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Bill Sniffin

Bill Sniffin: Modern Wyoming Parable: Who Moved My Severance Tax Cheese?

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

Wyoming’s current economic situation reminds me of the famous business book Who Moved My Cheese?

After living off severance taxes from the energy industry for half a century, the Cowboy State is enduring a time when the state is trying to maintain services without the money to pay for them. As fossil fuels decline, severance taxes paid by energy companies for coal, oil, and natural gas extracted from Wyoming are diminishing rapidly.

In a few short words, we are trying to pay for a champagne lifestyle on a beer budget.

That famous Cheese book by Spencer Johnson is about how people react to unpleasant change. It stars some mice and what happens when their regular supply of cheese suddenly disappears. It’s a lot more interesting than that, but the book is helpful in showing how people cope with loss of something they were used to counting upon.

Here in Wyoming, our economy had been based on fossil fuels for decades before we even became a state. Ever since the wagon trains used oil from the Dallas Dome oil field south of Lander in the mid-19th century until the present.

Some estimates have pegged our economy as based on 60 percent on fossil fuels.  Alaska, North Dakota, and Texas all have a similar reliance on fossil fuels, but no state earns as much severance tax percentage-wise as Wyoming does. Or did.

Wyoming is in a statewide bust when it comes to tax revenue. And since decades ago we chose to funnel all local and school money through the state, this means local communities and school districts are just as financially strapped as the state government is short.

Never mind that we have over $20 billion in the bank.  We are not destitute like we once were when Gov. Stan Hathaway looked around in 1967 and found the bank accounts empty.  Or when Gov. Mike Sullivan saw the state going broke in 1990 until a wealthy Jackson woman died, leaving millions to the state in taxes.  Now those were two very desolate times. 

We are not broke.

Like thousands of Wyoming ranchers, farmers, and small business people, we have lots of assets. We just do not have enough cash.

The federal government acts a lot like the caricature ditzy person who claims as long as he or she has checks in the checkbook, he or she can keep spending.

But our state constitution requires us to have a balanced  budget.  We cannot go into debt without violating state law.

Thus, our elected representatives in Cheyenne are digging in their heels and proposing draconian cuts to programs all across government.  Outside of paying for the highway patrol and plowing the roads, just about everything else is on the table.

Some legislators are so serious they signed pledges to oppose ANY new taxes.  I am against new taxes, too, but this seems a little extreme. But I digress.

Perhaps the simple solution is to diversify the economy and find new ways to pay for state government, right?

 Or why not just increase property taxes, fuel taxes, sales taxes, and other taxes.  But wait.  Can’t do that.  Too many legislators signed that pesky pledge. 

So, the only way out of this mess is to cut expenses.  Cut programs, cut services, and lay off state employees.  Cancel projects that both make sense and do not make sense. It may not matter.  We have to balance the budget.

Just like any middle class household in Wyoming, there are only two ways to make it work.  You increase your income.  Or you cut your expenses.

I predict this legislature will be brutal with its cuts. There will be no new taxes levied this time around.  Education will get hit the hardest. The various school associations have already sent to the trustees of all districts in the state a blueprint of where and how to cut.  Lobbyists will try to save programs, but get ready.

During Wyoming’s 1980s bust, the legislature had to cut its way to a balanced budget.  It pretty much worked but state government was a fraction of what it has become. During the go-go decade of 2002 to 2012, Wyoming was rolling in dough.  The money that energy companies paid in severance taxes provided for spectacular new schools across the state, plus huge new buildings at the University of Wyoming, the Hathaway Scholarship program, and many other forward-thinking programs. We also put a boatload of money away in mineral trust funds and rainy day funds.

In today’s bust, there could always be opportunities to be creative but, alas, the mood of this year’s legislature is just too dour. 

Our severance tax cheese may have been permanently diminished. Many of our leaders are in a state of shock over how to replace it.

One legislator told me that when it comes to reducing costs of programs, the fat is gone. Most of the muscle has been gnawed away. And now they are chewing on the bones.  That is a spectacularly accurate way to describe what our legislators are dealing with in Cheyenne during the 2021 session.

