The Billings Outpost

Edwards receives top award

Brad Edwards, a stalwart on the Billings music scene for decades, won the Freeman Lacy Award at the 2014 Magic City Music Awards.

The annual awards show, sponsored by The Billings Outpost, was held before a crowd of about 150 people on Sunday at the Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co. The show included performances by Jessica Lechner, Pablo and the Buddha, Satsang, Treo’s Thursday Night Jazz Jam, Satsang, Wes Urbaniak, Omnithex, Stranded by Choice and Prodiga1.

Proceeds go to a fund for musicians and musical projects in this area.

Mr. Edwards, a frequent winner at the awards show, added his name to the list of winners of the Freeman Lacy Award, which recognizes lifetime achievement in the music scene in Billings.

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 October 2014 13:19

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Lewis, Zinke square off - Lewis

‘Work horse’ seeks reforms

By BJORN BERGESON - Community News Service - UM School of Journalism

John Lewis’ decision to run for Congress was born of frustration.

It came to a head last year after a Republican-controlled House insisted there could be no budget deal unless Senate Democrats agreed to defund the 2010 federal health care law known as Obamacare. The Senate refused.

As he watched the resulting 16-day shutdown of the federal government, Lewis said, he felt compelled to do something about the partisan gridlock.

“I came to the conclusion that the U.S. House is basically keeping this country from moving forward,” said the 36-year-old Democrat, who faces Republican Ryan Zinke in the Nov. 4 election.

“We’ve got one seat in the House,” he added. “There are 435 members and we’ve got one seat and one voice there, and I’m concerned about the future of this country.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 October 2014 13:01

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Lewis, Zinke square off - Zinke

Veteran banks - on experience

By KACI FELSTET - Community News Service - UM School of Journalism

You’ve seen Ryan Zinke’s ads, the ones with the medals, the flags and the tall, square-jawed candidate in combat fatigues or the dress uniform of a Navy Seal.

“In the Seals we’re taught to lead from the front and never quit until the job is done,” he said in one ad before the primary. “Isn’t that what we need in Washington right now?”

Zinke’s message of leadership is hard to miss as the 52-year-old contrasts his experience with that of his Democratic opponent, 36-year-old John Lewis, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Max Baucus. But where exactly does Zinke hope to lead Montana in Congress?

He’s said he’s pro-life and pro-gun. He wants to abandon Obamacare and boost American production of oil, gas and coal. He’s blasted government regulation for “smothering” business. He’s said he wants to improve Montana’s infrastructure, even its cell phone service.

“Iraq has better cell phone coverage than Montana,” Zinke said.

From war to politics

He knows about Iraq. In his 23 years as a Navy Seal, Zinke fought there, overseeing special operations, winning two Bronze Stars for combat and suffering wounds. Before that he oversaw missions in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo. In the 1990s, he served with Seal Team Six, the group that killed Osama bin Laden three years after Zinke’s retirement.

A fifth-generation Montanan who starred in football at the University of Oregon, Zinke returned to his hometown of Whitefish in 2008 with his wife and three children. He started a consulting business that deals with aerospace, oil and gas, and national security.

He began a political career, serving one term in the Montana Senate, where he chaired the Education Committee and was known as a moderate who sought compromise on subjects like school funding and workers’ compensation reform.

“He consistently put his conscience and constituents above his caucus’ position,” said Sen. Llew Jones, a Conrad Republican.

In 2012, Zinke lost a race for lieutenant governor but when Congressman Steve Daines decided to run for the U.S. Senate, Zinke joined four other Republicans in the race to replace him.

Surviving the primary

It was a tough campaign. His claim to be the “right conservative for Montana” drew fire from rivals who questioned his stance on abortion, saying he was less of a pro-life stalwart than he appeared.

They attacked his record on gun control, noting that he had once supported background checks, scored a mediocre rating from the National Rifle Association’s Victory Fund in 2008, and had qualms about civilians owning .50-caliber rifles.

Critics also questioned Zinke’s role in a Super PAC he formed to support Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. He quit as the chairman of Special Operations for America PAC before announcing his candidacy for Congress, but his campaign has since collected more than $175,000 from the group.

Several groups want the Federal Election Commission to investigate whether Zinke and SOFA coordinated those donations, which would violate FEC rules.

“I don’t coordinate, and those allegations are absolutely political B.S.,” Zinke said.

He also was criticized for releasing some, but not all, of his military records, and he admitted that the Navy made him repay $211 he charged it for making a recruiting trip to Montana in the 1990s.

Zinke won the five-way primary, though two of every three Republicans voting chose another candidate.   

“A lot of Republicans supported other candidates in the primary who were perceived to be more conservative,” said professor David Parker, a political scientist at Montana State University. “So some are less than thrilled with Zinke and are still getting comfortable with him.”

On to November

Zinke has spent much of the campaign since stressing leadership and explaining his positions to independent voters, who will likely decide the race’s outcome.

He said he’s pro-life, but supports pregnancy education and prevention programs, including access to contraceptives. Despite his personal beliefs, he said, the U.S. Supreme Court has legalized abortions, so abortion shouldn’t be a congressional issue.

“The court has ruled, and I respect the court,” he said. “That’s the American process.”

He’s called for abandoning Obamacare like a “sinking ship.” He says the law discourages business from adding jobs, though he likes its coverage of pre-existing conditions and extended coverage for young people.

Zinke, who’s on the board of a company that improves the performance of oil and gas pipelines, also stresses the need to make America energy independent.

He supports completion of the Keystone XL pipeline, saying it would be the safest ever built. “It is about making this country energy independent, which is about jobs,” Zinke said.

Zinke acknowledges climate change and that humans are an influence, but said the research is inconclusive. “You don’t dismantle American power and our energy sources on a maybe,” he said. “You work to make it cleaner.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 October 2014 13:00

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Grant to help struggling schools

Story and Photo - By STEPHEN DOW - For The Outpost

Stevie Schmitz says she spent a lot of late nights finishing up a grant application for $1.5 million.In many ways, Rocky Mountain College may have seemed like an unlikely candidate to receive a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

After all, there are thousands of applicants for grants of this size and many of them are based out of large urban areas where more students could be affected by the grant money.

“Even if we served every student in Montana, we couldn’t serve more people than some of those larger cities do,” said Stevie Schmitz, the director of Rocky’s Masters of Educational Leadership program and co-writer of the grant with Dr. Jo Swain. “So we’re very pleased that the Department of Education saw the importance of the work we wanted to do here.”

The $1.5 million grant will be used by Rocky to assist low-performing schools across the state of Montana including the Hays-Lodge Pole High School on the Fort Belknap reservation; Heart Butte High School, Middle School and Elementary School; Poplar High School and Middle School; and Box Elder High School.

The grant will be split over three years with approximately $500,000 used each year. It became effective on Oct. 1.

Last Updated on Friday, 17 October 2014 12:50

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