July 4th, 2020
A Time to Celebrate, A time to Reflect
A time to celebrate our freedom, we are a nation that people aspire to be part of. They vote with their feet. But, as the saying goes, Freedom isn’t Free. It takes work, scanning the “horizon” for threats and those who’d silently subvert us.
I chatted with one of the Chaplains that our legislature has visit during sessions. He was from a church south of Rawlins. As we spoke he talked of the difference between Free Choice and the freedom to choose. It took me a few minutes to click in to the difference. Our creator endowed us with many things and Free Choice is central to our humanity.
It leads us to seek things greater than ourselves, but it also leads to more base motivations.
The outpouring of self-righteous loathing we see in our nation today is deeply troubling. The willingness of media to label obvious vandalism as a protest protected by our Constitution is deeply troubling. This can only be a political design.
I have long marveled at the indomitable spirit of our nation. As a CO on two Navy ships my most difficult job was to figure out how to stay out of the way of my crews. They always amazed me at their ability to perform “above and beyond.”
An Indomitable Spirit
Ron & Alice are rebuilding their home that burned in the Roosevelt Fire of 2018. They are using lumber recovered from the burned timber on their land. It will take time but they’re on their way.
They set about rebuilding and along the way bought a portable lumber mill. They are using fire damaged logs from their property. It will reflect the history of the fire... and save some real money! You will also see Alice "Supervising" from the porch of their Temporary cabin.
So where is our nation headed? This bout of self-hatred will run its course. It is incumbent on the judges of our “Second Estate” to hold responsible those people that did the vandalism. Our leadership must support those who run to the danger: law enforcement, fire fighters, EMS, military. It is a very, very human motivation for some to run toward danger. We must steel ourselves to acknowledge that as a core element of human behavior and honor those who make such sacrifice.
May Godspeed our nation as we rebuild.
Superintendent Balow Briefs School Re-opening in the Fall
From The Wyoming Tribune-Eagle
CHEYENNE – Lunch in classrooms, widespread hand sanitizer stations and face coverings are just a few of the features Wyoming students can expect to see if the state’s schools return to in-person instruction this fall.
The Wyoming Department of Education’s initial framework to reopen K-12 schools, which was released Wednesday afternoon, requires districts to prepare for three possibilities: fully open facilities, fully closed facilities and a hybrid model somewhere in between.
If buildings are open to students, procedures for social distancing and face coverings will be followed “to the greatest extent possible,” the plan states.
During a news conference Wednesday afternoon, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said much of the decision-making outlined in the plan, developed by health and education experts across the state, will be left to local communities.
“Health officials, school boards, educators, parents and students will make informed decisions in the coming weeks,” Balow said. “Communities know best how to address your own unique challenges.”
Statewide, school districts have been asked to submit a plan to the education department by Aug. 3 that accounts for all three potential scenarios, with a focus on four areas: communication, safety and wellness, school operations, and instruction and technology.
The guidance released Wednesday largely includes recommendations for district administrators to consider in their plans, though it does entail a few across-the-board requirements for each scenario.
For example, if they reopen, schools must have a plan for students to safely enter and exit the building, “whether limiting the number of entrances open or requiring specific groups to use specific entrances.” Parents would also be expected to screen their children daily for COVID-19 before allowing them to attend school.
The recommendations, while not yet official procedure, provide further insight into what school could look like this fall. Under the nutrition guidance, one recommendation is to “serve students in their classrooms/pods/designated areas, rather than in cafeterias or common areas” and “provide water sources other than water fountains.”
The plan also included a framework for if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19. The person testing positive would enter into self-isolation, and “other students and staff members who came into close contact with the positive case will be quarantined for 14 days, or as otherwise directed,” the plan states.
“Schools or buildings could also be closed by state or local public health directive or order for a 2- to 5-day period (or longer, if conditions warrant) to sanitize the facility and to conduct an investigation,” the plan reads.
Students who are more at risk of contracting the virus, or who live with someone who is, will be eligible to receive remote education, according to the framework.
Following the closure of school buildings across Wyoming this spring to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Balow acknowledged the loss of in-person instruction will be an issue to grapple with “for years to come, especially in the area of early literacy.”
“I would anticipate that in the coming months, we in Wyoming ... will double-down on our focus on brain-reading instructions, so that our youngest learners can get the interventions they need to make up for the lost time,” Balow said.