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Bill Sniffin: Cheney’s Trump Snub Sparks Opinions Down At Coffee Shop

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

A dozen gray-haired guys in Lander meet every morning for coffee and political discourse. Here is what three of them had to say about the recent events concerning Wyoming’s lone member of Congress Liz Cheney’s vote to impeach then-President Donald Trump:

Dave Kellogg, a retired IBM representative and chairman of the Wyoming Catholic College board: “As I reflect on the actions of Wyoming’s lone U.S. Representative, Liz Cheney, I have come to a somewhat more modified view of her part in the impeachment of former President Trump. 

“I do realize and believe that her vote was retribution for Trump’s attack on her of a couple of weeks prior, even though it was contrary to the wishes of the majority of her constituency. Human nature being what it is, I at least understand that.  

“What I do not understand is her willing participation in what can only be called a corruption of due process.  An impeachment is an accusation of wrongdoing (not a conviction).  The House of Representatives took the impeachment action on a mostly partisan and arbitrary vote without any basis of facts. It was all based on dislike for Trump, false assumptions, and misrepresentation of facts (or at least of the facts that have so far been presented in the media).

“It concerns me that a person with a legal background, as has Liz Cheney, would take part in an accusation that had prepared no formal evidence, had conducted no open hearings, and had refused to review any defense.  It gives me pause when I consider this might be some kind of pattern of snap judgments and vindictive actions that, at some point, could be detrimental to her sober and reasonable consideration of other controversial issues, especially ones that have an emotional side to them. 

“I am sure this lapse of judgment will reflect on her future which might consist of an opportunity to be Speaker of the House if the Republicans do take control of the US House of Representatives in 2022 (or perhaps a 2024 or later run for the Presidency).  It might also, however I doubt it, have an impact on her future as the US Representative from Wyoming.”

Another coffee shop attendee County Commissioner Mike Jones said:

“Good points Dave, I have a few thoughts rattling around.  Whether this was a corruption of the process or not is unknown, nor can it be known without judicial review. 

“There are lots of opinions but for a layman to decide on the issue is difficult.  I think there is a case to be made that this was very strategic decision for her, for whatever she sees as an endgame.

“I don’t see her taking impulsive actions. Strategically, she called for a secret ballot vote regarding her leadership with house Republicans because she knew she would win it (rather than a roll call). Kevin McCarthy is a B player at best and she outplayed him.   

“As a lawyer, she knows that the only true decisions regarding  legal opinions of law are made and proven in court. I also believe she knows Trump is not, nor will be the leader of the party as he was during his presidency, at least for the next four years. If one wants to modify the conversation of the party, now is the time.

“Trump simply does not have the office to wield pressure. She also knows that McCarthy is weak.  Who else would force a direction of the Republican conversation?

“I would also bet she is willing to push the pro-Trump part of the Republican party to the brink of divide to expand the more traditional moderate base.  She knows, and they know, a split Republican party is a dead Republican party in Presidential politics. Again, she has the strategic high ground.  I just don’t see snap judgements in her make up.  As for the Wyoming Republican party, a little less extreme would not hurt us.

“Congress is a stage.  From what I have seen of her, she plays it very well and 95% of the time represents the Republican party and Wyoming well.  To try and punish her for one bit of theater is, in my humble opinion, part of this black and white view that seems so prevalent in the U.S. today.  No one is 100% of anything. The litmus test our Wyoming Republican party wants to hold  everyone to is completely counterproductive.  

“I don’t support her action of impeachment.  I just don’t see the sense in the censorship or recall direction.  If a strong candidate shows up in two years, I will consider, as always.  In the meantime, she has not stopped supporting the conservative POV, and I support her for that.”

“Dead on, on all points,” said John Brown, an IT specialist and Republican activist: “Liz is definitely playing a longer game here.”

“It might help to look at the situation and why she did what she did if you consider what her long-term strategy might be.

“For example: If you were going to run for President in 4 years, what would you try to do to win that Trump couldn’t do? Maybe try to pick up more Independent votes, win those soccer moms over in the Virginia suburbs, and appeal to those more moderate GOP votes in purple swing states like North Carolina and in the Industrial Midwest.

“What does voting to impeach Trump get you? A lot of those Independent voters as well as those soccer moms and moderate GOP votes. It also denies the Democrats a campaign issue they could throw in a competitor’s face if the Republican candidate for president was seen as being ‘too cozy’ with Trump.

