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Ray Hunkins

Ray Hunkins: First-Person Report To Wyoming From The Southern Border

in Column/Ray Hunkins

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By Ray Hunkins, columnist
Ray Hunkins is a retired Wyoming lawyer and former law enforcement officer who spends part of the year on the Border.

   “Knock, knock . . . who’s there?”  Years ago, these words were the introduction to funny jokes. “Knock, knock . . . who’s here” is no joke.

An estimated 23,000 illegal aliens a month have escaped apprehension and made their way into the interior of our country. Some of them represent a danger to the communities in which they have imbedded.

   I write this from a location 27 miles north of the International Border with Mexico and 3 miles south of a permanent Border Patrol checkpoint on the Interstate. I don’t claim to be an expert in immigration issues, but I am interested, observant, curious, and have a background in law and law enforcement. Thus, I have been interested in the unprecedented “challenge” (according to the Homeland Security Secretary) now occurring on our Southern Border.

   I listen to Border Patrol agents and other law enforcement officers that work on and adjacent to, the Border.  I see them frequently. I ask a lot of questions. We routinely shop in a border community to our south and routinely travel north, through the Border Patrol checkpoint. I have done business with many Americans of Mexican decent in and around the community we live in during the winter and I have done business with Mexican Nationals in Sonora, Mexico. Great folks. Most are concerned with the chaos and lawlessness that is the Southwest Border today..

         The Biden Administration refuses to call it a “crisis” but I don’t know how else you could describe what is going on along the Border. They seem obsessed with the words that are used to describe what is happening and not very interested in fixing it. It is, in short, a catastrophe.

   On the entire length of the Border, from Brownsville, Texas to San Diego, California, during the month of March, the Border Patrol reported 172,331 “encounters” compared to 34,460 in March of last year. “Encounters” include apprehensions of illegals as well as contacts with those claiming asylum. Increases were seen in all demographics: single adults, family units and, at last count, 20,000 unaccompanied children. The Border Patrol’s apprehensions year to date are at a 20-year high.

    The situation is bad and getting worse. The numbers of illegal crossers are fewer here in the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector than elsewhere, say in the Texas sectors adjacent to the Rio Grande. The Texas sectors are inundated with a great influx of unaccompanied juveniles and families from Central America.

Nevertheless, the Tucson Sector, which has 262 Border miles, has experienced 83,000 apprehensions year to date, compared to 35,500 this time last year.

   Human smuggling and its “progeny of evils”, sex trafficking and involuntary servitude, have become big business for the cartels and gangs that control illicit Border crossings. And, let there be no doubt, Mexican cartels control the Border.

   According to Art Del Cueto, a veteran Border Patrol Agent and president of the Tucson Chapter of the National Border Patrol Council, the average cost to be smuggled across the Border is about $4,000. Multiply that by the number of illegal crossings and it is easy to see why the cartels are increasingly turning to human smuggling as a preferred source of revenue.

   The apprehensions since the beginning of the fiscal year, October 1st,  and through March, include 136 identified gang members, including 37 members of the notorious MS-13 gang. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, some of the MS-13 members have been trained in guerilla warfare. “The gang is well-organized and is heavily involved in illegal enterprises, being notorious for its use of violence to achieve its objectives.” In addition to gang members, recent apprehensions have included two Yemini Nationals known or reasonably suspected of being engaged in terrorist activities and on the Terrorist Watch List.

   The seizure of drugs coming across the Border has skyrocketed. Since the beginning of the fiscal year and  through March, the Customs and Border Protection Agency has seized 347,755 pounds of illegal drugs, including 5,586 pounds of deadly Fentanyl, 55,420 pounds of Cocaine, 91,031 pounds of Methamphetamine and 193,082 pounds of Marijuana.

   How many drugs made it across the border undetected? That is unknown, but you can be assured it was plenty. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich recently told Fox News that drug smugglers are driving trucks filled with drugs, across remote areas of the Border, while Border agents, who would normally interdict such activity, are busy with children and paper work. Both Congressman Jim Jordan and Steve Scalise, in separate interviews, have stated that 40% of Border Patrol agents’ time is spent in tasks other than patrol, investigation and apprehension – tasks like taking care of children at detention centers, transporting Border crossers to bus stations and filling out the incessant paper work.

   The flood of immigrants and contraband has resulted in chaos at the Border and in many of the Communities along the Border. Attorney General Brnovich says, “the system is overwhelmed”.

   An “overwhelmed system” is not Border Agent Del Cueto’s greatest concern. He is most worried about the, “got-a-ways” – those illegal border crossers who were not apprehended and who evaded the Border Patrol, successfully getting away from the Border and into the interior of the country. Del Cueto estimates that in the Tucson Sector, the number of “got-a-ways”, year to date, is 48,000 ( an average of 8,000 per month). Given the number of apprehensions, 83,000, that means the Boarder Patrol is about 50% effective in Arizona.

   Border-wide, CBP’s estimate of got-a-ways is 140,000, year to date. Del Cueto says that is low. “I can guarantee you it’s more than 140,000.” Del Cueto worries about who these people are and why they have gone the extra mile, and made the extra effort, to evade detection.

