Search This Blog

Friday, January 31, 2020

Providing local police with mental health training is a good start, but it doesn’t address aiding the homeless

First of two parts


The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported on Jan. 29 about Mayor Marian Orr’s State of the City address in which Orr stated the following: “The police department also began the ‘One Mind’ project, which recognizes the ties between homelessness and mental illness and attempts to provide ‘the right kind of help.’”
The One Mind Project is described by the International Association of Chiefs of Police as:
“The One Mind Campaign seeks to ensure successful interactions between police officers and persons affected
by mental illness. The initiative focuses on uniting local communities, public safety organizations, and mental health organizations so that the three become ‘of one mind.’ To join the campaign, law enforcement agencies must pledge to implement four promising practices over a 12-36 month time frame.
“These practices include: establishing a clearly defined and sustainable partnership with a community mental health organization; developing a model policy to implement police response to persons affected by mental illness; training and certifying sworn officers and selected non-sworn staff in mental health first aid training or other equivalent mental health awareness course; and providing crisis intervention team training.”
It’s important to note that the One Mind Project does not specifically address police response to mental illness and the homeless. The project addresses police response to persons with mental illness, of which one in four Americans (26 percent), in any given year, are being treated with a diagnosable mental disorder.
Homeless people with mental disorders also follow the national norm for all citizens with mental disorders at 25-26 percent, meaning our homeless are no more or less affected by mental disorders than citizens with stable, permanent housing.
In 2018, Cheyenne police officers responded to approximately 28,000 citizen requests for services. While recognizing that a percentage of these calls would be from the same caller, for instance a business reporting shoplifting, the opportunity presented itself that police interacted with 7,000 Cheyenne citizens diagnosed with a mental disorder.
This is not an insignificant number, especially when you consider that the Cheyenne Police Department  reported 86,363 calls for service when you also factor officer-initiated contacts.
The One Mind Project, and especially the Cheyenne Police Department’s adoption and implementation of the project, is a positive step forward for community policing. Having our police officers involved with Cheyenne’s mental health community will better address and understand the issues of mental health as it affects the community of Cheyenne as a whole, not simply our homeless population.
Next up: Policing a transient population requires a cultural change in policing.

Steve Myrum is a Cheyenne resident.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

If you want to keep Wyoming’s guardsmen out of foreign wars, Lindholm’s bill can get that job done


