Jani McCall didn’t sleep much Tuesday.
She is the Billings City Council member who first suggested, in December, that the city consider a nondiscrimination ordinance. Tuesday morning, the NDO went down on a 6-5 vote, with Mayor Tom Hanel casting the deciding vote shortly after 3 a.m.
“I slept for about three hours, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since,” McCall said Tuesday afternoon.
She kept asking herself if there was any way she or other supporters could have changed the outcome, but the vote came suddenly, after relatively little discussion. Almost before she knew it, seven months of intense politicking and wrenching public debate was over and the NDO was dead.
Councilman Brent Cromley was also caught by surprise. It was he who made the motion to approve the NDO after a public hearing that lasted nearly five hours.
The NDO would have prohibited discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations against people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identification or expression. It had been dissected, debated, altered and tweaked at a series of council meetings and work sessions, but it still seemed that the split was 5-5, with the mayor cast as the tie-breaker.
Voting with the mayor to kill the NDO were Mike Yakawich, Denis Pitman, Angela Cimmino, Rich McFadden and Shaun Brown. Besides Cromley and McCall, those in favor were Becky Bird, Al Swanson and Ken Crouch.
Cromley said he decided to move for an NDO that was everything supporters had wanted from the beginning. His motion stripped the ordinance of a provision that would have required transgender people to use bathrooms or locker rooms “designated for their anatomical sex, regardless of their gender identity.”
He also moved that any damages awarded to a successful claimant on the basis of the NDO be determined by the Municipal Court judge, rather than having fines capped by the City Council.
In addition, he wanted the ordinance to take effect 30 days after approval on second reading — the normal procedure for ordinances — rather than waiting for the state attorney general to decide whether the city had the authority to pass such an ordinance.
The council itself, against the advice of city staff and NDO supporters, had requested an AG opinion in June. They were told Monday night that the AG’s office would decide within 30 days whether to consider the request, and then take four to five months to issue an opinion, if there was to be one.
Cromley said later Tuesday that he assumed someone on the council would move to amend his motion, to add some of those provisions back in to make it palatable to opponents.
But when McFadden, one of the council members who seemed mostly strongly opposed to the NDO, moved to amend it to cap damage awards and to put the locker room exclusion back in, nobody seconded the motion.
At that point, Pitman said perhaps it was best to vote on Cromley’s motion, since it contained what NDO supporters always wanted. After all those months of debate, he said, why talk about it for a few more hours?
“I think Denis called it right,” Cromley said. “He said there’s no reason with trying to fool around and amend it.”
But that lost chance is what deprived McCall of sleep.
“I have played through it in my head so many times. … I have some regrets, a lot of regrets, how that all played out last night,” she said.
McCall said she envisioned someone making an original motion to approve an NDO with all the compromises the council had worked through earlier. Then, there could have been motions to make amendments stripping some of those provisions out.
As it was, she said, when Cromley moved for an NDO with all the compromises gone, they were almost forced to have a vote on it as is. And supporters expected amendatory motions to come from their ranks. McFadden caught them off guard by offering the amendments himself.
Another factor, McCall said, was that Hanel might have joined the opponents no matter what compromises were made in the NDO.
She said she could see that Hanel had a legal pad with handwritten notes on it long before the vote, meaning he was already prepared to explain his “no” vote.
“I really think he intended to vote against it,” she said. “That (the legal pad) gave me the sense he knew what he wanted to do with this.”
Cromley said he and McCall did talk about how he would make the motion to approve the NDO, but they made no other strategic decisions. Cromley said he expected Hanel to bring up his concerns with the NDO, allowing supporters to offer amendments.
But Hanel said nothing during the council debate. He waited until the vote was 5-5 and then, before casting his vote, picked up his legal pad and spoke for nearly eight minutes. He did not argue for or against the NDO or try to justify his vote. He spoke of his love for Billings and his sense of fairness, then ended simply by saying, “I do not think Billings is ready at this time” for an NDO.
Hanel did not return phone calls seeking his comments Tuesday.
Pitman said he was opposed to the NDO because he believed it would create an illusion of safety without actually making anyone safer. And though he was concerned about predators claiming to be transgender going into women’s facilities, he said he was mostly concerned about having a hodgepodge of NDOs.
Four other cities in Montana have already passed NDOs, as have hundreds of cities and a handful of states around the country. Having all these separate laws floating around seemed to make a mockery of equality for all, he said.
If there are to be such protections, he said, they should come from Congress or state legislatures. For now, the City Council has some major issues on its plate, including budget shortfalls, public safety needs and homelessness.
“We’ve been so tied up with the NDO that everything else seems to be on the back burner,” he said. “We’ve got to get back to running the city.”
