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Thursday, January 2, 2020

To bundle or not to bundle 6th penny projects? Officials and the public weigh in on the subject

BY RICHARD JOHNSON

It’s a question that comes up every 6th penny cycle: What do you think the strengths and weaknesses are for bundling items on the 6th penny ballot? So what did elected officials and the public have to say?
“The strengths: You’re more likely to get a want passed if you stick it with a need. Weakness: You might not get it passed and the needs will suffer. I'm against bundling if they bundle needs with wants.
Tie projects together
The Grand Conservatory at the Botanic Gardens is a 6th penny project.
that will benefit old and young, ie. parks and rec items with gardens and cop cars. This is also one of the reasons a rec center never gets approved: It’s pushed as a kids-only benefit rather than a community addition for all ages.”
“Pros: Public safety projects don’t get tanked by being with lumped with amenities. Cons: Cheyenne residents screw the small towns.”
“I’m not a big fan at all. In fact, I hate it. It smacks of trying to bribe people to vote for stuff they don’t really want by packaging unpopular/unneeded stuff with things that everyone knows we need. Count me as a ‘no’ vote for those bundles, on principal if nothing else.”
“I  don't like the bundling. I wanted to vote for some important things but didn't because they were bundled with wants.”
“I think the bundling is the worst part! There is something good in every bundle, but something I don't want to vote for in every bundle.”
“I oppose. Doesn't give voters the choice to support one special project and oppose another.  Bundlers know the psychology: People will bite their tongues and vote ‘yes’ to get their one special project funded.”
“There is no strength. It’s a waste of time. It needs to be all or nothing, and the city and county need to work this out. It should not be done in an attempt to manipulate a specific outcome. But similar items should be bundled because of the nature of the items are related; then they should be considered together if it will leave part of a larger project incomplete. We also don't need to have a thousand items to vote on.”
“To bundle items, depending on what they are, can be good because you get more than one important item voted through at once or vetoed at once. In the case of the rec center that everyone says they want, it’s usually a bad thing because whatever they attach to it isn’t wanted.”
“If we don't bundle, the small cities would get nothing.”
“Well, it's a classic double-edged sword. Some critical items might not get any support, so you can bundle them with items you think have a better chance at passing. But I also think the ‘optics’ of bundling turns off voters generally, and a good project can go down in tandem with a particularly unpopular measure.”
“First call it what it is: a 1 percent tax.”
“Depending on how the items are bundled can seal their fate, even before the election. For instance, the last 6th penny election had monies to repair and or replace fire stations bundled with the rec center. Everyone knows what happened with that vote. The best way to present the items is to either have each item stand by itself or group them together by department or service. For instance, public services are grouped together, recreation items would be grouped together, road projects and so on.”
“Small towns won’t get shit! Who cares if Albin gets a fire truck or Pine Bluffs gets police cars?”
“Bundles are always a weakness. Like the rec center bundled with much-needed items. Of course it's going to get shot down. It's bullshit because most people don't want it. “
“Let us vote items individually.”
“Strengths, the ballot isn't bogged down with a million items. Weaknesses, if I agree with one thing, but not the other, I have no way of indicating that in my vote.”
“I wish they would bundle things differently than they have been in the past. I would like it to be more of a hybrid. Similar/popular items together. Highly contested items individually.”
“Strength - it's a way to get weak projects approved that wouldn't get approved if they were by themselves. Weakness - see above.”
“I absolutely hate bundling items. It’s a very transparent strategy to get things ‘voted for’ by making the vote the lesser of two evils.” 
“In the past, the argument was to bundle so that the smaller communities wouldn’t lose out because they don’t have the voting power. But you only have to look at the last few ballots to see how badly that’s been abused.” 
“It’s hard to feel sorry for the county residents when they want all the benefits of city living but don’t want to chip in for the costs. And, of course, we could advocate for a tax structure that didn’t make necessities like fire trucks an ‘optional’ item.”
“Most of the items on the 6th penny ballot should stand alone. I would also advocate for the first question on the ballot be for whether we should have the tax or not. There’s always enough items that get voted on that we always have the tax.”
“Maybe if people voted the tax down altogether and started seeing how that affected them negatively, they might start getting on board with paying a little tax and quit bitching about ‘high’ taxes. 
I’m not a rec center activist for our town. People don’t utilize what we have.”
“The problem is that usually the two items bundled together have something cool to offer, but the other item usually outweighs the piece you want, so people just go without.”
“Nothing should be bundled.”
“I don’t see any strengths to bundling the 6th penny taxes because usually it's more cons then pros. If the bundles were to be in the same category, such as streets, sidewalks and Greenway, then definitely bundle that stuff. A weakness: Let’s say anything for the Downtown Development Authority, streets and building stuff that doesn’t concern the city public then screw that because the streets are important and any building not for the city isn’t. I feel the 6th penny tax should focus on one single item. If we spend all funds focused on one item, stuff will make an impact unlike putting a little here a little there. Like buying an iPhone, you have to buy more to get what others come with, i.e headphone and charger ports.”
“The only thing I have to add is that taxes only feel high when you don’t engage enough to hold the people who spend the money accountable for the value. Two examples I can think of are the quality of the roadwork done here (vs. say, Fort Collins; 5th penny) and the municipal pool expansion ( how crappy that was).”
