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Friday, May 31, 2019

Wyoming's coal addiction demands an intervention.

BY D. REED ECKHARDT
“My name is Mark Gordon. I am the governor of Wyoming, and I am an addict.”
“My name is Steve Harshman. I am speaker of the Wyoming House, and I am an addict.”
“My name is John Barrasso. I am a United States senator. And I am an addict.”
The list goes on and on. The roster of Wyoming leaders who are
The longer Wyoming mainlines coal, the more the state will suffer.
addicted to coal – and who will do and sacrifice almost anything to keep feeding their habit – is long and storied. 
And their denial is great. They cover their eyes and stop up their ears. And they try to hold back global forces in a battle that a state of just 600,000 people will never win. 
They pretend climate science doesn’t exist, even when 99 percent of the world’s scientists know, and can prove, that humans are heating up global temperatures. They lie to the voters about this reality in order to drum up support for their addiction.
They see coal use headed downward at a catastrophic pace, yet their addiction drives them ever forward toward fantasy efforts to develop new uses for the black stuff and to seek new markets.
They see nations from around the globe and peers in other states committing to the use of renewables and other cleaner forms of energy. Yet like pushers of a fading drug, they do everything they can to try to get others to mainline it. 
And rather than joining the forces for change, they chase even harder after the substance that has clouded their thinking and fouls the world’s air. 
This is classic addiction. 
You doubt that? Consider some of the well-recognized signs of drug addicts: 
1 -- Acquiring and using the drug becomes the user’s main priority of life while ignoring obligations to work, family or school. Ask anyone about Wyoming’s budget and they will show you what the decline of coal is doing to this state. Revenues are plunging. Education is running a multi-million-dollar annual deficit. And anyone who thinks the coal addicts won’t go after programs for the needy – the Wyoming family these men and women are elected to protect – in order to pursue their fantasy of “saving coal” is fooling him or herself.
2 – They continue to use their chosen substance even as they know the harm it causes.Wyoming’s leaders are fully aware that coal fouls the air and the environment. Its negative effects on community health are clear. And, again, the budgetary impacts of declining sales will hurt both the health and education of this state residents when the budget cutting gets underway.
3 – They feel the need to use the drug in order to deal with their problems. Rather than truly diversifying Wyoming’s economy or looking to other energy options, such as renewables, to solve budgetary matters, leadership remains focused on coal as the be-all and end-all. Legislation is passed to prevent the closure of coal-using utility plants. Taxes are levied to impede the development of rival forms of energy, such as wind power. The governor presents plans to market coal, but to where? Threats are levied against utilities that are breaking their addiction to the black stuff. These companies perform the economic and social math that Wyoming’s leaders refuse to even consider.  
4 – They are willing to make large and regular financial sacrifices to secure a regular supply of their drug.Wyoming’s leaders have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in their ill-begotten efforts to “save coal.” One can only speculate where this state would be had its leaders chosen years ago to spend that money to invest for the future. 
5 – They will often undergo a change of appearance, looking more disheveled and worn out. Has anyone noticed that the pace of school building has slowed to crawl? That highways, streets and bridges are falling into disrepair? That state parks are charging more to visitors while providing fewer amenities? Yes, the State Capitol is being renovated, but cities, towns and counties are unable to meet their infrastructure needs due to lack of help from the shrinking state budget.
Friends, it is time for a classic intervention. 
Coal is dead – or at least it is on its deathbed. And all of this state’s efforts can no more keep it alive than can drastic measures return health to a cancer-riddled body.
It is time for Wyoming’s leaders end their coal habit and spend their time and energy on a true “moon shot.” An all-out effort is needed to make this state a national leader in energy forms that bring life and light, not blackness and death. Few states have Wyoming’s barely tapped wind resources, and it is mindboggling that no one has talked about solar development in a state that gets more than 300 days of sun a year.
The governor and Legislature must stop trying to hold back the tsunami that soon will engulf this state. Such things as taxes to prevent wind energy and marketing plans to find suckers to sell coal to must be jettisoned. There has been enough mainlining of coal. It is time to embrace a clean energy future.
Wyoming has no time to waste. Every day that it pursues its coal addiction is one more day that it falls behind the developments that others embracing.
Throw away the needles, ladies and gentlemen. Before you bring this great state to ruin.

