The Billings Outpost

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Cheaper to save energy

The Empire State Building, constructed in 1931, has recently undergone a comprehensive energy efficiency retrofit. It now uses 38 percent less energy than it did a few years ago. The owners invested $20 million in improvements, and the building now saves $4.4 million per year in utility costs. That’s a 4.6 year payback, equal to a return on investment of 22 percent. That far out-competes almost anything in the stock market, and it’s far less risky.

What can we learn from this?

1. Existing buildings can be retrofitted into high performance buildings.

2. There are significant opportunities for reducing energy use in this country for roughly 25 percent of the cost of building new power plants.

3. We can reduce climate emissions considerably in this country at a profit. Energy efficiency is probably the best investment that can be made.

4. It is foolish for anyone to even consider investing in coal, particularly given the healthcare and climate change costs it imposes on society.

A national energy policy that has energy efficiency as its foundation does more to create jobs, reduce dependency on foreign energy, improve our environment, and preserve our nation’s financial resources than any other approach.

If that makes sense to you, please let your government representative know.

Ed Gulick



Last Updated on Friday, 24 May 2013 00:34

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Changes needed in county

In March, Commissioner Bill Kennedy suggested that Yellowstone County consider changing the structure of its government from a three-member partisan commission to a five member non-partisan commission. Such an idea certainly has its merits and is a step in the right direction.

Unfortunately, it ran into stiff opposition from the other two commissioners. In a system where only two votes constitute a majority, Commissioner Kennedy’s one vote was insufficient.

To me, this very issue illustrates the weakness of the present system. Where all other levels of national, state and local government as well as corporations (both for profit and, especially, not-for-profit) have a system where legislative, policy-making functions are separate from executive, administrative functions, Yellowstone County clings to an archaic and unfair system.

Not only are the policy makers the same as the administrators, the fact that there are only three challenges the American ideal of fairness and equal representation in government.

Yellowstone County has more than 145,000 people and a budget of $40 million. All management decisions, whether crucial or routine, can be made by only 2 people

Regardless of the issue – whether it is how our taxes are spent, whose voices are to be considered as important or what we will do to prepare for the future - the decision making process should involve fair representation.

While Commissioner Kennedy’s lone voice ran into a brick wall of opposition, there are other ways to make changes. Most notable is the referendum process outlined in the Montana State Constitution.

Don Reed


Last Updated on Thursday, 09 May 2013 00:53

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Strange will be missed

Aron Strange (Feb. 2, 1947, to April 21, 2013), who passed away April 27, 2013, was a leading musician in the Montana Old Time Fiddlers Association, District Four, since the late ’70s.

He was part of the formation of the Yellowstone Bluegrass Organization at its beginning. Aron founded the Musicians Rendezvous in 1990 at Itch Kep Pe Park at Columbus, Montana, on the banks of the Yellowstone.

Aron was a favorite bass player at Doc Ellison’s Picknic and Jam Session the first week in August and then the next week at Itch Kep Pe Park.

Aron was a fine guitar player and singer. And his string bass playing was as good as you could find in the bluegrass pickin’ circles.

With his signature hat, “at times hung on the bass,” and a glance you knew there was some fine music going on there.

Join us for a celebration of Aron’s life Aug. 10 at Itch Kep Pe Park.

James O. Southworth


Last Updated on Thursday, 09 May 2013 00:52

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Improve safety

Editor of The Billings Outpost David Crisp wrote an important editorial in the May 2 edition. Crisp wrote about the attempted gun safety law that could not pass in the U.S. Senate, despite polls showing broad citizen support for background checks, even in Montana.

Congresspersons shook in their boots. No matter how needed, no matter the Newtown mourning parents, the Senate couldn’t pass even a background check measure!

The Second Amendment appears to have become not only sacrosanct, but also carved in stone tablets. It is like a new religion. Time and knowledge change many things (technology, medicine, transportation), but not the Second Amendment. It remains the same: in the hands of a not-well-regulated militia, whatever that is in the 21st century.

Crisp sharply pointed out that “Second Amendment worshipers imagine that the founders would have unhesitatingly ascribed constitutional protection to the array of weapons available today.” That the founding fathers, or any of us, could make such an illogical leap is wishful thinking on the part of gun nuts and the arms industry.

We must keep trying to find ways to keep our children safer. Surely measures to keep guns out of the wrong hands is one common sense way to improve safety.

Joan Hurdle


Last Updated on Thursday, 09 May 2013 00:52

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Change gridlock

Sen. Max Baucus (D.-Mont.) is a decent, honorable man. However, over time he has succumbed to using money - instead of ideas - to win elections. Money is important, but not as important as “doing the right thing.” You don’t need PAC or corporate money to tell you the right thing to do.

It’s only a matter of time until a politician who buys elections trades the tedious job of asking for money into accepting a large donation from a PAC or lobbyist. The check is always accompanied with the usual boast, “This won’t influence how I vote.”

The PAC’s and lobbyists, for the moment, suppress their laughter.

If Montana wants to change the gridlock and the corrupt PAC and lobbyist culture in Washington, we need to elect in both parties middle-of-the road representatives who don’t rely on money to win elections.

If you’re fed up with Washington and take the time to look, those kinds of politicians are there. But they don’t look or act like the politicians you’re used to.

Sam Rankin


Last Updated on Thursday, 09 May 2013 00:51

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Welcome home

To our Yellowstone County state representatives and senators - welcome home!

I’d like to thank you for serving us in Helena. I know you took valuable time away from your family, business, children’s basketball games, PTA meetings, etc. Not all of you agreed on every issue nor should you have. We are all different people and you did your job to represent us. From my perspective, you did well.

James E. Reno

Yellowstone County commissioner

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 May 2013 00:50

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