“If there are items that can be bid under a single bid, it could come with cost savings, but mostly it’s a fricking game: Put things that people really want, then sneak in something that they don’t. So, if they really want these things, then they have to vote for the thing they don’t want to get what they really do want.”
“Put the 6th penny to better weather. Ha ha ha.”
“From talking to folks the past year, the 6th penny is total trouble due to the bungling of finances at City Hall. I will vote for it, but people are angry, and this could be a reelection issue for some in November.”
“They need to separate them. They know some are trash, which is why they bundle them. It’s our money; we should have more of a choice in how it’s spent.”
            “Bundling doesn't make sense unless it is the same sort of projects bundled together. Fire stations and recreation centers aren't exactly the same things.”
“Pro: Projects that are alike get bundled together and can be addressed at once (i.e. water line repairs and upgrades). Con: Projects that are not necessary, or that people don't support, can be bundled with major maintenance projects that are needed.”
“Strength - under publicized or less ‘sexy’ projects have the opportunity to be funded when bundled with a priority project. Weakness - important community projects may be defeated if the other bundled projects are perceived as frivolous or unnecessary. It oftentimes appears the bundling is a strategic mechanism to influence results.”
“At the end of the day, the 5th penny tax is designed for the voters to give direction on operational expenses. The 6th penny is for projects beyond normal operation and maintenance. Every project is important to someone, but by bundling we skew the responses from the voters, thus continuing the feeling of ‘my vote doesn't matter.’ Educated voting by the voters on projects based on their individual merit would be my preference and would be reflective of the voting population.”
“I think it's both a pro and a con for bundling.  Because if the bundling is strong, then it will pass. But if most of it is good and one is bad, it could affect whole bundle. But I’m pro bundler. Mostly bundling can be good if you bundle similar projects. Look at the 2017 6th penny projects, for example. They bundled an indoor turf area with new public safety radio systems. They also bundled a new gymnasium with the rehab of fire stations. Both failed due to public sentiments against new frivolous projects. Had the radio systems been bundled with the fire station rehab, the projects would have passed. You could have bundled the gym and turf, and they both would have failed.”
“I’m not a big fan of bundling projects. It seems folks are bundling lemons with apples. If you look at the proposition approval numbers, taxpayers are evenly divided for and against more public infrastructure projects. I suspect the next ballots cast for infrastructure projects will fail because of the controversy surrounding the municipal court project and the Christensen Road project. I also see that the Legislature is looking at making the 6th  penny permanent and adding an optional 7th penny tax. Those changes will further disenfranchise voters from approving any new projects. The next propositions need to address improved services to the community rather than building monuments to our own excesses. My two cents.”
“I’m opposed to the 5th and 6th penny always. Burn the whole docket.”
“Weakness is the same as its strength. It can be manipulated by what items are paired up with.
The city needs to quit screwing around with its projects. Christensen down to two lanes is an example. Could one of the eastern Laramie County put repairs of a dilapidated park on the ballot or would it be considered a want?” 
“Bundles shorten the ballot, preventing fatigue.”
“Bundles provide some protection for small communities. The fear is that if they aren’t bundled, Cheyenne residents won’t support Albin/Burns/Pine Bluffs needs.”
“Bundles prevent people from voting on individual items. They support four of the five items.  They either have to make a choice to vote for all five or vote no because of one item.”
“The strengths of bundling favor the government and not the people. It forces people to vote ‘yes’ even if there are things they don’t like. It also gives government the power to spend as it pleases on the items it is most interested in and not what the people are most interested in. I am not a fan of bundled items in the ballot; it gives government more control than it deserves.”
“I think the theory of bundling so that Pine/Burns/Albin don't get shut out is a good one, and in practice it has mostly worked. I think the idea of having like with like is good practice, also. Having participated in the process of deciding what goes on the 6th penny ballot (several times), I think there is an arbitrary aspect to that selection: If there is not a strong cheerleader for a project, it's not considered a priority. The Christensen Overpass project sat waiting for 28 years after approval as a needed piece of infrastructure by the City Council as an unfunded mandate, even for design. Now the costs have gone up and need has outstripped city planning. I watched several cycles as this project was dropped from the final ballot in favor of feel-good projects, albeit deserving on their own. There seems to be an unwritten/unspoken rule that the council/commissioners are afraid to exceed some set dollar amount for fear that all will then be rejected.”
“But, the biggest failing is that the public is not well informed about the process, the projects or even the fact that this does not raise taxes that we have already been paying for decades. There is a very vocal group intent on making people believe that by not voting they will somehow eliminate the 6th penny tax, disregarding that this would be catastrophic to our area. The very people who understand all of the process and the projects the best, the commissioners and the council-folk, are effectively prohibited from indicating whether they support a particular project or any problems that they see. The paper and news make a token effort, but without being paid, they don't dig much into the matter. The supporters who try to educate why they support a project and encourage support — putting the money where their mouth is and paying to educate — are vilified in the community as self-serving.
All this just goes to show you that this debate is contested. Imagine if the county commissioners actually left the city out of future discussions. That would be interesting.

