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Sunday, November 24, 2019

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

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


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

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

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

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

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


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

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

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Memo to Wyo. legislators: Friends don't let friends kill themselves -- or their neighbors -- with guns


It’s time to lay to rest another one of the great myths about Wyoming.
One of the state’s favorite mantras is that friends and neighbors take care of each other here in the Cowboy State. 
Well, excuse me while I call bull manure on that.
Wyoming legislators
 are among the biggest purveyors of this myth. Yet they are always too ready to sacrifice their needy neighbors and friends on the altar of conservative dogma.
Whether it’s refusing to pass Medicaid expansion to aid the state’s working poor, or trying to slap work requirements on food stamp recipients, or slashing funding for the state’s schools, lawmakers are always ready to slap their hands away when their fellow Wyomingites reach out in need. In the end, checking off the boxes of right-wing conservatism is more important than acting for their neighbors’ good.
The most recent example of this was a legislative committee’s refusal to add Wyoming to the states that use a federal system to vet those who want to buy guns. 
Had it passed, the proposal would have included the Cowboy State in the National Instant Background Check System. Under federal law, residents can’t own firearms for several reasons – having committed a felony, having been declared criminally insane or having been involuntarily committed to a mental health institution, among others. There is an appeals process for those placed on the list to get their guns back.  
Legislators voted 8-6 to keep the state out of the system. They would rather bow to the belief that it is more important to protect Second Amendment “rights” than it is to step up to keep firearms out of the hands of friends and neighbors who might harm themselves or others.
Consider some facts about Wyoming, guns and suicides, and then please explain why common-sense gun restrictions shouldn’t be in place:
-- Suicide rates in Wyoming are the second-highest in the nation – and they are rising. In 2004, the rate was 17 per 100,000 people. By 2016 that had jumped to 24 per 100,000. 
-- There is one suicide every two days on the Cowboy State. And suicide is the second-leading cause of death here for people ages 15-44.
-- The state is also second highest in the national rate of gun-related suicides. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of all suicides in Wyoming involve the use of firearms.
Making matters worse – for the people of Wyoming – is that scientific studies show a direct relationship between background checks and gun deaths. The Journal of Preventative Medicine reports that such checks are associated with fewer
firearms-related homicides and suicides. More specifically: “Firearm deaths are lower when states have background checks for mental illness … fugitive status … and misdemeanors.”     
Finally, for those who might argue that one method of violent death is simply substituted for another, such as knives for guns, the journal reports: “It does not appear the reduction in firearm deaths are offset by increases in non-firearm violent deaths.”
In other words, the neighborly thing to do in Wyoming would be keep firearms out of the hands of those who are in distress. 
Clearly, adding Wyoming to the list of states that require residents to submit to the national background checks system would not bring gun deaths to an end. But it is equally clear that such deaths would be reduced. So how many Wyoming residents – not to mention their friends and family who also are devastated by a suicide – are lawmakers willing to sacrifice for the Second Amendment? A thousand? 500? 100? 
There is nothing in the Bill of Rights that says the mentally ill or felons have the right to own guns. Indeed, it is just common sense to limit access.
One fear expressed at the recent legislative hearing was that making Wyoming part of the national background check system might lead to the passage of a “red flag law.” These measures let law officers or family members ask a judge to temporarily take firearms from those who may be a danger to themselves or others.
But why not have a red flag law? Why not in a state where gun suicides are out of control? No right is absolute, and that includes the Second Amendment. If it can be proven that a person is in danger of harming him or herself or others, then removing their guns – if only for a short time – is what friends and neighbors do.
There is no way to know how many Wyoming residents will die because of the committee’s action not add this state to the National Instant Background Check System. But the answer is: more than a few.
Lawmakers, no doubt, will say they can live with that, that it is just the price of freedom or some other bit of political nonsense. Until, of course, suicide or violent death by firearms visits their homes or their communities. Then, let the handwringing begin.
Wyoming’s leaders can do better by the people of this great state who put them into office. That they don’t lays bare the hollowness of the myths they swear to live by.

