Date of Award

Spring 1972

Document Type

Thesis

Department

History

First Advisor

Rev. William Greytak

Second Advisor

William Lang

Third Advisor

Dennis Wiedmann

Abstract

I have explored in this thesis the historical development of local government in Montana since territorial days. Included in this research is the strategy and thinking of the delegates of the 1889 Constitutional Convention. Their decisions culminated in the adoption of the local government article that is found in Montana’s present constitution. The historical relationship between the local levels of government and the state levels is explained with evidence presented indicating that constitutional problems have arisen between these two governmental units in Montana. I found it important to view the development of local government in Montana through the disciplines of political science and history. Although this thesis deals primarily with the historical aspects of local government, the views of political science become intertwined with the historical reality. A mingling of the two fields has given me a concise and meaningful insight into the dilemma of local government and has helped me to project into the problems of municipalities of the future. In viewing local government through these academic disciplines I became aware of many problems that are evident in the present local government sections of the Montana Constitution. Election of county officials, pay raises for these individuals, county and city indebtedness, and voting requirements of citizens are all included in the present constitutional provisions for local government. Yet, the basic structure and power of the local government unit is not mentioned. This lack of description has resulted in local units presenting solutions to their problems to the legislature for approval before action can be taken. The legislature, in turn, has been confronted with a mass of bills of a local nature, many of which they do not understand because of inadequate research material and little time. To clarify the problems of local government in Montana, I have researched the history of government in the city of Helena. The stunted development of local government within this city can be plainly seen when viewing the local process in its entirety. Problems have arisen because of delays in waiting for the legislature to decide rather than allowing Helena to proceed with solutions to her own problems. Although certain limitations must be placed in local government units, it is evident from the study of the city of Helena that these units must be granted some authority in handling their own situations.

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