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Thursday, August 29, 2019

Cheyenne residents need to get past the point of just throwing stuff away. How about a Fix-It Cafe?


No matter where you live, if you ask the question: "What do we have an abundance of?" trash and castaways will always be an answer.
At one point, Cheyenne had outgrown its landfill, and the city made an agreement to temporarily have the trash shipped to Colorado. This made no sense to me, that
One of the biggest Cheyenne landfill problems: glass.
we would ship our trash to a higher population concentration instead of creatively tackling the issue at hand.
Cheyenne has since reclaimed its waste and reopened its landfill to the community.
Cheyenne also has had a recycling program that includes paper and plastics for about 11 years. Glass still goes in the trash. 
I know my family has, out of sheer convenience, been guilty of throwing things away that could have been repaired or repurposed. This means other families are doing the same thing. And some of the items we throw in the dump could be repurposed by a creative or resourceful person.
In far more progressive cities, non-profits have started up to tackle the issue of waste. Some include creating a salvage store at the dump, where items that can be repurposed can be claimed for free or for a small fee.
The ReClaim It! program in Portland, Ore., has since 2014 salvaged over 450,000 pounds of items that would otherwise been left to rot in the dump.
Fix-it cafes are popping up all over. These do-it-yourself repair shops employ artistic types and those with mechanical know-how to help everyday people repair broken items in hopes of keeping them out of landfills.
This reminds me that we need to reexamine our perception of "abundance" beyond the temporary boom-and-bust cycles. We have always had trash, and we will continue to make more. As our community continues to grow, it is essential we take this issue into account and find viable long-term solutions.
Habitat for Humanity does a great service with its reclaim store. And our few thrift stores do a great service by providing gently used items for a low price. But we can and should be doing more about our waste by looking at it as a commodity.
A dump reclaim store and a fix-it cafe in the up-and-coming Art District could be a great idea for the intersection of creativity and resourcefulness. There are plenty of artists up-cycling waste, and plenty of Mr. or Ms. Fix It types who would love to show you how to repair that vintage radio or how to build a chicken coop out of reclaimed supplies.
It could be a great place to create an inter-generational dialog as a way to pass on some useful knowledge. These ideas can create meaningful jobs for people who want to save the world but feel overwhelmed with how to help in their own community; specifically, those with a creatively driven spirit. 
When we redefine "abundance" beyond thinking it is exclusively good or bad, we can assess what we have and what we can do with it. I understand most people don't want to think about trash, and that is why we dump it in the bin and pay the bill for someone else to take it away. Trash isn't "classy.”  
Many parts of the world have trash problems.  Locally, we see it in the gutters and caught in the trees.
These ideas won't fix the problem we have with the wind blowing trash
This Repair Cafe is in New Paltz, N.Y.
into your yard, but they could help in lowering your trash bill in years to come and eliminating some of the refuse we would prefer to ignore. Again, this is an attempt at creating a closed-cycle system by reducing unnecessary waste. That is an attitude that Cheyenne should adopt multilaterally.
For those people who say "Cheyenne has nothing to do," imagine taking your kid to the reclaim store to find some items. Then you can head over to the fix-it cafe to spend the afternoon making something better than it was when you found it. Or maybe you could create something entirely new from your acquisitions.
Imagine this is what you do with your partner, or family, or friends on Saturday or Tuesday afternoon. Perhaps they have local beer and coffee on tap. Perhaps they have classes on specific projects.
We will always have trash. Things break and need to be fixed. Creatives will always be looking for something to up-cycle. Builders and fixers will always be building and fixing.   
We are swimming in abundance that the wind won't blow away. Open your eyes, Cheyenne, and grab hold of these possibilities before some outside developer comes and steals it for themselves. Let's own  our city!
If we want these ideas to work for our community, we have to show interest and be willing to get our hands a little dirty.

Madge Midgely is a local writer. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Wyo. should work at opening its primaries. That's the only way residents will become more involved

