We invited City Council and Mayoral candidates to join us for our Lunch and Learn meetings during the summer, to learn their perspectives on issues related to trails, bikeways and our quality of life.

Their answers are in the tables below:

VIEW PDF VERSION OF THE TABLE >

  Candidates for Mayor
  Angela Cimmino Bill Cole Danielle Egnew Jeff Essman Randy Hafer Danny Sandefur
What specific features/attributes would you like to see enhanced or developed, to improve our quality of life in Billings? Quality of life amenities Continue to apply for grants so we have the funding to keep building trails. An identity that tells people who we are. We need to transform our community by playing to our strengths like our Rims and river. Our sense of community and outdoor resources. Finish the Marathon Loop and complete the Inner Belt Loop. With innovation and agreement, finish some projects we’ve had languishing for some time and use the tools we have to accomplish what we want. Start with trails. Work on our missing segments and developing our Rims and river, two special things nobody else has. Drug and transient problem is a big issue downtown. If we do not address the issue, and people don’t feel safe or comfortable, no one will want to go downtown.
What ideas do you have to support a vibrant downtown? Excited with the momentum of revitalization efforts. Appeal to both the younger and older generations and incentivize development. Infill is good and renovated buildings are great but let’s see rooftop gardens. Our downtown business owners know the challenges small businesses face. One Big Sky Center will attract the Millennials and the other things we want to attract. Safety, and the transient problem are big concerns.
Would you support a GO Bond to expand green space? Yes. Yes. Yes Finish a few projects before we start a new initiative. Not opposed but would like to use a mechanism we have in place, like the parks maintenance district. Yes.
When did you last use a trail or bikeway in Billings? A few weeks ago Just last Sunday During the end of July Three years ago I walk a lot. A few days ago.
What is your vision for Billings 20 -30 years from now, and what measures need to be taken to implement it? Angela Cimmino:

My vision is to ensure we have appropriate avenues to manage growth. The number 1 priority is public safety, maintaining police and fire protection. Economic development is also key. We need to collaborate with Big Sky EDA to attract and retain our young population. The three main issues are: managed growth, approved annexation application sometimes, and figuring how to pay.

Bill Cole:

We need a healthy synergy between the business sector thriving with government doing its part. We need public safety and potholes fixed. But those should be givens. We can do more than that–the Marathon Loop, Rims to River, a new conference center, Skyline Trail, Corette development. We should be an exciting, on-the-move city.

Danielle Egnew:

We can lead with love. We must choose to align with dignity and respect to each other. If not, everything falls away. Embracing green tech, recycling, power, and reducing utility bills are doable aspects. We’ll have gotten an NDO passed. Without it, national businesses will not break ground in a city without an NDO.

Jeff Essman:

Building a community more at peace with itself than it is now. I’m surprised with the crime and drug problem that we’re not reading or talking about. In the short-term, build specific infrastructure projects without raising taxes, making choices, or bonding. Long-term I want a good base of employment, decent jobs, a good economy, and community amenities.

Randy Hafer: I see a Billings that is happy, healthy, and equitable. We are on the edge, a critical moment, that can lead to greatness or ‘Sprawlville’ like southern California. We need to harness the good things, and understand our story. Creating connected, living neighborhoods, instead of shopping nodes, will bring sustainability and maybe a new paradigm about how we live. Danny Sandefur: I want to make Billings more family friendly. What do we do now? In winter there is nothing to do. We can’t make family friendly businesses come to town. As a realtor I give tours of the city and it’s embarassing that there isn’t anything to do for families. There isn’t much to encourage businesses to come here.
Ward 1
  Charlie Smilie Mike Yakawich
What specific features/attributes would you like to see enhanced or developed, to improve our quality of life in Billings? We should be a leader in trail development, creating a bikeable, walkable community. And not just up to standards, but development that leads the way, with greenspace that is attractive to businesses looking to relocate. Our community needs more give and take communication, listening and cooperating continuously, not just when something becomes an issue. We need to address the growing heroin epidemic, suicide, litter and polution, dust control, and dealing with our neglected ditches.
What ideas do you have to support a vibrant downtown? Utiliizing the area for farmers markets, art walks, and other communal uses will produce a healthy, desirable place. Improved safety. Cooperation between the city and businesses and supporting our downtown shops and restaurants.
Would you support a GO Bond to expand green space? Yes. Yes.
When did you last use a trail or bikeway in Billings? Memorial Day weekend One hour ago
What is your vision for Billings 20 -30 years from now, and what measures need to be taken to implement it? I see Billings as having the potential to be a model, thriving, sustainable, western, community. We can be self-sustaining and welcoming, steadily and responsibly growing into itself. We should pace our energy development and find ways to be sustainable. Investing in affordable housing and a safe community will help, but we can also find creative solutions by looking to other innovative communities. I want to see children come back to our community. We need to improve quality of life, work with School District, and focus on the youth and elderly. I want to see more community centers, nonprofits working together, and wise infill that slows sprawl and doesn’t ghettoize the north and south side.

