“Don’t California My Cody” Billboard Stirs Controversy

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

To some people in Cody, Californians have a bad reputation.

In fact, many new residents who have moved to Cody from the Golden State introduce themselves to locals by apologizing first when they are asked where they’ve moved from. 

Some have received less-than-enthusiastic responses from Wyomingites who have had negative interactions with newcomers from the west coast – many of whom have differing ideologies (i.e. liberal ideals) from the conservative norms of Park County.

A billboard that was put up in Cody recently epitomizes that divide. It reads, “Don’t Calilfornia Our Cody,” and it greets drivers as they enter the town from the east. 

The billboard was erected on property belonging to a longtime Cody businessman, Ron Hill, and was commissioned and paid for by Blackwater, the private military company.  And it’s received some criticism – but also some strong support.

You never know when or where an argument will break out. Warring factions appear in-person, on social media, on talk shows, and in the newspapers.

This past week, the local newspaper was a popular location for dissent.

In a letter to the editor to the Cody Enterprise, Cat White (a California resident who says she spends significant time in Cody and has long ties to the state) wrote, “You may not agree with politics, but you cannot deny that without Californians visiting, the people of Cody would not have the jobs that our tourism affords. Many members of my family benefit from this who work in the service and hospitality industry.” 

She went on to say the billboard made Cody citizens appear “childish”.

A rebuttal letter from the owner of the property on which the billboard stands, Ron Hill, explained that as a landowner, he has rights to rent his billboard to whomever he chooses, and said White’s letter, which included a plea to the public to put pressure on the landowner to take the billboard down, was in itself an attack on free speech.

“There is zero tolerance for attacking the fundamental foundation of what makes our community and our country great – the principles of private property rights, free market business rights and the freedom of speech,” Hill wrote.

In a response to the original letter, Cody resident Schelly Jordan explained that from her perspective, the sign is “a reminder to Californians that they left their former home state and come here for a reason. Probably several.” 

Many comments upheld Jordan’s views, some using inflammatory language, while others remained restrained, while still supporting the idea that “California values” have no place in Wyoming.

In the past week, vandals have painted obscene images on the billboard, similar to graffiti that was sprayed on an anti-abortion billboard north of Cody last month. 

Response on the Facebook page “Cody Chit Chat” condemned the vandalism, many deriding the Cody mayor, school board, and other so-called “blue” elected officials. Scott Weber, Cody businessman, wrote, “We will NOT allow “Act Blue” to take hold by any means.”

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