Afghanistan. Kosovo. The United Arab Emirates. Tunisia. These are names that are as foreign to the people of Wyoming as alligators and palm trees. Yet to hundreds of Wyoming families, these names have been a regular part of their vocabulary. 
How does it usually sound?
“My daddy is in Kosovo. I wish he could be here for my birthday.”
“I can’t play baseball this year, coach. Mom said it’s too much stress for her with dad in Afghanistan.”
“When mom comes home from the UAE, she’s going to teach me how to swim.”
“Mom cries a lot. Then she yells at us. She’s just sad because dad is in Afghanistan.”
This has been the sad reality
A Wyo. guardsman says goodbye at a recent deployment.
for children and spouses in Wyoming since the beginning of the terror wars in 2001, 19 long years ago. 2019 was particularly 
rough on Wyoming families as that year we saw the second-largest deployment of Wyoming National Guardsmen in 10 years. 
The social and economic impact of deployment levels of this size, in a state like ours, is hard, if not impossible, to measure. 
First, and possibly least important, consider the hundreds of job positions left empty. Employers must hold the positions vacated by the guardsmen until they return. For a small business, this may mean either work doesn’t get done or a larger workload is carried by the few employees left. Hiring to temporarily fill the vacancy isn’t always possible for Wyoming’s struggling small business sector. 
Then consider the loss in sales and services. Each guardsman deployed abroad is one less plate served at the diner, one less pickup truck at the pump, one less volunteer at the soup kitchen, one less soccer coach.
The far greater hurt is found in the social impact on our communities and is borne primarily by the families left behind. 
How do we begin to measure the pain and harm done to Wyoming families by these extended deployments? When in adolescence, is it a good time for a young boy to be without his father? What is the long-term impact of a teenage girl being without her mother for freshman year? 
Picture for a moment a woman in your community, early 30s, three small children, daddy gone to a foreign land that is literally on the other side of the planet from us. 
You watch her struggle weekly. She tells you she’s on anti-anxiety medication. She begins appearing unkept. Then so do the children. Your heart breaks a bit as you notice the youngest kid toddling around with a pillow that has his father’s picture printed on it.  
You and your neighbors try to help. Offer to babysit, bring supper, go for coffee, listen to her troubles. No matter how well intentioned, though, deep down you know that your efforts are falling far short of filling the hole left in their hearts – the loneliness, the empty place in bed, the space at the table where nobody sits. 
Above all, you cannot ease the fear that this family feels with every waking moment. What if daddy never comes home? Then what?
For Wyomingites with particularly patriotic sensibilities, this matter is particularly complex.  You’re not some half-baked hippie! You are a proud, red-blooded, hardworking, American. You believe in pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, Ol’ Glory, mom and apple pie. You say the Pledge of Allegiance, stand for the National Anthem and hold the U.S. Constitution in the highest regard. 
One other thing, you support our troops. You think – no, you know – they are heroes. You refuse to repeat the mistakes of the past. You’ll be damned before you repeat Vietnam, where our boys were sent to die for an unclear cause, when no obvious threat to our nation and people was present and where no objective definition of victory has been established. 
Moreover, you aren’t willing to see the boys and girls coming home to a system that cannot care for their mental and physical needs. They are the best of us, after all. They deserve the best from us, right?
Is that you?
If it is, I have bad news. We’ve got trouble.
We’re letting our boys down.
On Sept, 11, 2001 our people, our nation were attacked. After that, our government leaders vowed to avenge our slain countrymen. The nation rallied behind the president and the Pentagon with  nearly unanimous resolve. 
The Authorization for Use of Military Force was passed by the 107th Congress on Sept. 14, 2001 and signed into law by George W. Bush on Sept. 18 the same year. In the Senate, 98 ayes, 0 nays, and 2 present votes were tallied. In the House, 420 ayes, 1 nay and 10 not voting. That my, American friend, is a landslide. 
This wasn’t a declaration of war. Nobody really pretended it was. In summary, this act authorized the president to use whatever force necessary to seek revenge against the nations, organizations or persons responsible for the World Trade Center attacks.
Since then al-Qaeda has become a household name. At the time the military force measure was passed, intelligence estimated al-Qaeda had between 400 and 1,000 members worldwide. Nineteen of them died in the attacks. 
This little bit may seem pedantic, but it is important for the reader to grasp. Of the 19 total hijackers, 15 of them were citizens of Saudi Arabia, two from United Arab Emirates, one Lebanese and one Egyptian. Each were Sunni Wahhabis, just like their leader, Osama Bin Laden. These are important distinctions, but it is equally important to note their motivations seemed less religious and more political.
To date in Afghanistan and Iraq, nearly 5,000 Americans have been killed, 31 more on Jan. 26, 2020, and another 20,000 allies and contractors from around the world. Hundreds of thousands across the Middle East have been killed by either the direct or indirect consequences of the of The War on Terror.
 The U.S. has spent nearly $7 trillion, by the most conservative estimates over the last nineteen years.   