 

Ward 2
  Roger Gravgaard Tajin Perez
What specific features/attributes would you like to see enhanced or developed, to improve our quality of life in Billings? What do we see when we come to Billings? Of our entryways, the north is good, west by the Zoo is good, but not very aesthetically pleasing from the east. We have great potential, including Coulson Park, with our trail along the river that displays our Rims and river. I would like to provide more opportunities for recreation and a healthy lifestyle. After working with EBMS on the business side, we should have a wholistic view of things and provide more access to recreation.
What ideas do you have to support a vibrant downtown? Promoting our downtown. The key to any community is in its heart downtown. We need more arts, and 24 hour options to help make Billings a signature city.
Would you support a GO Bond to expand green space? Yes Yes.
When did you last use a trail or bikeway in Billings? On Sunday Yesterday
What is your vision for Billings 20 -30 years from now, and what measures need to be taken to implement it? Right now our projected growth is low, but I think we are close to a tipping point. Growth will explode after steady progress, and completion of progress such as the Inner Belt Loop that can help to get people around our community. I think we will become a world city. We need to work diligently to make that a reality through smart economic initiatives, an NDO, future economic health through diversification. With our recreation and business, we can be a hallmark city for the west.
Ward 3
  Nadja Brown Denise Joy Michael Larson Tyler Starkweather
What specific features/attributes would you like to see enhanced or developed, to improve our quality of life in Billings? Did not attend our Lunch & Learn meetings One quality of life issue is the continued development of the west end, to make it more walkable and bikable. It’s sad that Shiloh has affordable housing but people have to be in the car for 30 min to get to work. As we spend more time in cars, we spend less time with neighbors, friends, and family. We can develop what we already have built. Chicago boasts 70-80 miles of trails. How do we integrate that type of transportation modality into what used to be the county. We are currently one of the least friendly communities for biking or walking to work. I’ve lived in Baltimore and Denver and didn’t need to own a car. It’s frustrating in Billings without a safe biking community. Talking to constituents I’m hearing that improving safety and adding green space is important as well.
What ideas do you have to support a vibrant downtown? Moving forward with One Big Sky is quite awesome. I spent 40 minutes talking to a voter about TIF usage conspiracies. Projects need to be downtown. The west end may continue to develop, and downtown will continue to progress with small startups developing. I’m a small-ball person that gets nervouse and skeptical about big projects that want the city to kick in X-amount of dollars. We always have a balancing act and need to be creative with funding. We should continue to partner with the downtown. I personally feel that Ward 3 has been left out of the economic development conversation. Grand hasn’t seen any building renovations. It’s a bit selfish, but my district does not have a TIF. I want to draw more businesses.
Would you support a GO Bond to expand green space? Yes. Yes. Yes.
When did you last use a trail or bikeway in Billings? I walk four miles a day. This morning. Mid-July.
What is your vision for Billings 20 -30 years from now, and what measures need to be taken to implement it? I want to see a city you can walk and bike in, and shop for fresh fruits and vegetables near your neighborhood. I want a denser city, with a wider range of economic opportunities. Zone changes and infill will help. People form communities where arterial roads have not bisected each other. The Inner Belt Loop may bisect the city. Do we want that? We can start with decisions now to benefit 20-30 yrs from now. I see us having successfully moved from big town to small city. This isn’t as easy as people think and requires addressing serious crime, mental health,and how we provide safety and necessary services. Transportation and the homeless issue will also be important. Some of our serious challenges require calls outside of law enforcement. I want to start a family soon and I want a city that is inclusive to everyone. We need economic opportunities so our school don’t’ have to worry about closing and actually expand. Passing the NDO will not just affect us in 10 years but will affect us into the future.