“FYI, the scenario I just painted above is derived from my own thoughts. I do NOT have any special “inside” information regarding her motivations.”

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Bill Sniffin: Dumb Idea With Bad Timing — Canceling Newspaper Public Legal Notices

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

Using both tight budgets and a Covid pandemic as excuses, the dumb idea of limiting printed public notices in Wyoming newspapers has reared its ugly head again in the Legislature in Cheyenne. 

Wyoming citizens should be both outraged at this proposal plus the fact that their taxes are paying for the lobbyists who are pushing for it. Crazy. 

Here is a fact: There are some people in government who like working out of the public’s eye. They do not like reporters or, worse yet, pesky citizens poking their noses into their work. To many of our city and county officials, the idea of not having to disclose what they are doing to the public sounds like a dream come true. 

Here is another fact:  The cost of printing public notices is a tiny fraction of city or county budgets. Often it is less than one-half of 1% of their budgets. Wouldn’t you assume that letting the public know what its government is doing is worth being publicized? Especially in difficult times?

Here is the most disturbing fact:  The lobbyists who are working to convince the legislators to do this are being paid for by your tax dollars. Just about every town, city, and county in Wyoming pays dues to organizations (the Wyoming Association of Municipalities and Wyoming County Commissioner Association). These dues pay for lobbyists who then lobby the legislature to pass laws covering up what they are doing. This has a foul smell.

Luckily, not all legislators are fooled by these arguments by lobbyists. 

All citizens in Wyoming should be upset about this and should contact their legislators and tell them this bill (SF 17) is bad legislation. Urge your lawmaker to not be an enemy of the people by hiding what the government is doing from its citizens. 

As recently as the 2018 gubernatorial race, transparency was one of the biggest issues of the campaign.  Following that race, the new Gov. Mark Gordon and the new State Auditor Kristi Racines put into place some amazing new systems to help citizens find out where their money was being spent on state government.

As much as their efforts were a forward move for Wyoming, bills like this one are backward moves. We are better than this.

Public notices are the best way for the state’s public entities — groups allegedly working on behalf of the people who pay their bills — to report on what they’ve been up to. The notices they put in the state’s newspapers are their reports to their stockholders. 

They cover salaries, minutes of what has been done in their meetings, public calls for bids so the public can see what work is being planned, plans for zoning so people know if a livestock barn can open up next to their homes, and many other items. 

Public notices are put into newspapers because newspapers are tangible, permanent things. They don’t change at someone’s whim. They are a permanent record of our world. You can go back to the 1890s and find records of what happened in Cheyenne. Public notices published in the 1950s have been read in court as recently as the 1990s. 

Public notices are put into newspapers because newspapers are invited into the home. Placing notices into a newspaper allows them to be seen by even the most passive reader. 

Placing notices on websites makes it much less likely they will be seen by the casual reader. Very few people peruse their local government’s website for fun. It is a fact that the most popular government website in any community has far less views than the local newspaper has subscribers — or even than the local newspaper’s website has views.

When you’re confronted by an unprecedented budget crisis, the worst thing you can do is make government spending less obvious. WCCA and WAM are arguing that it isn’t “fair” that they have to publish salaries and minutes when school districts follow less stringent rules. It’s crazy that it hasn’t occurred to the legislature that school spending has been harder to control – in large part – because school districts don’t have to publish things like minutes.

This ill-timed piece of legislation comes at a time when the people need to know more about what their government agencies are doing – not less.

Citizens should let their legislators know they oppose this attack on transparency.

The legislative committee that passed this bill should be ashamed for contributing to future cover-ups.

(Note: Sniffin’s columns appear in many newspapers in the state. He provides those columns for free.)

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Bill Sniffin: It’s time to hit the road to travel around Wyoming again

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

In my business column called the “20 things I’ve learned in 50 years of business,” three rules seem to have dominated my life over the past three years. 

The first is that you sell to the customer what the customer wants to buy.

Second is that someone is looking for you as hard as you are looking for them – you just have to knock on enough doors.

Third is you make money when you travel.

Today I am focusing on the third rule – it is time for me to hit the road!

