Category archive


Dave Simpson: What Will You Do With Your $1,200?

in Column/Dave Simpson

By Dave Simpson, Columnist

“Will you be taking the money?”

The question came in a Facebook thread, after I wrote this initial post:

“Don’t anyone tell them what comes after a trillion.”

That observation, as the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill had just passed in Congress, drew mostly friendly replies.

“McZillion sold,” one friend responded. “A Gazillion? Asking for a friend” another replied.

(The answer: A “quadrillion.” And I don’t even want to think about it.)

So the mood was light regarding a heavy subject: This country’s mountain of debt has grown over most of my life, and is growing much faster in recent years. It stood at $23 trillion before this latest stimulus bill. It will soon be $25 trillion. And Nancy Pelosi promises that more trillions will be needed before the coronavirus nightmare ends.

A friend of almost exactly 40 years asked if I will take the $1,200 that will soon be on its way to most Americans. This guy is about as far left on the political spectrum as I am to the right. He seemed to be asking if I would be a hypocrite, and take the money despite my national debt worries. The question had an edge.

I hadn’t given the matter much thought. Not taking the money hadn’t occurred to me. And turning it down would be a tough sell with my wife, who is twice as frugal as I am. (We crawl under doors to save wear and tear on the hinges.)

So I replied:

“I’m thinking of giving it to my grand daughter. It’s only fair. Her generation will get stuck with the debt. It’s stupid to give it to people like us. (We’re retired.) The people out of work need the help. What will you do?”

I added this: “And what on earth do the Kennedy Center and NPR have to do with this crisis? Why shower them with millions?”

Well, that last part must have struck a nerve, and my old friend replied that he would be giving his $1,200 to people in his family who are out of work, and to a young man he helped pay for college, “who now finds his whole world slipping away.” He added, “What did you think I would do?”

He agreed that showering the Kennedy Center and NPR with millions is crazy, but added that he also didn’t want to see money go to “huge corporations” that spent millions on stock buybacks last time we doled out borrowed stimulus billions.

Off to the races…

So I asked why he was picking this fight, when we both knew we would never change the other guy’s mind on anything political. He replied that he’s getting cabin fever being cooped up in his house, and just needed to vent. My post gave him the opportunity.

I replied, “I have lost a couple long-time friends over politics, and I don’t intend to lose you. Not gonna happen.”

Then I had a better idea. A couple weeks ago we were about to move my 95-year-old mother-in-law from assisted living to a nursing home. Then the coronavirus hit, and because we couldn’t visit her in the nursing home, we decided to bring her to our home instead. While moving her, on top of everything else, downed power lines knocked out electric service to our neighborhood.

We live outside of town, with a well, and a lift station for the downstairs plumbing. So nothing was working as we moved her in. And for a while, there was no power for her oxygen machine.

“That’s it,” I said. “We’re getting that standby generator we’ve been talking about.”

It’s the perfect solution. A good cause: Caring for an elderly family member. Money to a local electrician who has a passel of kids. And money to Home Depot, a business started by Ken Langone, who has given $200 million to the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York.

The project will cost more than the $2,400 my wife and I will be getting, maybe as much as $10,000.

But the government money will quickly be out there, stimulating up a storm. And everyone will be happy.

Maybe even my old liberal friend.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at

Tim Mandese: “So NOW You Like Spam?”

in Column/Food/Tim Mandese

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily.

WARNING!! I’m going to use A LOT of exclamation points in this article!!!!

Are you self-isolating? Quarantined? Social distancing? Hunkered in the bunker? If so, then I can understand the toilet paper hoarding. We all need TP. Maybe not 1,200 rolls though! 

But which one of you bought up all the Spam? I only know three people who eat it, including myself. So where did it go? I imagine pantries full of Spam, those cans sitting in the back being saved for a last resort.

If you are going to hoard it, use it! Bring those cans to the front and put that macaroni helper in the back! I’m here to tell you Spam is the new filet mignon! 

Wait, Wait! Come back! I mean it! You’ll see. 

You might ask first, what is Spam? Spam has been around since 1937 and is eaten worldwide. In the U.S., its biggest fans are found in Hawaii, where 7 million cans are consumed annually!! What do they know that we don’t? 

