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Sunday, October 27, 2019

DDA's Vicki Duggar is just the latest victim of Cheyenne's continuing war against "outsiders"


Vicki Duggar has announced she that she is leaving the Downtown Development Authority. Her story, along with countless others, shows how much Cheyenne hates transplants. 
Duggar came to Cheyenne with a smile on her face, an unbelievable amount of energy and a style all her own. When I read her credentials of success in driving other locales in positive directions, I only
A smiling Vicki Duggar at DDA prior to her public pummeling.
needed to see the states or Oregon and New Mexico on the list to know her tenure here would be short. 
This city’s hierarchy, both public and private, wouldn’t take progressive thinking, especially from a woman. 
Anyone running the DDA is already facing an uphill battle. The agency is scorned from the City Council dais as well as by downtown property owners. With one arm tied behind your back, you are asked to stick your head into the lion’s mouth day after day, week after week. 
It’s not a job that is coveted, and it takes a strong person to lead the charge into the pits of Cheyenne’s downtown hell. 
Do you think the powers-that-be would treat the Chamber of Commerce or LEADS this way? Hell no. Those agencies have members in office or family members in office. The DDA is the middle child that both parents ignore. 
Just look at the last year. 
Duggar had been in Cheyenne about a year when her funding from the city was dropped to pennies by the mayor. Everyone in the city knows the mayor holds a grudge, and her mayoral opponent in 2016 was then the executive director of the DDA. 
No matter who is in charge, the mayor will do all she can to wipe anything Amy Surdam out of the public’s mind. So even though Duggar wasn’t here in 2016, she has to be punished and tortured about something she had nothing to do with. 
Then she was under attack by “the true downtown hero," a certain Ward 1 City Council member, over public records, only to have the same individual start a mock DDA then put in an application to the mayor’s office to fill a vacancy on the DDA board. Even though another City Council person is already a voting member. 
No, you can’t make this stuff up. This is real life in the ongoing political drama between the city and the DDA.
With her budget cut, Duggar asked for volunteers to help plant flowers downtown. We answered the call and filled about 40 flowerpots with floral arrangements designed by the Laramie County Master Gardeners. One month later the flowers had filled them, and they looked beautiful. 
Well, we all saw the cronyism over the summer when the flowers were torn out and replaced by the mayor. Flower-gate 2019 will long be forgotten as one more time the mayor crapped on volunteers amidst the ongoing feud with an agency she hates. 
Never mind the fact the volunteers got letters from the mayor that she was making up the DDA's inefficiency when she was the one who cut their budget. 
Then we have those pesky downtown property owners who let their buildings rot while they collect rent. More than 40 years of neglect and they expect their buildings to make code for new businesses to move in. 
These do-nothing dolts would rather squander space and raise rents to outrageous amounts than to fix the problem. Or they’d rather pursue government cheese than have much skin in the game. 
Good thing it’s Halloween because there are plenty of skeletal structures and ghost signs of a once-thriving downtown. 
So you can see, this is a never-ending battle of egos and money. 
We have lost another good person. 
Think about this if you will: Duggar moved here and took a job no one wanted at an agency everyone hated. She did her best with the minimal resources she had, and the city crapped on her. 
Why would anyone want to stay under that hostile work environment? It’s like playing Russian roulette with rounds in all the chambers. You just don’t know which personal attack bullet will kill you that day. I’m sure on several occasions I was that bullet that made her want to leave. I’m not an innocent party here. 
Congratulations to city leadership on its excellent marketing ability to vilify and create the appearance that the DDA is a taxpayer leach. 
If you armchair quarterbacks are so damn smart, why haven’t you done anything? The only blight I see is Cheyenne’s do-nothing attitude. 
Would it be possible to challenge people to get in touch with their better natures by not  normalizing bullying? To me, that is the biggest issue. This horrible behavior has been going on for so long in this town that it is now considered normal. 
I would also add that most people who've spent much time as adults in other places understand the toxic environment that has been allowed to take root in Cheyenne. They know this is not normal or typical or conducive to a healthy community dynamic.
To Vicki Duggar and all those other transplants who tried to make a positive impact while you were here, thank you. Cheyenne will never be ready for you. It will always be like the old retired couple who sits in their recliner and watches “Price Is Right” reruns.

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

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