    Who would want to evade detection when illegal crossers are being welcomed at the Border, processed and released if they claim asylum or have a child that they claim is a family member? Drug smugglers would. Sex traffickers would. Crossers with a felony record would. Cartel enforcers would. Gang members and terrorists would. Foreign agents and provocateurs would.

   In instances where the crossers are observed but not apprehended their numbers are estimated. Estimates of “got-a-ways” are made by counting tracks, monitoring remote cameras, both fixed and in drones and air assets that surveil remote areas of the Border. It stands to reason that there would have to be evidence of illegal crossing in order for any estimate to be made. When crossers successfully enter the U.S. and are completely undetected, they will not be counted in the estimated number.

    When estimates can be made because there is observable evidence, the estimates are rough, at best. Large numbers of human tracks in a confined space are difficult to count. Carpet shoes are often found with other discarded clothes where the surreptitious crossers change clothes before entering populated areas so as to better blend into the population. Exterior soles covered in carpet do not leave discernable tracks.

   So, what happens to these illegal crossers that are not apprehended at the Border? Enforcement of immigration and customs laws in the interior of the country is not the purview of the Border Patrol. The oft demonized Immigration and Customs Enforcement, better known as “ICE” is responsible for protecting us from illegal crossers that make it to the interior of the country; those who are not apprehended at the Border.

   ICE states its mission to be, “to protect America from the cross-border crime and illegal immigration that threatens national security and public safety. This mission is executed through the enforcement of more than 400 federal statutes and focuses on immigration enforcement and combating trans-national crime”.

   Unfortunately, ICE has been demonized by activists and is not favored by the Biden Administration. At the same time Border apprehensions are at a 20-year high, ICE arrests are down 75%.

   As a result of the policy shift disfavoring interior enforcement, Stephen Miller, former senior advisor to the Trump Administration, recently characterized it as a, “war on ICE”. Miller went on to state that the Administration has issued a directive to ICE to, “stop arresting criminal offenders among the illegal alien population.” Chief Deputy Sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona, Matt Thomas, says, “the policy shift is killing us.”

   So, if ICE is not aggressively, “protecting America from the cross-border crime and illegal immigration that threatens national security and public safety,” who is?

   Local and state law enforcement has stepped into the breach – and not just on the Border – but everywhere. Cross border crime is a problem that started on the Border but is now flooding the Nation from coast to coast and border to border.

   Sheriff Wayne Ivey of Brevard County, Florida recently stated that human and drug trafficking across the Southwest Border affects every county in America. Sheriff Clyde Harris of Platte County, Wyoming agrees with Sheriff Ivey and likens human trafficking to slavery. Sheriff Justin Marr of Victoria County, Texas notes a large increase in cross-border crime. He states that papers and personal effects among some illegal crossers link them to MS-13 and ISIS. Chief Deputy Thomas states the federal government is contributing to the overload of crime being experienced in Pinal County. “It’s like they don’t care” he says.

    What is the Biden Administration doing to protect the citizens of the United States from cross border crime and illegal immigration? Not much, as it turns out. The Migrant Protection Protocols put in place by the previous administration have been suspended. Work on the Border Wall has stopped. “Catch and release” has been revived as a policy. Many of the migrants who are apprehended, are being bussed and flown to interior communities across the United States. The Agreements negotiated by the Trump Administration with the Northern Triangle Countries have been abandoned.

    President Biden has yet to visit the Border. It has been three weeks since he announced that Vice President Harris would take charge of the Border problems. She has yet to put in an appearance at the Border. The Secretary of Homeland Security firmly denies there is a crisis. “It’s a challenge”, he says. The press is denied access to detention facilities housing minors. The Administration’s actions and inaction lead one to the conclusion the Border is not a priority for this Administration. Instead of a strategy, there is ineffective improvisation.

   The public and the media are fixated on the treatment of the children and the humanitarian concerns regarding illegal immigrants and those claiming asylum. Meanwhile, agents of the Border Patrol are taking care of the children, acting as chauffeurs, filling out paper work and dodging the Corona virus. All of this while an estimated 140,000 “get-a-ways”, among them, drug smugglers, human traffickers, gang members, terrorists and assorted criminal felons, evade apprehension and imbed themselves in cities and towns across America.

   The Biden Administration has acted with alacrity on one issue involving the Border. It recently named its nominee to lead the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, the administrative home for the Border Patrol. According to the New York Times, the nomination, if approved, will provoke a, “seismic cultural shift” in the Agency. That may be an understatement.

   In nominating the Tucson Chief of Police, Chris Magnus, the Administration managed to give a giant middle finger to the law enforcement officers who protect the Border. Magnus, a vocal critic of the Trump Administration’s Border policies (policies that worked), has been at odds with the Border Patrol and ICE since arriving in Tucson, woke views in tow, in 2016. Only a year after arriving, he wrote an op-ed criticizing Trump’s views on sanctuary cities, views with which most law enforcement officers on the Border agreed.