Richard Johnson is a former City Council member from Cheyenne’s east side.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

High-tech technology has done very little to improve Cheyenne’s downtown parking troubles

BY RICHARD JOHNSON

Happy Holidays from your neighborhood parking enforcement officer!
We figured since you felt like shopping downtown, you’d feel jolly enough to fill Cheyenne coffers with several dollars in parking citations. You know, it’s going to a good cause, like our new extended cab pick-ups — the ones that take up three parking spots — while we write up some Christmas cheer. ¡Feliz Navidad!
Downtown parking has always been a joke. From Cheyenne patrons bitching, unwilling to walk two blocks to a business
Parking in downtown Cheyenne can be problematic.
to the downright corruption in "look the other way" handshake deals at the Cheyenne Country Club. 
Hell, a year ago I voted "yes" after much debate with the Cheyenne Police Department about bringing technology into the parking garage. When I asked the City Council if there had been any improvement in downtown parking after the implementation of tech, the answer from the only council member who wrote me back was, “Doubt it.”
Since I don’t work or own a business downtown, I asked the following questions to those who do, inquiring: "In one sentence how would you describe downtown parking and how it could be improved?" Here are a few responses. 
 —  “Like Napoleon’s March on Moscow.  Move it out of police, get a new director, don’t drive F 150s. Get the expensive software you paid for working prior to implementation.”
—  “Downtown parking is a scam that negativity affects local employees and businesses owners. Possibly timed parking meters would be much less biased and less likely to do the bidding of crooked officials whom seem to spend our money. Or better yet, free parking and then the problem would dissolve itself. There is very limited parking downtown in most cities. Most people don’t park long. Let them.”
 — “Downtown parking is over regulated, and paid parking lots are underutilized. More privatization of parking lots, and deregulation of the city's parking lot requirements on private businesses (ie curb, gutter, and landscaping requirements) would make it more possible for private businesses to accommodate their customers with parking spaces.”
—  “Downtown parking is scary and inconvenient. It could be remedied partly by a paid parking garage with security. The city could use the trolley system to take people to and from the downtown area to the garage, if they put it in the West Edge. This will be desperately needed if the Lincoln Theater miss venue ever opens. They also need to provide security for the current parking garage. Vertical parking in Mary’s hole downtown would be nice, but, yes, I know it belongs to the building next door. There should also be more designated state and city employee parking downtown, so that they aren’t taking the street parking spots away from everyone else.We need to go back to street parking meters, where you can park for free for 30 minutes and then an hourly rate to an all-day flat rate. The modern ones take a debit card to pay. Large trucks shouldn’t be able to park in the angled parking spots downtown. They stick out into the street and obstruct traffic.”
— “Parking challenges occur at only at a few places and times (Depot Plaza during events/concerts, 17th Street area during lunch, around certain blocks where employees park on the street and move their cars all day).The parking garage could help much of this problem if people would be willing to walk 2-3 blocks and if short-term garage parking was free or inexpensive and easy to pay.”
— “Employees who work downtown should either be allowed free parking passes to park in the parking garage or be exempt from parking tickets.”