At the local level, the Laramie County School District 1 Board of Trustees could discuss its specific reopening plan during its next meeting, set to be held virtually at 6 p.m. July 13.
Four Key Legislators Discuss Wyoming's Revenue Future
Sens Driskill & Bebout, Reps Sommers & Nicholas
The revenue future is bleak, no surprise there. These legislators discuss Wyoming's future.
Consider: if every state employee was sent home, the reduction in expenditures would be about $877M. For perspective the past two Budget Sessions the Legislature took over $900 M out of savings. So where do we go from here? One thing they seem to like is the 1¢ increase in Sales Tax. Does that fix things... no, but it helps. ...And it kicks in quickly. A 1% sales tax would bring in about $300M...
Look at this Wyoming PBS show where these four legislators talk through the issues facing us. Note that Education is mentioned as having to absorb reductions, although quietly said.
Oil City News Article; June 14th 2020
CASPER, Wyo — On June 14, 1931, the ship the USS Wyoming rescued the submarine Nautilus in the Atlantic Ocean. The USS Wyoming was on a training cruise with midshipmen from the Naval Academy, and the Nautilus was preparing for an expedition to the North Pole, according to a social media posting by the University of Wyoming Foundation.
According to Don Walsh of the United States Naval Institute, Australian-born George Hubert Wilkins chartered the decommissioned World War I submarine from the U.S. Shipping Board and renamed it Nautilus in honor of Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” He’d planned to make a submerged crossing of the Arctic Ocean from Spitzbergen to the Bering Straits via the North Pole. “Using open leads in the ice, or special drills to open breathing holes, the sub would charge batteries and replenish the air inside,” Walsh wrote.
The submarine began its Atlantic crossing on June 4, 1931. On June 13, Nautilus lost both main engines due to stormy weather. After sending out an SOS, the battleship Wyoming (BB-32) towed Nautilus into Queenstown, Ireland. Repairs and test runs were attempted, but the submarine had fallen into disrepair.
Stopped by Alpine Saturday Morning (6/13)
Stopped by Alpine Saturday Morning (6/13) to have coffee and chat. Visited with Nancy & Roger Calhoun. Good talk. If you see me around over coffee and have something you want your Representative to do, sit down and talk.
The Red White & Blue Cafe was busy...
Stopped in at Hoback Jn to talk with Bill Rode. He was "cutting the grass." His horse was in need of "Green Therapy." Good talk.
Sublette Ranchers: Lawsuit could run them out of busines
In this case a lawsuit regarding grizzly bears purports that the bears are being harmed and that the ranchers must stop grazing on lands used for nearly a hundred years. This article from Wyoming Public Media outlines the issues. My hope is that the information these ranchers need was collected, analyzed, and archived for just this kind of case.
The State Money Issue
I have observed our legislature for several years now. I have been very concerned at the budgeting process in that they have always retained the current level of spending while taking money out of savings.
Governor Gordon acknowledged that the chickens have come home to roost with his Thursday (6/4) Press Briefing. State revenues have just simply cratered. The cancellation of major rodeos across the state have far reaching revenue impacts by the related spending of tourists, hotels, meals, and incidental spending. What might have been a small cut in state programs will be far worse.
What one must recognize is that in spending, for example, on schools generally, probably 70% of the budget is essentially a fixed cost. Then there is maybe 20-25% in which there is some flexibility. Finally in the last 5% or so, there is room to cut.
The Covid-19 related loss of revenue to Wyoming coupled with the reality of taking some $900M+ out of savings for the past two budget sessions will cause our legislature to have to cut through that ~5%, well into that 20-25% and maybe into that 70%. What is that 70%? Buildings (& repairs), transportation, heat & lights, classroom materials, desks, food service, etc.
Similar things must be addressed across all other state agencies.
I stand for low taxes and specifically no income tax.
So how will our legislature go forward? Step one will be to root out what lies in that ~5% and get it off the books quickly. This will not turn out to be easy despite the perception that it ought to be easy to find and agree on.
Here's a thought... Some years ago Gov Mead gave some pay raises to key executives... maybe we start there. So how many 25% cuts in executive pay does it take to save one state employee?
I stand for honesty in government and open records. I took on a district and it took 18 months to get them to open their records. Statute is clear: they had some 5 business days and they actually only opened them on order of a judge.
I have had to take on a district that I believe to be dishonest.