   Magnus made headlines when, as Chief of Police in Richmond, California, he was photographed, in uniform, carrying a Black Lives Matter sign during a protest. Magnus, who is openly gay and the first police chief in the United States to marry his husband, earned the disdain of a large segment of the law enforcement community on the Border, by openly supporting the radical, Marxist organization.

   The Vallejo Times Herald quotes a 2018 Facebook post by officials of the National Border Patrol Council, which stated Magnus, “is an ultra-liberal social engineer who was given a badge and a gun by the city of Tucson”. The Facebook post went on to allege, “Magnus was preaching anarchy and encouraging police officials to commit dereliction of duty”.

   The nomination of Magnus will require Senate confirmation. I expect Arizona’s two Democrat senators will support the nomination, but the last thing the Border needs is a demoralized Border Patrol whose leadership is politicized. The nomination is an opportunity for the Senate to show support for the men and women of the Border Patrol and ICE, while simultaneously making a statement that immigration laws are to be enforced. It is my hope that Senator John Barrasso and Senator Cynthia Lummis will seize the opportunity and vote not to confirm.

   This Administration is failing in its duty to, “faithfully execute the laws” and displays its contempt for the Rule of Law and the safety of the American people by nominating an individual who is not respected by the people he will lead and who has demonstrated support for radicalism, Marxist ideology and sanctuary cities.

    Customs and Border Protection must have a leader it trusts; a leader who believes in borders and who will enforce the law. Wokeness in the face of the catastrophe that is our Southwest Border is not a qualification for the position.

      The Biden Administration has presided over chaos and criminality at the Border. It is only a matter of time before Americans who don’t live on the Border, reap the whirlwind the Biden Administration has sewn. Political leaders in Washington need to protect all Americans from the clear and present danger that is a lawless Border.

Laws must be enforced.

Illegal migrants who are a danger to our society need to be identified, apprehended and removed. The Border needs to be sealed, the flow of drugs stopped and those sworn to protect the Border need to know they are supported and appreciated for their dangerous work.

Ray Hunkins: Wyoming’s Economy Is Changing. Is State Government?

in Column/Ray Hunkins

By Ray Hunkins, columnist

Anyone living in Wyoming knows that our state’s economy is in the process of systemic change. Systemic change occurs when change reaches all or most parts of the economy, thus affecting the general behavior of the entire economic system

That Wyoming has experienced systemic economic change, is not debatable. The change has been so radical and so rapid, that published statistics are not capable of providing accurate and useful information.

However, some recent data points reinforce the proposition that Wyoming’s economy is experiencing, “systemic change”.

In an article on January 15, 2021, the Casper Star Tribune reported that since 2019 Wyoming has lost over 14,000 jobs, a decline of 5%. In November 2020 alone, 6,000 mining jobs vanished, a “staggering 29% decline from a year ago”.

Despite the recent recovery of oil and gas prices, the article noted that there were only 6 rigs working in Wyoming last December, compared to 21 the previous December. According to a March 19th Baker Hughes report, there were only 5 rotary rigs currently drilling in Wyoming, compared to 20 a year earlier.

The collapse of the energy economy has had a concomitant effect on Wyoming’s tax revenue. According to the January 15th article, “mining companies contributed $6.7 million less in taxes” in December, 2020, compared to the previous December and a decline of $11 million in sales and use taxes in November 2020, compared to November 2019.

In response to the drastically reduced revenue streams, the state budget has been slashed and slashed again.

Although “systemic change” describes the trending Wyoming economy, the question that needs to be answered is whether Wyoming state government has experienced change. Put another way, are changes to Wyoming’s economy mirrored in changes to the state government?

Understandably, Wyoming policy makers have framed their reaction to the radical and rapid changes in our economy, in terms of a binary choice.

Simply put, raise taxes (Wyoming House) cut the state budget (Wyoming Senate). While cutting the budget is most certainly a necessary reaction, the services and programs to be cut and the degree and the amount of those cuts are subject to debate.

Most would agree that tax increases should be a last resort and only considered after all alternatives have been found wanting. Has Wyoming reached the point where it has no alternative but to raise taxes? I believe the answer is, “NO”.

There are two alternatives that need to be addressed by our elected leaders before any taxes are raised. These alternatives, “good government” reforms, are long overdue.  The reforms relate to the “mission” of state agencies and whether the mission is still material to Wyoming’s well-being, and if so, whether that mission is being efficiently, effectively and economically pursued. Let’s examine.

First, “mission”: State leaders need to take a “deep dive” into a needs assessment and determine whether the state government we have designed, built and that the taxpayers have financed over the past fifty years, is the state government Wyoming needs at this time in its history. Where it is found an agency’s, mission is still relevant and material, any “mission creep” should be identified. In addition, recommendations for discarding non-essential services and functions should be made.

Second, “efficiency”: The legislature, the governor and the taxpayers, all need to know that services and functions that are found to be essential, are being efficiently, effectively and economically delivered.

The absence of any mechanism for determining the efficiency, effectiveness and frugality of the agencies, departments and commissions that make up Wyoming state government is troubling. Agencies and Departments of the Federal government have oversight, not only from Congress, but from a plethora of oversite entities whose job it is to critically review the performance of executive branch agencies. An example, are the inspectors general of the various federal departments and agencies. 