Cromley said he would consider reintroducing an NDO, but probably not soon.
“I don’t want to appear stubborn, but on the other hand, I do feel strongly about it,” he said.
McCall had similar thoughts.
“We need to get together, those of us who are like-minded on this, and talk about what went wrong and what went right and kind of sketch out what our approach is going to be,” she said. But for now, she added, “I think it’s pretty much a done deal.”
Liz Welch, of Billings, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender coordinator for the Montana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said she was saddened and disappointed by the vote, but energized by the effort to pass the NDO.
On Monday, sitting with other NDO supporters inside the First Congregational United Church of Christ near City Hall, she said, “I kind of came to this epiphany.”
She was struck by the number of teenagers there, kids who might not ordinarily have gotten involved in local politics.
“They were engaged and they were excited and they were nervous,” she said. “This really meant something to them,” and she expects them to stay active in politics and in the fight for LGBT rights, which she called “the human rights issue of our time.”
Cromley said that regardless of what happens in Billings, progress is being made on LGBT rights. He said it’s only a matter of time before Montana’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage will be found unconstitutional by a higher court, as has happened all over the country.
That day will come, he said, and if Billings still hasn’t passed an NDO, the city could find itself in an odd position.
“I see us having same-sex marriages in the state,” he said, “but they may not be able to take their honeymoons here.”
Last Updated on Thursday, 14 August 2014 17:48
Nearly 40 songs keep crowd jolly
By RACHEL CRISP PHILIPS - Special to the Outpost
There was no maybe to the amazement at the Aug. 5 Paul McCartney performance at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula. For more than three hours, both audience and entertainer experienced palpable joy and fervent excitement.
Beckoned to the venue upon encouragement by fellow rock ’n’ roller Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, the 72-year-old former Beatle drew a crowd that has been deemed the largest concert on record in Montana. With more than 25,000 folks attending, and plenty more watching the show from atop Mount McCartney (the city-decreed nom de jour for Mount Jumbo), the scene was certainly set for something epic.
In the early August heat it took only two songs into the show for Paul to boldly declare, “I have a feeling we’re going to have a little bit of fun here tonight. The jacket’s coming off early!”
After a smattering of Beatles and Wings hits, Sir McCartney improvised into a brief rendition of “Foxy Lady,” followed by an anecdote about one time when Jimi Hendrix performed his own interpretation of “Sergeant Pepper,” just two days after its release.
According to Paul, as Hendrix played in his characteristic style, the guitar grew increasingly out of tune, prompting him to peer into the audience and ask, “Is Eric out there, man?”
Of course, he was referring to Eric Clapton, who was attending the show with McCartney (of course). And as Clapton squirmed to avoid Hendrix’s gaze, Jimi insisted, “Will you come and tune this for me, man?”
This type of friendly, famously natural banter was a chief component of what drew the crowd to McCartney and vice versa. Even among a sea of people, he made every effort to entertain and connect with the audience, emanating a sense of closeness throughout the crowd.
Such as when he brought out a ukulele, a gift from the late George Harrison, and began to tell the tale of how he first proudly learned how to play Harrison’s composition “Something” on that very instrument before launching into a softly sweet demonstration that swelled into a memorial crescendo.
Or when Paul announced a sing-along to “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” confidently encouraging the crowd, “You will sing most gloriously!” And in what other possible way could one sing, when backed by Sir Paul McCartney?
After that he belted out “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” recounting that time that the Beatles were allowed to perform in the Red Square as a historic first. The U.S.S.R. defense officials complimented them and raved about their albums, even commending them for teaching useful English phrases such as, “Hello, goodbye.”
As the sun set into the valley and the show seemed to head to a close, McCartney peered into the crowd and announced, “During the night we see all the signs people hold up, and occasionally we’ll just pull someone up.”
He described a sign asking, “Please sign my daughter,” and declared it the winner, noting, “That’s an intriguing proposition.” The fortunate mother and daughter pair took to the stage to be signed on their shoulders by Sir Paul, and left with indelible memories made even more permanent at a tattoo shop the next morning.
But the evening wasn’t quite over yet as McCartney continued with not one, but two encores, for a show that totaled nearly 40 songs. Despite the show’s length and effort, McCartney was as fresh as ever, energetically shimmying on the stage during breaks and rockin’ with an energy befitting one of much fewer decades.
Indeed, as the night wore on, Paul seemed no worse for wear and at times appeared younger than his years. Truly a performer like no other, he gave an engaging experience like no other.
And in the end, while McCartney has left us for now, hope remains that his unforgettable performance and record-breaking draw will encourage similar acts to make the stop in our great state. As Paul concluded, “Missoula, Montana, you have been fantastic tonight! Tell you what, we’ll see you next time!”
