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Friday, September 27, 2019

Wyoming seniors put John Barrasso into office, but now the U.S. senator wants to cut their benefits


If Wyoming’s rapidly aging population hopes to protect its pocketbooks, it had better wake up and confront its members in Congress.
Yes, their own Republican U.S. Sen. John Barrasso has his eyes on their Medicare and Social Security checks.
Wyo. Sen. John Barrasso is hoping to slash Social Security and Medicare.
This is the same John Barrasso who told them he would always look out for Wyoming’s interests when he shuttled off to the nation’s capital and began his rappid rise in GOP leadership.
In case you haven’t heard, President Donald Trump, with a big boost from Barrasso, has major plans if he is re-elected in 2020. He already has told his confederates that “it might be fun” to go after Medicare and Social Security if he wins. 
This certainly is not something Trump is going to talk about at one of his big re-election rallies. But don’t fool yourself. He can’t continue to roll up trillion-dollar budget deficits. And he is not about to quit his military buildup or slice the tax cuts that have funneled millions into his own pockets as well as those of the others at the top of America’s economic pyramid.
Unfortunately, Barrasso, ever the loyal Trump lapdog, is in full support of slashing Medicare and Social Security. Wyoming’s soon-to be senior senator, due to the retirement of U.S Sen. Mike Enzi, recently said Republican leaders in the Senate are homing in on Medicare and Social Security.
"We've brought it up with President Trump, who has talked about it being a second-term project," Barrasso said with enthusiasm.
Clearly the senator has lost all focus on the people who make up one of the fastest-aging states in the nation. Nearly one-fifth of the population of Wyoming is over 55, and 12 percent of the state’s residents are on Medicare. These are the same people who lead Wyoming in voer turnout, yet Barrasso is leading the charge to put their benefits on the chopping block?
But then, why not? It’s not as if Barrasso and the others who are part of this assault have any idea what it is like to have to make ends meet on the home front. Consider that Barrasso’s reported net worth is $2.7 million and that his salary is $174,000 (excluding lavish benefits). And his annual pension – if he ever chooses to return home from chasing power in D.C. – will be $89,610 a year.
Meanwhile, the average Wyoming resident brings home $31,214 a year, and if he or she is on Social Security, they are reaping less than $2,500 a month. There is no way Barrasso and the other millionaires on Capitol Hill can fathom the impact of their proposed cut on the lives of average Cowboy State residents.
And please, don’t buy into the rhetoric that it is these so-called “entitlements” which are weighing the national budget down. Bottom line is that if Barrasso and the rest hadn’t stuffed their pockets with the Trump tax cuts, the deficit wouldn’t be approaching $1 trillion. They are the ones causing the deficit crisis.
Consider that the average Wyomingite saw his or her pay rise by about 1.2 percent after the Trump tax cuts. Meanwhile Barrasso’s bracket sprang up 4 percent. Multiply the meager pay levels in Wyoming by 1.2 percent and it’s clear Medicare and Social Security beneficiaries are hardly to blame for the rising deficits.
But get ready: Barrasso and his friends aren’t about to give up their tax bonanzas to keep dollars in the elderly’s pockets. 
Unfortunately, it is only going to get worse with Enzi’s retirement. The next U.S. senator will be either ex-U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis or current U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney. Lummis reported a net worth of $12.3 million in 2013, and you can bet that boomed thanks to the Trump cuts. Cheney’s net worth is harder to pin down, but you can bet she is in the same league as Lummis and Barrasso.
Yes, I know Wyoming is a Republican state and that the next congressional delegation will be as red as the current one is. But seniors still must, in no uncertain terms, tell Barrasso and the others running for U.S. House and Senate seats that this brazen raid on their benefits is unacceptable. 
It is the elderly of Wyoming who put these people into office. Yet Barrasso and the rest are willing to steal bread out of their mouths and the prescriptions from their hands. Shameful. At the very least, Wyoming elderly must demand before election day that their senators and representative stand up for them. If not, what are they voting for these people for?
Are Wyoming’s elderly going to end up like the farmers in the Midwest who now are paying a huge price for the trade policies of the president they supported? Will the elderly allow themselves to be robbed by a Republican machine that includes their very own senator?
U.S. Sen. John Barrasso: Who do you really represent? 
Clearly it is not the people who put you into office.

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

Monday, September 23, 2019

Local "Loraxes" are building the Capital City's canopy through Rooted in Cheyenne. Why not join them?