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

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Capital City is in the midst of a cat epidemic. It is time community members do something about it


How many cats have to die before people change their behavior?
Poppie was abandoned on our doorstep early in the morning. A young, female, black-and-white cat with adorable nose freckles and soft, longish fur, Poppie had obviously recently nursed kittens. There was no note and no phone call. We’ll never know where she came
Though it may seem callous to some that she was just left here anonymously, the fact is
she fared far
Local resources are unable to keep up with the kitten/cat boom here.
better than most cats in her situation. At least she got a chance, and she’s lucky
she did because the volume of unwanted cats in this community is overwhelming. 
It’s an epidemic, and no one seems to be talking about it. 
Just this week, we transferred in 14 cats from the animal shelter, and though that number stretched our organization’s capacity to its limits, it was barely a drop in the bucket as we were told that they were currently caring for more than 160 others. 
That same day, we counted, we received calls or emails for 47 other cats in the community whose owners were either unable or unwilling to keep them or for found litters of
kittens. In case you lost count, that’s 221 cats total in this community – in one day – and
those are just the ones we know about.
Cornell’s School of Veterinary and Shelter Medicine has a tool that animal welfare
professionals (or anyone else who cares to look) can use to estimate the population of
free-roaming cats in a community. The tool takes into account human populations, square
mileage, the annual intake of an open admission shelter, access to (or not) of low- or no-cost
spay and neuter services and several other variables to estimate the number. 
When we plug the information for Laramie County into this tool, we estimate there are 50,000 to 60,000 cats and kittens in our county. Since kitten mortality rate hovers close to 50 percent, we “only” have to think about 25,000 or so a year. “Only” 25,000 cats in our community, every single year.
Granted, there are resources common to other areas that are not readily accessible
here. Premier among them is access to low-cost spay and neuter services. 
Yes, there is a program available to help some people on a limited budget, but research shows that access for all to these services drastically helps reduce the number of stray and free roaming cats and kittens brought to community shelters each year. 
Perhaps helpful, our climate shortens the duration of the typical breeding season, presumably aiding in reducing reproduction rates. Often we refer to the time of year when cats are reproducing as “kitten season” like it’s something cute to be welcomed and celebrated. 
Trust me, it’s not.
Orphan kittens (or those removed from their nests by well-meaning good Samaritans),
are a drain on shelter and rescue resources, not to mention on the morale of those who work to save them. 
Remember that mortality rate? We are constantly struggling to keep kittens alive,
and despite our best efforts, they die a lot of the time. Bottle feeding kittens is onerous,
exhausting, time-consuming, and emotionally and physically taxing for volunteers. And we have
to rely on volunteers because there is no way any of us could afford to pay the number of staff it
would take to care for all of the babies.
Stray and feral cats aside, there’s also a problem with ownership practices here. 
We find a low tolerance for normal cat behaviors, unrealistic expectations about the need for, and expense of, veterinary care, and a general sense that individual cats are both disposable and replaceable. 
Not infrequently, when we adopt a cat out, they come back within a few days
because the people paid absolutely zero attention to the guidelines we give them for introducing
new cats to a home with other animals or children. And that results are a very stressed and fearful cat who then behaves defensively with tooth, claw, or – most frequently – inappropriate urination.
We say it as bluntly as we can: “Do not take this cat home, drop him/her in your living room, and expect that to go well.” We provide written guidelines for help; we offer ourselves as a ready resource if things get rocky. 
But people don’t call for advice or suggestions. They show up days later angry, defensive and happy to hand responsibility for the cat back to us.
Remember Poppie? After she stayed with us for a bit to be spayed and get treated for an
ear mite infection, she got adopted. The day her adopter walked in and saw her, we had 
noted signs that Poppie might be experiencing a urinary tract infection, common among female
We spoke to the potential adopter about this at length and offered to have the cat seen by
a vet prior to the adoption if they wanted to wait. But we were assured repeatedly that they were
willing to use the free office visit voucher we have for local veterinarians so that they could
adopt her that day. 
Fast forward about 10 days, and Poppie was brought back to us unexpectedly by someone else. This person claimed that Poppie had urinated on the bed of her adopter, and that the behavior could not be tolerated. 
When pressed for more details about the home life (the better picture we have of a pet’s history, the more we can work to find a more suitable next home), the person became irritated and made it clear they had no time or interest in our questions. 
When we later contacted the adopter, our staff were subjected to abusive conversation and were told that she had never been to the veterinarian. They had no time,