Readers of this column know that we travel a lot. What we do not write about is the fact that often, we are doing some business while we are traveling. 

This past year was pretty much the year of no travel. We made a quick one-day trip to Yellowstone, a trip to the Sheridan-Buffalo area (hosted by Jim Hicks, Bob Grammens, Pat Henderson, and Kim Love), and we took a longer trip  that saw us visit Las Vegas, Arizona and Colorado. 

The COVID was not so bad when we made these trips. Before and after, though, we were pretty much house-bound like everyone else. 

As I write this, both Nancy and I have gotten our Pfizer shots, the car is warmed up, and the highways are dry – let’s roll!

My favorite places to travel are all inside this wonderful state.  We have discovered amazing things, people, and places in diverse locales like Evanston, Newcastle, Worland, Rawlins, Rock Springs, and so many others.  

Right now, I am excited to re-visit Carbon County.  Folks who blast through Rawlins at 80 mph really are missing out on all the unique things to see and do in that wonderful place. Leslie Jefferson who heads up the Carbon County Visitor Council has lined up a number of places for me to visit. 

Vince Tomassi of Kemmerer-Diamondville is still frustrated that we have not really visited the Fossil Butte National Monument.  Vince, it’s on my list. Really it is!

Up north, Dave Peck, publisher of the Lovell Chronicle, is anxious to show us Big Horn Canyon and all the wonderful sites around it. 

In southeast Wyoming, Cheyenne is a wonderful place. But there are fabulous places in Goshen, Platte, and Niobrara counties as well. 

Cowboy State Daily is probably the fastest-growing news media in Wyoming.  We are adding 1,000 new subscribers each month.  It is my intention to meet a whole bunch of our loyal readers during 2021.

The plan is to go to an area and mingle with some folks, visit some current and future advertisers, reconnect with our many donors, and, in general, focus on all the good things about Wyoming’s amazing places. 

In 2012 to 2015, I produced three of the best-selling coffee table books ever done about Wyoming.  One of the main reasons Wyoming readers loved the books so much, or so they told me, was that the books did not focus on just Jackson and Yellowstone. 

In my half-century in the Cowboy State, I have been privileged to see the entire state. And this state is full of wonderful and unique places. 

Each year I write a column called my Wyoming Bucket List.  It lists the places that we have still not seen.  Hopefully, we can go see a bunch of the places this year that are still on my list.

Wyoming is unique because many of our residents live in areas where they can be easily lured to neighboring states to see the unique places in those states.

One of my goals all these years has been to get Wyoming people to go visit their own state – to have folks from Newcastle visit Evanston, for example. Or folks from Cody and Lovell visit Saratoga and Green River. I know some folks who still haven’t visited Yellowstone yet. 

Just last week, we heard from some folks who finally got to visit Devils Tower. They were flabbergasted by the magnificence of it. 

Back when my companies produced tourist magazines about Wyoming, we traveled the state learning about all these unique sites.  Then when we did the coffee table books, we worked with 54 Wyoming photographers and writers like Pat Schmidt, Jim Hicks, Phil Roberts, and others who are scattered all over.  What a joy it has been to travel from one end of the state to the other – and to get paid for doing it!

Thus, my motto about making money when I travel.  Now as publisher of Cowboy State Daily, our job is to “knit this very big state together” and that is my goal.

We will see you on the road. Happy Trails.  

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Lander Lil Sees Shadow – Wyoming Will Get Six More Weeks Of Winter

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

For the past 37 years, a prairie dog in Lander has been predicting the future of winter weather for Wyoming. This year on Tuesday, Feb. 2, she saw her shadow, which means six more weeks of winter.

Really?

Let’s see, in six weeks it will be March 15. Now that might be spring in most parts of America but here in Wyoming, that date often signifies our heaviest accumulations of snow. Sub-freezing temperatures can occur throughout the rest of March and even into April.

Famed Lander sculptor Bev Paddleford sculpted a larger than life bronze statue of Lander Lil, which stands lookout from her perch on the grounds of the local Post Office. This year, she is wearing a mask, due to the COVID pandemic.

Back in 1984, some Lander folks felt that too much attention was being paid to Punxsutawney Phil, a ground hog, in Pennsylvania. It seemed that the Rocky Mountains needed its own weather sentinel.