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, 
nothing is going to get better. It's not."
-- The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

By Richard Johnson

Cheyenne is fortunate to have the staff we have in Urban Forestry. 
Good things have been happening the last two years in this department that will literally outlive us for a hundred years:
-- Movement in age diversity and species diversity of the urban canopy.
-- Changes in laws that result in downtown tree care by responsible, qualified arborists to let business owners focus on their concerns.
 -- Creation of a nonprofit to encourage the community to buy into increased property values, shaded sidewalks and community activism through education. 
The leader
Rooted in Cheyenne volunteers put up a tree recently.
of this crusade is a super-intelligent man named Mark Ellison. I got wind in 2015 that he was a game changer and was being sought out by multiple agencies because of his knowledge and passion for all things trees. 
I heard he had modified city code to bring it into a more modern era. You know, things like if your neighbors tree falls on your house, verification of tree removal specialists and their qualifications and how to effectively remove blighted trees. 
I approached Mark in 2018 and told him I had 11 months left, so it was time to get this done. With the help of Councilman Pete Laybourne, we pushed the reform ordinance, even with our co-council members calling us the Lorax. We're here for the trees. 
They may have laughed, but the ordinance change went through. Many people noticed the change this year in the downtown. Instead of dead sticks we started to see the workings of a healthy downtown canopy.
Every election year you hear about diversification of the local economy. I’m always sales pitching the diversity of the urban canopy. There is always some disease or bug that can wipe out a whole population. 
The top two species of trees in Cheyenne are cottonwood and ash. One needs only to read a press release last week to know what could be in store:

CHEYENNE – The Cheyenne Urban Forestry Division recently completed an Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) plan for Cheyenne and has begun implementing several of its initiatives, including removing and replacing ash trees in poor health located on city property and providing outreach to the public and green industry. 
In addition, Urban Forestry has offered help to Rooted in Cheyenne, a designated 501c(3) nonprofit dedicated to improving Cheyenne's urban forest, which has pledged to help homeowners with a low-cost option to replacing their ash street trees.

The Emerald Ash Borer is an exotic beetle, native to Asia. It is about a half-inch long, with a metallic emerald-green head/back and a reddish-purple abdomen. Adult beetles cause little damage. But developing larvae can cause rapid tree deaths by feeding on the inside bark. That causes substantial damage, preventing the tree from getting essential water and nutrients to survive. 
As listed on, as of October 2018 the beetle is now found in 35 states. It has killed hundreds of millions of trees nationwide and can cost municipalities, property owners, nursery operators and forest industries hundreds of millions of dollars in maintenance and replacement costs over time. 
While it should be noted that the beetle has not been detected in Cheyenne yet, it has been found as close as Longmont, Colo. And recently it was identified in Nebraska and South Dakota. With these three adjoining states now confirming Emerald Ash Borer populations, it's critical that advance planning occur in Cheyenne due to the potential destruction these beetles can cause to the urban forest.
And cities across the nation have taken the lead in regards to right-of-way issues.
In the words of one enthusiast, “I would love to see the city take planting and maintenance responsibility for all the right-of way trees.” A lot of communities (outside of Wyoming) do this, and it is the only way to insure the health, species diversity and safety of street trees. It is an investment in the urban tree canopy and all of the social, economic and environmental benefits that come with a healthy and growing tree canopy.
As you can see, a little change up is a good thing. 