It doesn't take long on social media these days to see we are divided as a city, state and nation. This division is unlike anything a lot of us have ever seen. We have entered an era of divisive political grandstanding displayed on Twitter daily. 
Yet it doesn't seem to be a popular political position to suggest that U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, also known as AOC, and U.S Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., are both exactly why we are so divided.
This era isn't by chance; it's a product of a political system designed to
Millionaire Foster Friess blamed crossover voting for his loss last year.
divide. This divisive system is displayed in our primary elections and is most visible at the highest elected office of U.S. president. 
The party-run primary/caucus is a litmus test pitting the most uncompromising partisans against each other with the winner standing no chance at bridging any partisan divide once in office. 
Partisan primary elections at all levels are pushing the center majority further into apathy. Already the majority of voting age adults stay home on primary election day. 
According to the secretary of state, only 31.6 percent of Wyoming’s voting age population turned out to vote in the 2018 primary. Since 2008, the highest turnout of voting age adults was 32.7 percent with the lowest at 25 percent in 2012, giving us an average turnout of 28.1 percent over the last decade. 
The general election fares a little better, breaking 50 percent thrice in the same period with the high of 64.4 percent in 2008 and the low coming in 2014 at 38.5 percent. With roughly seven in 10 Wyomingites staying home for the primary elections and less than stellar numbers for the generals, I am not sure we are as divided as it appears or whether our system has created a divided government we love to hate.
If we truly want to bridge the division, we need to reform our political system. Let’s open our primaries, encourage participation, limit partisan influence and enfranchise the masses. Yet a growing number of Wyoming partisans want to deepen the division and limit electoral influence to the party loyalists. 
Wyomingites used to take pride in the fact they voted for the person and not their party, electing individuals who were above the partisan fray and would work for all the people of Wyoming. Now elected officials are expected to follow the party lock step or face the wrath of party officials, who were never elected by the people. 
These days it seems like we have shifted the political spectrum so far to the right that moderate Republican candidates are dragged through the mud as RINOs and Democrats as enemies of the state.
There are two types of primary elections. 
The first is the closed primary in which members of any given party choose who they want representing their party in the general election. The second is the open primary in which the field of candidates is narrowed down to give the electorate an opportunity to evaluate the remaining candidates on a deeper level. 
Wyoming's primary election process is quasi-closed for statewide and legislative races. You must be registered within the party you are voting in only at the time you cast your ballot. Therefore, you can change your party affiliation right before you vote for long enough to vote in the primary and return to your previous affiliation after voting. 
The exception is the presidential primary, which is strictly controlled by the respective political parties. Delegate selection is dictated by the state central committees and approved by the national parties.
Partisans claim our current system, a system that has worked well for Wyoming for years, opens the door for meddling in their ability to put up the purest candidates for their party. Millionaire megadonor and Republican candidate Foster Friess complained about crossover voting in the last governor’s race. He said it was Democrats crossing over to vote as Republicans who gave now-Gov. Mark Gordon the GOP primary win.
Seven attempts have been made to close the process with at least one proposal in each general session of the Legislature since 2011.
This partisan power grab is why during the last legislative session the supermajority Republican Party put massive resources toward further closing the process. Three
Wyoming primary voters in 2018.
unique attempts were made with bills that seemed to raise themselves from the dead several times. But they failed every time.
There are a number of reasons why an individual may want to change affiliation at the polls. Meddling in the other party's primary is at the bottom of the list. If meddling isn't the reason for changing, what is? 
First, have you ever picked up a non-Republican ballot? Yeah, there are a lot of blank slots. Have you ever picked up a nonpartisan ballot? It's blank with the few exceptions of nonpartisan local races, such as city council. You literally cannot be an independent voter in Wyoming during the primary. 
There isn't a single county in Wyoming where Republican voter registration isn't the majority. Many elections in Wyoming are decided in the Republican primary – a natural consequence of having a single party with 70 percent of the registered voters. If you want your voice to be heard in many elections, you had better vote in the Republican primary. 
Second, voter registration data are in the public domain, allowing anyone to access your party affiliation at any time. During the election, I heard from many people who serve in the military, own businesses, work in public service or who enjoy their privacy. They don't want their voter registration impacting their affairs. They were much opposed to the proposals brought forward by the majority party. 
Finally, each person who crosses over to vote has his or her own personal reasons, and it's none of our business. Our vote is our voice to use in the way we see fit. We are all Americans, even if we vote differently.
If we want the people to prevail, we shouldn't be adding more restraints to the electoral process. At this moment in time with the divisive "us vs. them" attitude, with the majority of the voting age populous staying home, apathy, or worse, cynicism is the largest threat to liberty. 
The smaller the group of people, the easier it is to manipulate the results. If we want a republic truly representative of the people, we must hear from them at the polls each and every election. 
We should be fighting for ways to engage the people to turn as many of them out to vote as possible. We must do everything we can to avoid falling into, or in this case creating, the framework for oligarchical rule. 

Calob Taylor A civically engaged citizen of Cheyenne and former candidate for the state Legislature. 