What is Spam? According to the website, it is made up of “pork with ham, salt, water, modified potato starch, sugar, sodium nitrite.” So what are you afraid of? As long as I can remember, I’ve always been told that the word “Spam” is short for “spiced ham.”

Modern Spam is much more diverse than the product you remember your grandma cooking. Now it comes in 15 different flavors, like bacon, jalapeno, teriyaki, and my two favorites, garlic and chorizo!

It’s not so hard to believe that the recipe options are endless! The Spam website has a page with 100-plus Spam recipes! Getting excited now?

There are classic like Spam omelets, wild and wacky creations like a “Spam and Ramen burger“, the “Spamalicious Jalapeño Cheddar Biscuits,” (  ) and my favorite, “Spicy Spam Rice Bites“.

So if you are self-isolated, going stir crazy, and feeling like Spam in a can (pun intended), get that canned goodness out of the back of the pantry and use it! Because I know it was you who bought it all! 

One more thing. While you are on the Spam website, check out the store page. All kinds of Spam accessories for your Spamming pleasure. 

I want the Spam lunch box! 

Dave Bonner: Thank You, Doctors, For Plain Talk

in Column/Dave Bonner

By Dave Bonner, Powell Tribune

Don’t let the low numbers for known cases of coronavirus in Wyoming and Park County lull you into complacency and any false sense of security.

That’s the message of plain talk opinion pieces in this newspaper today, and last week, offered to the community by direct primary care physicians Dean Bartholomew and Mike Tracy of 307Health in Powell.

The numbers are low but those figures don’t tell a complete story. That’s because the Wyoming Department of Health has not yet conducted widespread testing in the state. When you don’t test, the number of identified cases doesn’t go up.

That should not be taken, Dr. Tracy writes, as an indication that COVID-19 is not in our communities. He and other physicians know the virus spreads quietly and that if we had more testing, we’d have a more realistic picture of what’s going on.

Dr. Aaron Billin, the Park County health officer, has been tirelessly driving home the same points in interviews, emails, public notices and posts to social media. He’s been working seemingly around the clock to help inform and protect our community, stressing the importance of social distancing. 

Dr. Billin has been cheered to have several days go by with no new confirmed cases in Park County — and he thinks the dramatic changes that residents and businesses have made to their daily routines are making a difference. But we’re by no means out of the woods.

Bill Sniffin: Lighten Up – Here Are Few Of My Favorite Things

in Bill Sniffin/Column

By Bill Sniffin

With just six people per square mile, it has been argued Wyoming has been practicing “social distancing” since 1890.

Is there a group for us hypochondriacs? Call it hypochondriacs Anonymous or Feverish Folks or Itching to get Sick Club?

Once in a while, it seems like my wife has too little compassion for me as I fret over my latest sniffle, or scratchy throat, or slight headache. And during nervous coronavirus times like these, I am bad about imagining that I am getting sick.  I wonder how many other husbands hear this refrain from their wives: “Hey buddy, I am your wife. I am NOT your mother!” Actually, Nancy treats me great but if I linger too long then I get reminded about how well I really am.

Not sure how she did it, but my mom always babied us when we were sick as kids. We would stay home from school, drink chicken soup, gobble up ice cream and watch lots of TV. And we got lots of attention. Love those memories, ha! When I am sick, I admit I miss my mom. She is 96 and confined with no visitors in a Denver-area nursing home. As I write this, luckily, we are feeling fine.

Two of my favorite items on Facebook right now are my old friend Chuck Coon singing the song “Yellowstone Winds” and Annie and Amy Smith singing “Wyoming Where I Belong.” Coon was a PR specialist for the Wyoming Division of Tourism for years but I did not realize he was a crooner.

A song for Kathy Walker along with all of my friends and family. Forgive the sombrero but it is better than the shine coming off my head due to lack of hair.Be well and as my friend Wilford Brimley says: "Stay of the Wise."Yellowstone winter footage was shot by Mike McCrimmon.

Posted by Chuck Coon on Monday, March 30, 2020

The Smith twins wrote their song 20 years ago and performed it all over the world. It was a way for them to recall their home, while being away so much. It was voted an official Wyoming state song in 2018.

Also, I get goosebumps when I hear Wyoming native son, the late Chris LeDoux, singing “Song of Wyoming” on YouTube. It’s great.