Would it not be of great benefit to Wyoming, to know whether, how, and how much money, could be saved by increasing efficiency in a particular agency or department? Would it not be of importance for the public to know if there is abuse, waste, fraud or inefficiencies in the expenditure of state money?

I believe it was Milton Friedman who once remarked that government work is mostly correcting government mismanagement. Is there mismanagement in any of our state agencies? The point is, we don’t know, and we should.

Answers to the questions posed above can be provided by implementing systematic performance auditing. A great benefit of performance auditing is the ability to suggest changes, if needed, in an agency’s procedures that can result in better efficiencies and economies. These suggestions should be made to the agency or department manager, but would also be available to the governor, the legislature and the public.

What is a “performance audit”? It is an independent analysis of a program’s effectiveness, economy and efficiency It is designed to aid in decision making by leaders responsible for overseeing and implementing corrective action. The results of a performance audit should be transparent and available to the public. Above all, it should be based on an independent review of criteria developed by the auditor, not the auditee. It should contribute to public accountability.

Wyoming has a department of audit within the executive branch of state government. It’s mainly concerned with bank examinations and financial audits of state agencies, units of local government and tax paying entities.

The State Department of Audit is empowered to, “conduct performance measure reviews”. The standards by which the department of audit conducts its “performance measure reviews” are developed by the entity being reviewed. Under this statutory scheme, the agency tells the auditor what measurements to use.  

The Department is also empowered to, “conduct management studies of school districts including program evaluation and performance audits, on issues identified by…” an advisory committee in the department of education related to the school funding model.

These are not “performance audits” as that term is widely understood.

The audits performed by the State Department of Audit are confidential and not available to the public, thus defeating one of the purposes of performance audits – public accountability. The fact that the State Department of Audit is an executive branch agency under the general supervision of the governor also raise independence concerns.

The Wyoming State Auditor’s duties are not identified by the Wyoming State Constitution. That document says the auditor shall have such duties as the legislature, “may prescribe”. Under current law, the Wyoming State Auditor performs duties usually performed by a comptroller and does little or no auditing.

The State Auditor is an elected official and therefor is independently accountable to the people of Wyoming. But the Auditor is not accountable to, nor under the control of, the head of the executive branch, whose agencies and departments would be the subject of performance audits. Thus, independence would not an issue if the state auditor was directed by the legislature to audit   performance and efficiency.

It is important that a performance audit be independent, non-partisan and conducted by an entity that itself is accountable and insulated, as much as possible, from political pressure. To meet those criteria, the legislature could establish an independent inspector general for state government. The Wyoming State Auditor could also meet the above criteria.

Cutting the budget and raising taxes are two of the tools in Wyoming’s fiscal toolbox, but there is one more: Better efficiency.

Until we know that we are not wasting resources on missions no longer important to Wyoming, and until we know that no more efficiencies and no more economies can be squeezed out of state government, raising taxes should not be an option.

The Wyoming Legislature would be doing itself and the people of Wyoming a great service by directing the implementation of a systematic program of publicly available performance audits for all agencies and departments of state government. 

TAG: Ray Hunkins is a retired attorney and agriculturist who was the Republican nominee for Governor of Wyoming in 2006.

Ray Hunkins: What Josh Allen And Donald Trump Have In Common

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By Ray Hunkins, columnist

What do Joshua Patrick Allen and Donald John Trump have in common? More than you might think.

   Having played the game and having been an avid fan for at least the last 75 years, I love football. For the past 60 years, my interest in football has been focused on the University of Wyoming Cowboy Football team.

Thus, it was no surprise that my wife Debby (a former Wyoming Sugar Bowl cheerleader) and I joined thousands of other Wyoming fans in front of the television set last weekend to watch UW’s former quarterback, Josh Allen, lead his Buffalo Bills on a quest for the American Conference championship and the right to play in the 2021 Super Bowl.

   Watching the Buffalo – Kansas City game wasn’t unlike the feeling we had sitting down in front of the TV on a Tuesday night last November to watch the election returns and cheer for Donald J. Trump.

Having participated in politics my entire adult life and having run for state-wide political office twice, you might say I’m also a “fan” of the “contact sport” (thank you Al Simpson) known as “politics”.

   As we watched Josh Allen’s season come to an end Sunday night, I thought about the parallel disappointments of Allen’s last game of the season and the ending and aftermath of Trump’s 2020 campaign.

   Josh’s football season in 2020 was a collection of record -setting triumphs; of achievement both personal and athletic, performed in front of adoring fans and admirers.

Team records for single season pass completions, passing touchdowns, total touchdowns and percentage completions, all were broken by Allen this year. His charity work in Buffalo also endeared him to his adopted home town.

   Yet his season came to an end in a rather ignoble, childish fashion, uncharacteristic of the man that Josh has become. Toward the end of the game, I watched as Josh’s protection broke down and he was sacked behind the line of scrimmage by the Kansas City defense.

In frustration Allen threw the football at the player who had tackled him, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty from the referee and initiating a melee among players.