Monday, August 26, 2019

Those who would create change must speak loudly, even rudely, not bend to bogus calls for civility

“History shows that being civil rarely accomplishes anything.” – “The Problem with Civility,” Caroline Grace Stefko,, July 1, 2018


My recent posting about putting common-sense gun controls in place in Wyoming before there is a Parkland or El Paso-like event here ( drew responses similar to what I have heard before. My friend, state Rep. Sara Burlingame, D-Cheyenne, criticized it as over the top, filled with invective and containing an “assumption of ill will” on the part of the Legislature. 
But what really stood out to me from Burlingame’s posting on Facebook was this: “The only thing I can do: insist on civility.”
Sorry, friend, but I am not going there. Civility is so overrated. It mainly is used as a tool, particularly
in Wyoming, to quiet the voices of those who challenge the majority culture or its political gospel, whether it is in the Legislature or on the street. 
In the Cowboy State, those who dare to speak loudly against legislators’ hateful views and their disregard for the needs of the poor and who argue stridently against cuts in education and other important services are told they are being impolite. They are instructed to be more civil in their discourse. The result: Their voices are quieted so those in control don’t have to hear them and can go about their egregious ways unchallenged.
Consider one example that is important to the future of Wyoming: the continued discrimination against gays, lesbians and other members of the LGBTQ-Plus community in housing and the workplace and at local businesses. This must change if the Cowboy State ever hopes to attract the young professionals it says it so dearly wants. (More on this in a future post.)
At the Legislature, lawmakers demand the issue be discussed in chambers with civility and etiquette. “Please follow the rules” is the order if the day, so the continued and growing frustration of the LGBTQ-Plus community and its supporters is never really heard.
It’s all part and parcel of a double standard. When one of the legislative leadership’s own goes off the rails, his or her behavior is ignored, if not supported. No reprimand is forthcoming. No demand that they, too, be civil.
As a prime example, state Sen. Lynn Hutchings, R-Cheyenne, has said horrible things both on and off the floor about the LGBTQ-Plus community and its members. She recently compared a group of gay high school students to those who practice bestiality. And she once referred in testimony to AIDS as GRID, “gay-related immune deficiency,” in an effort to stigmatize gays, lesbians and others.
            Yet as far as I know, Hutchings never has been reprimanded for her behavior. At the Legislature, you see, what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander. Indeed, walk outside chambers at any hearing on an anti-LGBTQ-Plus discrimination bill and you will hear what lawmakers really feel about members of that community, and it will not be said with civility.
Bottom line, if those who oppose hateful or cruel behavior do not speak up – loudly, rudely, with vehemence and, yes, with invective – they simply will not be heard. It takes getting in the face of those in the uncaring majority before minority voices are heeded. Those who choose to be civil are patted on the head like good little children by those in power and then are dismissed from the room. 
            The quote at the beginning of this post says it all. Where would America be if women had not spoken up loudly – marching, protesting, petitioning – for equality first at the voting booth and then in other parts of their lives? If black Americans has not held sit-ins, marches, protests, gotten in the face of nation that much preferred they be quiet and “wait their turn”? Would union members have the right to bargain for pay and benefits? Would there be gay marriage? 
The list of those in America who chose to act with incivility, who refused to sit down and be quiet and who then won the day is long and storied. Anger stirs debate, and debate ignites change. Those without power ignore that at their peril.
When I first moved to Cheyenne 20 years ago to serve as editor of the local newspaper, one of my tasks was to elevate editorial page dialogue. That was done by speaking loudly, by calling out – by name – legislators, governors, mayors, City Council members, county commissioners and others whose public words or performance was improper, wrongheaded or just plain ignorant. 
There were calls from readers back then for a more civil approach, for not calling out people by name, for less invective in our approach to issues and public officials. In other words, for more civility. That is not the approach we chose, and our ability to affect the direction of community discussion and public performance was felt, whether various readers agreed with our underlying goals or not.
So it always has been and always will be in my writings. I believe Cheyenne and Wyoming, while great, can be greater, but not by giving in to demands for civility. Speaking loudly, with vehemence, with emotion, is the only tool available to those who wish to create real change. 
No one should bend to calls for civility simply for the sake of civility. Those who care, really  care, speak up. And they do so loudly and, if necessary, rudely. Theirs is a great tradition in America. Count me among their number.

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

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Should rural Laramie County residents get the chance to vote in Cheyenne city elections? Of course not.

