primary election to have a government review, a three-person commission needs to be elected in this year's general election. Once elected, commission candidates have 10 days to have their first meeting. The commission must engage in the community in such forms as surveys, open houses or town hall meetings.

When the county held a government review election in 2014, it was voted down 57-43%.

Members of the government review commission, who are not paid for their service, will receive training from Montana State University Extension's local government center.

Areas of consideration with the plan of government could include: will elections be held by wards or at large; will elections be partisan or non-partisan; should terms of office be concurrent or overlapping; and should the executive be able to appoint and remove employees without consent of the council, with consent of the council when hiring department heads or only with consent of the council.

The commission's scope of the local government review does not allow for removing or disciplining staff members or elected officials; adding, changing or removing services, programs, policies or ordinances; changing the election process; or establishing fees, assessments, taxes or other service funding mechanisms.


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