Funny guy Tim Mandese of Casper said on his Quarantine Diary that he’s thinking about writing a novel about a Chinese guy who eats a bat. He gets a virus that infects the entire world. “Nah, probably too far-fetched,” he concluded.

My kids are watching a show called Tiger King on Netflix. There seems to be some truth to the story that the main character of the series, Joe Exotic, grew up in Laramie. It is truly a crazy show.

Bob Waits, known as Wyoming’s Bear Guy because he has carved 3,000 wooden bear statues, says children born 9 months from now will be known as “Children of the Quarn.”

A recent police report from Casper, which reflects the rest of the state, stated:
Robberies 0
Speeding 0
Burglaries 0
Domestic squabbles 1,435
Sorry, I just made these stats up.

How Coronavirus Affects Patients With Heart Disease

in Column/Coronavirus/News

By Kevin A Courville, MD, FACC, FHFSA, Advanced Heart Failure Specialist

As the consequences of the global pandemic associated with the outbreak of COVID-19 continue to be realized at an alarming rate, more data related to the effects of the cardiovascular system are becoming available. 

Previous outbreaks of the most recent past provide a look into the destructive path of a large- scale virus spread. The SARS outbreak from 2002 and the H1N1 pandemic of 2009 (in addition to MERS 2012) yielded a large number of deaths due to respiratory infection worldwide. 

However, cardiovascular complications when they exist are usually severe and must be addressed. Often as the disease progresses, the cardiovascular complications escalate the patients’ status to critical and frequently require treatment within intensive care units and require extensive healthcare utilization. 

Common findings of COVID-19 are arrhythmia, shock and acute cardiac injury occurring at a rate of 16.7%, 8.7% and7.2%, respectively. Potential findings that may be seen clinically include EKG changes, elevated troponin and abnormal findings on echocardiography (to include both diastolic and systolic dysfunction). 

Heart failure exacerbations were commonly seen during previous pandemics with significant morbidity and mortality associated with exacerbation. Similarly, systemic inflammation induced by the SARS CoV-2 virus binding to cells expressing viral receptors such as angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) can have the consequence of plaque disruption and acute coronary syndromes (ACS).  Anti-platelet agents, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, and statins have been suggested as possible therapeutic strategies for ACS. 

The pro-coagulant effect of the systemic inflammatory state caused by the virus should be identified in all hospitalized patients and preventive measures deployed. 

Patients with pre-existing cardiovascular disease should be carefully monitored and aggressive supportive care given upon the immediate diagnosis of COVID-19. For patients without pre-existing cardiovascular disease, a heightened suspicion for cardiovascular complications is required for all patients with a progressive course of COVID-19. 

Telemetric monitoring is offered here as a way to detect myocardial virus attacks. 

And lastly, for any patient surviving COVID-19 with a cardiovascular insult, prolonged disease monitoring is suggested such as the monitoring offered from the cloud-based PULSARIO remote heart management system. Although the current pandemic is in evolution, the above considerations are offered based on previous data sets and will most certainly continue to evolve.

(Note: This is an article published about COVID-19 on March 21 by Dr. Courville. He is the sole physician in Wyoming that is Board Certified in Interventional Cardiology and Advanced Heart Failure.)

Park County: More Testing Could Save Lives And The Economy

in Column

By Kevin Killough, Powell Tribune (column)

To control the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Park County has shut down non-essential businesses, which include dine-in restaurants, gyms, barbershops, and gift shops. The restrictions were initially to be in effect until April 3, but some public health officials are hinting at more extensive closures for longer periods of time.

Almost all these businesses have one thing in common. They’re small businesses, which nationally provide nearly half of all private-sector employment. These businesses may weather a two-week hit to their finances, but add more weeks to that, and the loss of revenue will likely be a death blow for many of them.

While doctors and public health officials are correct when they say complacency with the virus is incredibly unwise, the “shelter in place” response is not without an enormous and lasting cost that will be felt long after this virus is under control. 

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment in the past week. This is a staggering figure. The most initial claims the department ever recorded in a single week since it began tracking the metric in 1967 was 695,000 — a record set in October 1982. While it is a single metric, it signals an enormously painful economic collapse ahead of the nation and Powell. 

