This past November, the city of Great Falls voted on numerous elected positions as well as a public safety levy and public safety bond. Amid a property tax crisis, it was no surprise that the public safety levy failed. The proposed level would have required a massive property tax increase, a burden the levy’s biggest proponent, Commissioner Rick Tryon, continuously tried to downplay. Despite Tryon’s attempts to minimize the enormity of the ask, the public safety levy ultimately failed. 9,095 voters said “No” to the public safety levy. Only 5,620 voters said “yes” to the levy. Both the bond and levy failed.
Apparently Commissioner Tryon either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care how such levies work. Voters get to decide if they are willing to pay additional monies for these fundings requests. The voters resoundingly said “no.”
During the January 2, 2024 work session, Tryon suggested taking funds from the Great Falls Public Library and diverting that money to public safety. Such a suggestion entirely ignores the will of the voters. We already declined to provide even more money to public safety, and we did so just two months ago.
As with the public safety levy, the library itself relied on the voters to say “yes” or “no” to their levy. The voters spoke, and the library levy passed. Great Falls wants a fully funded library. Now Tryon is threatening to go back on a longstanding library management agreement, which provides seven mills for the library.
Tryon’s attacks on the library are undoubtedly politically motivated. In fact, Tryon was a key vote in ignoring the library’s recommendations for appointing a board member. Rather than rely on the expertise of the Board, Tryon decided to follow the party line. Despite not even attending interviews of the applicants, Tryon and Commissioner Joe McKenney both voted to appoint Noelle Johnson, an individual who was not recommended and who has significant extremist ties.
Perhaps Commissioner Tryon needs reminding that the voters have already responded to his request for public safety funding. They said “No.” Now its time to honor that response and explore real options that don’t involve stripping the library of necessary funding. Tryon may not value public libraries, but the people of Great Falls have already spoken, and we want our library funded.