Helena City Commission: Endorsements


I’ve really had to think about this, to the point that my endorsement probably is coming awfully late to influence anyone’s thinking, in the event that it would have done so. It’s certainly a testament to the quality of these candidates that I have really struggled with this decision, and at one point or another, became certain I would vote for all four candidates. After a great deal of discussion and thought, I plan to cast my ballot for Paul Cartwright and Jack Stults.

Paul Cartwright was the easy part of the decision for me. In a number of difficult and contentious issues, from the Walking Mall to the deer “problem,” I have found Commissioner Cartwright to be a conscientious and thoughtful member of the Commission, even when I have disagreed with his decisions. What separates Cartwright from the pack is that his answers on tough questions avoid simplistic responses that might to appeal to voting blocs; when asked about the importance of keeping Blue Cross/Blue Shield downtown, for example, he avoided the temptation to make a politically safe response, and offered a sensible one: from a cost benefit calculation, it would have to benefit the city. Commissioner Cartwright may not have the most dramatic platform, but I am confident he will continue to be a strong, sensible voice for controlled development and balanced budgets.

To some extent, my second choice is driven by the fact that I do think the existing City Commission needs to change. I think that Bob Throssell is probably the most articulate current candidate, but I’m not convinced that he will fight against the developers who seem to want to build houses on top of Mount Helena and sprawl the community out to Townsend. I’m concerned about the quality of life in Helena and the ever-increasing expansion of our community, and just haven’t seen Commissioner Throssell commit to changing that.

Matt Elsaesser is probably the most passionate candidate and likely even the most closely aligned with me politically, but I have been deeply troubled by the lack of specificity in his responses on the issues. In The Hometown Helena debate, he seemed unprepared and without the specific knowledge necessary to be a commissioner. As someone wiser than me recently said, the City Commission isn’t a job where you change the world, but one where you make sure that the streets are cleaned. As much as I like to see youthful enthusiasm in politics,  knowledge and preparation matter, too, and I’m not sure that Matt is quite there yet.

So why Jack Stults? He’s offering specific proposals: to incentivize development inside Helena, to deal with traffic issues, and to increase public involvement in government. It’s possible that his approach may be a little less formal and a bit more rough and tumble than the current commission, but new energy and new ideas are exactly what the commission needs, even if they come from a former member. In terms of preparation, experience, and yes, even attitude, Jack Stults seems like the best companion candidate to send with Paul Cartwright to the City Commission.

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Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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