Last Saturday, Rooted in Cheyenne planted its 500th tree. Due to the selection criteria, these 500 trees are all different species and are being placed all over the city. 
Rooted in Cheyenne has been in place since 2017. At that time, the non-profit Historic Cheyenne Inc. donated $25,000 to replace aging cottonwoods in Cheyenne historic districts. The lifespan of a cottonwood is between 120-150 years. 
Just like James “Flood" Jenkins did back in early Cheyenne with treescapes,
The Emerald Ash Borer could become a local threat.
Rooted in Cheyenne’s crew started replacing these aging giants for the next generation to enjoy. There is something to be said for the northbound drive up Carey Avenue.
Some of you might think Cheyenne has bigger problems than some bug, but positive things are happening. For those of you that would like to know more, you can volunteer and donate to Rooted in Cheyenne, They are a registered 501c3.
As with most non-profits, fundraising is key. Community members pay $50 to have their trees planted by volunteers in spring or fall planting events. Each event plants roughly 100 trees. The trees cost about $130-$150, so fundraising offsets about $80-$100. 
There are still some rules to make you qualify. In order to be able to plant a tree, you must be within the city limits and have the room legally available to do so. Is there room in your right-of-way for a tree? We will help designate where your tree can be planted.
Did I forget to mention that your tree is watered for an entire year?
Volunteering for Rooted in Cheyenne tree planting depends on you. They have several different ways you can help. For safety reasons they ask that volunteers be age 12 & up.
Volunteering for Rooted in Cheyenne is hard work. You are either in cold, rain and snow or blistering heat. You can either have nice topsoil or feel like you’re an old-fashioned prisoner, chipping away at boulders. The homeowners are either really cool, stone faced or sometimes don’t know why you’re there because someone else paid for the tree and forgot to tell them.
Sometimes people do burnouts in the street in front of the house you’re planting, neighbor kids run away from their parents in their diapers, and there are always plenty of rogue animals to play with. You do build camaraderie with your team and you get the job done. You get dirty, sweaty and sometimes bloody, but your community looks a lot better.
One volunteer explained her experience:
“So much fun! It is great to meet new people in the community and join together to help make the city in which I live more beautiful. It is also fun to travel to various parts of town in which I might not usually spend a lot of time and work alongside city workers knowledgeable in a subject in which I have much to learn. It is great to be active and work with my hands to help a good cause with good company.”
If you have an awesome idea to fundraise for Rooted in Cheyenne, I encourage you to reach out. Accomplice Brewing crafted ales with tree ingredients. The juniper berries actually came from pruning in city parks. Little Lotus Yoga did a session at the High Plains Arboretum. If you’re so inclined, you can just start a two-week fundraiser on Facebook and choose Rooted in Cheyenne as your benefactor. Set your goal at $80 to offset the cost of one tree. 
You may want to investigate if you qualify for a no-cost tree. No-cost trees are on a first come, first served basis on when applications are received. Right now would be a good time to apply for the spring 2020 planting. Here’s a chart to see if you can take advantage of this program.
Person per household and income per household:
1 person, $26,450
2 person, $30,200
3 person, $34,000
4 person, $37,750
Every neighborhood needs trees, and if you see a bare block, let Urban Forestry know. It has been a goal to change an entire streetscape and monitor its progress. 
Here are some reviews from their Facebook page. If you’ve received a tree from Rooted in Cheyenne, please write a review:
 -- “We love Rooted in Cheyenne! Our tree was planted in the first round of the program in Fall 2017, and is now getting ready to leaf out for its second summer in our yard. Such an amazing program!”
 -- “Truly dedicated group.  Dedicated to making Cheyenne Beautiful.”
 -- “What an amazing program! We are so grateful for our new tree! The volunteer crew was fast, efficient and so friendly!! Thank you Rooted in Cheyenne!!”
What else needs to be said?