— “Not that I have noticed. I do not believe they are fully working as I can never get it to work.There have been more parking tickets issued, which is hindering people from coming to downtown locations. And in front of my building/business there is construction on both ends of the street (new courthouse on corner and CTC), so the parking is taken up by the construction workers.” 
—  “Shitty and it definitely needs modified. It's entirely impossible, especially if you are working down there, to park. There's no parking place in the garage without being charged, and the parking Nazi is on that stuff like crack. I ended up with three different parking tickets and she even knew that I was working building this restaurant. She didn't give a crap. Her job was to be the Nazi, and even if you were two minutes late, there was no leeway."
— “It’s only a minor issue as I think people in Cheyenne don’t want to have to walk a block or more to get to their destination, whereas in bigger cities that’s just something that is done daily, commuting. But where could we put more parking? I think there are a few smaller lots that could be enlarged vertically, perhaps despite being an eyesore.”
— “I work off Lincolnway, and the new parking garage technology is a joke. A few of my coworkers have received multiple tickets as the system doesn’t work properly. I received a ticket in the recent months for parking in the same block in one day, never mind having moved my car for an entire hour. The woman patrolling downtown is ice cold, is constantly handing out tickets and won’t even say hello.” 
— “As you can see, it’s a hot mess. When your barber/beautician/tattoo artist/waitress /attorney has to leave, you to go move their car to avoid a citation, something isn't working. Or the fact you were going to leave a good tip, but now you got a ticket, so you skimp. Or you got an Uber home from a night bender only to come get your car the next day and have several hundred piled up. Is this really cheaper than a DUI? I even heard the Chamber of Commerce changed their meeting locations in the Depot because of citations on their guests. So much for a business-friendly downtown environment.”
I’ve received so many complaints from patrons and owners about the parking garage. My own car was robbed in there. Granted I didn’t lock my doors, so I deserve no sympathy. But it just goes to show that no one is monitoring it. 
People are worried about their vehicles being vandalized or broken into. The cop shop is a block away. I asked the police chief, “Why can’t your guys spin through every time they go to HDQ?” Silly Richard, there is no supporting data that the parking garage is unsafe.
Public perception of the place is sketchy at best, and do I really want to have more criminal incidents just to get data? Seems like a weird request.  
Since a previous council and mayor left a huge bond issue for all future councils to deal with for nearly 25 years, what should I expect when it comes to data? Rumor has it that Visit Cheyenne, who paid $54,000 annually to city parking garage, cancelled its contract after the city continued to charge tourists for parking, essentially double dipping.
My recommendation is to create a business zone that has a 20-year, no parking fee rule. Therefore, the locals can enjoy the same privilege as tourists. 
If the parking enforcement officers want to distribute notices that say, “Howdy Do Partner! Do you realize we hang people in Cheyenne who overstay their parking time? Move that wagon or pay a hefty fine." Let ’em. 
Hell, I'll even concede to letting Cheyenne Frontier Days attach a copy of next summer's night show line-up with these warnings if it generates enough money to pay a rookie cop to drive through the parking garage twice a day. 
Maybe a little downtown morale boost will keep the parking enforcement officers off Instagram feeds, and the Laramie County Commissioners won't have to make radio station news fodder when they fight with the mayor, overpaying in unrolled pennies.