Local businesswoman Mary Ann Atwood and local economic developer Alan O’Hashi, came up with Lander Lil. There really was a real Lander Lil who lived in a prairie dog town located on the site of the Post Office, hence the bronze replica that now stands there.

The sun rose clear on Tuesday, Feb.2, in Lander and there were shadows everywhere.

The forecast, according to famed meteorologist Don Day, predicted the mercury might even hit 50 degrees on this day. As nice as the weather has been in Lander during this mid-winter thaw, Day’s forecast did include snow at various times during the rest of the week across Wyoming.

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Bill Sniffin: Relief Of Vaccination And The Ugliness Of ‘Mask Trash’

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

As a newly-vaccinated person, it’s easy to feel inspired to write another column about the coronavirus known as COVID-19. 

Perhaps the least important piece of news about the year-long pandemic (which we will now simply refer to as COVID) is the increase in litter of face masks.

My wife and I are walkers and during this mild winter, we have walked dozens of miles all over our little town of Lander.  Then, I started noticing all the used masks lying in the gutter or frozen to the ground

We often wear our masks so this is not an anti-mask column.  But we generally pick up trash that is laying around.  Over the past three months, especially, we have seen an abundance of masks strewn all over the place.  Some we can pick up but most are stuck to the ground.

It will be wonderful when masks are no longer needed and we also will not see them as litter.  

But on to more important topics. Back on Dec. 17, we had what seemed like a unique data point for Wyoming when it came to covid infections. On that day, we hit a milestone of 351 deaths in Wyoming and we also showed a marker of 35,113 laboratory-confirmed infections. That translates exactly to one death per 100 infections.

Since then, we surged to 596 deaths and 51,152 infections as I write this on Jan. 27. This means that slightly more than one out of 100 people who get infected have died since this virus arrived. It also means that less than one-tenth of 1% of Wyoming residents have died from the disease.  Here in Wyoming these numbers don’t sound like too big a deal, but the national death toll of 416,000 deaths is just intimidating. It is equal to 72% of the population of Wyoming.

During this past year I wrote a number of columns taking some bold stances and making some self-important statements. I was sure that COVID was over-blown.

With more than 416,000 people officially dying from COVID across the country, I now believe this truly is a disaster. 

The Spanish flu killed 675,000 people a century ago.  A while back, I argued that Spanish flu killed a whole lot of young healthy people where the current scourge seemed to kill mainly old people.  Well, these old people are people, too.  This death toll is just too high to not be as careful as possible.

Pat Schmidt of Cheyenne argued with me about the total number of deaths that would occur in the U.S. in 2020. I contended even with the COVID, the numbers would be similar to 2019.  I was wrong. There really were 300,000 more deaths in 2020 than in 2019.  I owe Pat a Big Mac for that one.  I also owe a burger to former Gov. Dave Freudenthal for the same bet.

My biggest concern was whether extreme efforts we saw to contain the virus were worth the destruction of our economy.  In places like California, which had the most restrictions of any state, about one in every 10 people are being infected with the virus. So, did all those restrictions mean nothing?  History will have to judge that. But for now, it is hard to tell.

First time we ever saw large groups of people wearing face masks was in 1989 on a trip to Taiwan.  Lots of folks riding motor scooters wore masks because of the pollution. But you also saw people walking around the streets and in the buildings wearing masks. Why? “Those people are sick,” we were told. “Our culture says you wear a mask to protect others.” 

Back in February and March of last year, you could see images on TV of people in South Korea and Vietnam. Everybody had a mask on. Every single person. Those countries came through the pandemic in spectacular fashion compared to the U.S. We’re told those countries had a terrible time with the SARS epidemic in 2003 and learned to wear masks then. That 17-year-old scare had little effect in our country.

Those countries already had a culture of people wearing masks when they are sick or to avoid getting sick.  Thus, being told to wear a mask was not viewed as denying personal rights. They also were veterans of social distancing and contact tracing because of the earlier SARS epidemic.   

In 2020, in the U.S., mask wearing was politicized.  Wearing one was a badge of honor for Democrats and not wearing one showed you had an independent spirit and were probably voting Republican.

A better system would have been to somehow make wearing or not wearing a mask not be a political statement.