I am mobbed every week by Laramie County residents who say they should be able to vote in city elections for public officials. My answer was always, "No, you don’t live in city limits. Therefore, you don’t get to vote for city officials." 
So how complex is this issue? How are county residents disenfranchised?
Some folks who live in the county feel they should be able to vote in city elections because they work
Some rural residents want to vote in Cheyenne elections.
in the city, attend citywide functions, spend their money in the city and, overall, support the economy. 
These points are sound. Letting county voters take part in city elections could enhance their investment in Cheyenne, perhaps spurring more growth and development as county residents feel more connected to city planning and government. 
But on a practical level, would allowing county residents to vote for the Cheyenne mayor effectively change anything?
Last year the state Legislature passed a statute at the request of the County Commissioners Association to remove extraterritorial jurisdiction. 
What exactly does this mean for Laramie County and Cheyenne? Extraterritorial jurisdiction is the legal ability of a government to exercise authority beyond its normal boundaries. When this bill was passed, Cheyenne lost its joint authority with the County Commission over planning and zoning within one mile of the city limits. 
The process of planning for that one mile outside of city limits had been shared between the county and city. But now the county has full control. Because of this change, it can be argued county residents now have more flexibility while the city's voice has been silenced.
The subject of county pockets further complicates issues. Here is an excerpt from an email I received:
“So far we have been fortunate to keep our well. Our water table is 100 feet. When we moved here 17 years ago, the Saddle Ridge subdivision had no homes, same with much of the new Sun Valley. We had liked the idea of being in the country while so close to the city. But it's all changed. Pipelines came in and everything has changed and definitely not for the better, in my opinion.”
I find this odd since my Bain Elementary School teachers in the 1980s told me Denver was going to reach the state line by now. In my opinion, water is the most valuable resource in Wyoming, and the original city/county fathers shouldn't have let anyone just have a well. 
If we go through an excessive drought, I wouldn’t be surprised if wells are not grandfathered in, and if you want to sell your house it has to be tied to city water. No ifs, ands or buts.
County pockets also cause grief because those living in pockets generally don't want any part in city curb, gutter, water and sewer requirements. Residents can end up without those services for two decades while their neighbors cling to county-status and refuse to sign on. It wasn’t until 2018 that refunds were given back to people who had just given up the fight. 
It also sucks for the guy who requests de-annexation because the city sewer and water lines are so out of whack in county pocket areas.
The city could mandate annexation, and in doing so, also exempt the residents of county pockets from requirements like curb, gutter, and sidewalk. This would clean up the pockets and increase efficiency of service delivery. If the city had any gumption, it would just annex the properties within the municipality sphere.
I’ve also heard of other ordinances that have caused grief. The one issue brought to my attention was the smoking ordinance. Smoking is still allowed in the county, so once again rural residents comes up aces. 
How many of the nearly thousand pages of bullshit city laws really impact them?
One county resident explored a different option;
“I think it’s a frustration that there’s no voice for those who may live in the county but work and spend most of their discretionary funds in Cheyenne. And for many, the only option if annexation is considered is to pay a large fee for sewer and water, both of which most close-in county residents already have. True. But those are slowly dwindling. I would happily pay the Cheyenne mills to have a voice in the city. 
“It would still be nice to retain the niceties of county living, such as no shooting restrictions etc. Maybe an unincorporated Cheyenne city limits could be explored to increase tax revenue to fight the blight and fix the streets!"
Another stated:
“I would love to see the county voters have a say in the city elections. However, here are the issues I see with it:
“Laramie County has almost a 100,000 population with a good majority of the population living just beyond the city limits. 
The census shows the:
Cheyenne city limits pop. 63,335 
Burns pop.  301 
Albin pop. 181
Hillsdale pop.  47 
Pine Bluffs pop. 1,129.
“How far of a radius or buffer area around the city limits do you extend the voting area?
“If you were to agree on this voting area, how long would it be before the
city tries to annex property into the city and try to make them hook up to city water and sewer?
“These numbers coincide with fifth-penny taxes. Out of $66 million, $42,781,200, or 64.82%, went to Cheyenne and $22,057,200, or 33.42%, went to the county. 
“This tax is approved by all county voters. The same could be said for the sixth-penny and seventh-penny taxes. It’s voted on by all county voters. The turf facility, gymnastics complex, and Children's Museum all failed with all the county and city votes being tallied. How does voting for a mayor and council change this outcome?"
As we saw in the 2018 Taylor Haynes gubernatorial fiasco – where it was unclear whether Haynes was Colorado or Wyoming resident – where you lay your head at night matters. 
Would Cheyenne let a business owner who runs a business in town but who lives in the county vote in city elections? Cheyenne is a box store/chain restaurant mecca. Should the owners and CEOs of those businesses get to vote as well? 
They don’t live in Wyoming, but their businesses pay tons in taxes, permits, etc. compared to a "mom and pop" shops. Apples to apples, how much do their employees spend in the city compared to yours? They hire over 100; a small business hires five. 
We city folk usually think in these terms: “Don't people in the county live there for the freedom and fewer rules? What are they voting on? The only thing that affects them is sales tax, and we don't let visitors vote on that either.” 
Hell, you county residents get to shoot fireworks, have a business in your garage, decide on our own color and type of fence and smoke in a bar. And let’s be real, most of you would vote for the same candidate as city voters.
For all those people who want to vote in city elections, I ask: What your participation in current city government? Are you county residents really being left out? 
If you were serious about wanting a voice in city affairs, you would annex into the city or build your business in the county. Maybe you could move back into city limits? 
If your answer to all that is no, then that’s my answer to you voting in city elections.