Al-Qaeda has had periods of growth and decline. They have splintered off into separate groups, such as The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. They operate sometimes under different names, and on occasion they receive support from the U.S. in countries like Syria and Yemen.  
All of this has been done under the authority granted to President George W. Bush, a generation ago, to seek revenge against those who attacked us on 9/11/01.
Remember that part I said was important earlier?  In Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, we supported extremist Wahhabis groups and aided their ascension into political power during the Arab Spring between 2010 and 2012. 
This offense was amplified when the U.S., with bipartisan applause, began supporting groups like the al-Nusra Front in Syria. These darling fellows were called moderate rebels by the late U.S. Sen. John McCain. This al-Qaeda splinter group swore loyalty to Al-Queda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and was responsible for beheadings and crucifixions of Christians throughout Syria until Assad and his allies were able to put them down. But these were our allies for a while, all under the authority of the military force authorization.
It may be a bit of an understatement to say we have lost our direction. The mission isn’t clear. Our servicemen and servicewomen deserve better. 
You can give it to them, Wyoming.
You may be thinking: Isn’t this a federal issue? What can Wyoming possibly do about foreign policy? How can we protect our fellow Wyomingites from these seemingly endless, unconstitutional wars? It’s impossible. 
In many ways, you are right.  There are just too many moving parts. It is too hard to keep the differences between the Sunni and the Shiites and Alawites and Kurds. You don’t really understand why Soleimani was our side right up until we blew him up at an airport. Why is the democratically elected parliament in Iraq voting against us anyway? Don’t they know we’re trying to bring them democracy.
Yeah, I know. All these questions can’t be answered here, but that doesn’t mean Wyomingites have to stay mute. Your state rights don’t simply end because the questions are complex. The Constitution doesn’t become irrelevant the minute world events get confusing or scary.  
Rather, it is when things are the scariest, when the days are darkest, that our true character, our foundational principles must shine through.
State Rep. Tyler Lindholm of Sundance, a Navy veteran and rancher, and the House majority whip has the answer. He wants what you want: a constitutional, patriotic solution to our foreign policies.  And it may well be that we can’t get it done on a national level.  
But, we can defend our state. We can defend the Guard! Lindholm has banded together with Bring Our Troops Home (,  an organization of conservative military veterans who continue to uphold their sacred oath to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution. They are bringing to states around the country legislation called The Defend The Guard Act. 
If passed by state governments, the law would prevent the federal government from deploying National Guard troops to foreign theaters absent a constitutionally mandated, congressional declaration of war. 
This is to say: Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past! Let’s not have a series of Koreas and Vietnams. And if we can’t do it federally and protect all our servicemen, let’s at least defend our guardsmen.
The job of our enlisted men is to do or die.  They aren’t supposed to worry about policy or consider partisan interests. They promise to defend the Constitution and the homeland against whomever they are told.
They put their trust in the hands of the adults, the civilian government, the people to ensure that their mission is legal, just and true. Their lives, their health, and their sanity are all entrusted to us, We the People. 
This is the bare minimum of what we owe our troops in return. This is how we honor their sacrifice: We make it all legit with a declaration of war before we ask them to risk their lives on our behalf. That is law and order.
Wyoming conservatives get this on every issue. When gun rights come to question on the national stage, Wyomingites know the Second Amendment by heart. Land management? Wolf management? Wyoming knows it’s the Tenth Amendment, no questions asked. 
Heck, the Cheyenne Police Department is even saying they won’t enforce the 21-year age restriction on tobacco products recently signed into federal law. The Defend the Guard Act is a bigger no-brainer for Wyoming conservatives than the national speed limit.
But what if you aren’t a conservative? What if you’re a moderate? Fiscally conservative but socially progressive?
The Defend the Guard Act is for you! Sure, the Wyoming National Guard gets federal money to support our guardsmen while they’re deployed. But that doesn’t come near the cost of missing these great men and women in our local economies. The jobs that they do for us at home are far more valuable for our communities. 
Besides, we don’t have near the resources necessary to care for our wounded, physically or mentally, when they come home. While Wyoming’s VA hospitals might be some of the better ones in the country, they are far too few and too far apart to meet the needs of guardsmen returning home wounded. This doesn’t even begin to address the possible PTSD and suicide risks that are brought home. 
It is also fair to remember that Wyoming isn’t simply one big military base. We simply do not have the infrastructure and support systems available to spouses and children left behind during deployment. 
This is because the National Guard isn’t intended to be used in multiple deployments. It’s supposed to be a domestic line of defense. It isn’t supposed to be leaving families behind.  
If the $7 trillion already blown into the ionosphere by this century’s wars doesn’t faze you, imagine what developing a cohesive support structure for the families of deployed guardsmen would cost.

