The Billings Outpost

O’Connor runs for judge

Bill O’Connor, a Billings attorney for 33 years, has filed as a candidate for district judge. Here is his campaign statement:

“Billings needs judges who can bring breadth and depth of experience and knowledge to the bench,” O’Connor said. “While some vying for a judgeship in Yellowstone County know a great deal about one area of law, I bring three and a half decades of experience representing individuals and businesses across countless topics. I have practiced extensively before Montana’s state and federal trial courts, and I have successfully argued numerous matters of constitutional law before our Supreme Court.”

O’Connor seeks a seat being vacated by current Judge G. Todd Baugh this November.

O’Connor was also among several attorneys in contention for the appointment to the seat vacated by Susan Watters last year. Watters was appointed to the federal bench here in Billings.

“Being judge is about ensuring a just and equitable outcome for those in your court. That requires knowledge of your community, the law, and the people who live here. I raised three children in Billings. It is my home. It would be an honor to continue serving this community as judge.”

His website is


Last Updated on Thursday, 01 May 2014 12:05

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Johnson runs for PSC

Former Secretary of State Brad Johnson is a candidate for the Public Service Commission, District 5. Here is his edited campaign announcement:

“I look forward to serving the people of Montana in this important role and I am extremely pleased to have the enthusiastic support of Sen. Conrad Burns.” said Johnson. Burns announced his endorsement of Johnson saying: “I have known Brad for a long time and he’s always been an honest, positive professional, a principled conservative and a good leader. He will do a good job for his district and for our state. I urge voters in District 5 to give Brad their vote.”

In addition, Johnson recognized Commission Chairman Bill Gallagher’s decision to remain neutral in the primary race as another example of his leadership and professionalism. 

“Montanans have been well served by current Commissioner Bill Gallagher and I deeply regret that he has chosen not to run again. Under Bill’s leadership, the atmosphere at the commission was transformed from one of turmoil and divisiveness to one of civility and professionalism.

“Chairman Gallagher has personally assured me that he will not endorse a candidate in the primary but that he will enthusiastically support the candidate chosen by Montana Republicans.  I appreciate Bill’s commitment to unity and leadership in this matter.” Johnson concluded.  

“The PSC is a little-appreciated yet vitally important part of Montana’s economic structure. Its mandate is to ensure Montanans and Montana businesses have access to energy, telecommunication, water and sewer and transportation services which are affordable, reliable and sustainable. ...

“Having served Montana as secretary of state and State Land Board Member, combined with my success as small business owner, make me uniquely qualified to serve in this important office. The PSC is a quasi-judicial body which must adjudicate requests and complaints that come before it in a professional, equitable and unbiased manner and I have demonstrated that I possess the leadership skills and judicial temperament required to be an effective commissioner,” he added.

“The privilege of serving as your secretary of state was one of greatest of my life and my heartfelt commitment to continue serving the people of Montana remains undiminished. That is why I have decided to seek election to the Montana Public Service Commission in 2014.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 01 May 2014 12:04

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Nixon seeks office in Yellowstone County

Here is the edited statement of Richard W. Nixon, who is running for office in Yellowstone County.

I am Richard W. Nixon, and I am running for the office of Yellowstone County treasurer/assessor/superintendent of schools as a Republican.

I was born and raised in Billings and have been a resident of Yellowstone County my entire life. I graduated in 1977 from Billings Senior High, and entered active duty in the United States Air Force in 1978. While serving in the military I took the opportunity to attend classes through Georgia Military College, majoring in business and accounting. After completing my tour of duty, I returned to Billings and after obtaining employment, I started a small part time business utilizing my education and military training. Eventually I started Nixco, operating my service related business as a State Licensed Levy Officer for over 20 years, retiring in 2012.

In September of 2010, I started attending Montana State University Billings full time to complete my B.S. in Business Administration and Accounting, graduating Cum Laude in 2013. I also took the opportunity to work on the campus while completing my degree. I am currently attending the University of Montana and will complete my Masters of Business Administration within the year.