Richard Johnson is a former City Council member from Cheyenne’s east side.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

What can make Cheyenne a great city? Helping each other on snowy November day is a good start

BY MADGE MIDGLEY

You may have noticed my previous articles in this publication are a little different. I am not highly political, but I am observant of the world around me, and I've made a self-commitment to not write about our town unless I have a solution to a problem or I see something awesome worth writing about.
Rumor has it my last submission pissed people off, which is great! (“The owners of Cheyenne's liquor stores have an obligation to help clean up the Capital City's mess,” Oct. 3, https://cutt.ly/Ce6RlJP) Feel what you want to feel. Express it. Make a comment. Look me up and send an email. Maybe a productive conversation can happen.  
I'm still going to be here, being me with big ideas and dreams of this elusive community cooperation that
Snow fell heavily in late November in Cheyenne.
doesn't require the main leader. I am writing this today because my neighborhood was blessed by that kind of experience.
On Nov. 26, we had had snow to deal with within the city of Cheyenne and across the Front Range. I will give some accolades to Mayor Marian Orr for shutting the city down the two days leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday due to weather. 
I will note that she took appreciation of University of Wyoming leadership on her Twitter account when they decided to cancel classes so that students would have ample time to travel without trying to make it through the storm. It seems like a courtesy that many probably appreciated, so I will appreciate vicariously this way.
Anyway, Nature dumped upon us around 12 inches, if not more, of the good ole white fluffy sky confetti, and if you have ever owned a tall vehicle with a built-in roof rack, you know what a pain that is in the snow removal department. 
I got up and shoveled the walks and tried to clear a path for visitors. I knew I wasn't making any plans to leave, but brushed off my vehicle in case more snow was predicted. Then I went in and drank some coffee like ya do.
Due to being a full-time caregiver, I don't leave very often, and when I do, I don't travel much farther than the west side of town. I know the sound of every car on this block. I know if it has an automatic car alarm; I know when their vehicle is failing. Really though, I know about frequency and vibration, and vehicles are oftentimes the most obvious external physical extension one has to express themselves.
I've gotten so keen to these sounds that I know when it is the delivery driver or the mail truck or a lost person who sits for minutes on end at the stop sign in front of my house while they search for the place they are looking for. I know when there is drama on my side of town by the building squeal of sirens coming from first responders. I know the difference between a fire and a road accident.
We live in a reality of frequency and vibration. Some of it is beyond obvious into the obnoxious. Some of it is subtle. I am not sure how self-aware individuals are to know if they know the difference. But I do. I can't avoid it.
When I heard a large vehicle revving and slipping down my road more than once, I had to see for myself what the heck was happening.
I went out to the bottom of my driveway to see what I could see.  And lo and behold, some dude was driving a rented CAT plow down my residential road. Neighbors were busy shoveling and those who weren't, packed on their snow gear and went out to see what was going on.
Why?  It's just a dude driving a plow.
The city of Cheyenne doesn’t budget snow removal for residential areas within the city. It hasn't in years. We appear to be only concerned about "main roads."
A few years ago, a good friend came back home from Burlington, Vermont, because her mom had passed and she was helping her father out. A local friend of mine volunteered to drive her to DIA for her departure. The night before we got a slammer of snow.  Needless to say, it took a few routes to get to her house in north Cheyenne because of the hills and snow and low clearance of the vehicle, even if it was a solid front-wheel drive.
She made a comment that I am going to repeat without being politically polarized.
"Burlington is never like this in the residential areas.  In fact, (U.S. Sen.) Bernie Sanders once spent all night driving a snowplow to make sure the job got done."
Cool. Bernie stepped in once and got accolades. Plow drivers probably get a thankful six-pack every now and again. Mayor Orr would probably do it if she felt like it would be good publicity, from what I can tell.  
But that isn't what this article is about.  This article is about self-directed civic service.
As the plow guy drove up and down the road, the neighbors moved closer to him, so they could tell him "thank you" or to ask "Are you from the city?"  
What I heard was a frustrated citizen who decided to use his own money to help himself and his neighbors out.  He probably walked the block to the CAT rental store and drove it from there.
I am not sure how many passes he made to the road. I am not going to say that it was a perfect job because I don't know crap about plowing snow off of roads. I will say the energy and frequency of his gestures were felt through the neighborhood, and it inspired groups of people to grab their shovels and walk in the snow-reflected sunshine, bundled up and good-natured, willing to help a stranger/neighbor.
If heaven and hell are neighborhoods with frequencies and interactions, watching people shovel each other out on a cold day is more bliss than hearing about people in my neighborhood get shot on a hot day while listening to the sirens. On a cold day a joyful chuckle will echo.
No one told these full-grown adults to go help their neighbors. These are the people I want in and running my city. They felt the strong pervasive energy of need and service and did it willingly without expectation. They took effective action with kindness and compassion. This is the city/neighborhood/world I want to live in.
I want to offer a strong "thank you" to those anonymous people who were able to harness their own energy and joy to help others. I want to talk to you, and write about you. You deserve to be known.
With this, I would like to conclude that oftentimes The Golden Rule is censored: "Treat others the way you want to be treated, but treat yourself the way that you would have others treat you."
We live in a prideful world, and it doesn't support asking for help or charity unless there is an agenda. For most people, they have to go to work regardless of travel restrictions and weather, necessity is their agenda. They are normal everyday people. Asking for help is humbling, maybe even humiliating. Most people don't enjoy the feeling of asking for help or feeling vulnerable.   
When individuals in our communities stand up and take action without being asked, they are literally answering unspoken prayers. Some may call it psychic, but I call it "homing in on the human need for which we should all be aware of."
The scenes of assistance on that recent snowy Tuesday give an amplified appreciation of our abilities on all levels to ascertain and know the needs of others and ourselves with a joyful heart.  
May this be more obvious as we move into 2020 vision.

Madge Midgely is a local writer. You can reach her at madgemidley@gmail.com.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Before the West Edge project was conceived, the western part of Cheyenne was known as "El Poso"