D. Reed Eckhardt is the former editor of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Pick up after your canine friends, you poop heads

BY RICHARD JOHNSON
 In the infamous words of Ol Dirty Bastard, “But pardon me, bitch, as I shit on your grass.” 
And just like the title of the Wu Tang song, Cheyenne is covered in dog crap.
As the weather improves, it’s nice to get out and walk the city park trails and bike the Greenway. 
At least that’s what I thought.
While listening to Lil Nas X along a path, I noticed all the dog excrement.
Dog walkers on the Greenway need to pick up after Fido.
And I thought, “Man, Cheyenne truly has pride in itself and its tightly coiled land mines.”
At least the city is doing something, right? 
Oh yeah, the replacement of those Greenway baggies is $1,000 an order. So, don’t expect to see them refilled as needed. 
So why the hell aren’t these responsible pet owners saving their own plastic bags from all of Cheyenne's Big Box stores? They must not be buying local. I can tell by the litter I pick up, or lack thereof.
Then there is this unenforced ordinance. 
If a dog craps in the park and no one sees it, did it happen?

6.08.140 - Animal wastes.
A. A person owning, keeping, possessing or harboring any animal must remove and dispose of, in a prompt and sanitary manner, feces left by the animal on any public property or any private property not owned or lawfully occupied by such person.
B. An animal owner is responsible for keeping his or her property free and clear of animal waste to prevent potential harm to the public health, as determined by the city/county health officer, or his or her designee. If a determination is made that a potentially dangerous situation to the public's health exists, a notice of violation may be issued.
C. This section does not apply to persons utilizing a seeing-eye dog or to persons physically handicapped to such a degree that they are incapable of compliance.
D. This section does not apply to owners of animals participating in events for which a permit has been issued by the city clerk.

Why should the community worry about dilapidated houses, slum lords and demolition by neglect while Rover and his owner leave us hidden gems?
Maybe the mayor can contact a Pok√©mon trainer to see if a power up option is available using all the found dog feces. Hell, if the “Fight the Blight” campaign was effective, who will run on “Dog Turd 2020” campaign?
You may think this is a shitty topic, but you know I don’t take this crap lightly. 
The only thing more manure filled than our parks is our elected officials. 
I hope you doo-doo heads decide to start picking up after your best friend. 
I gotta scat.

Richard Johnson is a former City Council member from Ward 3.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