Money or interest in providing that for her. 
Poppie went to our vet the same day. She did, indeed, have an infection, which is almost certainly the reason for her eliminating outside the litter box. For less than $100, she was diagnosed and treated. 
Maybe they really couldn’t afford it, and that’s OK. What is not OK is that they knew she needed treatment, adopted her anyway, and then failed to provide it.
For the past year, both local animal adoption agencies have been adopting out adult
cats for free. Why? Because it is cheaper to give them away than it is to house them long term
and ultimately euthanize and dispose of them. 
I know that’s gross, and harsh, but it’s the reality. We have to compete with all of the free cats and kittens being re-homed all over town at any minute. The benefit to our free cats is that they come already spayed or neutered, vaccinated, microchipped and with the aforementioned free first veterinary visit.
Despite this, there’s no keeping up. We have had our most successful year for cat adoptions ever with this fee-waived approach. And we’ve adopted out exactly 149 cats this year. That’s 10 months of adoptions, and it isn’t even enough to match the volume of incoming cats in a single day.
Our agencies are doing the best they can in the face of a huge problem. I don’t know
why the problem isn’t being spoken about more plainly. Maybe it’s because as a society we
value cats less than dogs. But guaranteed, if this were happening with dogs, there would be a
huge outcry.
People need to change their behavior, and others need to hold them accountable
for it. Cats are amazing companions. They are intuitive, affectionate and loyal. When they are
surrendered, even confident, social cats spend days hiding and can prove hard to handle. They
get sick, they don’t show themselves well, they are anonymous and faceless in a sea of others.
The only way to affect change for these animals is for the community to change its habits. Here are some suggestions:
-- Spay and neuter your cats. There is no reason not to do this. If you can’t afford to have it done but want a cat, get a free one from any local adoption agency.
-- Do not take kittens from Facebook posts, craigslist, your co-worker, neighbors, etc.
Often, people think that as long as their kittens find homes, they aren’t contributing to the
problem. They are. And you are helping them by making it easy for them.
 -- Do not allow your cats to roam outside if they aren’t fixed. If you have a female, she is guaranteed to get pregnant. If you have a male, he’s making new babies all over your
neighborhood. Just stop it, please.
-- Do not pick up and remove seemingly stray cats from their home territory. Cats who are social enough to allow you to approach and pick them up are used to people and
therefore likely to have a nearby caregiver. Nationally, reclaim rates (meaning the
percentage of cats who are picked up by their owners after they go the shelter), are less
than 10 percent. There are many reasons for this, but it’s safe to say that those cats are better
off left where they are.
-- Do not remove young kittens from a nest. Mother cats often leave their young to hunt and forage for food. If you find a group of young kittens (eyes closed or only just beginning to open, not really walking around or exploring, still largely scooting on their bellies), observe from a nearby and out-of-site location for several hours. It is always best to leave the babies for their mom to care for. Once the kittens begin to walk around and explore the area outside of their nest, you can then try to trap or capture them. Kittens who are at least four weeks old are more likely to survive without their mother and can still be habituated to people well enough to be adopted later.
-- Keep the cats you have. When you brought that cat home you made a commitment, and
that commitment is now your lifelong responsibility. If you surrender that cat or abandon it outside and it dies somewhere else down the line, that’s on you and no one else.
-- If you are having trouble with behavior problems, consult a veterinarian. Most feline
behavior problems are a result of treatable medical conditions.
-- Donate money to help care for unwanted and homeless cats, and to help provide for needed additional community services. Not sure you trust what will happen with that money? Offer to pay to have your friend’s, or neighbor’s, or co-worker’s cat fixed instead.
-- Volunteer to foster young kittens. Be prepared for a lot of heartache and a lot of reward.
There are many ways to help, and a lot of simple but intentional things we can do to
resolve this crisis. But no one can do it alone, and there has to be an ongoing conversation about it. 
I can acknowledge that sometimes there are legitimate reasons to surrender a cat. I don’t believe that abandoning one to fend for itself is ever necessary, but surrendering can be. 
A new baby with extreme allergies? OK. You lost your job and your home? OK. You’re caring for your elderly friend's cats but can’t continue indefinitely? OK.
We get it: Life happens even with the best of intentions. If the only cats we had to worry about were these, there’d be more than enough hope and options for all of them.
In the meantime, all we can do is continue to educate and hustle for the ones we can
help. We’ll turn away 100 for every one we can find space for, but we have to believe it’s worth it to keep trying. 
Come down to 2407 E. Ninth St. here in Cheyenne and visit our adoptable cats. They’ll enjoy the company, and so will you. Who knows, you may even decide to adopt one. Did I mention they’re free?

