Q&A With the Commissioner Hopefuls

Photo courtesy of the Campbell County Republican Facebook page.

The following three questions were asked of all 19 applicants for county commissioners at last’s meeting of the Campbell County Republican party.

If you are selected to be a county commissioner, how would you improve the relationship between the county and the city of Gillette?

Elgin Faber: Well, it would come from meaningful participation – listening. The city and the county have numerous issues that overlap. So, I believe that it’s cooperation amongst the county commissioners and the city to develop that so there has to be some solutions. I just believe you have to be together – you have to come together to create a solution. You can’t have that – just talk behind the scenes, it has to be meaningful conversation.

Troy McKeown: I think the first of that starts out with accountability. I think both the city council and the county commission need to be accountable to each other. Need to be transparent and they really need to sit down and share and come up with a common goal and start talking about it. Instead of some of the meetings I’ve seen where the city council can’t do anything. One of the county commissioners will stand up and say, “We’ll pay for that.” And I think it just keeps – it creates a divide. So, I think, through communication and joint goals.

Jeff Raney: I would have to look at it pretty much from budgetary process. I’d have to look at it in areas where they share common budgets. I think there’s a lot of work that needs to be done, like at the Cam-Plex, some of the other areas like that. I don’t know that I’d – I’d look at it more from that prospective than I would from a back-slapping, glad-handing side. I’m more interested in where the taxpayers of the county are going to sit at the end of the day, than I am with the happiness of the Gillette City Council.

It has been reported that the current county commissioners would like to have conversations about changing the tax structure on the energy industries. Do you think the tax schedule should be changed, why or why not?

Elgin Faber: I’m not in favor of changing the tax structure if it involves increasing taxes. I think the Republican Party platform is pretty clear that we’re not in favor of taxes that aren’t necessary. The burden is on necessary. A change in the structure on the energy industry, I think, would be harmful for our community.  We rely on energy for much of our streams of revenue and the employment that the energy industry creates here. So, I’m not in favor of that and I believe there could be better, other affects to changing the tax structure, not just on energy. But, it could trickle down to citizens as well.

Troy McKeown: As business man, I can tell you most businesses fail from cash-flow management. They don’t fail from bad ideas. They don’t fail from marketing, it’s generally cash-flow management. So, you’re going to take these guys back 18 months, and you’re going to double their tax bill in an industry that’s already teetering, that we’re trying to rejuvenate. So, I guess to answer your questions, shortly, I don’t think we need to change the tax schedule. I think we need to leave it where it is and we need to figure out how to live within those means.

Jeff Raney: I don’t think that idea is going to work. You’ve got Cloud Peak – well, they’re going to be bankrupt here soon – the process is already started. You’re looking at a mineral revenue drop off coming again. You’re not looking at a mineral revenue up-tick. The price of oil has already dropped and with Cloud Peak declaring bankruptcy, you’re going to see that revenue drop too. We need to start thinking, tighten our belts and think to the future – be proactive instead of reactive. There’s a lot coming down the pike and we’re not out of this economic down-turn. We may have another two years of very, very soft economy. It’s time to start looking at this from a perspective of long-term and not what do I need right now. I’m not for any new taxes at all.

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In 2018, a set of 10 rules was set and implemented by the county commissioners concerning public comment. Do you think the rules are necessary? Why or why not?

Elgin Faber: I’m not familiar with the 10 rules that were adopted by the commission. But, if, in any way, they hinder free speech or public participation, I’m not in favor of it. Again, the Republican Party platform says that a government that is most effective, most responsive, is a government that’s closest to the people. And people need to be heard, people need to participate. That’s why I’m here. I want to be a participant in the system, the process. So adopting rules that effect comments, I’m not in favor of it.

Troy McKeown: I think the rules are ridiculous. First of all, I think it’s shut down everybody’s freedom of speech. You have to come in, you have to have an approved topic, you’re basically just taking the citizen out of the decision making process. And kind of like what some other parts of our government like to do. Get the people out of it, then you do what you want, then you tell them what you did, then you can say, this is why it’s good. And then you advertise it. Anybody watch any stuff going down in Broward, Florida?

