City government 101 program in the works

In an effort to better educate the public on city operations, city staff are developing a Great Falls Government 101 program.

Deputy City Manager Chuck Anderson told the City Commission during Tuesday’s work session that the goal is to start the first class on July 26.

The hope is to have 25 students for the first cohort that will meet on the last Thursday of each month from 6-8:30 p.m. from July through December, Anderson said.

Each session would include presentations from city department staff with time for questions and answer periods, Anderson said.

Criteria for participants is city residency, 18 or older and able to commit to the program, Anderson said, though they’d consider high school students with a strong interest in city government.

City departments would be expected to absorb staff costs for the program, Anderson said, and the city would provide 3-inch binders with class packets to the participants.

The idea is modeled in part on the Citizens Academy at the Great Falls Police Department.

Commissioner Tracy Houck said she didn’t like the idea of a binder for participants and would prefer the information be provided digitally.

Commissioner Mary Moe said it was important for commissioners to participate in the program, but also that participants not be talked at for the entire program. She said it was important to find ways to encourage engagement with participants.

Staff is planning to advertise the program through social media, the city website and neighborhood councils, Anderson said.