DDA is about to reach into YOUR pocket, west side

BY RICHARD JOHNSON

Urban Dictionary defines insanity as: “doing the exact same f------g thing over and over again, expecting shit to change.” 
In this case, Cheyenne’s Downtown Development District is again exploring the rehashed idea of tax increment financing, also known as TIF. This old chestnut was
Just like Veruca Salt, Cheyenne's DDA wants your money.
a popular money maker when Cheyenne Light, Fuel & Power was in the DDA district, which encompasses most of downtown. But it turns out the utility was the critical Jenga block that brought the whole idea and the TIF threshold to its proverbial knees after they moved to the west side at 24th Street near Missile Drive. 
According to the Internet source, Wikipedia, tax increment financing is a “public financing method used as a subsidy for redevelopment, infrastructure and other community-improvement projects.” 
Let’s make an analogy between Cheyenne’s downtown district with one of my favorite movies, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” 
Remember the goose that laid golden eggs? That was Cheyenne Light, Fuel & Power. We all know that the characters represent the seven deadly sins. Veruca Salt represents greed. I hope this isn’t a spoiler, but Veruca loses her shit when she can’t have the goose. She sings, “I don’t care how. I want it now.” This should seem familiar.
In case you missed it, the recent political city budget’s hot potato topic was that Mayor Marian Orr dropped the DDA’s funding from $390,000 to $100,000. This sparked both the allies and enemies of the DDA to go back and forth until the new/old idea of TIF came forth. 
Spoiler alert: The DDA wants it now. But how?
Well, all they need is some smoke and mirrors. 
Step 1, draft a memorandum of understanding, or MOU, filled with a whole bunch of incomprehensible numbers. Then add terminology like “mils.” Finally top it off with an unattended public work session to discuss expanding the current TIF zone to encroach all the way out to Missile Drive. And like all good government, the meeting will be open to the public, but no public comment will be taken. 
Now for the collateral damage. All those residents in the soon-to-be annexed quadrant won’t have a clue what the hell this tax is when it appears on one of their random monthly invoices. Most will pay it without even looking. They are too worried about feeding a kid or a habit -- take your pick. That’s the new American Nightmare. 
Some will try to challenge the change after it already has happened. 
The truth is that the “other business" section of a City Council meeting is as welcoming and useful as the bog of eternal stench in the movie “Labyrinth.” So it isn’t an easy sell. The civic-minded residents might ask their state House rep or state senator to contact City Hall. But the discussion probably won’t go far. 
The whole charade is as appealing as bile after a night of hard drinking.
Looking into my Magic 8-Ball, this is the rehashed DDA plan I see for the TIF debate:
“Get Black Hills Energy back under our district at all costs.”
If I ask the Magic 8-Ball what the last 10 years of TIF collections has done for urban development, infrastructure, community enhancement or downtown Cheyenne, it doesn’t even have an answer.
I’m sure the district will get its wish and get its golden goose back. Residents will have a new tax, and Cheyenne will continue to move at an abysmal pace. 
So just like when Veruca goes down the shoot, this idea, too, looks like a bad egg.

Richard Johnson is the former City Council for Ward 3, on Cheyenne’s east side.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Friends, Lynn Hutchings is no joke

BY D. REED ECKHARDT

Ha, ha, ha! Ho, ho, ho!
Comedian and commentator John Oliver recently shredded state Sen. Lynn Hutchings, R-District 5, on national TV because of her comments about the death penalty.
Speaking against a recent bill that would have ended the death penalty in Wyoming, the state senator from northwest Cheyenne and western Laramie County said:
The greatest man who ever lived died via the death penalty
for you and me…” she said. “If it wasn’t for Jesus dying via the death penalty, we would all have no hope.”
Really? Wyoming needs the death penalty because Jesus died on the cross? No wonder the Cowboy State is a national laughingstock.
HBO’s Oliver used Hutchings as the butt a joke, as a way to point out
State Sen. Lynn Hutchings speaks at the Capitol.
 the hypocrisy of so-called Christians who support the death penalty. This despite the fact that their own Bible says, “Thou shalt not kill,” and that the aforementioned Jesus preached love and forgiveness for his fellow humans, not killing them.
But please get this: Lynn Hutchings is no joke. 
She represents the worst that is Wyoming. And those who want their state to live up to its motto of “The Equality State” would do well to shun her and those who think like her. The only “equality” they are interested in is that which is fundamentalist Christian and ultra-conservative and whose members swim in their so-called mainstream. And they will say – and do – anything to maintain their ill-gotten cultural dominance.
Perhaps the only good thing about Oliver’s use of Hutchings’ words to make jokes about Wyoming was her reaction: She pretended to laugh it off.
“I guess if it makes someone happy to make fun of me, let them have at it,” she told the local newspaper.
That certainly is a change from her usual approach. Normally when she is criticized she dons the cloak of victimhood and wails and gnashes her teeth about how “unfairly” she is being treated. It’s ironic that she who regularly assaults members of the LGBT-plus community for playing the roles of victims so easily scuttles under that same mantle when it serves her agenda.
Hutchings’ history in the Legislature is filled with hateful comments and untruths in her efforts to assault the LGBT-plus community. At one time during testimony she even declined to call AIDS by its name. That was in 2013, when she falsely asserted that homosexuality can be “dangerous” and then used the discredited term GRID, “gay-related immune deficiency,” in the place of AIDS as a slap at Wyoming’s gay men.
Those comments brought swift response from the LGBT-plus community and its supporters. But rather than admit to wrongly trying to smear an entire class of people, Hutchings asserted she was being “threatened” by those who disagreed with her. Apparently in her mind, free hate speech is acceptable, honest response is not.
That the Legislature did not reprimand Hutchings in its most recent session for her comparison of a group of LGBT-plus high school students to practitioners of bestiality, pederasty and hypersexuality is a sad indicator of where Wyoming’s political class is on the issues of sexual orientation and identity. In truth, Ms. Hutchings simply gives voice to her fellow travelers, including legislative leadership and statewide elected officials whose silence about her remarks was deafening. 
Unfortunately, Ms. Hutchings is not up for re-election next year. She won a four-year term in 2018 because of the short memory of the voters, a placid local media that refused to stand against her past hateful speech and a group of self-ambitious, more moderate Republicans, none of whom would step aside for the other and who therefore split their votes and let Hutchings waltz into office.
It is up to all who believe Wyoming can truly be the Equality State to keep a close eye on Hutchings and her ilk. Any and all of their hateful efforts aimed at keeping LGBT-plus residents from accessing their rights should be countered with a verbal whirlwind. 
That lawmakers refused to support workplace protections for LGBT-plus residents this past session shows how just much work there is to left do to make Wyoming a safe place for its residents. Watch and listen to Lynn Hutchings and you will hear what they rest of them are saying and thinking.
A friend of mine says I am unfair to Hutchings, that she really is a nice person. But I couldn’t care less if she is well-mannered and friendly at rubber chicken dinners. I care more about what she does and says in her public role as a state senator. In that, she is an abject failure – and a terrible representative to the nation of what Wyoming is supposed to really be all about. 
And that, friends, is no laughing matter.