Richard Johnson is a former City Council member from Ward 3 on Cheyenne’s east side. He also is a regular contributor to Truth to Power.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Local advocate: “The arts should be a priority for the people who want Cheyenne to change for the better”


Living in a place where the air hurts my face six months out of the year is tough! For many people, it brings resentment and some uncertainty about why we stay.  
I, for one, am certain I want to stay and continue to call Cheyenne home. The weather is tough at times, but for me there is so much more. There is a culture of great people wanting more for Cheyenne. 
How do we, as Cheyenne residents, make “more” for Cheyenne?  
For me, it starts
The shops along Capitol Ave.downtown are part of the Artwalk.
with the arts. The arts and culture in the Capital City have been in a long-running slump. Those few of us who take part in the arts frequently seem to have a similar question: Why? Why does the capital city of Wyoming, the largest city in the state, have such a stagnant arts and cultural scene?    
I am not writing this to answer the question, but more to bring it to light. I truly want our little city to become a more vibrant, arts-centered community. I believe Cheyenne is on the brink of some great things, and I think the arts are just the push we need to make it happen.
Robert Motherwell, an American painter, printmaker and editor, said, “Art is much less important than life, but what a poor life without it.”
Motherwell said it perfectly! Whether you realize it, we are surrounded by the arts every day in Cheyenne. Over the last few years, several forward-thinking groups and individuals have silently and relentlessly pushed the arts. To our benefit, many of these projects have been successful and have come to fruition.
On any summer day you can find tourists taking a picture of the “Art Boots” around town. Many energetic murals adorn buildings across the city. Bronze sculptures are easy to find throughout our town. Those behind these are projects worked hard to create and bring them to life. The people who worked so hard on these projects have helped to get things rolling for the arts in Cheyenne, but we need so much more. 
Take for instance the work that Mike Morris and Arts Cheyenne have done for the music scene in Cheyenne. Morris has worked countless hours to help create and keep one of the coolest music events Cheyenne has ever seen: Fridays in the Asher.   
The Asher music series has brought nationally recognized groups to an intimate setting and made Cheyenne a viable music scene. Soon enough, with the public’s help, we will see the Lincoln Theater become another great venue for music.
Great things are happening in the music landscape, and that’s not counting the other opportunities we already have like the Civic Center, Cheyenne Frontier Days concerts, West Edge concerts, Rock the Block and the Lion’s Park Amphitheater. And the list goes on, all thanks to those who worked so hard to create these great music events and those who showed up to support them. 
Back to the question: “Why does Cheyenne have such a stagnant arts scene?”  
A few short years ago there was a Cheyenne Arts Festival hosted by Arts Cheyenne, but since then that has blown away with the wind. Finding an art gallery in Cheyenne that has regular business hours is a difficult task.  
On that note, finding much of the visual arts that is easily and regularly accessible is downright tough. Did you know Cheyenne has an Artwalk?  We do. It’s pretty much Cheyenne’s only regular visual arts celebration. (The next one is set for 5-8 p.m. on Oct. 10; more at artwalk)
The Artwalk struggles every month to pull a good crowd to the 12 or so galleries that take part. Why? Why aren’t the people of Cheyenne taking part and supporting the arts? How can we expect the galleries to be open when patrons don’t come out and support them?
I guess maybe the overproduced poster prints at Hobby Lobby are “good enough” art for the people of Cheyenne. Are we OK with settling for “good enough” when there are so many talented artists to support?
The arts should be a priority for the people who want Cheyenne to change for the better.  All cities that are renowned for being diverse, economically sound and culturally vibrant have one thing in common – the arts.  
The arts create civic and social engagement in youth and adults. The arts can provide positive, visual appearances of a community and create pride. The arts build economic growth and stimulate an economy through tourism and arts-related businesses.  
The arts can help unify a community. The arts cut across all boundaries: age, race, gender, etc. There are no boundaries for the arts, and they can only help us understand and connect with each other better. These examples are just a hint of how important the arts are to building a vibrant community. 
I’ll end it with another question: Who wants to live in a community that does not appreciate and support the arts? I don’t. I want to live in a Cheyenne that is soulful, vibrant, filled with music, art, dance and performance.  
Come on, Cheyenne. Go out and support a gallery. See a play at the theater. Or buy a piece of original art to hang in your home. 
These are the things that will take that bitter January sting off your face.

