Happy New Year! I am so looking forward to another busy year in the city and in our personal life. Combining a job I love with the fun of a new grandson gives me so much joy and excitement. I would love to show you pictures of our perfect little guy. Let me know when you have an hour with nothing to do! Haha.
Judy and I spent the weekend in Arizona to visit great friends and to cheer Coach Bohl and the Wyoming Cowboy football team in the coach’s last game. First, the ending of the game was amazing, with a last minute Bohl-type victory. The crowd on the Cowboy side of the field was packed, not so much on the other side. It was great to see Cowboy Nation show up to support their team. Second, the weather in Arizona was so warm. I now understand the whole snowbird thing. It sure would be nice to get out of town for a few days during the windy days of pure Wyoming winter. Short trip but so much fun.
It was another short week with New Years’ Day off on Monday. Meetings were few and far between so it was a great time to check off many things on my to do list. I am as caught up as I have been in a very long time.
Last year we moved our city employee holiday luncheon to the first week of January with the hope that more of our folks would be able to attend. We did it again on Thursday and it was the biggest turnout I have seen in all my years of City Council service. Nice to catch up with so many of our team. Culver’s made the meal and the roast beef was the moistest I have ever had. Looks like January is our date going into the future.
The plan to have the City and State Parks partner on the future of the Arboretum is still moving forward. We met this week with a bunch of Arboretum partners to make sure we are ready to take the idea to the Legislature. I love the history of the Arboretum and hope we can save and improve it for future generations. Jessica Friis from our Botanic Gardens wrote a great book on the Arboretum if you have an interest in the history of how our urban forest came to be. I thought the trees were always there.
Friday will see the 20th Air Force Commander change of command. The Global Strike Civic Leaders from Minot, North Dakota, were in town for the events and we had dinner Thursday evening. It is great to talk with our counterparts from other Air Force communities and see what is happening in their towns. Randy is a state senator, Mark is a city council member, and Brekka is the chamber director in Minot. We have so many interests in common it makes the time fly by. I am looking forward to a day on base to support our military leadership.
The Wyoming Tribune Eagle has recently published a few letters to the editor alleging the city and I are anti-veteran. This started when a former city councilwoman, Annette Williams, proposed a program to allow families of veterans to purchase a banner to commemorate their service. The banners would then be placed on light poles in downtown Cheyenne for all to see and appreciate.
Ms. Williams lost an older brother serving our nation in Vietnam. I know her motives in making this request are pure, and we would like to help her family honor his service and their loss.
As mayor, I need to assess the potential consequences that may come from all proposals. What I have learned is many other communities have allowed similar requests. Wonderful opportunities to honor groups were approved and the plans carried out. Then another group proposed a project they believed to be similar. Unfortunately, the new group would not be the type embraced by civilized society. The municipality said no, and the group sued, taking some cases all the way to the Supreme Court. They won, because once you allow one group to put up a display, you can’t discriminate against other groups, no matter how repugnant their messages may be.
I am concerned that if we allow Ms. Williams to hang her brother’s and other deserving veterans’ banners downtown, we might be forced to hang banners celebrating Timothy McVeigh, Bruce Pierce, or Kalid Shiekh Mohammed.
I offered to go to private businesses like the Frontier Mall to try to get the banners displayed publicly, but Ms. Williams refused. I am happy to see Blue Federal Credit Union has adopted the program and the banners have been proudly displayed there. As a private business, there is no expectation other unsavory groups could demand and get similar access.
I shared these concerns with Ms. Williams multiple times, but she appears to be thinking with her heart and does not understand the potential consequences.
Unfortunately, Ms. Williams is now engaging with local veterans in her quest to get the banners hung by the city downtown, telling them I am anti-veteran and just told her no. The truth is I did say no, but for the reasons I hope the community now understands.
I am humbled by the sacrifice Ms. Williams’ family and so many other families made for our country. We always look for ways to support our large veteran community and wish Ms. Williams peace as she honors her brother.
Again, Happy New Year! Judy and I wish you health and happiness in 2024.