Guest Post: Listening to the People of Helena

Kali Wicks is a current member of and candidate for the Helena City Commission.

Helena’s local government needs to be both responsive and responsible, that’s why I am running to continue my work on the Helena City Commission. As a community, we can work together to continue to grow in a manner that represents our shared values – creating and sustaining city policies that honor our public lands, encourage inclusivity and diversity, and value a proactive and transparent approach to city services.

Simply put, we can be the Helena we all know and love — A town where new businesses and longstanding staples of our community both thrive. A community that supports our neighbors. The Helena where my husband and I met and are proud to raise our son.

As a community leader who has been actively involved with numerous service organizations in our city over the past 12 years, I am well aware of the impact the city commission’s decisions have on our businesses, nonprofits, and partners. As a new, working mom raising a family in Helena, I also know that it is essential for the commission to be fiscally responsible and listen to the needs of our residents and working families.

Over the past ten months, I have been committed to doing just that. I have met with citizens from all walks of life and have listened to their vision for the City of Helena. I have heard both challenges and opportunities and have worked hard to bring about positive change during my time so far on the commission.
I heard that citizens were frustrated with the lack of transparency in city government. As a result, I requested a full website redesign. Our new site will be user-friendly with the information city residents need to fully participate in local government. I have facilitated a weekly email and distribution list to provide highlights from each and every city department. In addition, I advocated for the city to hire a full-time Public Information Officer to ensure the city is giving all of Helena updates on Facebook and social media.

I heard that citizens wanted the roads plowed – both during and after snow events. As a result, I voted to allocate city resources to ensure that our city streets are maintained immediately following major snow events. There’s more work to be done, but we’re proud of our progress and I’ll continue to advocate for better plowing and road maintenance.

I heard that citizens wanted city staff to be more responsive, and in some cases, more respectful – both to citizens and each other. As a result, we as a commission have worked to stress, first and foremost, that our job is to serve the public and be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars. We have also asked staff to proactively reach out to our partners, including local businesses, clubs, and other stakeholders to make sure we are gathering feedback on our initiatives, plans, and growth policies.

I believe you shouldn’t be expected to carve time out of your schedule for a city commission meeting to share your thoughts with the city. To that end, we are holding pop-up events at popular local establishments. We have a booth at the farmer’s market, staffed by both staff and commissioners, so that we can personally speak with the public – face to face – and hear their likes and dislikes. We are holding more public meetings on topics of interest to make sure everyone has a chance to participate, and in some cases, are scheduling monthly meetings with stakeholder groups to facilitate on-going communication and collaboration.

I heard that citizens want to retain and expand our public lands, and ensure that they remain openly accessible to all user groups. As a result, I voted to add 72 acres of public lands to the City of Helena. I also worked with staff to hold facilitated meetings to work on our Open Lands plan, specifically focusing on recreation. These meetings have helped various groups to communicate openly about their vision for Helena and to work together to move forward with shared goals.

I heard that citizens want their city government to be run in a fiscally responsible manner, and want their hard-earned taxpayer dollars to be spent on values that represent our city. As a result, I worked with my fellow commissioners to pass a balanced budget that provides funding to priority issues like affordable housing, environmental stewardship, and additional resources for city services including sidewalks, snow plowing, and transportation.

And most recently, I heard that citizens want to revisit the Downtown Master Plan developed by the Business Improvement District to allow for some form of free parking, so I have asked city staff to collect data on options for 15, 30, and 60-minute free sessions.

In my short tenure on the commission, I have shown that I am a leader who listens to Helena. I work hard and get results, and I am asking for your vote this election cycle so I can continue to be a strong advocate for your voice.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

Kali Wicks

Kali Wicks is a member of the Helena City Commission.

1 Comment

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  • Kali is top notch. She’s good people. And extremely smart too. I knew her mom and dad, both outstanding folks, and I think I may have even of had her in class when I taught at Chester. Helena is so lucky to have her. And I couldn’t be more proud of her. I’m so happy that she’s being recognized for her talents. It’s in her genes!

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