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Bill Sniffin: Tired Of The Plague And Politics? How About Some Good News!

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

Enough already.  Enough about politics. Enough about the deadly virus. Enough about complaining. 

Today, folks, this column will be totally devoted to GOOD NEWS.  And there is plenty of it.

First of all, the days are getting longer. Our long winter of discontent is over in many ways.  And our dawns and sunsets are spectacular with brilliant reds.  Stop and take in these wonderful and colorful marvels.

The weather this winter has been relatively mild in most parts of the state.  Interstate 80 has not been closed as much as last year. This is great news for all of us.

As I write this on Jan. 21, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills have had an amazing run in the National Football League. Boy, is he fun to watch. Dang it, I wish the Broncos could have had him.  But keep in mind the only NFL team named after a Wyoming person (Buffalo Bill Cody) has our Wyoming Cowboy at the helm.

Charitable works across the Cowboy State have been at an all-time high.  Food banks are working overtime. I sincerely hope it is difficult to find a hungry person in Wyoming.  And thanks to First Lady Jennie Gordon for her efforts on this front.

It’s good news that the economy hasn’t cratered in the first days of a Joe Biden presidency. The stock market is actually going up.  Now that is good news!

Gasoline prices are low which is great news for folks across the land. Usually that is not good news for Wyomingites since low retail gasoline prices normally translate to sluggish employment in our energy sector. But Wyoming people drive more miles per-capita than any other state – so, on a personal level, we benefit.

And despite predictions to the contrary the Wyoming energy sector, in the form of oil and natural gas production, is steady.  Thanks to efforts by Sen. John Barrasso, uranium might be surging again.  He got a bill passed to increase the national stockpile of uranium. Wyoming produces more yellowcake (the byproduct of uranium mining) than any other state.

Longtime Powell publisher Dave Bonner loves libraries.  I do, too. He says during these COVID-19 times: “I wonder if there is some good news in libraries in the state? I had that thought after we did a story with our new Park County library director who talked about libraries becoming a place where even chatter is in.  A gathering place for kids.

‘Libraries aren’t silent any more,’ she said. Have libraries become something of a refuge in this COVID time in our life?”  Sounds good to me.

In Sheridan, Kim Love writes about a new business: “We have a new business starting here in Sheridan called Western Heritage Meat.   It is a new USDA approved packing plant.  As things stood, there wasn’t any USDA approved plant in the area, and the other packing plants had about a 6-month waiting period to get an animal processed.  Thanks to Taylor and Cathryn Kerns,” Love said.  Good news for folks hungry for local meats.

Mike Jones of Lander says he thinks it is good news that nobody got killed at the inauguration in Washington, D. C. on Jan. 20. He also said sales and use taxes are going up, which he appreciates, since he is a County Commissioner for Fremont County.

This year should be a big one for tourism, the state’s second largest industry.  In an industry-wide zoom meeting Wednesday, it appears that the record-busting visitation numbers that struck Wyoming from August through October of 2020 will continue. 

Like I wrote back during that surge: “Thanks to the plague, the people of America want out.  And out means Wyoming.  We are way out west.  We are the least populated place in the lower 48 and that has a big appeal to folks after what they have been through.” The most common refrain spoken by Wyoming folks this summer, I predict, will be “who the heck are all these people?  And where did they come from!”

It should be pointed out that we probably have fewer troops stationed around the world than in many years and we have no current wars. Boy, does that have a nice sound to it.

We are thankful for the strong housing market. If the value of everyone’s home goes up, it is a huge benefit for all people.

And finally, we have a vaccine for the plague. Thank God.

Yes, folks, it is all good news today.

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Bill Sniffin: Liz Cheney Puts Trump In Her Rear-View Mirror

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

The shocking announcement that Wyoming’s lone U. S. Representative voted to impeach President Donald Trump was devastating to thousands of Cowboy State residents.

Wyoming supported Trump to a larger extent than any other state, with more than 70% of its voters casting ballots for the incumbent president. 

When Cheney voted against Trump, it truly made national headlines and was the lead story on the nightly news. As the third-ranking Republican in the U. S. House, her vote was seismic.  It sent shock waves from one end of the country to the other. It was an earthquake back here in Wyoming.