During my service as a levy officer, I took pride in being a positive representative of the judicial court system while following the laws defined by the state judicial procedure. Some of my primary accomplishments during my service were to establish protocol with banking institutions and local businesses, which allowed me to carry out the judicial processes in a manner that avoided any embarrassing situations to the businesses, or individuals involved. This experience is extremely beneficial to fulfilling the office of Yellowstone County Treasurer, as I have extensive working knowledge of the judicial collections process which is critical in protecting the rights of all entities involved. My business experience also includes management, bookkeeping, accounting, and assessment of property and equipment values needed to perform a levy.

I served one year as President of the College of Business Dean’s Student Advisory Board, two years as Vice-president of College Republicans, and was a member of Accounting Club and American Indian Business Leaders. My voluntary services to the university also include being a Marine Corps Educators Representative to assist graduates choosing to become officers in the Marine Corps upon graduation.

Currently I work two part time jobs at MSU Billings, first as an instructor for Veterans Upward Bound of Montana teaching computer applications, which fulfills a requirement of the GI Bill, for veterans wanting to earn a college education. I am also a tutor and teachers assistant for business law, accounting, economics and business strategies courses. Additionally I am a part-time shift manager at a local restaurant, which is recognized nationally as having one of the top management training programs in the industry.

While working for the business I have gaining more experience in management, and have implemented improvements which benefit the company and the customers. Working these positions has increased my management and human resources skills while allowing me to pursue my degrees and meet my objective to be the best candidate for Yellowstone County treasurer.

Last Updated on Thursday, 01 May 2014 11:18

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Driscoll runs for House

John Driscoll is a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House seat now held by Steve Daines. Here is his campaign statement.

I love Montana and care for the future of our nation’s representative government. So, while not accepting campaign contributions, I will again explore the possibility of serving in the United States House of Representatives. If you nominate me, I’ll accept general election campaign contributions to communicate positively about the challenges of our time.

It would be good if candidates for nomination by any political party were invited to gather at round tables, moderated by news media. We could gain experience and insight from each other, and fellow Montanans, as they assess our demeanors.  Listening will move us past polarization paralyzing Congress.

Montanans still pledge their allegiance to our flag and to our Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Taken as individuals, I believe most Montana Republicans, including Jeanette Rankin, along with leaders like Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower, would fit nicely into the Montana Democratic Party.

If elected I intend to ask my fellow Democrats to change our party’s name to the Democratic Republican Party, the party of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe, dedicated to preserving our priceless experiment in representative government against assault in their day by the minions of aristocratic wealth.

Regardless of your political party, I’ll be grateful for your vote in the primary and general elections. My nomination and election depend entirely upon you.

Last Updated on Saturday, 03 May 2014 11:19

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Gara Mountain Man Run planned for Saturday


A little in this country goes a long way in Ethiopia.

A fundraising dinner in Billings in 2011, followed by some T-shirt sales, brought in enough money to do most of the construction on a dormitory that will house up to 50 street kids in Gara Muleta, Ethiopia.

With the proceeds of a fundraising 5K run planned for April 12, Eayoall Atsbeha hopes to have enough to complete the dormitory roof and interior finish work.

Atsbeha left Gara Muleta, his hometown in eastern Ethiopia, nine years ago. He first lived with a good friend in Bakersfield, Calif., then got a track scholarship to Rocky Mountain College in 2009. He has since graduated from the Billings college with a degree in physical education and is working for Yellowstone County’s Youth Services Center.

The seeds of Atsbeha’s project were planted in 2010, when he traveled to Ethiopia as a translator with Jesse Murphy, the founder of MyFight. That nonprofit organization, based in Billings, is dedicated to alleviating poverty in Africa, mainly through microfinancing projects.

Atsheba, who had been away from his village for years, was struck by the extreme poverty he saw, especially by the many children and young adults living on the streets. His mother was doing what she could, providing food and shelter in exchange for light chores around the house, but Atsheba wanted to do something more.

