My wife Judy has told me about Stars of Tomorrow for over 40 years. She competed as a fifth grader and won second place. We still have the trophy in the basement. I really had no idea what the program entailed until I was asked to judge the 68th Kiwanis Stars of Tomorrow competition at the Surbrugg/Prentice Auditorium on the LCCC campus. While acknowledging my lack of expertise in the subject, I loved the experience. The young men and women were so talented. We saw dancers, singers, a comedy act, martial arts, musicians, and Claire Nelson who did an act from the Broadway show Mean Girls to win best of show. By the way, the theater is an amazing addition to Cheyenne.
This week was a nice break from last week’s crazy schedule. Monday ended with a four-hour city council meeting. I was so sure it would be a short meeting, I skipped dinner. Boy was that a mistake. One interesting part that took much of the time included the public hearing for the new liquor license we are hoping to award in a couple of weeks. The room was packed with supporters who each wanted to share their reasons. It was a thoughtful and fun conversation. I think we had up to 20 folks who shared. Later in the meeting, we had another liquor discussion. This time we discussed the transfer to the Horse Palace in the Array building. Many of the speakers were worried about the ills of gambling addiction, and what adding this kind of business would do to our downtown. In the end it was approved. We will revisit the issue next March to see if they manage the responsibility of having the license properly.
Youth Alternatives was started over 50 years ago by Ronn Jeffrey, currently our municipal judge. Today Jay Sullivan is the skipper. He stopped by to discuss his budget request for next year. Youth Alternatives is doing well, the only concern right now is the short fall from the United Way Campaign. It means programs like Special Friends and Foster Grandparents will get a reduction of 39 percent in United Way funding. We will need to find a way to keep these programs, housed in Youth Alternatives, and more like them that help so many people, operational. It also means we need to support next year’s United Way campaign.
I did not know that realtors must do continuing education as part of their license. I was asked to speak to the Cheyenne Board of Realtors during their general membership luncheon to read a proclamation declaring April as Fair Housing Month. I also discussed the hateful covenants that can still be found in subdivisions in Cheyenne and other cities across the nation. These covenants prevent people of color from buying homes in the subdivisions. These were outlawed federally with the passage of the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Our legislature passed a law that lets homeowners remove the covenants simply by filling out a form and taking it to the courthouse. The filing is done at no charge. Soon, our GIS team at the city will have a map that will show if your home has the covenants in question, and the form to make them go away. I do admire our realtors, so much enthusiasm in a market with no inventory.
I am surprised by the width and depth of topics you get involved with as mayor. Sidewalks have me surprised for what seems like a simple subject. What I am learning is it is not just having smooth sidewalks with no tripping hazards, but you have to make sure the slopes are under 2 percent to meet the ADA codes. Now when the finished floor of a building is 18 inches higher than the top of the curb, you cannot make the slope meet the requirements. If you add ramps in areas like downtown, they extend into the neighbor’s entryway. Sigh! It is a complicated and seemingly impossible problem. Well, we have taken this one on and will report back.
Our treasurer Robin and I have met with all our departments on the budget, and we are now working to balance the budget. I have shared that we started $2.1 million in the hole before considering requests from our departments. We have begun whittling that deficit down and hope to have a balanced budget by next week. Our next step will be the work sessions that let the departments share requests with the city council.
Our friend Alf and Ms. Sallee brought their two grandsons by to visit the mayor’s office. They do so much for our veterans, and I enjoyed sharing that fact with the boys. I hope Carson and Brayden enjoyed their trip to Wyoming.
One big decision we will need to make in the very near future is how to provide health insurance to our employees. Our Employee Benefit Committee met to have that discussion. The decision was made to pursue the self-insurance model. We have a great consultant that has helped us over the past two years to get ready for this moment. Our employees will not see or feel any change, but our back office will have a bit more to do each month.
Parking tickets have been a big topic of conversation. We still have over $200,000 past due tickets. I took a ride along with Darrell Hibbens to see what a parking enforcement officer does. Our new technology allows the officer to drive down the street while the technology photos the license plates. Two hours later they drive the same routes, and the technology tells you if a car has been parked over the allotted time. In our hour trip we found 15 cars in violation. The officer used his discretion in five cases, and we wrote 10 tickets. In many of the discretion cases, it was determined that the car had parked, moved, and come back. No ticket warranted. I was pleased to see the customer service aspect of the job. We found a movie crew from the BBC, a traveler with a camper that was stranded due to high winds, and many more cases where the officer was able to use his discretion to provide great customer service. I think these folks will leave Cheyenne with great memories, except the 50 mile per hour winds.
Helping developers and businesses find a way to success is something I really enjoy spending time on. The city team of the BOPU and mayor met with a developer and their team to find a solution to getting water to a part of the city to allow for 1,200 homes over the next six to eight years. These are hard conversations as the city does not normally pay for these types of infrastructure, we just take on the maintenance once in place. In this case, a couple of great ideas were presented that I hope will result in the housing getting built. We need the housing units, desperately.
Once a quarter we have a dinner for all the elected officials in Laramie County. This quarter, Albin was our host. I loved the enchiladas, and the cake was amazing! Each entity shares what has been going on, and what they see happening in the future. It is fun to get together and share notes.
This week we opened the city building back to the public. We were able to have our first staff meeting in our building in five months. I had a lot to share and questions to ask for advice from the team. I can’t believe how quickly two hours flew by. One thing I would ask our residents to help the city with is vandalism. It seems like our city facilities are getting vandalized every day. This weekend we had five commercial back flow preventers stolen, a bathroom destroyed, parking garage spray painted, and much more. I would ask you to keep your eyes open as you drive around and in your neighborhood. Please call the police so we can get this senseless vandalism stopped.
I had a phone call with the city manager from Casper, Carter Napier. We spend time talking and working on ways we can help each other. It is so nice to have a colleague to compare notes with.
I hope everyone has a great holiday weekend with family and friends. Happy Easter!
If you have a question for me, send it to email@example.com. I’ll continue to answer them in my following Mayor’s Minute column.