But what if you support President Donald Trump? Well, here’s your chance. Trump has been on the record saying we should pull our troops out of the war in Afghanistan. As a candidate in South Carolina, he said that invading Iraq was “one of the worst mistakes in the history of this country.”  ( The Defend the Guard Act gives you the opportunity to MAGA your butt off.
But what if you are an environmentalist? The Defend the Guard Act is for you! I don’t really have to explain how blowing things up is bad for the environment, do I?
But what if you’re a Democrat? Lindholm has bipartisan support for The Defend the Guard Act.
You want to learn more, right? Of course, you do! Read more about The Defend the Guard Act and the patriotic veterans bringing this legislation to you at (
Read about legislative success in other states. See what Oklahoma, Idaho, West Virginia and Michigan are doing to Defend the Guard at 
These are our nation’s heroes, telling us what they need. What they want. What they feel like they deserve. 
What’s more, they are telling you how you can help.
In Wyoming, the time to help is now. Lindholm will need 40 votes to get this legislation passed the floor. Contact your local representative and encourage them to support The Defend the Guard Act.
Contact Gov. Mark Gordon and encourage him to do the same.  
It is our patriotic duty, and it is truly the least we can do for our Wyoming guardsmen and their families. For more information or to contact Lindholm, go to

Jeremy Royer is a local writer.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

To bundle or not to bundle 6th penny projects? Officials and the public weigh in on the subject