Jeff Raney: Absolutely not, I’d do away with them. The county – the state has existed a long time before Chairman Christensen, Mister Bell. It’s just a matter of common sense. If you treat people decently, they will treat you decently. Stomping on the voters’ boots just because you can get away with it, that’s the kind of high-handed stuff I expect out of a Nazi, not a county commissioner.

 

The following three questions were selected from questions submitted by the precinct people in attendance.

 

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Only Teton and Campbell counties don’t tax their full 12 mills. Under what circumstances would you vote in favor of increasing the mill levy?

Elgin Faber: I’m not in favor of increasing the mill levy. Again, the Republican platform is clear that no more taxes should be assessed than necessary. So, I believe the burden is still on the necessity. If there is no evidence that there is a necessity for increased taxes, then we don’t need to increase taxes. Increased taxes will stifle growth and innovation and I just believe we have plenty of money, we just need to use it wisely.

Troy McKeown: I’m not sure there is one. It’s pretty good where it’s at now. The issue is, especially where we are currently, between the city, the county, and the school district it’s a large surplus so we’re already collecting enough taxes. So, there’s really no need to do it. And I think we got to start working through some of the surplus to entertain the question. But, I think as the economy starts to go down, that’s the wrong time to start taxing people. That’s when you should let up and let the natural market take over.

Jeff Raney: None at all. In fact, I would look at ways at reducing the mill levy. I think we’re over taxes already. Campbell County, City of Gillette, and the school district all have capital reserves of over a million dollars. The only way they can have that kind of money is if we’re over taxed. Why not give some of it back, especially in these economic times. I live out in Sleepy Hollow and I got about 25 homeowners out there who a little two percent or five percent hit like that would be a major difference. A two percent raise, and they might not be there. So, I’m all for looking at ways to cut taxes, whether it’s property taxes or mill levies.

Do you favor a vote, by the commission, to make the one percent tax to be permanent, and why?

Elgin Faber: No, I don’t favor that proposal either – to make it permanent. I still believe that’s something the citizens and the community and the county should have a part in. I guess I’ll just leave it at that. That’s simple. No, I don’t favor that.

Troy McKeown: I do not support a permanent one percent tax. Right now, we just have an optional one percent tax and we’re sending out surveys to figure out how we’re going to spend the money we collect. We’re going to tax you and then ask, “How should we spend it?” So, the first question in my mind is, why are we collecting it if we don’t know what to spend it on? We have enough bike paths. We have enough – it’s a beautiful community. But, at some time our local and county governments need to go on a little diet and find out what the people want and let them keep their money so they can be successful. Because ultimately, it’s really about the velocity of money and how fast it turns through all your local businesses. It’s going to provide all the tax income you need if you can keep the velocity up. If you increase the taxes, you slow the velocity.

Jeff Raney: Absolutely not. We’re back to the tax thing again. The voters should always have a say in whether they’re going to be taxed or not. It’s your money. You should always have a say in whether they get to take it or not.

 Do you support any zoning changes that would limit the freedom of property owners in unincorporated areas of the county? Why or why not?

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Elgin Faber: I believe private property rights are fundamental for our form of life. Private property rights are what drives us here. We are so blessed to be able to own things and to build and design and have a life that we choose. And zoning and encroachment by the government entities on private property is wrong. I just feel that I wouldn’t favor increased zoning. There is expansion that has to take place. The city has to grow, but there’s proper ways for that to happen. To just say that I’m in favor of zoning throughout the county, to increase control of government land or government control, no, I’m not in favor of that.

Troy McKeown: Wow. No. It’s a slippery slope we’re headed down. Now the city has community service people driving around leaving things on their door, “you need to mow your yard,” or “you have sunflowers and they’re too tall.” The problem is it’s all meant with good intent. However, once it executed, it’s just another way for the government to get into your home and tell you how you have to live. And we get further and further away from the constitution. You already have to pay property taxes on property you already own. Why in the world do we want to turn everything else over to the government to tell you how to treat your property? You bought it and what you might think is a nuisance, I might think is beautiful. Or vice versa.

Jeff Raney: I don’t support any zoning changes that would affect the property that already established and has been in existence for quite a while. I don’t see any reason. I’m not a fan of eminent domain. I’m not a fan of expansion just for taxes sake. And besides that property rights are sacra saint, what our nation was founded on the ability to live your life, build a place for your family to set. There’s no reason to ever impede upon that.