Richard Johnson is a former City Council member from Ward 3 on Cheyenne’s east side.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Let's try adding a "Life Day" to our schools to give students the tools they are so sorely lacking

I was involved in a discussion about education the other day. It was intriguing. When you think about it, looking from the outside in, the way we educate our kids hasn’t changed that much in the last 100 years. 
According to the Education Commission of the United States, every state has its own mandate on the number of school days and the number of hours. (  
I am not sure the reason behind this. There may well be a logical reason, and if so, please enlighten me.
U.S. education hasn't change since the Johnson County school in 1953.
I have friends back in Oklahoma, and the Oklahoma City School District started the K-12 school year recently, and they were expecting 100-degree temps the first week of school. Now maybe all the classrooms have air conditioning, but they sure didn’t when I was going to school there as a child. 
This is where I differ with public school and agree with home schooling. Again, I could be wrong, but I believe home schools structure their year based on curriculum. 
Yes, I know public schools follow a curriculum too. But they are required to be in class a certain number of days in the school year.
I don’t understand why public schools can’t get the curriculum completed between Labor Day and Memorial Day. 
Here in Cheyenne, school starts next week, but it will continue into June while other districts start in mid-August and will be out before Memorial Day. 
Is there a scientific study that says the kids in Kansas who attend 186 days in their school year are that much smarter or prepared than those of neighboring Colorado, where students are required to be 160 days in the classroom? 
Yes, I know that is the perfect set-up for my Wyoming friends to lay out some great Colorado jokes.
I know there are several variables that go into this equation, such as the teachers unions, which I support, and staff development days, so let’s explore that.
In Wyoming there are several school districts that have four-day school weeks, including Laramie County School District 2. I assume that means longer school days to meet the mandated hours and shorter holiday breaks to meet the required mandate of days attended. 
I actually like the thought of a four-day school week, but not in the sense that everyone gets Fridays off. I would support a four-day classroom school week, but Fridays would be an unconventional day. Before I jump into what I call a “Life Day,” let’s touch on another issue we are dealing with. 
My generation and those generations before mine are quick to identify a lack of work ethic among today’s kids. It’s easy for us to blame them for being lazy and glued to their devices, but we need to look at ourselves as a cause of this problem. 
It is my opinion, as the Vietnam War came to an end, America set the course of change in place. The last draft call was on Dec. 7, 1972, and the authority to induct expired on June 30, 1973. Don’t get me wrong, ending the Vietnam War was a good thing, and we owe all our soldiers far more than they receive. 
But by ending the draft, we also ended the service of many of our youth. There is something to be said for young adults going from high school directly into service. There were lessons that were never learned, and accountability that was lost. And with every generation thereafter, we lose a little more work ethic, a little more respect and a little more patriotism. These are all things we could use, and which are timeless. 
Now let’s bring this back into our educational structure and think outside the box a little.
As I said before, I am all in favor of a four-day classroom week, but Fridays should not be just an extended weekend. Every Fridays could be considered a “Life Day.”
Students should be expected to shadow a mentor or a career choice. Maybe they could volunteer at a shelter or a senior citizens home. Maybe one Friday a month, students are required to be in the auditorium to listen to a speaker and testimonies from those who are in the real world.
If students are looking to go into agriculture, then on Friday they are working with a local farmer or rancher. If they are looking at a career in the legal field, then they are shadowing an attorney. If they are just completely undecided, as many younger students will be, then they will be expected to be at a homeless shelter or assisted living residence, reading and assisting those in need. 
The most valuable lessons are not taught in the classroom. Academics are taught in the classroom; compassion, morals and ethics are taught in the field, aka “life’s classroom.”  
Not every student should be in life’s classroom. Some will need the traditional classroom to get caught up or for academic reinforcement, such as tutoring. This would open up Fridays for teachers for staff development and parent-teacher conferences. 
In order for this to work, there has to be accountability. Fridays would have to be a legitimate day, and students would have to take part as if they are in the classroom. This would be an absence if they were not there as well as a requirement in order to move on to the next grade or to graduate. 
This would be a great way to build character and replace some of the lessons we are losing in today’s society.
I believe our educational system will take on some drastic and much-needed changes in the next 20 to 50 years. I believe public schools will take on some of the philosophies of home schools. 
I believe we will see classrooms move into an a la carte system. You will pick the courses and teachers that meet your requirements. Every school district will have 15 English teachers, and each teacher may have a different location. That location may be a home, or it may be a strip mall; the same with science, math and other subjects. 
Most subjects will be taken online at either a location or at home. Don’t be surprised to see Mrs. Johnson's algebra class to be located next to King Soopers. Mrs. Johnson pays the lease and utilities and the state pays Mrs. Johnson a certain amount per student. 
Again, this is out of the box, but I can see it happening.
Recapping, I support a four-day classroom and a Life Day. Now, go ahead and call me crazy. I’ve heard it before.

