The Billings Outpost

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Watchdogs will be missed

It’s a disappointing time for Montana’s Fourth Estate because the bylines of Chuck Johnson and Mike Dennison will no longer appear in Lee newspapers. With their years of experienced and insightful coverage of Montana’s Capitol, Dennison and Johnson held elected officials and government accountable, and held watch over our democracy.

We get it that traditional newspapers struggle to keep up with internet competition. Lee Enterprises stock is down 16 percent year-to-date. Lee newspapers and other hallmarks of the Fourth Estate have had to adapt. Sadly, adaptation has meant cutting loose exceptional journalists, and closing up shop – leaving the public with more information noise and less journalism. The medium of the “new media” is not the message. The message comes from substantive journalism and skilled journalists like Johnson and Dennison.

It’s been reported that the two were given a steep pay cut option. According to proxy statements, Lee Enterprises Chief Executive Officer Mary Junck makes nearly $3 million a year in salary, bonus, stock and more. Wonder if she and other Lee brass will step forward to take pay cuts? Wonder if they’ll close their corner offices along with the Montana bureau? Wonder if they realize they’re destroying the very foundation of democracy by selling out Montana’s Fourth Estate and chipping away at its fair and free press?

Montanans could always count on Dennison and Johnson for thorough, objective and ethical coverage of Capitol politics. These veteran journalists documented history as they wrote about our lives. We will miss them, and our lives will be less without their work.

Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell

Don Dunwell


Last Updated on Thursday, 28 May 2015 22:39

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Those ‘kewl’ tattoos

Having read the article on Tattoo Parlors [Outpost, May 7] I want to put in my 2 cents:

Nothing says I’m a “Narcissist,” “look at me,” “look at me” like a pile of tattoos. I think that each tattoo reflects validation of self-worth: Look at me; look at me; I’m somebody.

Then, as that validation deteriorates, it’s time for more ink. I think the number of tattoos is equal to the level of self-inflicted negative self-worth. And the wasted money on looking kewl and exemplifying one’s worth with indelible ink speaks volumes about a tattooed individual ~ which is why they hang together so to escape that piercing reality and avoid realizing how much money they wasted on getting the general public to notice they’re profiling for self-worth, a zero sum game.

Will Crain


Last Updated on Thursday, 21 May 2015 12:21

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Legislative coup d’etat

A lawsuit is pending against the state of Montana to nullify the passage of Senate Bill 262 Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes Water Compact, as it did not garner the two-thirds majority vote required to give the state immunity from lawsuits, thereby making it unconstitutional under Montana law.

In spite of this, Gov. [Steve] Bullock has hastily signed the defective bill into law. When a governor and his attorney general switch their allegiance from their state to a new allegiance with the feds and Indian tribes, the entire state remains at risk and open to assault and takeover by aggressive federal agencies and tribal governments. The ingredients of power and money have trumped the rule of law and resulted in corruption at the highest levels of our state government. 

However, the CSKT Water Compact would not have passed without the help of strategically placed Republicans assisting the Democrats in staging a coup of the Montana Legislature in order to pass both the Water Compact and Medicaid expansion bill, top priority items this session for federal control of Montana’s sovereignty.

They did this using a similar game plan arranged beforehand. These pivotal Rs schemed with the Ds to bend and change the rules in order to pass egregious bills that would not have passed otherwise.

Here are the Rs who voted with the Ds and were traitors to their party platforms and the constituents who voted for them:

Senate: Duane Ankney (Colstrip), Taylor Brown (Huntley), Edward Buttrey (Great Falls), Pat Connell (Hamilton),  Brian Hoven (Great Falls),  Llew Jones (Conrad), Bruce Tutvedt (Kalispell), Chas Vincent (Libby).

House: Tom Richmond (Lockwood), Tom Berry (Roundup), Christy Clark (Choteau),  Rob Cook (Conrad), Geraldine Custer (Forsyth), Steve Fitzpatrick (Great Falls), Roy Hollandsworth (Brady), Daniel Salomon (Ronan), Ray Shaw (Sheridan), Jeffrey Welborn (Dillon), G. Bruce Meyers (Box Elder).

Thank you to the Lewistown Tea Party ( and NorthWest Liberty News ( for sharing the complete voting records of the Republicans who sided with the Democrats.

Mae Woo


Last Updated on Thursday, 21 May 2015 12:19

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Schools embrace recycling

As the recycling educator for Recycle Montana, I have spent the past five months speaking with students all across the state. During that time I’ve had the pleasure of reaching more than 1,500 students through 35 presentations at 14 schools.

I’d like to thank the students, teachers and administrators in Billings, Laurel, Lockwood, Columbus, Missoula, Deer Lodge, Helena, Kalispell, Ronan and Pablo for inviting Recycle Montana to help reduce waste in their schools and making these events successful.

