Thoughts from Dale Steenbergen –
First, If you didn’t grow up in the generation that enjoyed Donnie and Marie Osmond you were cheated out of an important cultural experience. If you’re an 80s kid the title tickles your proclivities toward nostalgia and your wiggling in your seat just a little right this second. Every Friday night the show started with Marie singing I’m a little bit country and Donnie responding I’m a little bit rock and roll.
So, exactly what do Donnie and Marie have to do with redistricting and the Wyoming Legislature? A lot, actually. It was surreal to listen to the legislature argue and listen to arguments about who was “truly rural” and still clings to the “Cowboy” heritage and that surely no county or group of people in Wyoming want to share an elected official with someone who doesn’t share their “ranching” sensibilities.
First, let’s get a firm grip on reality here. Wyoming is a wonderful state that I love living in, but a beef-producing, cattle ranching powerhouse it is not! I know, I know that comment is almost blasphemous in the “Cowboy State.” Sometimes the truth hurts a little, but it is always therapeutic.
Factually, Wyoming is a ways down the list when it comes to beef production. Texas is America’s beef powerhouse with 4.6 million beef cows, and, my home state, Oklahoma comes in second with 2.1 million beef cows. To add insult to injury, some states we don’t consider “ranch-y” have more cows than Wyoming: Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, and even the corn state of Iowa. Before you think that Wyoming is all hat and no cows, we have 702,000 beef cows. That is certainly impressive when compared to Rhode Island’s mere 1000 cows. The legend of Wyoming far exceeds its reality as far cattle are concerned.
This article is not an attempt to belittle the cowboy ethos of our state. Rather, it is to point out the absolute ridiculousness of trying to prove you’re more of a cowboy than your neighboring county. If you look at Wyoming by County, Goshen County comes in at #1 with about 115,000 cattle but the “big city” environment of Laramie County is actually the second largest cattle producer in the state. Regardless of how many cattle your county produces, it does not indicate in any way why you should or should not have your legislative districts redrawn for your personal agenda.
Watch Out! Laramie County has more to lose than most counties in the state. We have done well and we have grown. The rest of Wyoming should look to us for answers on how to grow their tax base and provide jobs for their children. Instead, we have been vilified as the big city bringing the evils of civilization to the state legislature. Redistricting should be about making sure that the people of our state are fairly represented. Special interests should be avoided and the long-term impact of fair minded redistricting should look after the well being of the whole state.
Redistricting is important! The idiocy of fighting about who’s the biggest cowboy will cost us far more than our cowboy sensibilities. It will cost us our soul. The old Conway Twitty song that says Don’t call him a cowboy until you’ve seen him ride has real implications for us. Most of us are just “riding the pine” as we are sold down the river by a bunch of folks who don’t know the difference between a Hereford and an Angus.
What do you need to know for this legislative session? (Besides redistricting)
The budget and redistricting are the two gorillas in the room when thinking about the 2022 legislative session. We will keep you updated on both as the session moves forward. There are several other issues that deserve our attention. We will have weekly updates for you via email. If you are interested in a preview for these issues, they can be found on our website.