“I had the idea, but I didn’t know what to do with it,” he said.

After his return to Billings, he was out running with Joel Harris, who was also on the track team at Rocky and had roomed with Atsbeha for a time. Harris had also been involved in MyFight as part of a grant-writing fellowship.

Harris said Atsbeha — known to his American friends as Yole — never directly asked him to get involved in a new project. He simply told compelling stories about his trip back home, what he saw and what thoughts were triggered by the trip.

“Yole is just a really inspiring, vibrant person,” Harris said.

On that run, Atsbeha was wondering what he could do to raise money to help those street kids back in Gara Muleta. That’s when Harris suggested an Ethiopian dinner, cooked by Atsbeha. The dinner, held in late March 2011, proved a huge success, attracting about 90 people.

To raise additional funds, Atsbeha took a page from the MyFight playbook and started selling T-shirts. The funds from those two ventures were used to build the dormitory, which will be run by the government in cooperation with churches in Gara Muleta, once it is finished.

That’s where Atsbeha’s latest project comes in. He and Harris are organizing the 5K fun run-walk on Saturday, April 12, in hopes of raising enough money to complete the dormitory.

“The whole project is to finish up what we started,” Atsheba said.

The event was named the Gara Mountain Man Run. Gara Muleta means “the mountain you can see” in Amharic, Atsheba’s native tongue. Besides Harris, Atsbeha has received help from Elizabeth McNamer, a Rocky professor, as well as friends and fellow students Caryl Cammack, Kristi Oakley, Noah Kibrono, Megan Durfee and Caleb Strumberg.

The run will begin near Daylis Stadium and end in Pioneer Park. It will start at 9 a.m., with registration starting at 7:30.

Atsbeha, who has his green card and hopes to obtain full U.S. citizenship by the end of summer, said he would like to expand his charitable work to other parts of Ethiopia as well, moving from Gara Muleta to other cities.

To sign up for the Gara Mountain Man Run, go to and search for “Gara.” The race will begin at the southeast corner of Pioneer Park, at Avenue C and Third Street West.

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 April 2014 11:17

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Pollock artist in residence

John Pollock is no stranger to the regional arts community. The Yellowstone Art Museum has announced him as the seventh person in a succession of artists who have participated in the museum’s Artist-in-Residence (AiR) program located at the YAM’s Gary and Melissa Oakland Artist-in-Residence Studio in the Visible Vault, located at 505 N. 26th St. east of the main museum building.

Mr. Pollock is an emeritus professor of art at Montana State University Billings, where he recently retired from full-time teaching after serving the university and innumerable students from 1974 to 2010. Through the years, he has become a sought-out printmaker and watercolorist. In 1979, he was awarded the Visual Art Fellowship in Printmaking from the Western States Art Foundation.

Additionally, he has become an award-winning kite maker. In 2004, 2007, and 2009, he received the Grand National Champion Kitemakers Award at the American Kitefliers Association Convention. In 2009, he was awarded the Lee Toy Award for the Kite Artist of the year. He is currently being invited to festivals around the world to fly his hand-painted kites.

During his residency, which runs through June 18, 2014, Pollock will take advantage of the spacious studio, which features an abundance of natural daylight, to create a variety of large kites.

The YAM’s Artist-in-Residence program provides studio space to visual artists who represent a wide range of disciplines. While in residence, artists spend a portion of their time interacting with museum visitors who desire deeper knowledge about contemporary art practice. Area art enthusiasts can stay informed at the museum’s website ( about John Pollock’s open studio hours at the Visible Vault and an upcoming kite workshop to be led by the artist. Visits to the Visible Vault are free to museum members and are included in the price of admission for non-member guests.

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 April 2014 11:00

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Book sale keeps growing

Story and Photo - By ED KEMMICK -

Ron May and Ed Riesinger are standing in a storeroom at Central Christian Church, surrounded by thousands of books.

