Ward Two Missoula City Council member Harlan Wells reached out to KGVO News on Tuesday morning to discuss the lack of public participation in city budget hearings.

"We've been talking about the budget in committees on the last few Mondays and Wednesdays, and I kid you not, we've only had two members of the public come to talk about their concerns on the budget," Wells said. "There are several reasons for this, there is no special schedule for when council is going to discuss it, it kind of floats around. The newspaper is the only media that's been reporting it regularly, and it's murky at best. For instance, the additional police officers that the budget is supposed to include aren't just for downtown, only partially for downtown."

Wells said his fear is that the people of Missoula will never see the real budget increases.

"The part that most people don't know, and how scary it is, is that there are a lot of items that the council is planning to add to the budget," he said. "So, the mayor's 3.9 percent increase is just a starting point. Most of the discussions in council over the past two weeks have been listening to the department heads, and then council members putting on what they call a 'tickle list', so they can actually add to that budget and increase that budget still further."

Wells said it's important for KGVO listeners to know about another meeting coming up on Wednesday, August 10.

"The main reason I called this morning, is that this Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, the council will be voting on each of those 'tickled items' to see just how much bigger that tax increase is going to be," Wells continued. "I'm going to to do all I can to keep the budget increases down, but without the help of the public coming in and telling these councilors just what they think, I'm afraid this budget is going to jump to a six or seven percent increase."

Wells said when the public speaks at city council meetings, councilors know that people are paying attention to their city government.

"When nobody shows up, they walk around with this big smug look on their faces, and this sense of superiority because they know what's best and that there's a mandate from the people to just keep on taxing and keep on spending."

Wells said for those who are working during the daytime council committee meetings, the public can communicate with their councilors online.

People can send an email to the council as a whole," he said. "Send it to council@ci.missoula.mt.us and that will go to all council members, so people can just email their concerns, as well."

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