His toss in the direction of the defender had to have been Allen’s most pathetic throw of the season, half-hearted at best, and not meant to do injury, but unsportsmanlike none the less. Though a product of frustration, poor judgment and emotion, because his conduct was not egregious Allen was not removed from the game nor pulled from the lineup by his coach.

   Donald Trump’s term as President was filled with accomplishments just like Josh Allen’s season. And, like Allen’s season, it came to an end on a discordant note.

A four-year run of accomplishments – trade deals like the USMCA, criminal justice reform, immigration law enforcement, a barrier along the Mexican border, energy independence, peace in the middle east, “warp speed” vaccine development, and the list goes on – was followed by a serious error in judgment, resulting in considerable consequence – a Washington rally in which a good faith (I’m convinced) invitation to walk up Pennsylvania Ave. to the Capitol to protest the election, was extended to enthusiastic, law abiding  supporters as well as a few screwballs.

   A riot ensued, planned and instigated by troublemakers. Though not egregious, the President’s words to those gathered on the Mall were ill-considered and, like Allen’s unsportsmanlike conduct, the product of frustration, emotion and poor judgment.

The Dems in the House (along with a few Republicans) threw the flag- this time for an ill-conceived impeachment in the final days of the administration. Unlike Allen’s penalty, the purpose of the Trump penalty – impeachment – was clearly to remove Trump permanently from the game.

   Their critics might say that what Trump and Allen have in common is being sore losers. There is some truth in a saying attributed to the legendary  Vince Lombardi: “show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser”.

But neither Donald Trump nor Josh Allen are “losers”, whether “good” or “sore”. That both men were frustrated and emotional as the clock ran out, I can agree. For certain ,neither man likes losing. Both enjoy, “winning, winning, winning”. The expectation of winning is in their DNA. That is, at least in part, why they are leaders with loyal followers.

   In neither Allen’s nor Trump’s case, do the penalties assessed seem to have affected the esteem their respective followers ( in Wyoming there is considerable overlap of followers) hold for the two men.

   The Buffalo, N.Y. media reported that hundreds of Bills’ fans turned out at the Buffalo airport early on Monday morning following the Sunday night game. The fans chanted, “we still believe”. Upon arrival, Josh Allen promised those assembled that their team would again play for the championship: “I got no doubt we will be back” he assured them.

   Like the Buffalo fans, on the day of the inauguration hundreds of Trump fans lined Southern Blvd in West Palm Beach to welcome the Trump family home to Florida.

A media report described the scene: “The impromptu street party was filed with flags, dancing and loud music as his supporters prepared for Trump’s arrival…” “It’s like the Super Bowl” a supporter remarked to a reporter.

   Earlier in the day, at a departure ceremony in Washington, Trump promised to return, saying he and his team had, “left it all on the field”. A week later Allen would say much the same.

   I would bet against neither.

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Ray Hunkins is a retired attorney and rancher who was the Republican nominee for the office of Wyoming governor in 2006.

Ray Hunkins: Trump Has Handed His Political Adversaries A Gift

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By Ray Hunkins, guest columnist

 Early in his presidency, President Trump was quoted as saying something to the effect that he could shoot someone in the middle of New York’s 5th Avenue and wouldn’t lose any political support. After the events of January 6th, he may be testing that hypothesis.

I have been an enthusiastic supporter of the President, a contributor to his campaigns and a defender of his policies and persona to friends and family.

I haven’t always been a supporter. I went to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland as a Wyoming delegate pledged to Ted Cruz. But, when Donald J. Trump was nominated, I boarded the “Trump Train” and have been riding it ever since.

There have been times that I have winced at a tweet or comment, and even times when I have thought the President erred in his assessment or approach to getting things done.

The tough guy, brash “Queens approach” has never been my cup of tea. I’m more the, “walk softly and carry a big stick” type. Since nothing else seemed to work, given the absolute mess in Washington, it has been easy to overlook Trump’s objectionable characteristics on the basis that the “Queens approach” was what was needed.

   The election was a disappointment and also a surprise. When I went to bed it looked as if the President had earned another term. It didn’t seem possible that Biden-Harris could overtake the convincing lead Trump-Pence had amassed. After all, Biden and Harris had hardly campaigned.

   During the rest of November and December, it became apparent that skullduggery, of one kind or another, may have been afoot.

I believed the protestations and assertions of Mayor Rudy, attorney Sidney and others. I was far enough removed that I was unable to accurately assess the legal cases being filed in the various courts of the battleground states.

All most of us in Wyoming had heard about fraud and irregularities were allegations, denials and suspect news reports. It seemed strange that the judges and justices reviewing the campaign’s petitions and complaints wouldn’t get involved.

Mostly, the legal actions were dismissed on non-substantive grounds. I kept hoping that some court would do what courts are for: test the veracity of the accusations. None did.

I was hopeful the rally in Washington would be a positive event; that the Joint Session of Congress on that day would provide an opportunity to hear the President’s position regarding the “stolen” election and learn about the evidence his campaign believed supported that assertion. It didn’t happen. The riot that took place at the Capitol overshadowed all else.

I was an eyewitness, via Fox News, to the events of January 6th, watching much of the coverage of the rally and listening carefully to the President’s remarks.