Britney Wallesch is the executive director of Black Dog Animal Rescue in Cheyenne. Her email is Britney

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Hey, Patriotic Front, I dare you you to come out into the light of day and defend your hateful message


Muscles will atrophy, shrink and weaken if not exercised. They must be used, or they’ll be incapable of doing the job they were intended to do. 
The same rule
Posters recently found on Cheyenne light posts.
applies to our constitutional right of freedom of speech. Free thought, free exchange of ideas and free speech must be continually exercised, or those rights will atrophy. They won’t be strong enough to do the work necessary.
Recently, a few posters advertising The Patriot Front, a white nationalist group, were put up in the dead of night in Cheyenne. Gov. Mark Gordon publicly voiced his displeasure at this act, quoting the Wyoming Constitution’s clear language that “all members of the human race are equal.” Good for the Gov!
I happen to agree with the governor about the substance of the Patriot Front’s message. (Do your own research on this organization and draw your own conclusions about them.) What I find more offensive than the Patriot Front’s doctrine are its tactics – anonymity and sashaying out in the dead of night to put up a few posters and then skulking back to Mom’s basement before anyone sees you.
Make no mistake, the Patriot Front is availing itself of its right to free speech, and that should not be prevented. The First Amendment guarantees anyone the right to express their political views.  
But to describe what the Patriot Front did, or any other group that follows the same tactic, as “exercising” free speech is laughable. Exercise means work. It means investing some effort.  
Exercising free speech means a lot more than slapping up some posters and calling it good. What the Patriot Front did is more akin to video-gaming democracy on 4Chan. This goes for any organization that thinks decorating a few power poles has anything to do with free speech.
I’d like to offer whatever Patriot Front warrior who put up the posters a real opportunity to exercise freedom of speech in a valid manner. Get in touch with me, and I’ll arrange a public debate between us, you defending your narrow white doctrine and me defending the Wyoming Constitution.
We’ll get a room at the library or some place, have a moderator and conduct a structured debate in the full glare of public scrutiny. We’ll invite the media to attend, and you’ll have a much bigger forum to express yourself than a few power poles.
Do you believe in your message enough to get it out there in the sunlight where everyone can see it?
Are you willing to subject your political thought to the light of day, and defend your position in front of your neighbors against someone with an opposing position?  Are you willing to really exercise your constitutional right of freedom of speech? 
Or is Mom’s basement too warm and comfy? And are your secret Internet friends too supporting for you to venture out except in the dead of night to poster the town?
If you, dear Poster Boy or Girl, have the courage and strength of conviction necessary to call yourself a true Patriot and not merely a Front, then please contact me through this blog and we’ll set the wheels in motion.  
Who knows? You might enjoy a little real exercise for a change.

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

Our local newspaper and the governor have just given a white nationalist group a ton of free publicity

Now we live in a world of insanity
Fear is the key to what you want to be
You don't get a say, the majority gets its way
You're outnumbered by the bastards till the day you die
-- Iron Maiden 