The reaction to her announcement was swift and critical. Cowboy State Daily put its version of the Cheney announcement on Facebook, and it had 889 mostly negative comments, 67 shares, and 1,111 likes.

This is an amazing reaction when you assume that every other news organization in the state was also putting the same story out on social media. It goes to show the amount of interest in her decision.

She said her vote was a matter of conscience but others had more cynical views.

A lot of observers have always seen Liz as having higher national ambitions.  Like being the first Republican woman to run for president. Or to emulate her father Dick Cheney, who served eight years as vice-president to President George W. Bush. It was easy to be proud of her for her ranking as third-most powerful Republican in the House and she seemed perfectly set up to seek even higher national office. 

Interestingly, while her stock fell sharply here in Wyoming, her stock may have risen across the country.  Not every state has been as loyal to Trump as Wyoming. 

The media elite was almost unanimous in running the story as their lead, heaping high praise on her for her courage.

Back here in Wyoming, there was some support for her decision.  Most was from Democrats and Independents but there were also some from more moderate members of the Republican party, like former Gov. Jim Geringer, former U.S. Sen. Al Simpson and former U.S. House candidate Rod Miller. A group of prominent lawyers and judges also supported it including former Democrat governors Dave Freudenthal and Mike Sullivan.

As I write this on Jan. 17, there are 25,000 names on a petition to recall her.  This is futile, since Wyoming does not have a method to recall elected officials, but it shows the level of negative feeling out there about her decision.

Her biggest critics came directly from the state Republican Party.

The party condemned Cheney’s vote, stating that in recent memory, there has never been as much feedback from Wyoming Republicans as there has been against Trump’s impeachment and Cheney’s vote.

The  statement attributed to Wyoming Republican Party leadership listed a number of comments the party has received since the vote, none of which were supportive of Cheney’s position.

“The consensus is clear that those who are reaching out to the Party vehemently disagree with Representative Cheney’s decision and actions,” reads the statement.

“Representative Cheney has aligned herself with leftists who are screaming that what happened (Jan. 6) is the ‘worst thing ever in our history’ (or similar such claims). That is absurd and shows their lack of knowledge of history as well as their willingness to skew the facts to further their corrupt agenda,” reads another.

In an interview with media, Cheney addressed what she saw as the historical significance of the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, stating that this is a “very dangerous moment for our nation” and noting the presence of U.S. troops in the Capitol.

“Some of you have probably saw the pictures of the troops sleeping on the floor of the Capitol Visitor Center,” she said. “It was a scene reminiscent of the Civil War, when troops were housed in the Capitol.”

Cheney emphasized the gravity of the situation many times during the 15-minute phone call, mentioning that the vote to impeach was done with a “heavy heart” but adding that for her, there was no other option.

“This is a moment when it’s important for all of us to recognize that our Republic is very fragile, and that we all have an obligation to ensure we’re doing everything that we’re compelled to do by our oath to ensure the survival of that Republic,” Cheney said.

“There are times when those of us as elected officials are called on to act in a way that does not take politics into consideration,” she said. “Dealing with something as serious and as grave as the attack on the Capitol is one of those times.”

Cheney’s actions sure looked like she really was trying to put President Donald J. Trump in her rearview mirror.  But to thousands of Cowboy State voters, it looked like she was also putting Wyoming in her rearview mirror.

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Bill Sniffin: Darin Smith Fought To Protect D.C. Barricades From Invaders

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher 

Cheyenne’s Darin Smith said Wednesday’s riot in Washington, D.C, was caused by a “mob mentality” among a small minority of the 50,000 protesters attending a rally.

He said it was a situation that was poorly handled by security forces at the U.S. Capitol.

Smith, an attorney and former chair of the Laramie County Republican Party, was in Washington, D. C. with his friend Rob Statham, also of Cheyenne, in support of President Donald Trump’s protest of the outcome of the Nov. 3 presidential election. 

He said most of the more than 50,000 people attending the rally were peaceful one moment, and “then everything got weird.”

“We were in the front of the Capitol and some agitators headed for the barricades,” he said. “There was about a (quarter-mile) of barricades set up and not many Capitol police manning them.” 

Smith was in the Washington, D. C. airport getting ready to fly home when I chatted with him on Thursday afternoon.   