BY RICHARD JOHNSON

I first heard “The Poso" from the dad of my significant other, Kim. I love Cheyenne history, and I had never heard of “El Poso." So, of course, I was intrigued. 
According to Google translate, “El Pozo" means “The Well.” But in this case, most residents say it means “The Bottoms.” It’s the area around Martin Luther King Park from Lincolnway north to 20th street. The stories from this area are as amazing as are the people who lived there. 
From the 1930s through the 1970s, this area seemed to be an area of little rules, little law enforcement and lots of legend. From dance parties on the sidewalks and streets to New Mexico immigrants coming north in hope of work for the Union Pacific. Some comments from readers:
“My dad was Marcello, who owned the store on West 18th Street. My mom is still alive and is 98 years old and still lives there. I was born at the house. It is considered The Bottoms. The police never wanted to go to that side of town. It was different then as that generation of honor and honesty are all deceased.”
“Many of the families lived in the Poso – huge families, lots of siblings, hard working. Lots of Hispanic families. Actually I never saw any white families, and not many African Americans came to that side of town. Religion for many was Catholic.”
“Coke Gonzales was our neighbor. He worked for the railroad and did upholstery.  He had a big family too.  I think the baseball field next to the MLK is named after Coke Gonzales.”
“The Jackson family lived on the corner of 17th Street, and they had a place called the Tip and Inn, where people would go party, drink, etc., fighting. It was crazy.”
“I never was allowed to go, but I could hear all the cars, parties going on.  The Chicken Shack was across the street, and my husband’s grandfather owned that place.”
“Off of Missile Drive next to the tracks, LA Llorna lived back in there. There were a group of women called themselves the Walking Westsiders that was as big as gangs got back then. They would get together with a rival gang of girls called the Southside Packers. Neither side liked each other. Tody’s bar was down in there, owned by the Tottenhoffs.  Leon Reed had the Tippin Inn. He still owes it, I believe. There was way more train traffic crossing the lines that are still in existence today.”
“Very few Anglos know of the Poso. Families included Ramirez (my family),Tafoya, Solis (my relatives), Aldana and Gonzalezes (my relatives). The Black And Tan (after-hours drinking place) was on corner.”
“Japanese citizens also knew about the Poso through my uncle Jesse Jr. and Coke. Both ran bilingual newspapers in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. In English, one was called the Globe and one called the Herald. Had their own printing press.”
“El Poso, not ‘the’ Poso, was also generally referred to as the West Side. I was born and raised there until we moved ‘uptown’ (to the south side.)  Many, many stories and memories of the events and families in the area. Actually a great place to grow up without the bigotry we encountered elsewhere in town, like not being allowed to buy a house north of Pershing. But really, we didn't care much because we had, and have, a close-knit, supportive community with lots of love and laughter.”
“Harris BBQ. People would line up to get that barbecue. An elderly black man and his wife who made honest soul food that was well received by the community (1970s). It was a little community over there near the grocery store. It was a poorer section, but proud and open.”
“I remember my dad had a rifle by the door growing up. The Black Panthers were always outside in the street. The cops came and my dad told them he’d shoot anyone that got on his property.”
“Coke Gonzales would gather up kids in his truck and take them to ball fields around town. The white people went to City Council and complained because brown kids were at the ball fields.” 
“I grew up in a whore house on the West Side. My mom was a prostitute and she and the other ladies would give me money to go buy them candy and cigarettes.” 
So what does the future hold for Cheyenne's West Side? Just like the past, new names are influencing the area. City officials Matt Ashby and Brandon Cammarata created an idea called the West Edge. Tons of activity and money have been spent to revitalize the area. West Edge Collective, Warehouse 21 and the new townhomes where Cupids to be and Flydragon Art Studio, where Fix and Mix used to be, are a few examples. 
These are the new legends like Harris BBQ, the Tippin Inn, the Chicken Shack. Just like Marcello’s grocery, which was open for 52 years.
“Creative energy taking very under-utilized properties and turning them into the new life for the West side of downtown.” 
Past: 10 years of study, planning design and hard work to create a new vision for an old industrial rail park that use to be the industrial center of our city. 
Current: More properties that have sold and changed hands with new plans and new construction than downtown Cheyenne has seen in the past 25 years. 
Future: a reinvented flood-free urban mixed use downtown development area full of, art, creativity, housing and business for the new economy that is inspired by the Rhino District (River North in north Denver) and has a signature pedestrian (walkable and bikeable and skateable) connecting the walkway from the residential area to the downtown core.” 
As you can see, Cheyenne is great bastion of local history and a progressive future. The newcomers will create their own stories, but should never forget those of the past. 
I’d love to hear more stories about the West Side. Please email me your stories richardjohnson82001@gmail.com

Richard Johnson is a former City Council member from Cheyenne' east side.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

The mayor abused her authority when she withheld CFD's Buckin' A liquor permit in police revenue talks

