The Billings Outpost

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EPA blocked

Carbon County elected a solid core of county commissioners in John Prinkki, Doug Tucker and John Grewell. Carbon County is one of the 56 counties that make up the Montana Association of Counties. MACo’s job is to advocate for local communities. 

Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has attempted to take away private property rights via Waters of the United States (WOTUS) new rules. MACo, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox and 13 western states challenged the EPA. Carbon County Commissioner John Prinkki was called upon to develop an affidavit as an expert in private property rights and that of a county road supervisor.

On Friday, Sept. 4, U.S. District Court Judge Erickson of North Dakota ruled in our favor, blocking WOTUS implementation in those 13 states.  The local government won this round. 

Thank you, Commissioner John Prinkki and the citizens of Carbon County for the strong group of commissioners you’ve elected.

Jim Reno

Yellowstone County commissioner


Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 September 2015 19:57

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Primary should be open

The Montana Republican Party claims a First Amendment right to associate in a closed primary election where only registered Republican voters are allowed to cast a ballot. The Republicans can holler all they want, but if they don’t put it in writing – they have no such right. The U.S. Supreme Court said that political parties have a constitutionally protected right of political association under the First Amendment when the party states its associative rights in its rules [450 U.S. 107, 122(1981)].

So what do the Republican Party Rules say? Right off the bat, the second sentence says that party rules “govern when not in conflict with state law.” State law requires an open primary conducted by the secretary of state and paid for by Montana taxpayers. The primary election does not belong to the political parties. Montana voters created the Open Primary in 1912 and next year, the primary will be open to all registered voters.

Why am I so sure? Because the 2015 Legislature didn’t pass a bill to close the primary. They didn’t even do something easy like letting political parties choose whether or not to participate in the Open Primary. The Republican-controlled legislature did nothing to implement a closed primary.  In fact, it passed a law making it very clear that Republican County Central Committee members can be elected in an open primary.

So, what happens if Republicans actually win their lawsuit? Will legislators squander tax dollars on a special session? And what if a special session fails to pass a closed primary law?

The fall-back position is a last-minute scramble to call county and statewide Republican Conventions. (The Republican Party platform actually endorses this method to select candidates and choose their favorite for president.)  It’ll be like déjà vu, all over again.

It was the blatant corruption of corporate-controlled party conventions that spurred 79 percent of Montana voters to pass the Open Primary Initiative over 100 years ago.

Carole Mackin


Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 September 2015 19:56

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Thanks to Daines

Thank you to Sen. Steve Daines for being a strong champion for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Sen. Daines has pressed Appropriations Committees in both the House, when he was Montana’s representative, and also in the Senate, for the most robust funding solution possible.  Recently he offered an amendment, adopted in the Senate Appropriations Committee, to ensure LWCF did not lose out — and restored funding to enacted levels.

Additionally, Sen. Daines recently cosponsored S. 338, a bill sponsored by Senator Burr, R.-N.C., and co-sponsored by Jon Tester and others on both sides of the aisle, to make permanent the authorization of the LWCF and to ensure portions of the Fund are reserved for public access to existing public lands — a provision especially important to Montana sportsmen. This isn’t about politics; it’s about what’s best for Montana.

Simply put, LWCF impacts every Montanan, it’s good for business, and it improves our quality of life here – whether you’re an outfitter, hunter, hiker, a kid or cowboy.  Montana benefits from LWCF more than any other state, and uses that funding to secure access or preserve critical winter range. Reauthorizing and funding LWCF is a no-brainer - it’s fitting that the Montana delegation leads on this issue and we’re very grateful that they do. With less than 80 days left until this program expires, we urge the Montana delegation to work together, build consensus across the aisle and in both Chambers of Congress to ensure this program is reauthorized.

Mac Minard

Outfitters and Guides Association

Montana City


Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 September 2015 19:55

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What’s right with Billings

When I speak to groups I often ask, “What do you like about Billings?”

This takes some people off-guard as they came to voice complaints. But in a few seconds I begin to hear some of what they like. Then I begin to relate many of the things that I have learned by being on the City Council and visiting with each department.

The finance department has refinanced our bonds and saved us $6.8 million. We have installed new lighting and received $538,000 in rebates.

Parks and Rec took all of the seats from the old baseball stadium and built 100 gray picnic tables that we see in our various parks.

I have visited our treatment court for drug addicts and DUIs. Those who are there because of felonies have graduated with less than 7 percent recidivism.

Twenty-five people work around the clock to provide us the best drinking water in the state.

Each department has a board of citizen volunteers. Working together, they bring plans and ideas to the council.

The new Billings Public Library is another jewel to be proud of with an increasing volume of users.

Have you visited the new water conservation park south of King Avenue and west of Shiloh Road? One of the few in the Northwest.

The Downtown Business Alliance is working closely with the city to place three men on the downtown streets to help get homeless men and women into treatment instead of jail.

Our police department has over 100 volunteers who have saved the department over $330,000 in one year.

Each department must maintain a reserve for replacement purchases. When the fire department needed a million dollar truck, since it had the cash, $100,000 was saved!

Most of the work of the city is done by our nine departments of 850 employees, their volunteer boards and the hundreds of volunteers who give of their time and energy to get things done. We are not perfect, but there are so many people and things for which to be thankful.

Kenneth Crouch

City Council, Ward 5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 September 2015 22:44

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Schmitz for City Council

I am writing in support of Nathan Schmitz, who is running for city councilman of Ward 4, the seat being vacated by Jani McCall. I have gotten to know him personally and professionally and am impressed by his dedication, intelligence and vision for the city he was born in.

Nathan has served as principal of Elder Grove Public School in Billings the past four years. With four generations of family living here, he wants to ensure that Billings continues to prosper and grow while retaining its Montana identity. He has solid business acumen and, as owner of Property Management Co. here, he appreciates and understands the value of the private business sector.

His dedication to Billings runs deep, as evidenced by his support for the local Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity, an outreach program for the homeless — and many other worthwhile causes that benefit the Billings community.

Nathan Schmitz is an excellent candidate for City Council, Ward 4.

Al Swanson

City Council, Ward 4

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 September 2015 22:43

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Entryways need work

I appreciated the Aug. 6 article on growth issues in Billings. Candi Millar and her staff are doing an exemplary job, but this article omits an important point that Candi has brought up every time I’ve heard her presentation.

The citizen survey included many comments on the need to improve the appearance of our various entryways. One of the first entryways to be addressed is on the east edge of the city, going past MetraPark. It’s a good start but unfortunately it looks like a garish carwash at that entrance will welcome visitors to our town. (The Shiloh entrance is a step in the right direction, however.)

City planners often use the term “highway appeal” and our city definitely needs improvement in that area as an essential part of our growth policy.

Paul Whiting


Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 September 2015 22:42

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