It’s a question that comes up every 6th penny cycle: What do you think the strengths and weaknesses are for bundling items on the 6th penny ballot? So what did elected officials and the public have to say?
“The strengths: You’re more likely to get a want passed if you stick it with a need. Weakness: You might not get it passed and the needs will suffer. I'm against bundling if they bundle needs with wants.
Tie projects together
The Grand Conservatory at the Botanic Gardens is a 6th penny project.
that will benefit old and young, ie. parks and rec items with gardens and cop cars. This is also one of the reasons a rec center never gets approved: It’s pushed as a kids-only benefit rather than a community addition for all ages.”
“Pros: Public safety projects don’t get tanked by being with lumped with amenities. Cons: Cheyenne residents screw the small towns.”
“I’m not a big fan at all. In fact, I hate it. It smacks of trying to bribe people to vote for stuff they don’t really want by packaging unpopular/unneeded stuff with things that everyone knows we need. Count me as a ‘no’ vote for those bundles, on principal if nothing else.”
“I  don't like the bundling. I wanted to vote for some important things but didn't because they were bundled with wants.”
“I think the bundling is the worst part! There is something good in every bundle, but something I don't want to vote for in every bundle.”
“I oppose. Doesn't give voters the choice to support one special project and oppose another.  Bundlers know the psychology: People will bite their tongues and vote ‘yes’ to get their one special project funded.”
“There is no strength. It’s a waste of time. It needs to be all or nothing, and the city and county need to work this out. It should not be done in an attempt to manipulate a specific outcome. But similar items should be bundled because of the nature of the items are related; then they should be considered together if it will leave part of a larger project incomplete. We also don't need to have a thousand items to vote on.”
“To bundle items, depending on what they are, can be good because you get more than one important item voted through at once or vetoed at once. In the case of the rec center that everyone says they want, it’s usually a bad thing because whatever they attach to it isn’t wanted.”
“If we don't bundle, the small cities would get nothing.”
“Well, it's a classic double-edged sword. Some critical items might not get any support, so you can bundle them with items you think have a better chance at passing. But I also think the ‘optics’ of bundling turns off voters generally, and a good project can go down in tandem with a particularly unpopular measure.”
“First call it what it is: a 1 percent tax.”
“Depending on how the items are bundled can seal their fate, even before the election. For instance, the last 6th penny election had monies to repair and or replace fire stations bundled with the rec center. Everyone knows what happened with that vote. The best way to present the items is to either have each item stand by itself or group them together by department or service. For instance, public services are grouped together, recreation items would be grouped together, road projects and so on.”
“Small towns won’t get shit! Who cares if Albin gets a fire truck or Pine Bluffs gets police cars?”
“Bundles are always a weakness. Like the rec center bundled with much-needed items. Of course it's going to get shot down. It's bullshit because most people don't want it. “
“Let us vote items individually.”
“Strengths, the ballot isn't bogged down with a million items. Weaknesses, if I agree with one thing, but not the other, I have no way of indicating that in my vote.”
“I wish they would bundle things differently than they have been in the past. I would like it to be more of a hybrid. Similar/popular items together. Highly contested items individually.”
“Strength - it's a way to get weak projects approved that wouldn't get approved if they were by themselves. Weakness - see above.”
“I absolutely hate bundling items. It’s a very transparent strategy to get things ‘voted for’ by making the vote the lesser of two evils.” 
“In the past, the argument was to bundle so that the smaller communities wouldn’t lose out because they don’t have the voting power. But you only have to look at the last few ballots to see how badly that’s been abused.” 
“It’s hard to feel sorry for the county residents when they want all the benefits of city living but don’t want to chip in for the costs. And, of course, we could advocate for a tax structure that didn’t make necessities like fire trucks an ‘optional’ item.”
“Most of the items on the 6th penny ballot should stand alone. I would also advocate for the first question on the ballot be for whether we should have the tax or not. There’s always enough items that get voted on that we always have the tax.”
“Maybe if people voted the tax down altogether and started seeing how that affected them negatively, they might start getting on board with paying a little tax and quit bitching about ‘high’ taxes. 
I’m not a rec center activist for our town. People don’t utilize what we have.”
“The problem is that usually the two items bundled together have something cool to offer, but the other item usually outweighs the piece you want, so people just go without.”
“Nothing should be bundled.”
“I don’t see any strengths to bundling the 6th penny taxes because usually it's more cons then pros. If the bundles were to be in the same category, such as streets, sidewalks and Greenway, then definitely bundle that stuff. A weakness: Let’s say anything for the Downtown Development Authority, streets and building stuff that doesn’t concern the city public then screw that because the streets are important and any building not for the city isn’t. I feel the 6th penny tax should focus on one single item. If we spend all funds focused on one item, stuff will make an impact unlike putting a little here a little there. Like buying an iPhone, you have to buy more to get what others come with, i.e headphone and charger ports.”
“The only thing I have to add is that taxes only feel high when you don’t engage enough to hold the people who spend the money accountable for the value. Two examples I can think of are the quality of the roadwork done here (vs. say, Fort Collins; 5th penny) and the municipal pool expansion ( how crappy that was).”