Ward 4
  George Blackard Penny Ronning
What specific features/attributes would you like to see enhanced or developed, to improve our quality of life in Billings? Public safety. Improvements to trails to deter the hazards of bicycling in traffic. Getting law enforcement to work together. We need to address the issues of human trafficking, meth and heroine use, along with mental healthcare.
What ideas do you have to support a vibrant downtown? Creating a place close to downtown where people can relax and meet would be an asset for people staying there. Making downtown beautiful (i.e. artistic horses, signage) makes you want to be there.
Would you support a GO Bond to expand green space? I definitely support looking into that. Yes.
When did you last use a trail or bikeway in Billings? Yesterday. In 2013 or 2014.
What is your vision for Billings 20 -30 years from now, and what measures need to be taken to implement it? It’s fun to talk about fun stuff, but I hope we are planning now for future growth so we expand with our growth. We also need to plan how we will pay for the additional services and future need. We need great organizations to help out with maintaining what we have. There’s lots of different ways to make it happen, and it can’t just be incumbent on City Council and taxpayers. I’m shocked that we haven’t modernized our high schools, which remain the same after 20 years. Communities smaller than ours have renovated schools and better technology than we have. Public safety is also in need of additional funding and economic development is always important.
Ward 5
  Shaun Brown Alexander Clark Dennis Ulvestad Rhonda Whiteman
What specific features/attributes would you like to see enhanced or developed, to improve our quality of life in Billings? Business culture and public safety. We need to address transit issues, refining our approaches, and planning how to move from downtown to the west end. Walking and biking opportunities. We need to continue making improvements to quality of life amenities like sidewalks and pedestrian access. Quality of life and safety. I want to educate people on working together with motorists. Did not attend any of our Lunch & Learn invitations
What ideas do you have to support a vibrant downtown? Our efforts to deal with vagrancy and drunkenness need to be stepped up, without pushing them around. We should also bring more to downtown than just business, such as living facilities. Creating a more walkable downtown. Walkable downtowns make vibrant cities. Educating people that downtown is safe.
Would you support a GO Bond to expand green space? It comes down to budget and it’s not as easy as a yes or no. If we have the resources to do so, I would approve it. Yes. Yes.
When did you last use a trail or bikeway in Billings? I don’t use them a lot, but I support them. I use Zimmerman Park, bike and walk with my kids along Shiloh. A week ago.
What is your vision for Billings 20 -30 years from now, and what measures need to be taken to implement it? We will need to see younger people moving in. High tech jobs could help to keep our children here by addressing the problem of low earnings. Support for MSUB to train that pool of employees and providing a vibrant downtown are solutions. But, how do we fund it all? We either need to look at local option or changing the charter. If we can’t draw younger people, we’ll be a retirement community. I used to work at Noise & Color, and we were dragging Billings into the 21st Century kicking and screaming. After living in other countries, I learned we need to not overdevelop but utilize our resources to create a more cohesive city. We can do better than the Denver area, that has no cohesiveness. The Heights has become an eyesore while our downtown thrives. We need to make sure everyone is connected. I see Billings as a vibrant community with people sharing trails and the roads with bicycles. We could be the gem of Montana, with all of our culture. We are known as the friendliest people and many people volunteer on projects around the city. It’ll take education. Instead of annexing so far out, we can work with infrastructure and gradually build outwards.

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