Some of the books are in plastic milk crates or open cardboard boxes. Many more are packed in boxes that tower high overhead. “It’s like putting water on rice,” May said. “It just keeps getting bigger. It’s getting beyond big and is approaching huge.”

He’s referring to the church’s twice-annual book sale, of which he is the coordinator. The sale began six years ago with about 1,000 books on a few tables. Next week it will feature nearly 40,000 books displayed on 65 to 70 tables.

May, Riesinger and two other volunteers — Janine Foster and Jeff Anderson — work on the book sale almost daily, collecting, cleaning and sorting books. Nearly everybody in the church pitches in during the actual sale and during the days leading up to it. This year, the sale will start with a preview next Tuesday evening and then continue during the day through Saturday.

May said the spring and fall book sales provide “a large source of income for our church budget,” funding its community-service, children’s and ladies outreach programs.

Some of the uptick in donations probably has to do with the phasing out of the Friends of the Library sale at the old Parmly Billings Library, May said. There will be sales at the new Billings Public Library, but without the permanent and virtually unlimited storage space.

Mostly, May said, the donations have grown through word of mouth and an expanding email notification list, which now contains more than 1,000 names. Volunteers pick up about half the donated books from people who call; the rest are dropped off at the church.

“Sunday we come to church and there’s three boxes on the church doorstep,” May said. “It’s like zucchini in the summer.”

Book sale details
The spring book sale at Central Christian Church, 1221 16th St. W., will begin with a preview from 5-8 p.m. on Tuesday, March 25, then continue from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday-Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Paperbacks are 50 cents and hardbacks $1. There are also videos, music, games and jigsaw puzzles.
If you have books to donate, call the church at 252-1828 or Ron May at 656-5689. Books can be dropped off at the church Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 March 2014 18:26

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Bohlinger struggles against incumbent’s edge

By JIM LARSON - The Billings Outpost

BUTTE – John Bohlinger is the kind of candidate that we root for in the movies.

He is the type of guy that cares about what happens beyond the boundaries of his prominent nose, not the kind of man that we usually send to Washington.

When he spoke to Butte’s Burros last Wednesday, he was looking for some encouragement to stay in the race for the U.S Senate, he said, and he seemed to get it from the crowd that attended, but the donkey turnout was light.

The Burros is Butte-Silver Bow’s club for Democrats.

Mr. Bohlinger said that even though he’s of retirement age, he’s running for office because he has a “passion for public policy as it relates to the common good.” And that common good, Bohlinger maintains, would be best served if the Democrats maintain their majority in the Senate.

That majority, he believes, is a bulwark against harmful legislation generated by the conservative U.S. House of Representatives.

His prospect of manning that bulwark has been considerably dimmed, he feels, by Gov. Steve Bullock’s choice of Lt. Gov. John Walsh to serve the remainder of the Senate term vacated by Max Baucus. Baucus left the Senate to become the American ambassador to China.

Mr. Bohlinger said that he had hoped that the governor would have picked someone like Pat Williams or Carol Williams.

Pat Williams served for many years in the U.S. House, and his wife, Carol, served in the Montana Senate. She is the first woman to ever serve as majority leader in the Montana Legislature, Wikipedia said.

With the appointment of Walsh, the Senate race is no longer a fair fight, Bohlinger said. “It’s no longer a level playing field. It’s no longer an open seat,” he asserted.

Incumbency gives Walsh a fundraising advantage, Mr. Bohlinger said. He compared that advantage to having a 40-yard head start in the 100-yard dash.  “Money matters” in politics, he noted.

The candidate believes, in fact, that money matters too much in American politics.

“Because of the significant role money plays in politics, it is no longer a government by the people, for the people,” Bohlinger said.

The candidate said that, if elected, he planned to stay in the Senate for only one term. He said that without the pressure of raising money for a reelection bid, he could focus completely on his work in the Senate.

That work would include campaign finance reform, the expansion of Social Security, and the raising of the minimum wage, he said. Mr. Bohlinger, a practicing Catholic, also took a pro choice and pro birth control stance.