“If there are items that can be bid under a single bid, it could come with cost savings, but mostly it’s a fricking game: Put things that people really want, then sneak in something that they don’t. So, if they really want these things, then they have to vote for the thing they don’t want to get what they really do want.”
“Put the 6th penny to better weather. Ha ha ha.”
“From talking to folks the past year, the 6th penny is total trouble due to the bungling of finances at City Hall. I will vote for it, but people are angry, and this could be a reelection issue for some in November.”
“They need to separate them. They know some are trash, which is why they bundle them. It’s our money; we should have more of a choice in how it’s spent.”
            “Bundling doesn't make sense unless it is the same sort of projects bundled together. Fire stations and recreation centers aren't exactly the same things.”
“Pro: Projects that are alike get bundled together and can be addressed at once (i.e. water line repairs and upgrades). Con: Projects that are not necessary, or that people don't support, can be bundled with major maintenance projects that are needed.”
“Strength - under publicized or less ‘sexy’ projects have the opportunity to be funded when bundled with a priority project. Weakness - important community projects may be defeated if the other bundled projects are perceived as frivolous or unnecessary. It oftentimes appears the bundling is a strategic mechanism to influence results.”
“At the end of the day, the 5th penny tax is designed for the voters to give direction on operational expenses. The 6th penny is for projects beyond normal operation and maintenance. Every project is important to someone, but by bundling we skew the responses from the voters, thus continuing the feeling of ‘my vote doesn't matter.’ Educated voting by the voters on projects based on their individual merit would be my preference and would be reflective of the voting population.”
“I think it's both a pro and a con for bundling.  Because if the bundling is strong, then it will pass. But if most of it is good and one is bad, it could affect whole bundle. But I’m pro bundler. Mostly bundling can be good if you bundle similar projects. Look at the 2017 6th penny projects, for example. They bundled an indoor turf area with new public safety radio systems. They also bundled a new gymnasium with the rehab of fire stations. Both failed due to public sentiments against new frivolous projects. Had the radio systems been bundled with the fire station rehab, the projects would have passed. You could have bundled the gym and turf, and they both would have failed.”
“I’m not a big fan of bundling projects. It seems folks are bundling lemons with apples. If you look at the proposition approval numbers, taxpayers are evenly divided for and against more public infrastructure projects. I suspect the next ballots cast for infrastructure projects will fail because of the controversy surrounding the municipal court project and the Christensen Road project. I also see that the Legislature is looking at making the 6th  penny permanent and adding an optional 7th penny tax. Those changes will further disenfranchise voters from approving any new projects. The next propositions need to address improved services to the community rather than building monuments to our own excesses. My two cents.”
“I’m opposed to the 5th and 6th penny always. Burn the whole docket.”
“Weakness is the same as its strength. It can be manipulated by what items are paired up with.
The city needs to quit screwing around with its projects. Christensen down to two lanes is an example. Could one of the eastern Laramie County put repairs of a dilapidated park on the ballot or would it be considered a want?” 
“Bundles shorten the ballot, preventing fatigue.”
“Bundles provide some protection for small communities. The fear is that if they aren’t bundled, Cheyenne residents won’t support Albin/Burns/Pine Bluffs needs.”
“Bundles prevent people from voting on individual items. They support four of the five items.  They either have to make a choice to vote for all five or vote no because of one item.”
“The strengths of bundling favor the government and not the people. It forces people to vote ‘yes’ even if there are things they don’t like. It also gives government the power to spend as it pleases on the items it is most interested in and not what the people are most interested in. I am not a fan of bundled items in the ballot; it gives government more control than it deserves.”
“I think the theory of bundling so that Pine/Burns/Albin don't get shut out is a good one, and in practice it has mostly worked. I think the idea of having like with like is good practice, also. Having participated in the process of deciding what goes on the 6th penny ballot (several times), I think there is an arbitrary aspect to that selection: If there is not a strong cheerleader for a project, it's not considered a priority. The Christensen Overpass project sat waiting for 28 years after approval as a needed piece of infrastructure by the City Council as an unfunded mandate, even for design. Now the costs have gone up and need has outstripped city planning. I watched several cycles as this project was dropped from the final ballot in favor of feel-good projects, albeit deserving on their own. There seems to be an unwritten/unspoken rule that the council/commissioners are afraid to exceed some set dollar amount for fear that all will then be rejected.”
“But, the biggest failing is that the public is not well informed about the process, the projects or even the fact that this does not raise taxes that we have already been paying for decades. There is a very vocal group intent on making people believe that by not voting they will somehow eliminate the 6th penny tax, disregarding that this would be catastrophic to our area. The very people who understand all of the process and the projects the best, the commissioners and the council-folk, are effectively prohibited from indicating whether they support a particular project or any problems that they see. The paper and news make a token effort, but without being paid, they don't dig much into the matter. The supporters who try to educate why they support a project and encourage support — putting the money where their mouth is and paying to educate — are vilified in the community as self-serving.
All this just goes to show you that this debate is contested. Imagine if the county commissioners actually left the city out of future discussions. That would be interesting.

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