Jun 10, 2014 3:35 AM by Dustin Klemann - Q2 News
UPDATE 5:55 a.m. - After nearly 12 hours of council decisions, agenda items, and testimony, the council voted 7 to 4 to not stop staff from working on an NDO draft.
Shaun Brown, Mike Yakawich, Denis Pitman, and Rich McFadden voted to end work on the draft.
Instead the ordinance will be discussed at next Monday's work session.
UPDATE 4:58 a.m. - Testimony is winding down. Some have shortened their time at the podium. Others have inched beyond the allowed three minutes.
When testimony wraps, council will deliberate on the action to take Tuesday morning. While it was recommended by staff, specifically city administrator Tina Volek - who took responsibility for the staff recommendation to direct city staff to stop working on an NDO draft - council can deny that recommendation and move forward with directing staff continue to craft an NDO draft.
Volek recommended the ending of draft work because of the May 27 vote to table the NDO. Staff recommendation is exactly that - just a recommendation - and does not factor into final vote.
Prior to the meeting, Mayor Hanel said he would change his vote from May 27 of tabling the issue, to direct staff to continue to work on an NDO draft.
UPDATE 3:31 a.m. - As testimony continues early into Tuesday morning, those in favor of an NDO have reached a closer balance to those speaking against the creation of one. This is likely due to the rallying that took place prior to the meeting.
Those speaking against it gathered outside the chamber, waiting for the doors to open.
According to Last Best New's founder and long-time council beat writer Ed Kemmick noted 165 people signed up to speak. At the time of this post, we've seen close to 100 speak.
You can find his updates live tweets here.
UPDATE 1:58 a.m. - The passionate testimony continues. At least 20 still waiting in line to speak.
UPDATE 1:31 a.m. - A lengthy recess followed another block of testimony on a possible non-discrimination ordinance.
While the majority prior to 11:30 p.m. had spoke against the ordinance, a swell of residents sporting orange shirts in favor of an NDO lined up to speak at the podium.
Testimony hit on points of impact to businesses if an NDO was not made. At this time, another 30 or so wait to speak to the council.
Councilmembers continue to ask questions and write notes of testimony.
UPDATE 12:11 a.m. - After another hour of testimony and another recess, questions directed at those testifying have subsided.
A young woman who testified for the NDO's draft mentioned she saw Mayor Tom Hanel at the 'Yes for Kids' campaign headquarters on election night last November.
According to her, Mayor Hanel suggested an NDO be discussed and brought to the forefront.
Still, the majority of those testifying have spoke against the creation of an NDO. But more proponents, identified by orange "We Don't Discriminate" NDO shirts, filed into the chambers, lining up to speak.
UPDATE 10:58 p.m. - A majority who have testified on the NDO have spoke against the creation of the ordinance.
Several residents have cited possible problems created by an NDO such as reverse-discrimination.
One resident asserted the town of Billings is already a very tolerant place.
Another pointed to the ordinance lacking "moral truth".
The line remains long as we head into the fifth hour of the city council meeting.
UPDATE 10:00 p.m. - Another breather for council and residents as testimony is set to resume shortly.
Residents have lined up to speak their opinion and the room's not short of passion.
With that passion has come heated questions from staff to those speaking on the issue. Three of the most vocal councilmembers - Becky Bird, Rich McFadden, and Brent Cromley - have asked pointed questions to residents speaking against the ordinance.
Many testimonies have included anecdotal evidence of why there should or should not be an NDO. It's ten, but it isn't looking to end anytime soon.
It's important to note that a non-discrimination ordinance has not been drafted. So this won't be a vote or decision on whether it should be enacted, rather, whether or not city will continue drafting on an NDO.
UPDATE 8:45 p.m. - Before testimony began, Tina Volek explained the staff recommendation to the Council vote to rescind the initiative to create an NDO and to rescind a revision of the City employment anti-discrimination administrative orders.
The recommendation came from the May 27 meeting and vote on the initiative.
Mayor Tom Hanel spoke prior to testimony, speaking the support of city council members, "These people seated beside me are some of the best you could have represent you."
He pleaded the city of Billings work together, "Many asked why we delayed to vote. That's because of me."
"Because I felt the budget was important at the time. Not that the NDO isn't, but the budget is important," he said.
Mayor Hanel called out the Billings Gazette's Sunday opinion, "We didn't duck anything, we don't duck things."
Councilmember Jani McCall read letters from Yellowstone County Commissioner Bill Kennedy and Gary Buchanan, owner of Buchanan Capital requesting council to understand and support the rights of everyone to avoid tarnishing Billings' name.
Testimony from the crowd began 8:45 p.m. and formed a line.
UPDATE at 8:21 p.m. - Recess has finished and council is back in session. Remember, it was in December 2013 that the council was approached to look into a non-discrimination ordinance.
Six months later, it is now being decided by the council. Prior to the May 27 initiative, the work session on an NDO was scheduled for a June 16 work session.
Four Montana cities now have a non-discrimination ordinance including Missoula, Helena, Butte and recently Bozeman.
UPDATE at 8:14 p.m. - Council recessed for a quick break after passing five of the six items on the agenda.
The city's budget for FY 2015 was approved and will be $277,392,633. You can view the line-by-line budget here.
Council will rejoin soon and begin with the Non-Discrimination Oridinance. A highlight for the standing-room only crowd - we've got fans to literally cool the place down.
BILLINGS - Minutes ago, City Council began what is expected to be one of its longest meetings in recent memory.
The Non-Discrimination Ordinance, after many post meeting testimony in recent business sessions, landed on the regular agenda. City administrator Tina Volek said more than 200 emails had come through regarding opinion on the proposed NDO.
In a May 27 meeting, a 6 to 5 vote passed an initiative to table the NDO until a June 9 meeting. Council will decide to direct staff to either continue to draft an NDO or stop work on one.
Close to 100 rallied on North 27th Street prior to the meeting, holding signs and speaking out.
About another 50 waited inside City Hall, outside the doors of the council's chambers.
The council will look at six regular agenda items before the discussion of the NDO, including the city's fiscal year 2015 budget.
We'll update this post throughout the evening.