Cobb backers unveil campaign
Of The Gazette Staff

A group advocating for a new Cobb Field has unveiled the sales pitch it will use to persuade Billings voters to approve a $12.5 million bond issue set for the November ballot.

The nonprofit agency - Our New Ball Park - sent representatives to a City Council work session Monday to provide an overview of its advertising push.

The campaign, set to begin soon, will include a series of television advertisements, brochures and direct mailings, a Web site and dozens of presentations to community and business groups touting the benefits of a new park, said John Brewer, a co-chairman of the group.

The group's Web site is Cobb Field is the home of the Billings Mustangs, a rookie-league baseball team affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds, and the Scarlets and Royals American Legion teams. The Montana State University-Billings baseball team also plays at the stadium.

More than $2 million in maintenance upgrades have failed to reverse the ballpark's continued deterioration over the past two decades, said Randy Bishop, another group member. He said a new ballpark would draw tourism, improve the city's profile and host community events.

If the bond issue is approved, construction would begin immediately in the lot directly to the west of the ballpark's current location, allowing the 2007 season to proceed. The park would be ready in 2008.

The campaign has an estimated budget of $80,000 to $100,000, raised through private donations.

The council Monday also got a preview of a presentation by the Billings police and fire departments to dissuade residents from voting to repeal the 2004 public safety mill levy.

Voters first approved the permanent levy, which is designed to phase in $8 million in new taxes over five years, by a margin of 63 to 37 percent in November 2004.

But a group of opponents later argued city official omitted key language saying the levy would be permanent, and the group mounted a successful petition drive to have its call to overturn the levy added to the upcoming ballot.

In a 45-minute presentation, Billings Fire Chief Marv Jochems joined Deputy Police Chief Dillard "Joe" Bryce in highlighting the consequences of turning back the levy.

In the fire department, funding shortages would mean the loss of 37 firefighters, the closure of two fire stations and an increase in response times, Jochems said. The Police Department would lose 38 police officers, and would be forced to cut programs and services, Dillard said.

Both agencies say there is little left to trim outside of personnel expenses.

"A severe reduction in staff is the only way I can do that, folks," Jochems said.

The departments plan more than 45 presentations to business and community groups.
And here is some of the discussion about the idea

mm wrote on September 19, 2006 5:22 AM
New Park? Great! But sell the present property to the hospitals- build a BB Park in an area where there is parking- access and a lot of the funding could be handled from sale of preseent property. :-)

unbelievable wrote on September 19, 2006 5:56 AM
How ironic...out schools are in much the same condition as Cobb Field but I see no one stood up and campaigned to have them repaired. I will vote for Cobb Field just like I did the school levies but I am a little amazed at this communities priorities.

Amazed wrote on September 19, 2006 7:12 AM
NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! We are already taxed to death. This will be one of the largest tax increases in Billings in years. We already have one facility that can't pay for itself, MetraPark. We don't need two while driving us more into poverty.

Common Sense wrote on September 19, 2006 7:55 AM
Why doesn't "Our New Ball Park" disclose the private contributers they said have alredy donated $$ and build support form there? Sounds like a lot of spin and smoke and mirrors and few if any private contributers. I agree with "Unbelieveable," there are certainly higher priorities than a ball park that is used less than 3 months of the year, and then only a few nights each month. The 'stangs are an asset to Billings, but not a $12.5 million asset. Private, corporate, the Reds, etc. should be funding a new stadium if they want one, not taxpayers. PS - Get Burns to "pony" up more than $500K. Now is your chance because the polls say he won't be around much longer. Maybe he can buy a few votes with taxpayers or lobbyists money.

Don't believe a word of it!!! wrote on September 19, 2006 8:08 AM
Don't buy the scare tactics of the BFD and BPD. 8 million dollars over the next 5 years is not enough to cover the salary of the 75 proposed workforce reduction, let alone 2 fire stations. They want you to believe that people will have to be fired and stations shut down, when in reality if the levy is repealed it will cut into non-essential luxury trainings, trips, and vehicles. Ask the Gazette to publish the salaries and pensions of all the police officers and firefighters like they did the teachers- the public will be ASTONISHED at the pay scale.