The last week in the  Cheyenne news has been flooded with paranoia. White supremacist flyers and  school shooting Snapchats are the two events that come readily to mind. 
Here is my
Newspaper, governor and police feed local paranoia.
observation on these two events. I’m already prepared for the onslaught of criticism and you're more than welcome to write a rebuttal. 
            First up to bat are the white supremacist flyers. Hisses and catcalls go to the governor and the local newspaper for even giving these pieces of shit the time of day. All fringe groups want is attention and to recruit, and both the governor and the paper just fed their organization. 
I’m not even going to say the names of these groups because that just gives them the notoriety they seek. If I ran their social media platforms, I would share the links to the free propaganda the governor and newspaper just gave them. If the legitimate media and those of power and influence give you a forum, it makes it easier to recruit. 
Sure, all the social media darlings will shout praise that these groups were dispelled as not welcome in Wyoming. But all those that didn’t emoji the thread were looking into a group they’d never heard of and may be the new chapter head of a new satellite. 
Think of it this way. How many of you read concert flyers on light poles and actually go to the concert? That’s right, none. 
Now, how many of you read about a concert in the paper and show up? A few.
The best action would’ve been to rip the flyers off the poles, throw them in the garbage where they belong, and say nothing. 
Don’t give them to the cops. They’ll share it on Facebook and generate more fear. Dumb, dumb, dumb. Think before you act, people. 
The second one is this Snapchat school shooter thing. 
I can understand posting a pixelated shoplifter, but don’t fuel the hysteria by posting clickbait. You’re becoming part of the problem, not the solution. 
I shouldn’t have to educate law enforcement about how detective work is conducted. Follow a lead, isolate the problem and don’t beat your chest when you solve the case. 
You know that all these school shootings are done by disgruntled individuals who want their 15 minutes of fame, and you are giving it to them. Quit trying to be Internet heroes and just keep the community safe. 
Some 1,500 thumbs up and 500 shares aren’t worth the community’s piece of mind. Nothing sparks more paranoia, distrust and rumors than parents who feel their kids aren’t safe. 
On a sidebar, quit sharing every person who is arrested. It taints the jury pool. One day it could be you, and I’m sure you would want an unbiased jury after your social media crucifixion.
Who am I kidding? It’s easier to kick people when they’re down. 
I guess PSA now stands for Please Scare All.

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

Thursday, November 7, 2019

It's what Balow didn't tell you about NAEP that reveals the truth of Wyo's mediocre schools

“A truth that's told with bad intent, beats all the lies you can invent.” – William Blake


            Once again the Wyoming Department of Education is using the truth to tell a lie. And the biggest losers are the people of the Cowboy State.
            The principal lie coming out of the education agency and its leader, State Superintendent Jillian Balow, is
Wyoming was 1 of only 3 states where 4th grade math declined on NAEP.
that Wyoming’s schools are doing well and that the state’s kids are getting great educations. It’s simply not true, and there are virtually no facts to back up the myth.
            But wait a minute, you say. The local newspaper recently trumpeted on its front page, in large type, “Wyoming students testing above average,” as reported by Balow. Doesn’t that say this state’s schools are doing well?
            Unfortunately not. 
But that is the lie Balow hopes to perpetuate when she makes these sorts of grand declarations. And since these pronouncements go unchallenged by the lazy media that simply serve as her echo chamber, the people of Wyoming sleep well at night because they falsely believe their children are well tended to.
            Consider a couple of things.
            First, being above average on NAEP (the National Assessment of Education Progress), which is what the recent reporting was all about, is not that big a deal. With the national bar set as low as it is – about one-third of America’s children test as “proficient or above” on a wide range of subjects – Wyoming had better be above average, given the amount of money it pours into its schools.
And it’s not news that Wyoming is above average on NAEP. It has been above average on the national test for years. But when it’s reported as a big deal, as it was recently, that simply allows Balow and the state’s other education leaders and legislators to maintain the myth.
As usual with this state superintendent, the real news is not in what she says, but in what she doesn’t.
What Balow chose not to report is that Wyoming’s scores actually went down from two years ago. Yes, in fourth-grade and eighth-grade math and reading, the focuses of this year’s report, the Cowboy State’s numbers actually declined, and they declined in a statistically significant manner.
In other words, while Balow was pointing to the average score, she was distracting Wyomingites from the fact that her department – and the state’s school districts – are failing to do their jobs, which is to grow these scores and help this state’s children better prepare for their futures.
It should be noted as well that only three states had statistically significant drops in their scores in fourth-grade math and only seven in eighth-grade math. Balow apparently forgot to mention that.
She also used the truth to tell the lie in another way.
She made certain that the media knew that 87 percent of Wyoming kids are testing at basic or above in math. That number certainly glitters and looked good on the front page of the local newspaper.
But again, it’s lie that fails to tell the truth.
If you dig into the numbers, you will see basic performance should not be the performance goal – that’s simply the low bar Balow sets to make things look better.
A better number is how many of Wyoming students are proficient, able to do what it takes to succeed, in math and reading, There, you will find that 47.8 percent – less than half – of Wyoming fourth-graders are testing at proficient and above, and just 37.1 percent, barely one in three, of eighth-graders are. And, to repeat, both scores are down from the 2017 numbers.
Similarly in reading, just 40.5 percent of Wyoming fourth-graders are performing at a proficient level as are 33.9 percent of eighth-graders.
So much for the overall success of Wyoming’s students.
In the local newspaper’s story, Balow is quoted as saying this about the NAEP results:
“This is one metric that we take pretty seriously in Wyoming. It’s not the only metric, but it’s a big piece of the puzzle.”
There are lies and there are damned lies. This is a damned lie.
If Balow were taking these scores seriously, she would not be treating them as a cheerleader, standing on the sidelines and pretending her team is winning when it is getting hammered 46-0. Rather, she would be acting like that old-school high school football coach who refuses to accept mediocre play from his team and demands that they play better and then coaches them up on how to do so.
That is not what is happening in Wyoming. Balow, the Legislature and others should be setting the bar high and pushing teachers, schools and districts toward excellence. Instead, this state’s leaders continue to accept barely average performance from their schools while feigning greatness.
And that is a shame. This state has the ability to produce a top-notch education system – small student numbers, high spending, a desire to lead rather than follow. Yet still the Cowboy State settles for this “above national average” performance based on a bar that couldn’t be set much lower.
The lie that Wyoming has great schools is set deep in this state’s culture and mindset. But maintaining myths and using facts to tell lies does not serve the Cowboy State well. It’s past time for more real honesty from Balow and less playing fast and loose with the truth. The future of this state, which is facing a radical restructuring as carbon-based fuels fade, depends on it.

