Arbor Day was started in the USA in Nebraska in 1872 with the planting of an estimated one million trees. History has reported that Cheyenne planted 12 trees a decade after its founding. Today we have more than 250,000 trees due to our forefathers’ efforts and the current efforts of our Urban Forestry Division. I was invited to Romero Park on April 29th to join Goins Elementary third grade classes to learn about trees and to plant four new ones in the park. Mark Ellison, our city forester, and his team does such a good job of teaching the kids the value of an urban forest. They showed off the fun tools they use to manage our trees. We have celebrated Arbor Day in Cheyenne now for 140 years. I think the mature trees we have inherited really makes a difference in the beauty of our city.
Darlene Kinnison worked in our building department and was a part of our city team for over 15 years. She retired at the end of April, and I enjoyed the opportunity to eat some Italian wedding cake with her and wish her well in retirement. It is sad to see folks leave, but I am happy that their hard work has gotten them to the point where they can leave and enjoy their life. Thanks Darlene.
Our City Transit department has been looking for a new home for a few years now. Last month we finally closed on a new home for the crew with the new location to be on Westland Rd. This will move the buses out of downtown and help prepare the transit system for the post COVID world. Our Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is working on a transit plan to upgrade how we route buses. We should see the plan in late fall. With our economy moving like it is, public transportation is vital for helping many get to work, shop, and attend medical appointments.
Judy and I traveled to Salt Lake City for the weekend to visit our oldest son, Sean, and his girlfriend, Kaili. It has been too many months since we had a chance to see them, and it was a blast. We got to see an exhibit on the Sistine Chapel. It is so interesting to learn how the ceiling was painted and to see the amazing artistry of Michelangelo. Those of you who are parents know how much these trips mean to us. Thankful for good roads and weather.
We have a new restaurant coming to our airport. Billy Jack’s Pizza Pub is opening two new Cheyenne locations very soon. I met with the management team to discuss how they should handle the liquor part of the business until the new liquor license approved by the legislature becomes available in July. I did not want them to overpay for such a short time frame. It was a good discussion, and I am sure they will be an asset to our community.
Chris Brown is the executive director of the Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association. I served on one of Chris’ boards and love the guy. We met so I could ask for his advice on how to proceed in our mission to change the state law on the availability of retail liquor licenses. Chris represents many members who own these licenses, and I thought his advice would be valuable. That proved to be right. We have lots of work to do, and I look forward to working with Chris in the process.
I received a request for a meeting from Theodore Hanlon to discuss the Belvoir Ranch. His daughter, Lindsey, is a friend, so I said yes. Happy that I did. Ted has a passion to see the ranch get open for public use, starting with a trail system. I shared with him all the work we have done, and now we have a new partner. He volunteered to design a drinking water system that will remove the potential of trichloroethylene (TCE), help find and write grants, and to do anything else they can to make our dream come true. It is another example of the amazing volunteerism here in the capital city.
Tourism is our number two industry in Wyoming. Governor Gordon hosted many of the state partners in the Capitol to share the importance and sign a proclamation declaring National Travel and Tourism Week. I learned the travel industry in Wyoming is the state’s largest private sector employer with an estimated 31,000 employees. We had 8.1 million overnight visitors who spent $4.1 billion dollars. I was also impressed that Laramie County is number three in overnight stays, just behind Park County. I am not sure we will ever catch Teton County, but Visit Cheyenne is trying. I love the partnerships we have in Laramie County.
I have been in the bicycle business for 40 years now. I was invited to Cole Elementary to help with a National Bike to School Day event. As part of the event, Safe Kids brought helmets donated by Bell to give to the kids. I was in my element. The kids were beautiful, and I enjoyed fitting them for their new helmets. We had lots of smiles and we posed for lots of pictures. What a great program. The kids learn bike safety and then have a fun event.
We have a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) office that is charged with taking federal dollars and finding great ways to invest them to help the underprivileged in our community. As part of the services they provide, upgrading homes to help residents stay in them is an important part. The question is what happens when the residents die or leave the home with an outstanding mortgage. This recently happened and again a member of our community came forward to help educate me on what options we have and how to help keep these homes in the affordable housing arena. I so appreciate Rick taking the time to help the city going forward.
The Wyoming Mortgage Lender’s Association is holding their annual conference here in Cheyenne this week. I was honored to welcome them to our city and wish them a successful conference. These conferences fill our hotels and restaurants, and really move the needle in our economy. The housing market is a big part of our local gross domestic product (GDP), and I know houses don’t get sold without the mortgage industry. It is nice to have them in town.
I presented the mayor’s budget on Wednesday to the city council. Our general fund revenue and expenses are projected to be $59,636,705 for the 2023 fiscal year. This is an increase of $5,743,486 from last year’s budget. Our top revenue sources are sales taxes (36.9 percent), property taxes (11.3 percent), gas and electric franchise fees (8.6 percent), and state distribution (7.6 percent). Our top expenses are payroll and benefits (73.4 percent), vehicle parts and fuel (4 percent), light fuel and power (3.9 percent), and outside agencies we support (3.7 percent).
I find a couple of things interesting in our budget. For every $1,000 a person spends on taxable items, the city gets $7.71 into our general fund. It takes almost $1.5 billion dollars in taxable sales to pay just our 91 firefighters for a year. On the average $400,000 home, the city gets $304 into our general fund from property taxes a year. It would take 37,963 average single-family homes to again pay our 91 firefighters for a year. That is more homes than our city has, sigh!!
Wishing all the moms in our city a Happy Mother’s Day. You are loved and appreciated. Miss you Mom!
If you have a question for me, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll continue to answer them in my following Mayor’s Minute column.