BY RICHARD JOHNSON

Remember in junior high when the two toughest bullies decided to fight? You really didn’t care who won; it was just a pleasure to see two people you didn’t like beat the crap out of each other. Then you kinda felt bad for the loser, but not really. 
That’s how I felt in July when rumors were flying that Cheyenne Frontier Days was bent over a barrel on their Buckin’ A liquor permit unless they agreed to pay the city $50,000 for the police to be there. 
At the Nov. 25
Did the mayor abuse her authority re CFD's Buckin' A liquor license?
City Council meeting, the former attorney general stated it best, “User fees shouldn’t be used as a contingency on a liquor permit approval.” 
That’s are hard sentence to digest. I’ve always supported CFD paying something to the City of Cheyenne for police services during the 10-day event. But I thought a negotiation would take place, not this. This isn't a negotiation at all. 
It’s disheartening when the police chief emails me back that there were no hard numbers for 2018 staff overtime during CFD and no meeting minutes from the CFD conversation. The best I’ve been able to get out of CFD is, “It’s a crazy town we live in.”
Knowing that this discussion had taken place I watched the media outlets to see what Cheyenne Police said about involvement at CFD 2019. This was the press release:
“Now that Frontier Days is wrapped up, our mounted officers can continue their regular details of making traffic stops on horseback and the horses can moonlight for Sidewalk Dolphin™.  For anyone wondering what our department was up to during this year's CFD, here's this year's CFD report:
“Between July 19 and July 28, officers with the Cheyenne Police Department were occupied with Cheyenne Frontier Days, ensuring that visitors and participants had a safe event. Throughout the 10 days of CFD, all CPD officers were tasked with working the various CFD activities, including the parades, pancake breakfasts, Thunderbirds Airshow, rodeos and night shows. 
“A total of 58 vehicles were towed for unlawful parking, most of which were in the Avenues neighborhood. At Frontier Park, CFD security handled the majority of incidents. However, CPD officers still responded to 65 calls for service. Of those calls, there were 8 fights, 3 accidents, 4 cases involving counterfeit bills, and two counts of sexual battery.
“Overall, it was a relatively quiet year in large-scale incidents," said Officer Kevin Malatesta.
Police also dealt with numerous reports of underage drinking, making 289 age verification contacts and issuing 14 citations for underage drinking.
I’m not very good at ratios, but 14 out of 289 seems like harassment or profiling at best. 
Do I really want to go back to the City Council meeting of Nov. 25, 2019 where the mayor basically blamed Frontier Days for the Coin Shop murder from July 20, 2015?  An open case, rumors of ransomware and promotions, the grieving family and friends still without answers, and more. 
Why would the mayor scratch off the scab of this barely healed wound? The former attorney general did his absolute best not to throw the Cheyenne Police Department under the bus at the podium. The fact he had to tell the mayor he wasn’t there to argue but to give her a brief rundown on how law enforcement works, and even how Cheyenne has many law enforcement agencies to assist Cheyenne Police in times of need. I can only speculate what this man could’ve said.
Hell, the item on the agenda he was speaking to focused on revenues collected through user fees. The ordinance change during the summer to publish revenues collected over $35,000 was adopted because of lack of transparency on this CFD negotiation. Of course, your city councilmen will say there were other facets in the decision, but let’s be honest: Important people in Cheyenne were pissed and changes had to be made without drawing too much attention. 
I believe the ends should justify the means. If there truly are data, as the mayor stated in the Nov. 25th meeting, then why couldn’t the chief send it to me?  
The fact that council members encouraged me to pursue data collection on this topic meant something was there. Granted, this was before the Bloomberg fiasco (in which the mayor misused grant funds designed to help downtown for personal items). And everyone is getting so sick of the mayor's scandals and spending that its basically become a blond woman screaming at a cat now. 
Maybe CFD is right after all. “It’s a crazy town we live in.”

Richard Johnson is a former City Council member from Cheyenne’s east side.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Wyoming GOP leaders are trampling on members' rights to force them to bow to right-wing dogma

            Editor’s note: This post is in response to recent efforts by the leaders of the Wyoming Republican Party to stifle dissent and punish those who would speak out against their efforts to turn the party into a hard right-wing wing cabal. You can read more about these efforts in a Nov. 21 article in the Casper Star-Tribune, “Inside the Wyoming GOP, critics are silenced as party leadership turns increasingly to the right.” (https://cutt.ly/MeVSYMp


BY ROD MILLER

This is an Open Letter to Chairman Frank Eathorne and the Wyoming Republican Party's Executive Committee:
Dear Frank,
I write to you as a lifelong Republican and member of a family that has been involved in Wyoming politics, both state and territorial, for nearly 150 years. If my forebears could speak, and add their voices to those of so many Republicans who I have worked with and respected over the years, I’ll bet a dollar to a doughnut that they’d tell you the same thing that I will.
Shame on you! You and your elitist ilk are trying to transform what has historically been a proud, democratic
Wyo. GOP leaders are trying to force members to march in lockstep.
and patriotic political organization into a narrow little cheerleading squad for partisan right-wing dogma. You are attempting to turn our “Great Big Tent,” open to anyone who loves Wyoming, into a cloistered little blanket fort in the basement with room for only a select few. 
Again, shame on you!
What is it about dissent and debate within the
ranks that scares hell out of you? For you to try to suspend both constitutionally guaranteed rights of free speech and due process in your zeal to instill doctrinal purity, your fears must be deep indeed. For you to try to spread that fear among Wyoming’s voters is not the act of a courageous Republican, but rather that of a banana republic despot.  
Shame on you!
When citizens in Wyoming elect someone to represent them in government, that representative owes her or his allegiance to the voters, not to any political party. For you, or any other party leader (who didn’t receive a single vote in the last election for a legislative seat), to try to replace that with allegiance to a platform is nothing more than power-grubbing and tyrannical. 
That has never been how things were done in Wyoming, so I guess that makes you a Wyomingite In Name Only, a WINO.
Shame on you! Wait, I already said that.
OK, Frank. That’s all I had to say to you. The rest of this is for any Republican running for office, whether incumbent or not.