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

Sunday, November 3, 2019

If you think the Good Ol' Boys are gonna be replaced, you're wrong. The Young Guns will just step up

A four-word phrase, for my fellow Wyomingites that I can’t stand any longer. That must go away. And end permanently. Once and for all ...
The “Good Ol’ Boys Network” in Wyoming. 
Anyone who has ever lived here or was born in Wyoming knows what I mean. Their time is over. A new Wyoming is on the horizon — and it’s beautiful. 
I’m tired of playing your games and “playing it safe.”
You’ve had more than three decades to truly change this state,“Good Ol’ Boys.” And you haven’t. You failed. 
You had no vision. You had no foresight.
So it’s time for the next generation to step up and take over leadership. 
Time’s up. You had your chance. Now it’s our turn. 
Let’s go. Bring it on. I’m ready. #areyou  
-- Eric Trowbridge, founder of Cheyenne’s Array School of Technology and Design

When I read ET's recent Facebook post above, it took me back to Ernie November, to 2014 when I first got elected to the Cheyenne City Council. 
I told Ernie's owner, Keith Coombes, that I needed his friendship then more than ever. I pleaded with him to keep me grounded. I told him not to let me lose my identity, to not allow me to become one of “them.” 
The Good Ol' Boys run Cheyenne. And they aren't going away.
At the end of four years, I asked him if I’d changed. He told me I was more educated, but other than that, no. 
I always heard of the Good Ol’ Boys. For the most part, they stayed away from me. But the scary part was a bumper crop of New Ol’ Boys was surfacing. You could see them being groomed for their future roles. 
Watch the Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership classes, the new chairpersons on committees, the smileys and hand-shakers at every event you go to. You think this state is going to change? Nope. The Young Guns are your next old guard. 
I attended nearly 2,000 events while I was on Cheyenne City Council, so I met lots of people. Usually a Young Gun or an Old Boy would ask who my family was. That is a sure-fire way to tell you are in the presence of nothing changing. 
It’s across the board. Government, real estate, construction, liquor laws, law firms, doctors’ offices, development, finance, religion, residency. Your homie from elementary school is now in a suit smiling at you to "do the right thing."
“Richard, you don’t want to make this man or woman mad. They have friends.” Yeah, so do I. They scare you in the alley and are the reason you live in a gated community. 
Oh, I forgot, these Good Ol' Boys and Young Guns are white-collar criminals. 
So for all of you who hope Cheyenne will improve in the next generation, I’m telling you to give up. It’s only getting worse. 
These predatory youngsters are already blazing their trail to Wyoming greatness. Which means they are about as important as winning a fight on the Internet or taking home a participating trophy.

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