D. Reed Eckhardt is the former executive editor of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.

Monday, May 20, 2019

More money for shelter that kills dogs?

BY RICHARD JOHNSON

As his corpse rots in a landfill and his head resides in a lab, it would appear Tanner is getting his justice on the Cheyenne Animal Shelter. 
The audacity of a recent request for $385,000 in added funds from the city of Cheyenne is about as insane as spraying a defenseless dog in the face with pepper spray.
I know political scandals have a two-week shelf life, but this board just never seems to learn from its mistakes, and it apparently hopes a sad-eyed puppy post will pull at these politicians’ collective heartstrings.
Eight-month-old Tanner was pepper-sprayed to death in 2018.
Only in government could this type of hypocrisy reside. How soon we forget that it was this board that neglected its crematorium, an inadequate washing machine and, last but not least, the animals under their protection.
What do you expect from volunteer boards? It’s about prestige. These influential members of the community take on the role of patrons by scratching at the back door with a bowl in their mouth. 
It’s about time for the City Council to tell the Animal Shelter board it has had enough sausages. Nothing makes nonprofit operations become more efficient than when budgets are on the chopping block. 
In the real world, the shelter would have to make things work to cover its inadequacies. But we live in the times that favor rewards for bad nonprofit decisions in the form of government bailouts. 
Here’s your participation trophy, Animal Shelter. It may not be $385,000, but it’s $160,000 we pulled from reserves to help you piss away over the next fiscal year. Our only requirement is you send us updated reports that none of us will read. 
Come back next year and you may get $200,000 as the public forgets about the political suicide you committed back in 2018.
Did we forget to mention that donations to the Animal Shelter are down from previous years? But rest assured it had nothing to do with “the incident.” You remember. That’s when your shelter director shot pepper spray into one of the dogs under your care and you stood behind him for weeks before folding under public pressure.
C'mon, Animal Shelter, if you pull this leg, it plays jingle bells. 
You’d think the Animal Shelter’s directors were sheep herders with the amount of wool being pulled over the eyes of the governing body.
Who am I kidding? Council members are sheep, ready to be sucked into the public opinion vacuum, blowing taxpayer dollars in every boneheaded endeavor that comes to the podium. 
Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt, and when it rains it pours. 
I guess the new Animal Shelter building already needs a new roof. WTF? Do they not have insurance? How about hiring a staff grant writer to take care of all of this? Let me guess, we hired someone from within who has a successful blog and is younger than the building.
At the end of day, it will most likely with be a lot of noise, like cats fighting in the street at 3 a.m. I hope some angry neighbor yells out the screen door and the cats scurry. 
The next day, the cats will be back, acting all hard, like they were the cat that won the fight. But in reality, no one really won, and the whole argument was just dumb. 
I just hope someone adopted Meiko.