Scare Tactics wrote on September 19, 2006 8:18 AM
Sounds like its starting. Wake up Billings. Bureaucrats empire building and using the same old lines; at least we should make them more creative. Billings has more police and firemen than cities of comparable size and more per capita than most major cities. We have more cops driving around the streets than you can imagine and firemen polishing equipment until the paint is coming off. Oh wait, they are going on fake fires to propose and playing games at the taxpayers expense.

Ben wrote on September 19, 2006 8:46 AM
If you are against this, you are against you're own quality of life in Billings. Even if you don't go to any games, a new Cobb field will benefit you in some way. The only negative will be the cost to you. This cost could be made up by missing one night out a year. That's it! The benefits this brings to the community of Billings is enormous. If this is voted down, you're taxes will still go to paying upkeep of an unsafe stadium and pool. The upkeep of a new stadium will be significantly lower than the current one. You're paying one way or another. Wouldn't it make sense to pay for something new, rather than old and unsafe? Plus, the Mustangs would certainly find a city willing to build a facility that is safe and up to code. This will cost Billings millions in lost revenue and it's tax base will suffer. Any short comings will be made up by you, the tax payer. Also, as Billings continues to grow, your share of the new stadium actually goes down. Imagine how many kids that have used Cobb field, either by playing or watching. -- There is a simple way to decide if you are for this new field. If you want to help make this a better place to live, vote YES.

Please... wrote on September 19, 2006 10:18 AM
If you don't want to be a part of a community and take on your portion of the responsibility and participation that being part of a community entails, then you don't have to. Montana has many fine places where you can move and home-school your children and fight crime and fire on your own. You can grade, gravel, spray and maintain your own road and name it as well! You can post no tresspassing signs and not list your phone number so no one can bother you. And if that is what you choose, good for you. It is the American Dream for many folks. Cobb Field is a wonderful part of our community as is Amend Park, MetraPark, the Alberta Bair Theater and the Yellowstone Art Museum. For those of you who consistently vote to not have those organizations benefit from your tax dollars; fine. However, others do. And, if the majority passes a levy to support them, then, as part of this community, you'll end up paying (minimally) for them and benefitting (greatly - if you choose to) from them as well. We don't get to choose where each of our tax dollars are spent, but we all enjoy driving on roads, sending our children to public schools and calling 911 for help should we need it. This is the compromise inherent in being part of a community.

we love the new park design wrote on September 19, 2006 10:24 AM
we love the new park design ! maybe lowering the field instead of raising the grandstands is too expensive, this will be an impressive entrance from the airport to the City, and will bring condos with skybox views, and prosperity to downtown. support the mustangs and beautiful billings.

This time they had done it right. wrote on September 19, 2006 10:48 AM
I hope the city council and the city of Billings jumps behind this new, trimmed down and workable plan to rebuild a better Cobb Field. People years ago took the time and invested the money for us to be able to enjoy great ball and to allow our kids a great place to play the game. Now it is our turn to "step up to the plate". Let's do it.

OBEY THE LAW wrote on September 19, 2006 11:03 AM
If the statement: “The council Monday also got a preview of a presentation by the Billings police and fire departments to dissuade residents from voting to repeal the 2004 public safety mill levy” is true then the presentation was clearly illegal. Montana Law states “With respect to ballot issues, properly incidental activities are restricted to: (i) the activities of a public officer, the public officer's staff, or legislative staff related to determining the impact of passage or failure of a ballot issue on state or local government operations.” To dissuade residents from voting to repeal the levy in clearly illegal. But on the other hand it may have been the Gazette reporter “editorializing” rather than reporting. But that is be nothing new.

Jerry Hansen wrote on September 19, 2006 11:24 AM
Citizens for Honest Ballots, the organization that collected the signatures to get the Public Safety Levy placed on the ballot, would be happy to give our presentation on the Public Safety Levy issue to any organization in Billings. Citizens for Honest Ballots is not against Public Safety, what we want is an Honest Ballot so voters know what they are voting on. Please call Jerry Hansen at 591-2330 to set up a time and place for a presentation.