If a local restaurant goes bankrupt, it won’t come back — and another will not likely come to take its place anytime soon. It takes a lot of capital and a long time for a small business to establish and become profitable. Anyone who has worked in economic development will tell you how incredibly difficult business recruitment is, and fewer local amenities as a result of business failures will grow that difficulty exponentially.

There’s a ripple effect when businesses fail, especially in smaller communities that have less flexible economies than large cities. With a small labor pool and small pool of consumers, few in Powell will be untouched by these negative impacts. When a business closes, it takes jobs with it. Those are people who are no longer shopping in stores, getting their haircut, or buying gym memberships.

I rent an apartment from a nice woman whose retirement depends on her rentals. While the Powell Tribune isn’t among the businesses being ordered to close, it’s facing financial stress due to these closures. Should my employer need to lay me off, I will need to leave Powell to find work. My landlord will lose an important piece of her retirement, and that will likely impact other businesses in the area long after I’m gone. Every lost job threatens many more jobs in the community.

Businesses that depend on skilled labor, like our Powell Tribune, will find it especially hard to bounce back when the restrictions are lifted. In a small labor pool, recruitment for higher skilled positions requires a nationwide search. Recruiting employees to a town with fewer restaurants and places to shop becomes even harder.

With that economic decline comes an overall degradation to the quality of life. Rising unemployment will bring increases in suicides, domestic abuse, drug and alcohol abuse and child hunger, among a host of other problems. As we try to flatten a coronavirus curve, we exponentially increase other demand curves that will exhaust mental health, addiction treatment, and law enforcement resources.

Foster Friess: The Cure Should Not Be Worse than the Disease

in Column/Foster Friess

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up for Our Daily Newsletter***

By Foster Friess, Columnist

We applaud Governor Mark Gordon for his effectiveness in alerting Wyomingites of the steps to minimize the spread of COVID-19 while keeping Wyoming open for business. We must use his example to encourage the majority of our nation to carefully and gradually reopen our nation’s business.

 Last week, Dr. David L. Katz, the founding director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, one of the Centers for Disease Control’s units, argued in the New York Times; that in addition to the two primary goals of saving lives and avoiding hospital crush, we must also avoid destroying the economy.

Will people spend their $1,200 checks if they see businesses shuttered and “no toilet paper?” Confidence must be restored by getting businesses open and functioning, with care and caution.

Restaurants could limit patrons; theatres, baseball parks could sell only enough tickets to allow two empty seats between attendees; and barbers, beauty salons and gyms could implement their coronavirus cautions and let patrons determine if they want to take the risk.  

For those of us who are members of the Great Generation, we remember the risk our family members took as they faced the bullets of the Nazis in World War II. We faced mumps, measles, chickenpox, and dreaded polio.  On our way to school, we walked past quarantined houses where the practice was to quarantine the sick rather than the healthy. This is the approach Sweden and Netherlands now takes.

Has our new generation become too averse to risk? How risky is it to begin cautiously getting businesses open? 

On Thursday, March 26th   White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, an Army physician who has served both the Obama and Trump administrations,  chastised the press for sensationalizing the extent of the risk and pointed out that one of the earlier prognostications of 500,000 deaths has been revised to 20,000. She said, “The predictions of the models don’t match the realities on the ground.” 

The 2,227 U.S. deaths as of Sunday, March 29 include 1,340 from five states, NY, NJ, MI, WA and CA leaving the remaining 887 deaths coming from the rest of the population of 300,000,000 people. A 0.00000296% death rate.  That will increase. Can we keep the inevitable increase manageable?

My neighbor with several factories in China reports virus spread has indeed slowed and his plants reopened. Macau reopened its shuttered casinos. The Food and Drug Administration over the weekend approved Abbott Labs test that gives positive results in 5 minutes; negative in 13. Ventilator production is soaring thanks to President Trump’s inspiring America’s private sector.

This past week Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine, “This suggests that the overall clinical consequences of Covid-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1%).”

The Center for Disease Control’s 2017 report reveals annual deaths from influenza and pneumonia of 55,672; chronic lower respiratory diseases160,201; cancer 509,000 and heart disease 647,000.  Will COVID-19 surpass traditional flu/respiratory deaths of 215,873? Outside of the top five states, we are at 887 and counting.