“We don’t need the church to tell us how many children to have. It’s a personal matter. It’s the same with a woman’s right to choose,” the candidate said.

Mr. Bohlinger added that he was against sequestration, an across-the-board method of budget-cutting that Republican candidate Steve Daines voted for. Mr. Daines is Montana’s lone congressman, and he is the front-running Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.

Mr. Bohlinger said that the 5 percent cut that sequestration entailed wasn’t the way to go. He said that expenses should be challenged item by item.

Continuing to take aim at Mr. Daines, Mr. Bohlinger argued that the congressman was among those responsible for the 17-day government shutdown that cost the American economy $24 billion.

He also attacked Daines for not voting for the farm bill, a bill that contains the food stamp program. “We have a moral imperative to feed the hungry,” Bohlinger said.

Mr Daines, Mr. Bohlinger said, comes across as an “Eagle Scout,” but noted that the congressman is a member of the Tea Party and holds to “the conservative agenda.”

“This is not right for Montana,” Mr. Bohlinger said.

Mr. Bohlinger hails from Billings. There he was a small businessman for 33 years. He spent 12 years in the Montana Legislature where he represented his district as a Republican.

When he was asked about switching parties, he said that he had become a Republican because he felt that they were better money managers, and because it would have been impossible to be elected in his district as a Democrat.

He noted that as the Republican Party moved to the right, progressive Republicans either became independents or Democrats. “I’m a Democrat,” he said.

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 March 2014 21:55

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Safari Club International focuses on wildlife, youth

By BRAD MOLNAR - For The Outpost

Hollywood usually depicts hunters as unwashed rednecks sipping moonshine and poaching by the headlights of a ’59 Studebaker-Packard or as villainous hunters mindlessly slaughtering African big game until Tarzan shows up.

In fact, hunters pay self-imposed fees. In the United States, at the urging of sportsmen’s groups, the 11 percent tax collected through the sale of ammunition, which became known as Robertson-Pitman Funds, has distributed more than $6.5 billion to state wildlife agencies to promote conservation efforts. The return on investment of these funds is calculated at a low of 823 percent to a high of 1,588 percent as the non-hunting public enjoys the benefits of wildlife conservation.

Add in the financial and volunteer efforts of groups like Pheasants Forever, Trout Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation, Turkey Federation, etc., and it becomes apparent that the economic support of the hunting public preserves wildlife and wild places for all. These groups point out at every opportunity that, “No hunters equals no wildlife.”

They are also quick to point out that the Robertson/Pitman funds are mandated by law to be used for conservation efforts and if diverted to general fund expenditures would vanish like mist. Under this strategy, funding for wildlife is not subject to the whims of political power plays but rather is a steady stream of needed cash to help wildlife.

The Billings Chapter of the Safari Club International focuses mainly on local wildlife issues and local youth but also regional wildlife conservation issues. Along with Safari Care, they help fund the internationally acclaimed Wheelchair Foundation, making wheelchairs available to people primarily in developing countries.

Board member Tex Janecek points out that the Safari Clubs co-sponsors Hunters Against Hunger by providing for the processing of donated game meat to people who need food. A local buffalo ranch wants to cull six cow buffalo. The members of SCI will pick up the tab for the processing and the packaged meat will go to the Montana Rescue Mission.

SCI also has supported the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks by providing a mechanical deer and recording devices to help catch and prosecute poachers. Locally, Safari Club dollars provided wheelchairs in Billings, Red Lodge, Hardin, Crow Agency and Lame Deer.

The local Safari Club International also provides funds for a trout pond at ZooMontana so visitors can learn about the needs of the aquatic environment. Though not a wildlife issue, SCI also helped fund Big Sky Honor Flights taking World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to see their memorial.