Steve Knox is a Cheyenne resident, artist and arts advocate.

Friday, September 20, 2019

City recreation numbers are slipping because Cheyenne officials aren't getting the job done

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following column was prompted by reports that pricing and other issues have caused the number of Cheyenne residents using city recreation programs to decline. Former City Council member Richard Johnson requested attendance numbers from Cheyenne officials. You can see them for yourself by clicking here: rec attendance)

Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd;
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack 
I don't care if I never get back.
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win, it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
At the old ball game.
-- “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” Jack Norworth, 1908


Cheyenne adult sports recreation has always been a hot mess. 
I don’t know if it’s the competitive nature or the alcohol that seems to break down the good sportsmanship, but for years I have gotten the same complaints. Now, how do you fix them?
The number one complaint always seems to be about the past and how things were better then. I don’t know where this entitlement comes from, but Cheyenne seems to think it deserves the best with little or no effort to improve it. 
I’m sure
Youth basketball is among the sports offered by the city of Cheyenne.
most at the top of City Hall would just as soon close all the programs down and put the money into road construction.
It would seem there is lack of motivation to get people excited about recreational sports. The quality of the playing areas is becoming dilapidated; the costs keep going up; the divisions skills assessment is out of whack; and there seems to be no leader who can put Humpty Dumpty together again. Here’s what the community has to say:
“It sucks when you sign up every year and hope to get a division for your team’s skill level. Then when you ask for a low-level placement, you get told that there is nothing you can do about it. Another 12 weeks getting your ass beat is demoralizing and not very fun. The city basically keeps your money and holds all the cards. The guy who runs it acts like he is the king and you are all the peasants for him to punish.”
“Most of the complaints I hear is about (recreational specialist Scott) Redman’s lack of passion and care. I think we need a younger, more enthusiastic director. Just need new blood!”
“Softball has had a slow decline for years. Teams are leaving all sports as prices continue to go up and we receive less and less games. Peoples lifestyles have changed, and many aren’t playing because the commitment is too long and too expensive.  Not all teams can find a sponsor willing to cut checks to play for $400 to $900.”
“Tournament are taking a huge hit since I've been in high school. It seems like there's barely any teams in any tournaments now. I think a way to fix that is to have better prizes. Granted, a lot of the tournaments are for charity, but when you have you have 10-12 teams paying 300 bucks a piece and all they get is $50 worth of hoodies back, that's a huge turnoff for softball teams in this in this area. … Teams have no problem driving an extra hour and a half to go down to Fort Collins or Denver or somewhere else in Colorado just because the competition is better and there are better prizes.” 
“The program used to be fun and fair, and people would come from all over to play tournaments. The cost got so high, the turnout went to the crapper. The tournaments suck. The marketing for them is awful or non-existent. One more thing. I ended up paying fees for a few of our girls every year. Some families can’t afford the $70 to join. I’m sure a lot of kids/adults would join if the fees were cheaper. The fees don’t even include what the sponsor pays.”
“A few reasons. They got rid of the end-of-season tournaments, where the best team ended up with trophies. The last couple years everyone got a stupid medal, and there were no “winners.” The 2018 year was just ridiculous trying to find fields to practice on. This year they only had enough girls in the 14u league to fill two teams. They wanted us to play the same damn team 16 times. They don’t do anything to try to get more girls involved.”
“The adult league needs better adjustment in leagues based on talent. Many of the teams sandbag, which doesn’t make competing much fun.”
“Be more flexible. Being on the base team the past couple years we always go down to a tournament in Colorado Springs and everyone has to leave on Thursday. We asked him to reschedule us for that Thursday game and they say no so that counts as a forfeit. Two forfeits you're out of the league. At least allow each team to have one day before the schedule is made to request off.”
“Softball here is a joke, and that's why we all go play in Colorado every weekend. The Brimmer fields are absolutely terrible; the infield is a shame. The snack shack doesn't even have ice so if someone were to get hurt ...”
“They put a lot of young people or those with no knowledge of the sport as head umps or refs and consistently raised the cost for teams to play, but they couldn’t come up with additional courts for the sports.”
“Junior league baseball: less and less games because enrollment is down. The grass from the infield has been removed so the fields flood, then games get canceled and are not rescheduled. Season end tournaments went from double elimination to single elimination. Bathrooms only open half the time.”
            “The grounds were always clean. And bathrooms too. But there was quite a few umpires who were rude, disrespectful, one-sided, and played favorites with certain teams. And concessions could be a bit better. They said we couldn't order nachos the last two games because the city refused to buy more chips so late in the season. So that was a bit cheap on their part.”
“So maybe making divisions more realistic. We were Division 2. We won our division, but we are so far from Division 1 none of our team wants to play next year in Division 1. That sucks. Potentially losing a team, which means losing money.”
“Absolutely poorly! Adult rec sports in Cheyenne is an embarrassment compared to cities around the region. Our fees increase every year while the conditions of fields decrease. We never see a return of our money spent for registration fees. …We get fewer games each year despite our fees staying the same or increasing.  There is only one major tournament for softball in Cheyenne, and the city director Scott Redman profits off that tournament, not the city. The city does not run one single tournament. This year they attempted to run three but got zero entries. … Cheyenne is completely lacking when it comes to adult rec sports. Check the number of teams from 15 years ago. There has been a drastic decline the last 5-8 years. Most of us have given up and play in Fort Collins or Windsor now.  At least there we get our money’s worth.”
“The problem lies with the city officials running rec sports. There is so much want from people here to have a solid rec league for all sports, but people including myself do not trust the city because of years of bullshit. Teams refuse to enter city run tournaments because we do not trust where our money goes. It sure doesn’t go back to improving the softball fields or paying for more volleyball games or spreading advertisement for our sponsors. Our fees increase while other projects for the city get funded. At least that’s what it looks like from us as players.”
“Sponsors pay our fees or the fee is split amongst the players and poof nobody knows where that money goes, but what we do know is it never comes back to the softball fields or the volleyball courts or as advertising for our sponsors. Compared to cities/towns around Cheyenne, Cheyenne appears corrupt and lacking. Cheyenne’s own residents drive an hour south to play for cities in Colorado or east to play in Nebraska.  Cheyenne city-run rec sports suck!”
As you can see, no much positive there. So what can be done about it? 
Maybe the city needs some motivation. What kind of encouragement does it give team captains when the city throws its own management team under the bus and says, “She’s making me do this.” 
The continuing pin-the-tail on the appointment is happening at all levels. Everyone has so many hats on that they don’t know where to even start. People getting hired to clean up the cemeteries are now in charge of accounting. 
Didn’t the city just gerrymander all their departments for more fluid actions. It looks like it’s doing wonders. 
Play ball!

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

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Ignore Balow's cheerleading. The numbers show Wyoming schools have a lot of work left to do.