Dr. Katz also outlined how the data from South Korea, shows “that as much as 99 percent of active cases in the general population are “mild” and do not require specific medical treatment.” The vast majority of people, who become infected will not require hospitalization. They face much graver symptoms if we keep America on pause.

For many losing their jobs, closing their businesses and being alone at home could be much worse than the coronavirus. The non-profit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline reported call volumes spiked 300 percent since the start of the coronavirus.

Matthew 6:25 implores us:  ”do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear… “  Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” The exhortation to “fear not” appears 365 times in The Bible. President Franklin Roosevelt’s charge during the despair of the Great Depression: “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

April 2nd I  turn 80, and despite my exhortation to ”fear not”, I am very fearful that our political class has ignored the wisdom that exists among our entrepreneurs and business community and does not fully understand the detrimental impact of shutting America’s employees off from their livelihoods.

As many governors frighten the Constitutionalists among us by limiting the right of assembly and making it punishable to attend church we want to encourage Governor Gordon to continue to set an example for the nation. Unless the disease escalates to the point of overwhelming hospitals we must allow wage earners to regain their livelihoods.

Sign up for Foster’s Outriders if you want to help get our government on a better track. Wait until you see how they just spent your money.  

Let’s Make America a Philippians 4:8 land.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up for Our Daily Newsletter***

Bill Sniffin: Life And Death In Time Of Coronavirus

in Bill Sniffin/Column

By Bill Sniffin, publisher of the Cowboy State Daily

The coronavirus is one everybody’s mind. Here are four recent things concerning this plague that are on my mind:

First, so there we were, 19 days ago, sitting with 2,000 other fans watching my favorite singer, Rod Stewart, perform at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. We were with our good friends Dan and Cindy Whetstone of Libby, MT.

Seeing Stewart had been on my bucket list, and it was fun to cross that goal off. The concert was terrific.  What was not so terrific were the 15 text messages I received from our children telling us to “get out of there” and “pack up and come home” from our quick trip to Sin City.

We did just that and have been in self-quarantine at our home in Lander ever since. 

Second, we recently phoned our friends, the Whetstones, and they told about a person they knew who had just died from the coronavirus in Kalispell.  He was Jim Tomlin, 77, from Libby.  Our friends live on Crystal Lake south of Libby.

This man was the first coronavirus death in Montana. They did not know Tomlin well but had heard the sirens of the ambulance when it went by their home on its way from Libby to the bigger city hospital in Kalispell.

Tomlin’s son told a horrible story in the Missoula newspaper about how his father had just returned from a vacation to the California desert and started hacking and coughing. He was confused and not well, the son said.

The son described the “crushing loneliness” his father felt in the hospital as his conditions worsened. No one was allowed to see him because of his diagnosis. Hospital staff set up a phone so the family could say their final good-byes in his ear. “If you think this virus is not going to affect you, well, you will know someone who dies from this,” the son concluded.

Although not mentioned in the story, hundreds of people in the Libby area have lung issues from a former asbestos plant that operated there for years. 

As I write this, Wyoming still has not had its first coronavirus death. 

Third, the first coronavirus death in South Dakota had a Wyoming connection. Fr. Robert Fox of Glenrock is from Rapid City, and he writes about his best friend: 

“Greg Weiland, 69, Rapid City was a good man and a great friend (and he had a heart condition). I’ll just share one story here. Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s it was not unusual for a couple of guys to spend Friday nights cruising 8th Street in Rapid City. It was a way to socialize 

“Everybody knew which parking lot was best for hookups or finding someone to enter a drag racing challenge. So, one beautiful summer evening Greg called and asked me if I wanted to cruise 8th with him?

“He came and picked me up and said, ‘Bob, let’s do something different tonight. How about we spend the evening looking for people we can help.’ 

“’Let’s do it,’ I said. So, we started driving and talking about what we were looking for – people who were walking we could offer a ride, people with car trouble, fights we might be able to break up. We drove around late into the night talking about how different the world would be if people spent more time looking to help others and less time seeking selfish pleasures and thrills. 

“We did find one guy who needed help. We helped him change a flat tire. That conversation we had strengthened our friendship and our resolve to spend time like this, just cruising through life looking to help others.” 

