Denise Joy for Billings

Billings City Council, Ward 3

Committed to Midtown

My Candidate Profile to the City Administrator

August 4, 2021

These were questions posed by City Administrator Kulkaski to the Council in January 2020.  This represents my thoughts and ideas.    

1. Specifically, what does “improve the safety of Billings” mean to you? 

Improving public safety should be a more comfortable feeling in doing daily activities for our community members. Firstly, reducing violent crime and removing narcotics from our community is imperative. I certainly would like to hear fewer comments that express apprehension in going downtown. Having experienced a highly visible PD presence inAtlanta downtown, it made a difference to me. Proactive and deeper roots in our community would make a difference. I commented about “little blue racers” running across town, it just doesn’t engender presence. Comments about safety in the Library parking lot are an indication of concerns. I received a call about the area around Ponderosa Acres. There are concerns about younger people looking in garages and people in the alley way. I also suggested a Neighborhood Watch, but not sure if there was enough support.

I absolutely believe everyone is partly responsible for our community’s safety. The area within the boundary of Terry Park Task Force residents have a lot of concerns. The Southwest Corridor Task Force is not functioning, so there isn’t feedback to judge concerns. Perceptions are reality sometimes, numbers aren’t the only measure. The presentations showing the way the resources and areas to be used seem “right on” to me.  

2. To date, discussions of additional resources have included Law Enforcement, Code  Enforcement, Prosecution, and Municipal Court (the City’s criminal justice system) the Fire  Department and 911 dispatch division. Should all of these departments/divisions remain in  the dialogue? If no, what departments/divisions would you separate? 

Yes, all of those areas should continue to be discussed. 

3. Should the facility needs for the criminal justice system be considered in conjunction with, or  separate from, the remaining City Hall space needs? Currently City Hall includes: Police,  Municipal Courts, City Attorney’s office (civil and criminal), Administration, Finance, Human  Resources, and Information Technology, Parking and custodial. We are also leasing market  rate space for all of the Planning and Community Development and Engineering  departments. 

Yes, but only facilities that are public safety related, not Administration and others.

4. Should the methodology of the Billings Urban Fire Safety Area charges be reconsidered? 

If  the rationale is for a 10% responsibility for BUFSA, that amount should be communicated to the county. The value of property seems very difficult to determine, since some of the Open Ag isn’t going to help in the calculations. If there are very geographically specific areas of expensive housing, maybe a discussion should be held with property owners to get a feel for their perceptions of need. They may be vulnerable to fires that start with grasslands. The area of Emerald Hills is a good example of where not to build houses. Maybe specific impact fees could be used for areas where previous fires have proved a need.

5. Should the City create impact fees to offset capital costs for the criminal justice system, fire  serves and 911 dispatch services? 

Maybe, if the rationale and data can be developed to meet MCA requirements for the impact fee. Secondly, there must be a clear understanding by the public and Council that funding is connected to just those expenses. Council and the public should not cap or limit those fees once they are established. 

6. Should the City create a public safety district? If so, what methods of allocating the  assessment would you like staff to explore (square foot, equal per parcel, taxable value,  etc.)? 

Maybe, if the Centrally Assessed properties funding loss can be offset with the Public Safety district. The political push back from Not for Profits would also have to be taken in the calculations. Billings Clinic and School District #2 fund the resource offices too. 

7. Should the City increase the cost of fines for misdemeanor violations?

Maybe, if they are very low or the economic impact is shared equitably by everyone. If The changes would fall disproportionately on ethnic, racial or economically disadvantaged groups, I wouldn’t support it. I would reference Ferguson, MO. Like the words of the “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” Rationalizing the increase of funding from disadvantaged or vulnerable people, does not seem humanitarian or consistent with our values. 

8. Should addiction prevention and/or services be funded by this public safety levy proposal? 

Yes, how much and where to spend it,seems like a further discussion. 

9. Should mental health investments be funded through this public safety levy proposal? 

Yes, how much and where to spend it,seems like a further discussion.

 10. Should homelessness services be funded through this public safety levy proposal? 

Yes, how much and where to spend it,seems like a further discussion. 

11. Should the Parks, Cemetery, Public Lands and Recreation Department be removed from the  General Fund? 

Yes,I supported the proposal previously. 

12. Is there any new information we can provide you to make this public policy decision? 

The prevention side of this equation is still open to me. I indicated in my answers, if I need additional information. Thank you so much the hard work staff has done to find solutions. I don’t want to “throw out” suggestions that time and effort to research when so much has been done. Council Members have commented that they don’t want to raise taxes, but if impact fees or districts aren’t indicated by raising needed revenue, as I said, “bite the bullet, and do the hard thing.”