Once again the pom-pons and bunting are safely stored away. It will be a year before the Wyoming Department of Education will need them again.
Similarly, the banner has been carefully folded and put into its box. It reads, “Wyoming: 6th Best Schools In America!” The number can be altered from year to year, but the “6” is big and bold this year.
Head cheerleader
Jillian Balow, the state’s superintendent of education, is hanging up her cheerleader’s skirt and sweater. The latter is brown and gold, of course, with a large WDE across the front. And don’t forget the cowboy and bucking bronc.
Balow has done her job for the year. She has announced that Wyoming’s schools are among the best in nation, according to the national Quality Counts report. The complacent media reported it; their listeners and readers are pleased. And all is right with the world.
Problem is, even the best cheerleaders can shout out for a mediocre team. Their job is to fire up the crowd, not tell the moms and dads that “their boys” or “their girls” will soon get crushed on the field of play.
Here’s the deal: If you think Wyoming has the sixth-best schools in America, you are swallowing the politicians’ line of bull manure. Balow knows that; so do all the other legislators and school board members and superintendents who tell the masses how great Wyoming kids are doing in school. If they can cheer and beat the air and wave some small portion of a report around to capture the voters’ attention, they will not be forced to do their jobs.
There is nothing in the Quality Counts 2019 report that says the Cowboy State’s schools are performing at nation-leading levels. Nothing. Look inside the numbers. 
There is only one reason Wyoming ranks so highly: That is because it spends more on its educational system than any other state in the nation. That gets in an “A” grade from Quality Counts in the area of finances, and that lifts Wyoming’s overall grade and puts it at No. 6. The numbers in the other categories are nowhere near so good.
Consider that in K-12 achievement, Quality Counts ranks Wyoming as only 12th, earning it the same average “C” grade as the rest of the nation. And it is 29th in the category of “chance for success,” a basket of family, school and socioeconomic factors that indicate how well young people are prepared to perform in school. This also rates a “C.” 
So it is only the amount of money that Wyoming spends on its schools that gives it the final ranking. You might think that Balow and others, like the Legislature, which also will trumpet this No. 6 ranking, might wonder why Wyoming is No. 1 in spending and 12th in education achievement. But no, that would lift the rosy spotlight off the news and admit that this state’s schools and students still have a lot of work to do.
You doubt that? Then dig even deeper.
Take a look at the state’s ACT scores. Last year, Wyoming posted an average composite score of 20. The national average was 20.8. That means the Cowboy State’s students are not even performing at the national average, much less No. 6 in the nation.
The excuse for this poor performance, always parroted by Balow and
others, is that Wyoming tests all of its students as part of the preparation
for the Hathaway Scholarship Program. Other states don’t test “lesser performing students.” But shouldn’t Wyoming be preparing all of its students for success, given it spending levels? And it not, why not?
Again, dig deeper.
ACT also measures the number of students in a state who are prepared to handle college class work. Here we go for Wyoming:
            -- 55 percent, the number of students prepared to handle college English.
            -- 41 percent, those prepared for college-level reading.
-- 33 percent, those ready for college math.
-- 33 percent, those set for college science.
These numbers should offend you, whether you are a Wyoming taxpayer or parent
Here's the map of the overall scores for Quality Counts 2019.
or voter or politician. Only one-third of the students are prepared math and science? Not even half are ready to read in college? In a state that spends top dollar in education funding? 
That the state superintendent of education would mislead the taxpayers about the quality of Wyoming’s education is a scandal. That it is abetted by the lazy media, who simply report what is said and never challenge a word of it, and the politicians, who are afraid to force the system to do better, is an equal scandal.
How much better would it have been if Balow has spoken up about Quality Counts not as a cheerleader but rather as a leader who wants Wyoming schools to be truly great. Why not challenge schools and superintendents and school boards and legislators to do better by this state’s young people? Why not urge moms and dads to demand that their local school boards produce or step aside?
            Why? Because fixing this system would take real work, real change and real pain. Besides, admitting that things aren’t as well as they seem might cost you your high-paying job at the next election. 
So the answer to that is obvious: Put on the cheerleader outfit and do it all over it again next year.

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

Sunday, September 15, 2019

An key proposed Greenway connector needs a bit of political juice. Do you know anyone who has any?

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we'll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.

-- Where the Sidewalk Ends, Shel Silverstein


I have been a supporter and proponent since the late 1980s when my parents’ neighbor came over to talk to me about a new endeavor the city of Cheyenne was undertaking. It was called “The Greenway.”
In 2015 Jeff Wiggins,
A propose Greenway link north of downtown needs some help.
then Cheyenne’s Greenway coordinator, showed me the Avenues connector behind the cemetery. It went from Evans Avenue to Airport Parkway. It has hit a couple of snags along the way, but on last Monday Sept. 9, a resolution was introduced that takes the project a giant step forward. Here’s the resolution: 

“WHEREAS, the Avenues Greenway Connector Trail ranks number one on the public's preference to improve connectivity between the Eastridge and the Avenues neighborhoods; and
WHEREAS, this connectivity requires an amendment to the existing agreement with the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) to reallocate an existing Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) Grant to purchase land from the airport and extend the project schedule; and
WHEREAS, the City will reimburse WYDOT's right-of-way and aeronautics divisions for the land with the TAP Grant; and
WHEREAS, the City will apply for a $500,000 TAP Grant as its top priority in 2020 and commit to completing the project within the next five years; and
WHEREAS, the project meets all engineering safety and FAA criteria; and
WHEREAS, the total estimated cost for this project is between $750,000 and
$1,000,000, of which $500,000.00, if approved, will be provided through the WYDOT TAP Grant; and
WHEREAS, the required funding needed beyond the TAP Grant to complete the design and construction of the frail segment will be provided from 6th Penny Greenway funds.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE GOVERNING BODY OF THE CITY OF CHEYENNE, WYOMING, that: 1) the Governing Body of the City of Cheyenne, Wyoming, supports the reallocation of the current TAP Grant from construction to land acquisition for the purpose of completing this project; and 2) the Mayor is authorized to sign an application for the upcoming 2020 WYDOT TAP Grant; and 3) that the Mayor is authorized to execute an amendment to the existing agreement with WYDOT and coordinate with to supplement the awarded TAP Grant with 6th Penny Greenway funds.”