Fundraising efforts are combined with those of other organizations to support fair chase hunting and the right to hunt. A partial list would include: The Montana Heritage Defense Fund, Save Alaskan Hunting Heritage Fund, the acquisition of critical wildlife habitat through the Brown Bear Trust (this program benefits all local wildlife not just the target species), and the Kid Fitters Program, which pairs members of the Big Brothers and Sisters program with Montana hunting outfitters, so kids can learn what it is to hunt and fill the home freezer.

During a recent conversation, Bob Gibson of the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and Janecek discussed that the break-barrel pellet rifles used in the Hunter Safety Program at the Lake Elmo location, which were hard for smaller students to pump up. The muzzles often wound up being pointed in less than safe directions as the students struggled. The Safari Club provided new pellet rifles that load from a compressed air cylinder, so safe gun loading and handling techniques could be taught and practiced regardless of the size of the student. Gibson said, “The members of SCI are very focused on getting kids engaged in hunting and conservation.”

The Billings Chapter of the Safari Club International sponsors scholarships for up to four qualifying students and four qualifying local teachers to attend the American Wilderness Leadership School in Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming. The teachers are taught about preparing outdoor lesson plans, map and compass use, firearm safety, fly tying, survival training and archery. They also interact with experts in wildlife management and conservation. This AWLS program is available for graduate credit through Colorado State University.

The scholarship program for students is similar but at different dates and without the lesson plans but includes wilderness camping and white water rafting.

For more information on the March 15 annual fundraiser for the Billings Chapter of Safari Club International, membership information, suggestions on how they can help, or to apply for a scholarship to the American Wilderness Leadership School, Google the Billings Chapter Safari Club International.

Last Updated on Thursday, 06 March 2014 11:50

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Dale Mortensen running in House District 44

By BRAD MOLNAR - For The Outpost

Dale Mortensen (yes his cousin is the iconic bronc rider) has announced his candidacy as a Republican for the newly created HD 44 in the Billings Heights. Sandy Wong is running as a Democrat for that office.

The announcement was made at a meeting of the Midland Empire Pachyderm Club (an educational group of the Republican Party) of which he is the current president.

During his announcement Mortensen quipped that he was delivered by the wife of Charley Pride when Charley lived in East Helena. He said the first president he could and did vote for was Ronald Reagan. His political experience includes a one-year stint as a field representative for then-Congressman Denny Rehberg.

Candidate Mortensen started his career in law enforcement with the Bozeman Police Department, then transferred to the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Department, then to the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Department. For the last eight years he has been a private investigator.

Talking of government growth, Mortensen referred to his father’s career working for a solution to the brucellosis situation in Montana. He said reasonable solutions have been proposed but always stymied by “bunny huggers.” And though a satisfactory solution remains unfound after decades of research, the bureaucracy dedicated to the problem as grown dramatically. 

Mortensen favors the development of natural resources rather than tax increases and feels that using our state lands to drive the exploration and development of oil and gas production could provide jobs, tax revenue and infrastructure development.

He is a longtime member and supporter of the National Rifle Association, and when asked about his dedication to the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Mortensen replied, “shall not be infringed” is not difficult to understand.

To other questions Mortensen replied:

Do you support the Common Core Educational Curriculum: “I do not believe in Common Core or any intervention of the federal government into our local education decisions. I have far more faith in the school board elected by the people of Billings than bureaucrats thousands of miles away coming up with one-size-fits-all solutions.”

Should the Legislature meet every other year just to repeal statutes and rules? “Sure. Why not?”

Will you compromise on legislation you favor or are you willing to let it die and lose it all? “I will not compromise towards liberalism. If I am in the majority, I should not need to cross the aisle to find support.”

What function of government, no matter how large of small, would you be in favor of totally eliminating? Mortensen answered, “The problem stems from the fact that the Legislature only looks at requests for new funding. We need to take a look at existing programs and have them prove their worth. Any duplication should be eliminated and not just rolled into other programs. That is the only way to actually reduce the size of government. It is called ‘zero-based budgeting’ and I would favor that as our new policy.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 06 March 2014 11:33

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