Richard Johnson is the former City Council member from Ward 3.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Why this? Why now?

By D. REED ECKHARDT

The straw that broke the camel’s back landed on the morning of Sunday, April 7.
After a week in which the Cheyenne community had been rocked by learning that its LGBT-plus and black students had been bullied by peers who waved Confederate flags, spoke and distributed hate-filled messages and threatened their personal safety, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle published a weak-kneed editorial calling for leadership in Laramie County School District 1.
This community needs a bulldog for truth. This blog is it.
Such irony, that this once-great newspaper, which at one time spoke boldly and took its role of community leadership seriously, was calling on others while ignoring its own constitutionally provided role, to guide this community. It was heartbreaking. The paper did not call for the suspension of the school’s principal, or for the school board to take its superintendent to task for not doing his job, or for the immediate reinstatement of a teacher whose only crime had been to rip the mask off the face of the right-wing bullying culture at the school.
No, the WTE’s tone one was of caution and suggestion. Calm down, everyone. Let’s first get the facts from the school’s self-investigation (really?). Then maybe some action will be needed. This was fear -- of reader pushback, of loss of subscriptions, of a dip in profits -- disguised as reasonableness. And it showed this once great entity for what it has become: a newspaper without a heart. 
There was a time when the WTE could be relied upon to present on its editorial page a wide diversity of opinions designed to challenge its readers and create vibrant community discussion. No more. The paper serves up Pablum for fear of angering conservative readers and losing subscribers. Its editor will tell you – if he is willing to be honest – that he withholds challenging liberal opinions because he doesn’t want to have to deal with conservative reader complaints. 
But it’s not just the liberals who have been silenced. Bradley Harrington, one of the founders of this blog, was cast off the WTE’s editorial pages because he dared to challenge the Chamber of Commerce and other community leaders. He was voted off the island by an editorial board that caters to the money men and women of Cheyenne who do not want to be challenged as they try to steer this community in ways that first benefit them and their friends.
The WTE no longer speaks truth to power. Wayward elected officials and self-appointed leaders now operate with impunity when, at a time not so long ago, they feared to have their self-motivated actions called into question. A paper that used to publish more than 300 editorials a year now settles for 52 and wastes many of those opportunities on such non-threatening subjects as Day of Giving. No doubt, that is an important event, but it is not worth 1,000 words on a Sunday when, for example, LCSD1 is trying to hide from the public the report on its self-probe on the bullying that runs rampant not only at McCormick but throughout the district.
Let me take a moment to respond to one criticism that is bound to arise here: that this blog is about retaliation for my firing three years ago after 17 years as editor of the WTE. Am I angry? Yes, but not about my layoff. I am angry that the Adams Publishing Group has shrunken the newsroom to the point that good journalism is in short supply. And that the owners are so fearful of offending readers and losing advertising that they produce a product designed to pacify, not challenge, their readers. And that APG is unwilling to lead for fear of pushback from community leaders and money men and women who could threaten its bottom line. 
Am I angry? Damn right. But only because a once great small daily newspaper and a once bold community leader is now a shell of its former self. 
Since the WTE no longer is willing to assume the mantle of opinion leader, and it is even less willing to let writers speak out about the questionable actions and decisions of community and state leaders, Mr. Harrington and I are launching this blog-site, Truth to Power.
We invite all who are willing to join us. We have personally invited some writers, and there no doubt will be others who will choose to join on their own. But this community needs a place that is fearless and challenges residents to think. 
This is not about right or left, conservative or liberal. Opinions of all sorts will appear here. Our only requirement is that they be well-written and be supported not only by emotions or beliefs but also by research and facts.
We intend to speak Truth to Power with each and every column that appears here. Because if we don’t do it, no one else will.

D. REED ECKHARDT is the former editor of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.