To put it in simple terms: Based upon the 2017 sixth-penny ballot sales tax measure, the Avenues Greenway Connector ranks highly as a preferred alternate route to Pershing Avenue. Developing safe and accessible alternate routes that parallel major east-west vehicle corridors is an important objective of the bicycle master plan.  
This short corridor ranks highly as a desired alternate route. It would provide a safe travel corridor between the Eastridge neighborhood east of the cemetery and airport and The Avenues north of downtown to downtown destinations, including much safer access to Miller School. 
The Avenues Greenway will also link to the Airport Parkway and, we hope, eventually extend and connect to the Converse Greenway trail.
So what do we need from you as a community?
We are getting tripped up by the Federal Aviation Administration in Denver on two points:
1 – Getting an agreed-upon access easement at the Cheyenne airport.
2 – Market rate compensation for taking land out of “airport use.”
If anyone of you has a contact with the FAA or Wyoming Department of Transportation, we need you to put a bug in their ear. Or perhaps in the ear of our congressional delegation. Or in the ear of someone high up in state government. 
They need to hear that this connector is important to the community and has local support, both from the voters and in terms of financial commitment from city government.
But we can’t do this without them. 

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

Friday, September 13, 2019

These love stories prove that the Capital City's dating scene is not all bad news and disappointment

Do you love me?
Will you love me forever?
Do you need me?
Will you never leave me?
Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life?
Will you take me away and will you make me your wife?
-- Meatloaf


I didn’t expect the response I got from my recent the dating article (“If you believe these testimonials, the Capital City needs to be working harder on its dating scene” (
Tons of people said they’d met in Cheyenne and had successful relationships. Some lasting decades. The
relationships even happened using some of the pitfalls mentioned in the last article – dating in the workplace, online dating, bars, etc. The names have been left in as that’s how they were sent to me. 
Without further ado, I give you Cheyenne’s dating success stories:

-- Charlie and I grew up playing together. We met when we were 4. Our family were friends. We have been together for eight years and married for four.
-- I met Tommy when I was a senior in high school here. We ended up being best friends. I was dating someone for that whole time and I always knew he had a crush on me. It wasn’t until he came to visit me in college and tried hooking up with my roommate that I figured out I liked him back because that made me a little jealous. The rest is history from there, and we have been happily married for 17 years. We got married when we were 21 and everyone thought we were too young. But here we are 17 years later still happy and still married.
-- Robert and I met on the East High Speech and Debate team. We were really good friends. I dated one of his friends on the team. I didn't realize it at the time, but Robert had a thing for me. I was a grade ahead of him. After I graduated, we didn't see each other for a year or so. We eventually bumped into each other again at LCCC. We dated and got married five months later. We have been married for 26 years. It was not easy financially here, but we stayed so our children would be close to their grandparents. Both of our kids turned out awesome. They are both caring and self-reliant people.  Robert and I are still very much in love with each other and plan to retire in about 15 years in Roswell, N.M., about halfway between our children.
-- I dated my husband when I was a freshman at McCormick, and he was a junior at Central.  Fast forward 4 years. We ran into each other again and here we are still together after 26 years!
-- Does a love story of childhood puppy love/best friendship from junior high then being sent to another state and losing touch and running back into each other almost 10 years later to fall back in love after a failed and abusive marriage count?  Did I mention he's practically adopted my daughter!
-- We met the summer before my senior year in high school. He was dating my sister's friend. I went to hang out with him at his girlfriend's house to wait while my sister went to a Cutco meeting and he was waiting for the cable guy. I thought he was hot, and I was a total skater boy fan. He was with someone and so was I. We both ended up single within a short time and we're both hanging out at my sister's apartment all the time. It was weird cause we both had just come out of long-term relationships and liked each other, but I had a kid and he had plans to move to California to skate. We just decided we would hang while we could, and it wouldn't be anything serious. Our occasional hangouts turned into more often hangouts … He was amazing to me – kind and sweet, fun and wild – everything opposite of what I knew growing up Mormon. He was an adventure and I was ready to take the wild ride with him. By August of that summer, we became inseparable and spent every moment we could sneak together. He instantly loved my child and the three of us were bonded so quickly. We got engaged that New Year’s Eve and married that April Fool's Day, a month before I graduated HS. Everyone thought we were crazy and that it would never last. But we will have been married 25 happy years this next April Fool's. 
-- Dylan and I went to junior high together at Johnson.  We lost touch but found each other again at an Ernie November’s concert.