He said when the agitators starting pushing down the gates, he picked up a bullhorn and started the chant “back the blue” as a way to get folks to help the police keep the agitators back. 



“I tried to tell people not to go in but it was like trying to hold back water after the dam had burst,” he said. “Then I saw the Capitol police open the barricades and let these people in (and) I thought ‘What the heck am I doing trying to help them.’  I think a couple of rednecks with some bear spray could have held them back but there was little official resistance. Maybe they were just moving back to establish another perimeter, I don’t know. But it was weird.” 

He also thought it was odd that there were so few law enforcement officers.  What he said really bothered him, though, was the gravity of the situation.  

“Here we have the most important body in the world making the most important decision in the world and these people are disrupting them!”  

He was stunned. 

“It was insane,” he said. “It was a wild and crazy time. The mob mentality kicked in. Again, I was just shocked at the lack of resistance from Capitol police.”

He said among the giant crowd there was a group he called the “geriatric folks” who were huddling near the front of the capitol because it was so cold and windy.  

“Just before the riot, the agitators moved in front of them and suddenly they seemed to be running things,” he said. “These punks were dressed in outfits that seemed like they were ready for combat.” 

Smith still supports Trump and believes the Nov. 3 election was stolen from him by supporters of President-Elect Joe Biden. 

“I am not sure what else the president could do to stop the invasion of the Capitol once it started,” he said.  “But a much bigger issue is how all these different things came together: first, the impotent response by the Capitol police; second, the sudden appearance of these agitators who had not been that visible during the earlier rally; and third, the police opening up the gates so the agitators could rush on in. I saw these things with my own eyes.” 

Smith summed it up by saying the security forces were guilty of “massive incompetence.” 

And finally, he heaped praise on the 99.9% of the more than 50,000 people who protested peacefully. 

“Heck, we were outside singing the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ and ‘God Bless America’ when these punks were inside stopping the most important government business in the world,” he said.

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Bill Sniffin: Here’s How Good It Feels To Get The COVID-19 Shot

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

By some kind of stroke of luck and good timing, my wife Nancy and I received our COVID-19 vaccinations today (Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021).  We got the Pfizer shot, administered by the nice folks at the Lander Medical Clinic.

Over a month ago, I called the clinic and asked when we could be considered for a shot?  They did not know but said they would put us on a waiting list.

Then we got a call from the clinic saying that while they are giving shots to health care workers, sometimes there might be left over shots available.  Would we make ourselves available on a moment’s notice?  Yes, I said, we would.

Because we fit the age requirements and I had called early, when doses showed up, the staff at the clinic called us yesterday with good news. They said if we were available, could we show up today at a new clinic they were setting up?  Yes, we would.

Nurse Randi George gave us the shot (with assistance from Billie Martinez) and said when she got hers two weeks ago, she felt a little tired the next day. She suggested we take it easy the next day. She also said that unofficially it appeared that the first shot will give you 50 percent immunity against the virus while the second shot pushes it to 95 percent.

The staff took all our vitals before and, afterward, had us rest for 15 minutes. Then they took our vitals again.  We were given a card and also set up for the follow up shot in three weeks.

We are ecstatic.

The Lander Medical Clinic, according to CEO Ryan Hedges, has 3,100 patients over the age of 70 and they had been calling them setting up appointments.  On this day they planned to give 75 shots.  We felt very fortunate.

And yet despite us (and many others) now getting shots, there has been a glitch at some of the nursing homes in Fremont County. Because big national pharmacy chains were charged with this job, a lot of old folks in nursing homes still had not gotten their shots.  I must admit this made me feel a little guilty but I did not hear about this until after I got my shot. Hedges said they could not give the shots to the nursing home residents because of the rules they are working under.

Coincidentally, my younger brother in Broomfield, CO, also got his shot today. His was a Moderna shot.  He works part-time at a Thornton, CO golf course and the city were giving shots to all their employees. He never left his car as Thornton set up a drive-through operation.

As I write this Tuesday night, we are 12 hours into our shot experience. So far so good. It feels wonderful to have this protection.

Good luck to everyone out there in getting your shots. I can only hope that cities and towns around the state are being as efficient as our clinic in Lander was today.

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