And fourth, I should mention my terrible dream last night too.  We were shopping in the dream, and I suddenly started coughing and choking. I turned to Nancy and said: “We gotta go home.  I am sick!”  Then I woke up. I was convinced I was sick, but luckily, I was fine.  Crazy.  This coronavirus is even invading our dreams!

In the end, we are all soldiers in this world-wide battle against one of the world’s greatest plagues. Few people alive have experienced what we are going through.

Please follow the rules. Be careful. Reach out in a safe way to stranded or lonely people. We will emerge from this as a possibly much different people than we were before this all started.  

We are a resilient people and we will be stronger in the end. 

Check out additional columns at He has published six books.  His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find more stories by Bill Sniffin by going to

Ray Hunkins: After Coronavirus, Economic Disaster . . . And Then What?

in Column/Ray Hunkins

By Ray Hunkins, contributor

In last Sunday’s Casper Star Tribune, a columnist wrote from France describing the loss of personal freedoms as a result of that country’s quarantine order. 

She noted: “Governments are taking drastic measures with little logical explanation of why the measures are different for the Chinese virus than they have been for the flue which has affected and killed more people”. She then posed this question: “Knowing that ‘zero risk’ doesn’t exist, is the price of zero freedoms worth paying – in any instance”?

She was writing about the loss of personal freedom in France as the result of the virus crises, but the same point could be made about economic freedom in the United States.

To date, the loss of our economic freedom, indeed of our economy, has been the result of mostly “recommendations” and “suggestions” by our federal government, not directives with the force of law as in France. But, recommendations vs. directives, is a distinction without a difference when it comes to economic impact.

By the “recommendation” of our federal government the U.S. economy has largely been shut down resulting not only in the loss of huge sums of money, but also of economic freedom.

As I write this (March 22) we have completed the first half of what amounts to economic purgatory, with one week to go until the situation is “reassessed.”

What situation? Public health officials have pledged to reassess the public health situation brought about by the virus. But the doctors will only be assessing health risks. That’s their job. I would be surprised if the folks in white coats don’t recommend a continuation of the economic shutdown. When one is good with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail

The economists and other financial types are also, presumably, going to reassess the impact of the total economic shutdown. There is a tension between what is perceived to be serious risk to the health of segments of our population and our economy. This tension is set to play out when the reassessment is made.

There are those whose work requires an assessment of possible reactions to a proposed action. Their job is to ask the proponents of a proposed action, “and then what?” Military planners who “game out” various battle scenarios come to mind. Trial lawyers who build “decision trees” to catalogue various outcomes to a possible motion, or a witness who may or may not be called at a trial, are also examples. Those exercises help with determining the risks associated with a particular action and the benefits to be derived therefrom. They answer the question, “and then what?”

No doubt, with the partial information then at hand, a risk – benefit analysis was performed before we embarked on our present course of action in response to the Chinese corona virus.

We have more information now, on both sides of the equation – severity and spread of the virus, and the impact of the shutdown on the nation’s economy. According to most knowledgeable people, it is likely we can survive the fifteen-day shutdown with serious but modest short-term negative economic impacts, some of which are already surfacing; beyond that, the impacts are likely negative over an expanding number of sectors and at an increasing rate. That would have national security implications.

Logic tells us, the longer the shutdown lingers, whether voluntary or involuntary, the bigger the negative impact to the economy. Recession seems a certainty now. Depression is the next stop on this economic journey and it is one no American should want to experience.

Coupled with the trillions of dollars that are being spent to “stimulate” the economy, we could witness the collapse of not only the economy, but of society itself. Venezuela, with its central planning, shortage of goods, hyperinflation, loss of freedom, authoritarian rule and violence comes to mind.

As we approach the end of the current “pause” in economic activity and the “reassessment” takes place, let us hope for a realistic cost-benefit re-analysis that takes into account what comes next, not only with the spread and severity of the virus, but also with the economic destruction that has taken place and that will surely be increasing with every day the shutdown continues.

The question that needs to be asked and answered in Washington, as a part of the reassessment is this: If we extend the shutdown significantly, then what? It may be that the decision on whether to resume activity is left to the governors based on the status and condition of each state or region. If that is the case, Governor Gordon will be faced with a difficult but necessary decision.

