Chris Mehl, headshot

Current city commissioner Chris Mehl is running against Brian LaMeres for mayor in the upcoming Nov. 7, 2017 election.

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In normal years, the city of Bozeman charter calls for the mayor to make an annual “state of the city” address, usually in January or February. Because so much is happening this year, I’d like to provide a brief update to citizens about the state of the city, our community and our shared future.

First, I want to again thank the residents of Bozeman and Gallatin County. Because of your hard work we’ve been fortunate from a health perspective compared to other states. Times are difficult, but together we’ve limited the spread of COVID-19 and saved lives.

We face some significant challenges, with substantial consequences, as we try to balance the importance of public safety with restarting schools and slowly reopening the economy. Fulfilling these goals is important and there are risks and dangers in any approach.

Going forward, I want to touch on three themes: transparency, the importance of local government cooperation, and how the city is working to help families and businesses.

Transparency

Transparency is vital to build trust and providing information to citizens in a timely way never has been more important.

The city’s IT team, neighborhood coordinator, planning department and others have created “push notification” where any citizen can sign up to receive automatic emails about road closures, development projects, or even changing pool and recreation hours (https://www.bozeman.net/services/advanced-components/enotification).

The city also sends weekly updates concerning COVID-19, city commission meetings and other topics to NextDoor and through other email listserves.

Local Government Cooperation

We’re in this together. The K-12 schools, MSU, Gallatin Health Department, and Bozeman Health — supported by Bozeman, county, other local governments, and groups like HRDC and the United Way are in regular contact, coordinating, and sharing resources. They’ve developed specific policies concerning operations: things like seating charts, mask policies and spacing.

The health department has prepared enhanced monitoring and tracking data that will be posted weekly along with the continued daily reports of cases, tests and other information. Items being considered include the reproduction number or infection rate—and treatment capacity as Bozeman Health, for example, greatly expanded its capacity in the past few months.

On isolation and quarantine capacity, MSU set aside a dorm to provide 75-190 more beds (depending on occupancy). A key issue is making this space available to all students if needed.

For testing and tracing, goals include returning results within two days, sharing data by school district or university, and more MSU contact tracing staff coordinated with the health department.

No single data point alone portrays a complex issue like COVID-19 but providing this additional information can be helpful to parents, staff, students and all of us in the coming weeks and months.

Families and Businesses

The city commission is in the process of setting priorities for the state Legislature early next year, including pressing issues such as tax relief and affordable housing.

The commission also is looking to address issues facing Bozeman families and businesses that have intensified because of COVID-19. Examples include increased support for childcare; seeking to improve broadband services for telemedicine, distance education, or those working at home; and expanding worker training programs at Gallatin College.

We didn’t ask for these times, but we can enact smart policies that enable us to respond to COVID-19. To a great extent, our future is in our hands and we can make real progress together.

I appreciate the opportunity to serve. City commissioners want to hear from residents: email commissioners at agenda@bozeman.net, join a meeting, or call.

Chris Mehl is the mayor of Bozeman.

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