Steve Sears is a small businessman and entrepreneur in Cheyenne. He recently opened Elevate Group Training Studios at 1408A E 13th St.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Here's an idea for you: How about a geothermal, vertical greenhouse for downtown Cheyenne?

I am a "make the most of what you have" kind of person. As a creative, it's an essential attitude. I like to think of myself as some sort of Artistic MacGuyver.   
Why couldn't I use the same mental tactics to come up with an idea that could not only redefine our city, but make the most out of what we already have and know?
I proposed this idea casually on Facebook several years ago when the debate over the fate of "The Hole"
This vertical greenhouse is proposed for a Chicago housing development.
downtown became a hot topic. Since then I have thought even more about it, and how it could be a positive investment for the business owners in downtown.
What is this idea?
A vertical geothermal greenhouse specializing in hops, veggies and mushrooms. 
Wyoming is historically attached to agriculture and ranching. It is ingrained in our schools; we still have kids in the Future Farmers of America program. This means there is a future in farming, but maybe the face of how we farm needs to change. 
We need closed-cycle systems. You may wonder what that means. It means less waste. It means getting the most out of what you have. It means cooperative efforts between restaurant owners, ranchers, farmers, vermiculture (the controlled growing of worms in specialty structures) workers and the tech industry.
I imagine a large greenhouse, set up with a self-sensing system, including aquaponics, where fish help fertilize and water the plants. I imagine Cheyenne using new technology with this style of agriculture as a way to give back to the community and redefine the worth of what it means to grow your own food.
You've always heard the complaints about Cheyenne's short growing season, yet we have over 300 blue sky days a year. Cheyenne could be growing its own food all year if it was done properly. In just a few years we could have greenhouses all over the city, providing produce, jobs and opportunities for individuals to learn how to grow their own. 
If you are paying attention, inflation on food is a real thing. Teaching a man to grow his own is like teaching him to fish. He will not go hungry, even in the meager times, if he has his own garden. 
I imagine local restaurants and breweries would be proud to offer locally grown products on their menus. Imagine the pride of eating a meal that was completely locally sourced all year round? I mean,
A downtown greenhouse in Valley Verde, Calif.
we go to other states for that kind fare. It's possible to do it here, but it would take magnanimous support. 
I am an idea person, not a business person. I am a person with a lot of experiences. But I have no idea how one person could get an idea this big off the ground, except for interest by members of the community who believe in the idea and have the resources to invest in it. 
So this is me, putting a bug in your ear, Cheyenne. 
Let's move forward with our strong foundation in agriculture, but let's give it the facelift it deserves. Imagine a beautiful big greenhouse downtown. A place you can visit and pick up some plants or seeds or food. A place you would want to take an out-of-town guest, and then take them to a local eatery serving that food. 
Imagine greenhouse nodes in your neighborhood. Imagine us producing enough food to sell to our own grocery stores.
If you can imagine it, then also imagine all the jobs it could provide to those youthful FFA kids who are interested in new farming technologies. Let's give them more opportunities to take their love of farming to the next level. 

Madge Midgley is a local writer.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Are city leaders trying to snow you on the land swap to open up the Belvoir Ranch? It's a real possibility

