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Dear Ed: I know it’s illegal to use a cellphone while driving your car in Billings, but is it legal to do so if you’re sitting there waiting for the railroad tracks to clear downtown?

Last week, waiting for a train to pass, I whipped out my iPhone and watched three YouTube videos, made two moves in Words with Friends and talked to my sister in Philly for 10 minutes. I’d hate to give that up. — Avid Phone Person

Dear APP: According to city code, the law does not apply to someone “maintaining a motor vehicle in a stationary position,” so you’re good to go. Just keep your foot on the brake and remember to keep a charger in your vehicle. And I would recommend Angry Birds.

Dear Ed: Centuries ago, people figured out how to build dams to save up water for use in dry times. Why can’t these knotheads in city government figure out a way to store some of the tremendous heat we’ve been getting this summer? It could be released next winter to melt ice ruts in the streets, or just to give people a break. — No Einstein Myself

Dear NEM: This is a good idea, one the City Council has already anticipated. The Mayor’s Committee on the Beneficial Storage of Hot Air has been meeting since last April to work out just the kind of solution you suggest. The Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark is being considered as a possible storage space for the heat, if people attending events there can remember to close doors behind themselves.

Dear Ed: Wouldn’t the state Capitol in Helena be a good place to store all that hot air? — Weather Watcher

Dear WW: That was way too slow a softball. I wouldn’t feel good swinging at it.

Dear Ed: Do you enjoy covering the City Council? — Heights Old Timer

Dear HOT: I don’t mind, but I am a little disappointed with our local elected officials. I heard on National Public Radio that the former mayor of San Fernando, Calif., admitted during a city council meeting that he was sleeping with a councilwoman. The mayor’s estranged wife was in the crowd and stood up to object, so the mayor asked police officers to remove her.

On the heels of that, another councilwoman there was accused of having an affair with a police sergeant. That’s what the City Hall reporter gets in San Fernando. I get backyard chickens and priority-based budgeting.

Dear Ed: I heard the library is going to install a “construction cam” so people can log on and watch the new Parmly Billings Library being built in real time. Does that sound like a good idea to you? — Wondering Soul

Dear WS: Sure, why not? If people will watch a City Council meeting on TV, I suppose they’ll watch anything. Also, it could be a great time killer while you’re waiting for the railroad tracks to clear.

Dear Ed: Why is it, at a time when party affiliation seems more important than ever, our City Council elections are still nonpartisan? Are these people afraid to align themselves with a political party? — Befuddled Voter, Democrat

Dear BVD: Fear has nothing to do with it. Our local officials just happen to be more advanced than politicians on other levels. They would rather the voters attach their own more telling labels to them: pro-chicken and anti-chicken, pro-priority-based budgeting and anti-priority-based budgeting.

Dear Ed: How can a person be against priority-based budgeting? — South Side Sue

Dear SSS: Easy. You know how politicians are always saying the government should have to budget, just like real families? Well, all the families I know don’t budget at all. They just spend all their money and put everything else on a credit card. Why can’t this work for city government?

Dear Ed: I’m so mad. I went to a council meeting a few weeks ago, hoping I could lighten the somber mood there by telling my favorite joke. Well, it’s the kind of joke that takes some set-up, and just as I was about to deliver the punch line the mayor told me my three minutes were up and I had to sit down. Can you help me? — Budding comic

Dear BC: We’re almost out of time here, too, but we do have room for the punch line, if you’re interested.

Dear Ed: Thanks. Here it is: “He’s always saying that!”



I cover the city of Billings.