Trump’s comments concerning the Vice President gave the impression of an effort to intimidate and bully Pence into doing Trump’s bidding.

And, what he was asking Mike Pence to do, was desperate and wildly unreasonable. At a minimum, those remarks were ill advised and the apparent intimidation by the President, unseemly.

Trump asked the crowd to march up Pennsylvania Avenue, to the Capitol. At that point the crowd was not by any stretch, a “mob,” but some of those who accepted the President’s invitation would soon become one.

What was he thinking? Was he not aware that every crowd that large is bound to have a fringe element and a few jerks hanging around? Was he unaware of the possibility of anarchists and other troublemakers infiltrating the crowd.?

Did he not remember the riots around the White House in the summer of 2020? Was he in receipt of any intelligence concerning the event?

Did it not occur to him that any trouble would result in the smearing and besmirching of those good and loyal people who had gathered to show their support for him?  In the aftermath, these are important questions.

After hearing the two remarks: threatening his Vice President unless he performed as Trump wished, and encouraging the crowd to march on the Capitol, I was filled with a premonition that major trouble could result and sadly, that’s what came to pass.

An ugly, deadly and demoralizing riot ensued. People died, the beautiful Capitol building was trashed and America’s fratricide was put on display for all, friend and foe alike, to see.

Trump handed his political adversaries a gift. His supporters, as Attorney General Barr recently noted, were recipients of a betrayal. The election grievances were lost in the melee’.

I respectfully disagree with those who have accused the President of “inciting a riot”. “Inciting” a riot would be a criminal as well as an evil act. Trump is not evil. There was nothing said by the President at the rally which could be interpreted as intent to incite a riot or any other criminal act.

Donald J. Trump, like the rest of us, is flawed. It can be surmised that he lost perspective and who wouldn’t?  

After four years of leaked confidential conversations, baseless accusations, a  fake dossier, obstruction of the Administration’s agenda, hoaxes, investigations, a special counsel, civil lawsuits, impeachment and scurrilous and salacious rumors, after an election marred by unexplained and seemingly inexplicable irregularities, it is easy to see how the President might have been caught up in the moment; how his view of political reality might have become jaded and cynical, leading to the exercise of poor judgment.

He wasn’t alone. “Jaded”, “cynical”, “caught up in the moment”, “poor Judgment” are all words that could be used to describe the unfortunate display by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi when she tore up the President’s State of the Union address on live television. Occasions for bad judgment seems to be in abundant supply in Washington.

 The many accomplishments the Trump administration have enjoyed, despite the obstructive strategy of the not so “loyal opposition”, were exhilarating for many conservatives.

Such conservative policies and appointments have not been seen in Washington since Ronald Reagan was President. These accomplishments are now overshadowed by the tragic events of January 6th.

Overshadowed also, is the very grievances Trump and his campaign were attempting to hi-lite: voter fraud and election irregularities. Were they real or just hyperbole? We may never know.

Thanks to the riot, we missed the opportunity to make a case for meaningful election reform. The arguments of the senators who objected to the electoral vote of some states were, shortened and summarized and made in the dead of night. Who remembers what was said that night in the Senate Chamber?

  The reputation of Donald Trump’s presidency has suffered a serious blow. But, with the passage of time it will be at least partially rehabilitated. Think Nixon. I believe that’s how those of us who have ridden the Trump Train will see it.

Not surprisingly the President’s political adversaries are overreaching and appear to be piling on. Impeachment is clearly not the appropriate remedy.

It has the distasteful aroma of a vendetta about it, of getting even for past slights and insults. There seems no shortage of poor judgment and high emotion in our Capitol, at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Many mistakes have been made and poor judgment exhibited since January 6th. Equaling the President’s ill- advised exhortations, was the interjection of the Speaker of the House into the military chain of command.

By engaging the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a conversation about his superior’s access to nuclear codes, she displayed poor judgment at least equal to the President’s. If it comes time to hand out censures, Speaker Pelosi is deserving.

We would all, including our elected representatives, be wise to take a deep breath and calm down. Wisdom and clear thinking are needed not raw emotion and hyperbole.

It doesn’t seem that we are going to get what is needed before additional examples of poor judgment are on display in Washington.

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Ray Hunkins: What President Garfield Can Teach Us About Education

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By Ray Hunkins, columnist

“…Well, when we go to his big house
Up there I asked the fellow
I said, “Who was it that did it”
Who was it that shoot the President?”

And he said, “it was Charlie Guietou
That shoot Mr. Garfield” and I said

“Charlie Guiteau done shot down
A good man, good man
Charlie Guiteau done shot down a good man low”.

— Johnny Cash, “Mr. Garfield”

The lyrics of Johnny Cash’s ballad, one of my favorites, concern the shooting of President James A. Garfield at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station on July 2, 1881.  

It is an accurate description of a little known piece of history, about a little known President. 

That is understandable since Garfield, the 20th  President of our Nation, only occupied the Presidency for four months before being shot by a man disappointed at not receiving a political appointment.

President Garfield died from his wounds on September 19, 1881. He is one of the “forgotten presidents” that served between the Civil War and the turn of the century.