When a city councilman told the audience recently that over the past few years there have been some bad things going on behind the scenes about the Belvoir Ranch, no one at a recent work session batted an eye. 
This is standard operating procedure when working on large issues: Trust city officials.
What could go wrong? 
The first thing that seems odd is the city attorney’s office started working out some of the bugs on
The Holy Grail of the city's planned land swap: access to the Big Hole.
the Dyno Nobel land deal – that could lead to a path to the Belvoir Ranch – just a few days before the work session. Add a couple of mayoral zingers like, “What does it really mean to make BOPU and Sanitation whole?” and “We are on a time crunch to get this done by Sept. 30," and I ask again: What could go wrong? 
Is there a reason for this rush? And are we going to take less than what we paid for the Belvoir just to get something done?
I’ve listened to auctioneers rattle numbers slower than what the staff threw at the City Council during their work session. 
Take this blizzard of facts:
Number of wind turbines (proposed) on City property: 74 
Each turbine's megawatt (MW) installed capacity: 2.82 MW
Total city installed capacity: 208.68 MW
City's installed capacity – conservatively rounded down, 200 MW
The City of Cheyenne will receive a one-time payment of: $2,500 per MW (50 percent due at commencement of construction and 50 percent due at commercial operation)
Total: $500,000
Total one-time payment (based on 200 MW Capacity)
OPERATING FEES (from operations until the wind power facility is removed)
The city shall annually receive the greater of:
3.5 percent of Lessee's Gross Revenues until the 10-year anniversary; 4 percent from the 10th anniversary to 20th anniversary and 4.5 percent  
1) from the 20th anniversary to the expiration of lease agreement
2) The below calculation 
Base operating fee per calendar year installed: $5,000 per MW
Adjustment to CPI beginning August 2012 to May 2019: $558 CPI Index
            Total MW per calendar year with inflation adjustment: $5,558 per MW
$1.1116 million (Approximate total annual payment once construction is complete.)
If CPI goes up 2.0 percent annually, the base operating fee (by MW) will increase by $111 per MW, or the operating fee payment will increase annually by $22,000.
            In layman terms that means: “Marty, I'm sorry, but the only power source capable of generating 1.21 gigawatts of electricity is a bolt of lightning.”
Or this:
“There is a split between agencies to warrant the Dyno Nobel sale, the negotiated purchase price of the Mariah property is $1.295 million. The appraised value of the land is $1.06 million. The difference between the appraised value ($1.06 million) and the amount Dyno Nobel negotiated to pay the owners of the property ($1.295 million) is $235,000.   
“If the purchase/land swap is approved by the governing body, the city and Dyno Nobel will split that difference, which will be $117,500 each. Then, if BOPU’s board approves, they will pay for half of the $117,500, or $58,750, and the city will pay $58,750.”
Oh yeah. There is no money in case the splash pad goes over budget.
In regards to Dyno Nobel’s deadline of Sept. 30, the understanding is Dyno Nobel is a publicly traded company and therefore must, per the Securities and Exchange Commission rules, file an earnings report after the end of the first three quarters of their fiscal year, which is Sept. 30. As these reports must include the company’s gross revenue, expenses, etc. it is a common practice for publicly traded companies to want to include all major financial activity in this report, so when they publish their earnings press releases they have all relevant information included. 
I bet you wished the city worked this hard for your interests. 
If all this mumbo jumbo hasn’t turned your mind to tapioca pudding, just wait. There’s more. 
This whole land sale, called the Mariah Development, is being heralded as a new gateway to the Belvoir Ranch and future recreation activities. Sad thing is, it isn’t. No one has figured out how to get to the south side of the railroad tracks to get to the Big Hole. 
I hate to break it to you, but this whole debacle is nothing but a shell game of moving money and smoke and mirrors. 
Whois really benefitting from this, and why? 
And what’s the rush? 
It’s not the city’s job to make Dyno Nobel’s stockholders happy but rather to defend the interests of the people of Cheyenne. 
Is the mayor benefiting personally from this? Witness the brouhaha over the truck she got to tool around in for Frontier Days. The possibility can’t be ignored.
Why is there no firm commitment from anyone to do the Belvoir gateway? Or to even assure that the swap will create it?
Why is no one talking about the lack of an agreement with the railroad?
No, it’s “throw a blizzard of facts” at the City Council and city residents, with the hope they all will go snow blind.
Here’s hoping the City Council does its due diligence on this. “Trust the administration” are three words that shouldn’t come up in reviewing this deal.
Those involved in all this couldn’t have picked a more suitable name for project than the Mariah development. To quote “Paint Your Wagon:” 

And now I'm lost, I'm oh so lost
Not even God can find me
Mariah, O, Mariah, They call the wind Mariah

Yep, the city of Cheyenne just may be throwing more of your tax dollars to the winds.

Richard Johnson is the former City Councilman from Ward 3 on Cheyenne’s east side. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Wyoming should pass common-sense gun control laws BEFORE its children are slaughtered