Online dating
-- I returned to Cheyenne with a person who I thought was the love of my life.  I started working at a major Cheyenne employment place. Long story short, she left me for a coworker. Heartbroken and negative toward love, some high school friends did an online profile for a dating app called, “Plenty of Fish.” I met many Colorado ladies, but nothing that made me leave the Cowboy State for a “greenie.” But then a local gal sent a message.  She was mysterious and did not fall for any of my pickup lines. Michelle was my passing ship in the dark.  We went to the same high school and we are both lesbian and Hispanic … what in Wyoming? Yes, we met, and it was love at first sight. I have raised her two boy since, ages of 6 and 4. We never thought of marriage because the government never saw our union as “legal.”  We’ve been together 10 years and married for five years. Yes I met my wife in Wyoming. We are Mexican, lesbian, America WOMEN who take our culture and family to heart.

At a bar
-- Kim and I met in a local bar and started drinking together. Here we are almost 10 years later still drinking. Power couple. LOL!
-- We met at the Hitching Post. We dated for a year and a half and have been married for 15 years. It would have never happened if there was a smoking ban. That’s why people are lonely now. 
-- I met my hubby, a military man, at The Hitching Post 29 year ago listening to Michael Degreve.
-- On Spring Break in 2011, my friend and I did a little day drinking at the Winds. Afterward, I went home and napped.  I awoke to her, the guy she was dating, and his friend insisting I go to Tusker Tuesdays with them. Being it was Spring Break, I said why not? We grabbed a table at Tuskers, played some songs on the jukebox, and chit-chatted. At one point, some super drunk guy who knew Matt came up to us and slurringly asked if I was Matt's wife. Gwen Stefani was on, and Matt told him yes, I was his wife Gwen (even though he knew my name). About six weeks later, my friend and I threw an Easter party. Matt and Shawn, who was still seeing my friend, showed up with drinks. By the end of the night, we were "attached at the lips," as our friends liked to say. We were living together by November, engaged in 2012, married Oct. 18, 2014, and we're the proud parents of six furry children.
-- We met at Jackson's. He was wearing a Superman T-shirt and wanted to go to Metropolis, Ill. I threw my arms around him and said, "I'm totally going to marry this guy!"

-- Peter was home from basic training for the Army and was on recruiting duty at the LCCC career fair. He walked up to me and said, "Do you want the best job in the world?" Well, he successfully recruited me to be his wife. Ha ha, cheesy I know. But I had to share since you were asking!
-- My significant other and I met at Sea Galley. I was the bar manager and Jason was the assistant kitchen manager. 25 years later, here we are!
-- I worked at the Wrangler and Chuck worked at Corral West on Dell Range. We’ve been married 32 years.
-- He was a bouncer at Goofy’s and he showed me a magic card trick in front of everyone and totally made me swoon!

Volunteer work
-- My husband and I met while volunteering for Frontier Days in 2008.  We got married in 2014 and still volunteer every year!
-- Nathan and I met in Cheyenne through work and volunteer activities. That is how I’ve met everyone I’ve ever dated. I don’t know how people meet at a bar. Even the group I regularly drank with at the Underground weren’t dating material.
-- Scott and I met at the COMEA shelter while we both volunteered there. We have been together for almost four years. Neither of us was looking to date, but we were great friends. One day we just found ourselves spending time outside of COMEA together and then we started dating. Neither of us had had very good relationships before so we were cautious and now we are the best of friends and hope to get married.

  -- I met Charlie at Lions Park. I was at the old Botanical Gardens and he was fishing. He was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen, and I just felt like I had to talk to him. So I asked if he'd caught anything, to which he responded, "Not yet, but I'm hoping I can at least get a phone number." Married with two kids going on eight years now. 

Out and about the town
-- My wife and I met at EconoFoods.
-- I met my hubby at Roller City 32 years ago.
-- Ernie November is the place to meet a significant other apparently! Hali Henson and I started dating after seeing each other at a Casket Huffer show!
-- Juston and I met in Cheyenne, and the rest is history. It's a great story on how he got me to go on our first date. Considering I had planned to be in Cheyenne for only one winter, it was definitely a success.
-- My husband and I met here in Cheyenne. We both had just gotten out of a shitty relationship and were homeless. I was couch surfing at a college friend’s house, and he was staying in their basement (he was friends with my college friend’s fiancĂ©). I was finishing up my undergraduate and trying to get my stuff from my ex, who I had to get a restraining order for. I worked full time as well. He literally walked away from everything he had because he found his high school sweetheart cheating on him. He was starting over from scratch. We helped build each other up, both moved in separate to our families’ homes until we go on our feet. We continued to talk and see one another. Then six months later decided to get a place together. Shortly after we bought our first home together, he proposed. Now we are newly married and going on three years together.

Chris and I met in Cheyenne through the grapevine of people. It wasn’t until many years later that I seduced him with my dragon prowess and took his soul as mine.

I guess that's it. Thanks you to all of you who shared your stories with me. It made me a hopeless romantic. 
I know I didn’t write much for this article, but with this much love, did I really need to?

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