However, Garfield was one of the more erudite and accomplished men to serve as president during the 19th century.

Before he launched his career in politics, serving in the House of Representatives for 17 years, he was a major general in the Union Army and before that he was an educator.

He received his education at what was later to become Hiram College in Ohio, and at Williams College in Massachusetts, At age 26 he was named president of Hiram College. Garfield was a man of strong and insightful opinions about many things, including especially education.

Ms. Cathy Connolly, democrat minority leader in the Wyoming House of Representatives and professor of women’s studies at the University of Wyoming, also has strong opinions about education, especially when it comes to spending.

In a recent opinion piece in the Casper Star Tribune (8/5/2020), she urged the legislature to disregard the dire financial straits in which Wyoming presently finds itself.

With the rig count at “zero” and coalmines continuing layoffs, she chose this moment to advocate for increasing the huge K-12 Wyoming education budget.

Ms. Connolly suggested expanding Wyoming’s already expansive and expensive “basket of education goods and services” by piling on even more “goods and services”. Items such as social workers and publicly funded pre-school were, suggested.

Such an expansion would result in even more per pupil expenditures on top of the already bloated funding model that outspends, by a wide margin, each of our neighboring states.

Current evidence suggests we spend more per pupil, and get less for it, than any neighboring state.

The most recent available statistics on state expenditures and state educational outcomes does not support the thesis that more money results in better outcomes.

Wyoming spends $16,537 per pupil, sixth highest among the 50 states. However, our neighboring states spend much less: Nebraska $12,579; Idaho, $7,486; South Dakota, $9176; Colorado, $9809; Montana, $11,443 and Utah, $7,179.

The latest ranking of NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) for 2019 showed Wyoming scored higher in some categories and lower in others, when compared to neighboring states. There was little correlation between expenditures and outcomes.

A fascinating 2018 report from the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, using NAEP test data and accounting for different demographic characteristics in the states, as well as cost of living differences across the states, ranked the states on the efficiency of education spending.

The report explains: “In these efficiency rankings, achieving successful outcomes while economizing on education expenditures is considered better than doing so through lavish spending”.

In Cato’s efficiency rankings our neighboring states are ranked much higher than Wyoming. South Dakota ranks 8th, Colorado 9th, Utah 12th, Idaho, 15th, Montana 16th and Nebraska 29th. Wyoming is ranked 37th.  

According to Cato, 37 states get more bangs for their educational buck than does Wyoming.

Adding more dollars to the educational budget isn’t needed. What is needed is more efficient spending. That means spending on basics and not bells and whistles.

It also means auditing the expenditures to assure taxpayer’s money is being spent wisely and efficiently. This is called, “performance auditing” and Wyoming currently has no such mechanism in place.

So where should the spending focus be? Mr. Garfield suggested the answer: It is not fancy buildings and expensive equipment. It is the teacher. It is the connection between teacher and student that is indispensible to a quality education. The focus should be there.

Mark Hopkins was the president of Williams College from 1836 to 1872. He was a former professor of Garfield’s. At a Williams College alumni dinner at Delmonico’s restaurant in New York City in 1871 a debate about raising money for the College’s building and equipment fund broke out.

Garfield strode to the podium and declaimed, “Give me a log hut, with only a simple bench, Mark Hopkins on one end and I on the other, and you may have all the buildings, apparatus and libraries without him”. 

Mr. Garfield knew that true education is an interaction, a conversation, between student and teacher that is not dependent on lavish surroundings, expensive “apparatus” or auxiliary personnel.

Yes, the things mentioned may be nice when money is not a limiting factor. But in times of austerity, it is the focus on fundamentals that will assure quality education is delivered. Nothing is more fundamental to education than a quality, dedicated, knowledgeable teacher.

Mr. Garfield was a good and wise man. Decision makers in Wyoming can learn from his wisdom.

From 1997 until 2002, Ray Hunkins served as chief counsel to the State of Wyoming in matters relating to education finance.

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Ray Hunkins: Mountain West Conference Punts On Football Season — Who Called The Play?

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By Ray Hunkins, guest columnist

In early August, the Mountain West Conference (“MWC”) announced an adjusted football schedule for the fall of 2020.

Just five days later the conference’s board of directors, citing concerns over health and uncertainties created by the coronavirus, overrode the decision and informed the public there would be no fall sports and no football season, a season that held much promise for our Cowboys.

The repercussions from the MWC decision were immediate and severe.

It is estimated the decision will cost the University of Wyoming $10 million to $15 million in lost revenue; this at a time when Wyoming state government generally — and the university specifically — are reeling from the combined effects of the coronavirus and the collapse of Wyoming’s energy economy.

The announcement dealt a blow to the morale of all concerned.

Sally Ann Schurmur, in her Aug. 16, 2020, column in the Casper Star-Tribune put it this way: “This is not something we will ‘get over.’ We are not being ‘ridiculous,’ ‘small minded’ or ‘selfish.’ This is a tragedy.” Indeed it is a tragedy. Sally’s eloquent eulogy for a lost football season reflects the feeling of many.

This was more than a decision about athletic competition. It was a public policy decision made by unelected higher education administrators, all but one from states other than Wyoming. 