To Ben wrote on September 19, 2006 12:09 PM
Don't be so infantile! The phrase "if you are not with us, you are against" BS is no longer a viable argument. Cobb field and the Mustangs should not be on the public dole. A lot of smoke and mirrors going on here.

To Ben wrote on September 19, 2006 12:46 PM
One word on your comment - BS. The 'Stangs provide nothing for Billings except people to sit on their butts watching 5 minutes of excitement packed into 3 hours; there are much higher priorities. Cobb field has no parking, the pool would go, the stadium is used only a couple of months of the year and then only a couple of nights a month. Get the committee out and get private funds like every other special interest. Hell, if the skate park kids can do it, why can't the valued "Ponies" with all their supporters?

Joe wrote on September 19, 2006 2:17 PM
While I'm not opposed to the Cobb Field initiative, my biggest question is why paying for everything is always left to the taxpayers rather than the users. Cobb Field has been in disrepair and has needed to be replaced for at least 20 years (when I started going to games). Why not add a surcharge to the price of admission and the cost of each alcoholic beverage to pay for it? We could have done the same for the Metra Park repairs. However, the easiest thing to do is wait until the last minute and ask the taxpayers to foot the bill. Next time, let's try a little forward thinking so we don't have this happen.

to "Please" wrote on September 19, 2006 4:14 PM
o dear...your pleading has me sooo choked up. I'm weeping all over the place. Why don't you move instead of forcing your values on others. I'll support public safety and schools...but not a stoopid ball park. Boo hoo!!!

Ben wrote on September 19, 2006 4:43 PM
I wonder what kind of city this would be if you people against this controlled the votes. There would be no entities unless private funds were raised, therefore, nothing to do in this city and a very low quality of life. No one would want to live here and your house would be going down in value, instead of up. You should quit being so uninformed and start caring about your community. The mustangs aren't owned by the Reds. They are owned by us, the city of Billings. We love Billings but we don't love baseball. Therefore, it's a YES vote from me and my family. If you don't love it here, why not move somewhere else where they have no sense of community and don't care what the city looks like or has to offer. Again, the doer's in Billings will get it done and you can enjoy the fruits of their labor. Even if you don't understand why it benefits you. Then again, if it doesn't pass and baseball is no longer a passtime in Billings, you can spend more of your tax dollars on troubled kids that have nothing better to do but get in trouble. I'll never understand why you people believe the assets a community offers should only be paid for by those who want to make it a better place. Thankfully, I think this will pass and you people can whine about taxes while you live in a beautiful city full of things to do, while your property goes up in value every year. By the way, the taxes in Billings are lower than in comparible cities.

4 New cobb field wrote on September 19, 2006 4:50 PM
if you don't like baseball then don't go but don't take it away from those of us who do, if we don't do something about Cobb Field we will lose the Mustangs and that is common sense why would they stay here in an unsafe place come on people------- and where will legion ball be played and what about MSU -B they use it as well. I am more than willing to pay more taxes for this and believe I am not a wealthy person just common folk who likes baseball == plus I am a single mother of 4 who would love to see it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

johnnie rotten wrote on September 19, 2006 4:52 PM
hey ben how does it feel to be clueless in 59101? who needs them or it? get your buddy from bean town and the rest of the eastern establishment to foot the bill for cobb field

To All The Supporters wrote on September 19, 2006 7:49 PM
Cobb Field represents a benefit to a miniscule number of people in Billings. It's another example of many pay for a few to play. It's $12.5 million for a facility that's only available to use part of the year. What's it going to be used for from October through April? NOTHING! But in order to coerce people into voting for it, you are going to dangle the "multi-use" phrase when it's almost a logistical impossibility.

Roy C wrote on September 19, 2006 7:59 PM
I agree with Ben. I also like how he gives the advantages to a new stadium and those against just call him names. Shows who is educated. I'll vote Yes, because like Ben, I love Billings.

MR wrote on September 20, 2006 10:17 AM
Let's see 25-30 bucks a year for 20 years,pennies a day,...Ha!...Chump change!! Invest in our community and we will be rewarded!!! To: Amazed, why don't you move to Germany and see how taxed they are and gas is 10 bucks a gallon!!! MAN I LOVE BILLINGS!!!!!