Dear GOP candidate,
I live on Central Avenue in Cheyenne, a couple blocks from the State Capitol, and it is one of the best locations in town for a yard sign. There must be a million cars that drive past my yard every year.  
So, I have a deal for you:
If you are running for office as a Republican, and you will place the wishes of your constituents ahead of those of the party leadership; and
If you revere the Constitutions of the United States and of Wyoming above the party platform; and
If, when faced with a vote, you will vote your conscience and not a party line dictated to you by others; then
1 – I’ll proudly display your yard sign.
2 – I’ll kick in a few bucks to your campaign and encourage others to do likewise.
3 – I’ll help you in any other way that I can. Just ask.
The Wyoming Republican Party needs you right now, and so do the people of Wyoming.
Any of my Republican friends throughout Wyoming who feel the same, please feel free to make a similar offer to your local candidates. Never let it be said, “Shame on us.”

Rod Miller is a citizen, father and grandfather and a proud former Rawlins Outlaw living in Cheyenne.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

They say, "Follow the money." If you want to know about Cheyenne's City Hall, follow the vouchers

BY RICHARD JOHNSON

I always told people that the secrets to city government are in the vouchers. 
Of course, the vouchers were like a treasure map, trying to find out where to start. It pretty much boiled down to this: You could see the expenditure, but not what is what for. It was usually just a business name or an expense on a Visa card. 
When you’d ask what it was for, staff would scramble, sigh and always tell you they would get back
to you. Of course, the public would never hear the answer. 
The previous administration started asking me to forward my questions in advance so they could be answered since I went through the vouchers on Sundays. A logical request to come up with a better lie. 
The new administration was the worst in regards to getting info. When council was told it had to submit Freedom of Information Act requests, it was just one more reason I left the City Council. 
In the past year, it was learned that the council couldn’t vote "no" on vouchers. Damn, I voted no more than I voted yes. After no one could answer the questions about expenditures, I just voted that no one would get paid. 
Earlier this year the city had a signed a contract, and council pulled the voucher and realized it was powerless to vote no against it. The city attorney said that all this time council members never really had the power to vote against these expenditures. 
Then there was an ordinance change in August to make revenues over a certain amount appear on the agenda. I keep waiting for the legitimate media to look into why this ordinance change really took place. The only answer I get from the affected party is, “It’s a strange city we live in!”
Here is the question I asked the City Council: What are your thoughts on the recent changes to revenues and vouchers? Thank you to all who replied.
“Well, we cannot not pay vouchers, so it cuts out five minutes in the meeting, and I like the reports on where revenue is at on a biweekly basis. It’s easier to keep track of where we are at in the revenue vs budget process. And I don't have to hunt down the numbers.”
“I don't like it, but we have been told that we do not and did not have the ability to deny a voucher. “
“I helped Council President Rocky Case draft the ordinance for revenues to come before the council. I agree with City Attorney Mike O’Donnell that we don't have authority to disapprove vouchers absent a legal dispute as to the validity of the claim. I don't think we should formally take action on either.” 
“The new opinion on vouchers is why I think it's imperative that the council take more ownership over the contract approval process. Once it is approved, we're out of the equation now.”
“Apparently, right now, the mayor can do whatever the hell she wants with no consequences.”
“I support more oversight but don’t think we need micromanage the staff.”
“I agree with the opinion from the city attorney that we have to pay our bills and so for council to hold that up is a mistake. I like that revenues are now something that's going to be on the regular agenda. You should know that the city is going to Open Book, which I've recommended for years. This will allow every citizen to see every financial transaction the city engages in. FTC has this on their public website, and I’m told we're going to be in the next couple of months. I remember going to former City Treasurer Lois Huff when I first came on, and she said we couldn't do this. One of the obstacles was that our website was so antiquated it couldn't accommodate the software. But now that we're updating the website, it will.”
I guess one question is; Could micromanaging save an employee’s job? It’s a toxic environment at the city, and this is why checks and balances are needed. Lest we forget that she who holds the gold, makes the rules.

Richard Johnson is a former City Council member from Cheyenne’s east side.