We are told those most at risk are the elderly, especially those with preexisting medical conditions. They should be protected and there is no visible reason why people, the elderly and others, can’t be protected when economic activity resumes. We can walk and chew gum at the same time.

My own view is that protecting the elderly specifically, and the population generally, can be accomplished without sacrificing the nation’s (or Wyoming’s) economy beyond the present economic pause. Of course, common sense and best health practices should be followed when activity resumes.

But, speaking only for myself, and as one who celebrated his eighty-first birthday this month, I would rather take the risk of contracting the virus than see my children and grandchildren experience a depression or worse.

When the planners meet to reassess the situation and decide whether to keep our economy on hold, I hope one of them asks, “and then what?”

Ray Hunkins, author of the book, “The View From Thunderhead”, was twice a candidate for Governor of Wyoming. He is now retired following 50 years as a member of the Wyoming State Bar.

Cat Urbigkit: Governor Rejects Legislative Oversight of Land Deal, But Plows Ahead

in Cat Urbigkit/Column

By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist

In his final actions on bills passed by the Wyoming Legislature in its 2020 session, on Friday afternoon Governor Mark Gordon vetoed Senate File 138, the bill laying out the process for state officials to consider purchasing 1 million acres of land in southern Wyoming, along with 4 million acres of mineral rights, from Occidental Petroleum.

Oh, in this current national crisis, this global pandemic, where the United States Congress just passed the largest spending bill in our country’s history, with more than 3 million Americans filing for unemployment, with oil prices in the tank at an 18-year low, Gordon has decided now might not be the time to spend millions, or billions, of state reserves to eliminate a million acres of private property, you ask? Nope.

Gordon has decided the legislature provided too much baggage in the bill, so he’ll go forth on his own.

In his letter rejecting the bill, Gordon said: “I do not take this action lightly. Members of the Legislature and my office worked tirelessly crafting a process to provide the ability to conduct due diligence on the land and assets being offered for sale to the State of Wyoming. I appreciate everyone’s efforts.”

Here’s the zinger: “Unfortunately, owing to the rapid changes of the waning hours of the session, the final bill was flawed. The original concept of the legislation was to establish a process to conduct due diligence and provide the funding to do so, as well as bless the authority to enter into a transaction of this magnitude. The end result is a vehicle so heavily laden with legislative baggage that the ability to conduct thorough and appropriate due diligence takes a back seat to mandated reports and recommendations.”

So Gordon rejected the bill because it provided too much legislative oversight for what could be the largest government purchase of land since the United States purchased Alaska. No doubt the final bill was flawed, but my view of its faults differ from the governor’s view of its faults. Gordon laments the “legislative baggage” in the bill, while I complain that it provided too much power to the State Loan and Investment Board by allowing it “to take all actions the board deems necessary to sell, transfer or otherwise dispose of” the property after the deal concluded.

Gordon’s letter notes that the availability of funding to conduct due diligence on the deal “is in question.” He wrote, “The failure to enact a Capital Construction measure inadvertently squeezes the State Building Commission Contingency Account to the point where existing obligations and priorities are in direct competition for money to pay for the cost of due diligence.”

Gordon also took issue with legislative interference in decision-making on the deal, which he views as executive branch function. Gordon maintains that the final bill “overreaches in its grant of authority to the legislative branch.”

“Unfortunately, I am left with an all or nothing solution,” Gordon wrote, thus vetoing the bill.

Gordon continued to pledge his commitment “that we will continue to find ways to take steps to explore this opportunity.”

Gordon’s letter states that he will work with the SLIB and will report to the legislature any progress made, and commits to providing the basics of their findings to the legislature. Gordon also commits to honor all the requirements for public comment and public involvement outlined in the vetoed bill, and perhaps even exceed the amounts called for in the bill.

Gordon closes the veto letter with a statement that he believes he has established a reasonable step-by-step process allowing for pre-purchase activities. He wrote: “Should an agreement in principle be reached, the Legislature will have the opportunity to review. It is the Legislature’s role to decide whether and how to fund a potential purchase based on the Agreement in Principle.”

Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily. To request reprint permission or syndication of this column, email

1 2 3 17
Go to Top