I’d also like to thank the Montana Department of Environmental Quality for their support and a successful partnership with the Montana SMART Schools Challenge. We hope to see even more schools registered for the challenge next year.

We were very excited to spend May 11-15 speaking with students in Big Fork, Columbia Falls and Whitefish. Presentations for schools in any area can still be scheduled for the remaining weeks of the academic year – interested schools should contact me at (406) 461-9106 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

This summer we will continue to travel, targeting festivals and similar events to assist with the development of long-term recycling programs. We are also gearing up to produce a statewide recycling guide for communities across the state. You can be a part of this project by contacting Recycle Montana with information about materials collected for recycling in your town. We would like to put your town on the map – literally – at By working together we will reach our goal of making recycling accessible for all Montanans.

Rob Pudner

Recycle Montana

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 May 2015 12:18

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Why did SB 416 fail?

It’s a shame that a minority within the Montana House of Representatives killed Senate Bill 416, the infrastructure bill. I think it’s important for folks to know how and why this happened.

At the start of the 2015 legislative session, Gov. Steve Bullock proposed an ambitious $400 million infrastructure program that used both cash and bonds to build and maintain projects across the entire state. This was killed because some representatives were reluctant to borrow low-interest money while eastern Montana felt that their needs were not being prioritized.

Nobody doubts that Eastern Montana has a need to build and improve its infrastructure. Roads are crumbling due to heavy traffic truck traffic while water and sewer works must be updated in order to handle the population increase that has come as a result of the oil boom. That being the case, there are some valid concerns about sending more money to these communities.

To put things in perspective, there are more people living in Gallatin County than all of the counties east of Billings combined. Although our county is the fastest growing in the state (with a 33 percent increase over the last 15 years) we have expanded our infrastructure through a combination of bonding, impact fees, levies and property taxes. We didn’t go to the state coffers for these expenses.

Why can’t Eastern Montana do the same thing? Well, it’s more challenging because those counties still have low population density, yet there is valid concern that these communities should shoulder a larger portion of infrastructure costs than they were initially proposing. What is much more frustrating is that many legislators like me feel that energy companies are not paying a fair share for what they take and what they break.

The prime example of this is that petroleum companies currently do not pay taxes on their first 18 months of production. This is a sweetheart deal that is costing our state millions of dollars. All attempts at amending or repealing these tax breaks were fiercely resisted by Eastern Montana representatives.

The speaker of the House, a representative from eastern Montana, proposed HB 402, which would have used much of the state’s cash reserves for infrastructure needs in Eastern Montana. Many legislators felt that sending all the available cash to the east would be unfair. Additionally, there is a possibility that our boom will soon turn to bust. The question arose: Should we put state funds into projects communities may not need in the near future and that local governments won’t be able to maintain?

In response to what was becoming an impasse, during the last month of the session a group of representatives and senators from both sides of the aisle crafted a compromise bill: SB 416. This $150 million bill combined both cash and low-interest bonding to fund projects needed all over the state including many projects in Eastern Montana. In addition to capital building projects, SB 416 created a water project grant program that prioritized communities that have shown a desire to tax themselves for some of their expenses. That’s compromise on many levels, so why did this bill fail?

After  SB 416 sailed through the Senate on a 47-3 vote, the wheels came off when the bill arrived at the House of Representatives. The rhetoric focused mostly on politics, not policy and was summarized by Rep. Art Wittich, R-Belgrade, who reminded the Republican caucus that the Tea Party faction had “lost” on three main issues leading up to that point: Medicaid expansion, The Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes water compact and campaign finance reform. By killing the infrastructure bill, the ultra conservative faction would go home with a “win.”

Apparently, “winning” was enough reason to cause some folks to pull their support from the bill and SB 416 failed by one vote.

The question is now, Who has won and who has lost?

Rep. Tom Woods


Last Updated on Thursday, 14 May 2015 15:05

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Church should keep promise

In 1997 when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple in west Billings was proposed, various representations were made to the citizens of Billings. Among the promises to the community was an assurance that the land around the temple would be developed for single-family residential use to serve as a buffer for the neighborhood residents. The land in Rim Point Subdivision was zoned and platted to reflect this promise.

After building only one home in the subdivision, the church is now back requesting a zoning exemption to the residential zoning. The church is asking to build a second megachurch in the neighborhood, a meetinghouse of approximately 20,000 square feet together with a two-acre asphalt parking lot.

If this project is approved, the Rim Point Subdivision neighborhood will no longer be primarily residential but will become a campus of megachurches. The church needs to be held to their promise and the zoning exemption denied. 

Harvey Bonner


Last Updated on Thursday, 14 May 2015 15:04

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