Older fans sing along with Wings
By PAUL PATEK - The Billings Outpost
“Maybe I’m Amazed” that a 72-year-old music legend still has what it takes to excite 25,000 fans at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula during his Aug. 5 concert performance.
On a warm, clear evening at a football stadium that is usually energized each fall, Paul McCartney of Beatles fame could immediately feel the electrifying atmosphere of the crowd who applauded him as he entered the stage from the right. He acknowledged the crowd by touching a finger on his tongue and onto the microphone signaling without words this would be a “rockin” night by the initial reception. You could also tell by his smile and body language that he definitely appreciated the Montana welcome and we were in for a treat.
McCartney commenced his performance logically with a Beatle fan favorite, “Eight Days a Week.” This first song set off another loud affirmation by the crowd of young and old (mostly old like me). At the end of his first two songs, Paul immediately took off his lavender jacket in response to the humid evening and jokingly commented, “This will be the only wardrobe malfunction of the night.” He drew a complimentary chuckle from the crowd.
McCartney blended new songs with old, keeping all of us guessing what song would be next. I took personal appreciation for the first song he sang from the Wings era, “Listen What the Man Said,” since I was a youngster in that generation. I sang along with another person my age near me, and we appreciated that era together.
Paul briefly shifted gears again to Beatlemania with “Paperback Writer” and the more mellow and last hit song of the Beatles, “The Long and Winding Road.” He returned again to the Wings era with “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “Another Day,” sandwiching another popular Beatle song in between the two with “We Can Work It Out.”
McCartney changed gears again and sang the mellow hits “And I Love Her” and “Blackbird” before shifting back to a few of my personal Beatle favorites, “Lady Madonna” and “Eleanor Rigby.”
Paul unselfishly took time out at different times during the performance to recognize the two late Beatles, John Lennon and George Harrison. Paul sang “Here Today” as a tribute to John, depicting what he wished he had said to him before his death.
He also recognized George by looking up to heaven and playing a ukulele synonymous with the “Quiet Beatle” and singing the smash “Something,” which was written and sung by Harrison. The crowd was in unison with McCartney’s tribute to both men as their pictures were shown on the large screens bookending the stage. This was a moving, heartfelt expression by McCartney we were able to share with him, as well as his loss of his wife, Linda, in 1998 to cancer.
The final stage of the concert was memorable beyond belief. McCartney went back into “sing along” mode with the hits “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “Band on the Run” and “Back in the USSR.” He then returned us to a relaxed state with “Let It Be” before getting us back into jamming mode with the awesome pyrotechnic show in unison with the hit “Live and Let Die” of James Bond movie fame.
How do you follow that up? With another “sing along” of “Hey Jude.”
McCartney and his band left the stage after 2 1/2 hours of taking us back into time. You could have predicted that, like most concerts, there would be an encore. However, I did not expect two of them.
“Yesterday” and “Day Tripper” highlighted the six songs he sang before he exited the stage. Paul also hinted he may return to Washington-Grizzly Stadium. That sure would be an encore for those of us who had the privilege to witness this historic event.
Well, that is one more thing I can cross off the bucket list. Where did I place that piece of paper?
Last Updated on Friday, 15 August 2014 17:33
Sean Lynch is planning to have a new entertainment venue in the downtown Billings Bus Depot open by late November.
“I’ve got bands booked in there for December, so I hope it’s done by then,” he said.
Lynch, whose 11:11 Presents has been producing live concerts in Billings for more than a decade, will be leasing the depot building, at 2502 First Ave. N., from Mike Mathew, who bought the building in June.
Lynch said the new venue will be called the Pub Station and it will be “entertainment-driven.”
“We are a venue with a bar,” he said, “not a bar with live music.” You can check out the Pub Station Facebook page for updates.
The new business will have a beer and wine license and Lynch plans to have at least 32 beers on tap, including two “handles” from every Billings brewery that is interested.
Last Updated on Thursday, 07 August 2014 12:17
If you’re wondering why Magic City Blues has lasted so long and has been so successful, it’s not because Tim Goodridge is a master planner or strategic thinker.
He just knows a few important things, one of which is that people get bored quickly. That’s why Goodridge, who founded the downtown Billings music festival in 2002, has continued adjusting, tweaking and changing the event year after year.
“I’m not a sit-down-and-plan-things-out kind of guy,” he said.
This year’s Magic City Blues will open Thursday night with a free performance by the band Cornmeal at St. John’s Lutheran Home and end with Huey Lewis and the News playing Sunday night in South Park.
The big change this year involves moving the Saturday show from Montana Avenue to South Park, where there’s room for a bigger stage and a bigger audience.
Last Updated on Friday, 08 August 2014 12:26