            Seventeen people, mostly students, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., are gunned down by an expelled, 19-year old former student. 
In response, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signs legislation controlling gun use in the state. New laws include: the raising of the legal age for to buy guns to 21; a three-day waiting period for purchases;
and "Risk Protection Orders." These orders let courts forbid violent or mentally ill individuals from buying or possessing firearms.  
            The people of Dayton, Ohio, see 10 members of their community out for an evening’s entertainment gunned down in a matter of moments. Some 27 others are wounded.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine now wants a version of a "red flag" law to take guns away from those who are dangers to themselves. Those are included in his 17-point plan to reduce gun violence. Background checks for all gun purchases and transfers are a key part of the strategy.
            In El Paso, Texas, 22 people are killed at a Walmart and 24 others are wounded. Now 72 percent of residents in the state support “red flag” laws. And Gov. Mike Abbott is calling for town halls to discuss ways to dampen gun violence. He has committed to nothing, but the Texas push for gun rights all the time, every time, no longer is his rallying cry.
            Why does it take the death of students, babies, loving couples, people out for a night on the town for America’s gun-loving governors to suddenly get religion on gun control? 
Wouldn’t it make more sense to get ahead of the game? Why not put place common-sense gun controls in place before a crisis happens rather than wade through the blood and suffering after a massacre only then to fall before the bloody red light of common sense like the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus?
            Indeed, why not? 
Unfortunately, we live in Wyoming, and common sense and state government, including the governor, can’t be found in the same sentence. Their silence on the issue of guns in the wake of the recent massacres is deafening. And lawmakers continue to spout such nonsense as more  guns will make the state safer. Ask Govs. Scott, DeWine and Abbott about that now – as they bury their state’s children.
            Is it really going to take a slaughter in downtown Rock Springs or the deaths of students in a classroom in Cheyenne before this state’s gun-loving leaders to act?
            Apparently so, if you listen to House Majority Whip Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance, in a recent video interview at Cowboy State Daily ( He continues to spout the same half-truths and bull manure that Wyoming’s so-called leaders have spouted for years. 
Unfortunately, he and others like him have the wheel of Wyoming’s legislative vehicle, and it is not going to veer in the direction of protecting this state’s residents any time soon – unless someone stands up to them.
            Just a couple of example of Lindholm’s bull manure.
            He says he opposes “red flag” laws because he doesn’t want his neighbor having the power to call the police who then, in turn, will come crashing into his house to take away the guns that he shares his bed with. Crap. “Red flag” laws require that arguments be made in legal and judicial proceedings before guns can be confiscated. The goal is to provide proper balance between protecting the community and the right to own guns. Thanks, but if my neighbor is out of his or her mind, and really don’t want them waving a gun around.
            Similarly, Lindholm conveniently ignores the fact that two-thirds of Wyoming suicides are committed by those with access to guns, the third-highest rate in America. Apparently the representative would rather sacrifice the lives of his fellow Wyomingites on the altar of the Second Amendment rather than to let family members or others limit the suicidals’ access to guns.
            Another Lindholm lie. He argues that gun buybacks don’t work. That the slaughter that occurred at Christchurch, New Zealand, occurred despite buybacks. What he conveniently fails to mention – either out of ignorance or purposeful propaganda – is that the New Zealand buyback began after the terrorists struck, not before, and it is being celebrated as a success by the people of that nation.
            Or how about Lindholm’s phony defense of the need for assault weapons: The people need to be able to defend themselves against their government. This is not 1776, and the British are not coming. Only those who have gone round the bend really believe the American government is coming to get their guns. Yet these same people are running the Legislature? God help us all.
            There are a number of common-sense proposals that would be worthy of promotion and passage. But only if the state’s more moderate politicians would band together and stand up to the bullies like Lindholm who run the Legislature with an iron fist. Are they really going to let these true believers allow students die in school hallways?
            Here are a few sensible solutions that won’t rob anyone of their Second Amendment rights:
n Red flag laws: Getting court approval to remove guns from those who are dangers to themselves or others.
n Limits on gun magazines. Experts say this is, perhaps, the biggest step that would save people’s lives in mass shootings.
n Background checks on all guns sales and transfers, even among private parties. Violent persons, criminals, the mentally ill should not have access to guns, period.
n Waiting periods on gun purchases. This can prevent those making rash decisions from taking their lives or the lives of others.
n A ban on the sale of assault and military-style weapons. Unless, of course, Wyoming Game and Fish is going to allow the slaughter of entire herds of deer or elk at one time.
n Bans on violent offenders from possessing guns.
n “Shall issue” laws. These let law enforcement to limit the number of concealed weapons permits to those who shouldhave them, not those who wantto have them.
Someone in Wyoming has to take the first step forward. But don’t look to Tyler Lindholm and his ilk to do it. They are so caught up in stroking other and promoting their conservative agendas that even the slaughter of children in a Wyoming school is unlikely to move them.
I have known Gov. Mark Gordon to be a level-headed conservative. Won’t he at least begin the discussion? Will it really take an El Paso, or a Parkland, or a Dayton or one of the dozens of other mass shootings that have occurred in the last decade before Wyoming takes action?
What will the governor say when he stands over a coffin with the parents of a gunned-down school child? That at least we defended the Second Amendment?

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