The MWC’s board of directors, comprised of the presidents of the 12 member institutions, made the decision. If it turns out the presidents made the wrong decision, they will not be held accountable to most of the people and many of the institutions they have harmed.

“Where there is a will, there is a way” is an adage for the ages. Six of the 10 Division I Football Bowl Subdivision conferences had the will and found a way to play football. 

The service academies are playing. BYU is playing. Even our Wyoming high schools are playing.  The PAC 12 however, under the firm influence of California, Oregon and Washington and the politicians who run those states, opted not to play.

Are we to believe the schools that are playing football this fall were negligent or uncaring in choosing their courses of action? These schools say they can provide a safe environment. The Mountain West – at least the presidents who made the decision not to play– did not have the will, and therefore didn’t find a way.

There isn’t much transparency as to how or why the presidents’ decision was reached. Many questions are raised by the curious way in which the decision came about. 

For instance, why did the MWC Board cancel all fall sports such a short time after the conference office announced an adjusted football schedule? 

Who moved that the season be canceled? Who seconded the motion? What reports and written materials were given to the presidents? Who were the medical experts consulted and what advice did they give? Were there differences of opinion among the medical experts or among the presidents? 

Were the medical experts from the conferences that are playing consulted or even questioned? Did the presidents consult with the athletic directors, coaches, and governing boards of the institutions before voting on the motion to cancel the entire season?

What was their advice, or in the case of the governing boards, what direction was given? Can the transcript of the MWC board meetings dealing with this subject (and minutes of those meetings) be released and if not, why not? 

The president of San Jose State University, Mary Papazian, is currently the chair of the MWC board of directors.

She answers to a “chancellor” of the California State University system. So do the presidents of the other California universities that are members of the MWC — Fresno State and San Diego State. The Chancellor answers to a board that includes Governor Gavin Newsom and three other California politicians.

Those politicians are also members of the board of regents of the University of California system. Several of the schools in that system are members of the PAC 12 Athletic Conference which opted out of a fall football season. 

It could be argued that President Seidel of the University of Wyoming deserves some slack.

On the job for a month before being called on to cast such a consequential vote, he might not have had all the background and knowledge needed.

Nevertheless, in an interview he gave a lengthy defense of the MWC board’s decision and seemed to place himself in the deliberations from the beginning.

Reporter Davis Potter of the CST, in a room that appeared to be devoid of anyone else, interviewed Wyoming’s new president, dapper in suit and matching COVID-19 mask.

The interview was posted on YouTube. Unfortunately, the President’s words were muffled and garbled by reason of mumbling through the mask.  

From what could be discerned, President Seidel asserted the board’s decision was unanimous and based on the unanimous recommendation of medical experts advising members’ athletic departments.

According to the president, there were warnings of potential heart problems for athletes who might catch the virus. Although he parroted conclusions, no details were given and no evidence was offered. 

However, in an interview posted on the MWC website, Commissioner Craig Thompson seemingly contradicted Seidel by asserting the rationale for cancelling the season wasn’t anything more than “continued unknowns.” 

The commissioner went on to state the obvious regarding health concerns: “Different studies show different things, and it’s amazing that intelligent people can reach different conclusions.” 

It sounded like there was a smorgasbord of opinions available for the MWC board to choose from.

The MWC chose not to rely on the “different conclusions” of other medical experts. Were the conclusions chosen by the MWC board selected because they fit a desired narrative?

In a statement on its website, the MWC revealed, “numerous external factors and unknowns outside our control made the decision necessary.”

The MWC board embraced conclusions that other conferences and schools chose to reject. Why? What are the “external factors” that influenced the MWC board’s decision?

The action of a group (the MWC board) external to Wyoming is causing significant damage to the state, monetarily and in other ways. The lives and possible careers of student-athletes have been disrupted. What discussion took place at the board meeting about these factors?

The people of Wyoming deserve a full explanation for the MWC board’s decision. We need to know what “external factors” influenced the decision and whether another agenda was at work.

We need to know if President Seidel cast his vote at the direction of the board of trustees. We need the truth and we need transparency. Governor Gordon should see to it.

Tag: Ray Hunkins is a former president of the University of Wyoming Alumni Association, a former member of the University of Wyoming Foundation board of directors and was honored as a “Distinguished Alumnus” by the University in 2005.

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No Need For “Hate Crime” Legislation In Wyoming

in Column/Ray Hunkins

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By Ray Hunkins, Columnist

Last week a column ran in The Hill titled, “Why Are Arkansas, South Carolina And Wyoming Holding Back On Adopting Hate Crime Laws?” by Dov Wilker, regional director of the American Jewish Committee in Atlanta. 

I don’t have an opinion about Arkansas or South Carolina, but I feel comfortable offering an answer to Mr. Wilker for Wyoming. The answer is: Because in the Cowboy State such laws are not needed.

Before explaining, I should confess my bias. I have never been keen about hate crimes and hate crime legislation.

A “hate crime” is a crime based on thought. “Motive” is the reason a criminal act is perpetrated.

It can be proven through evidence of thought. Hate crimes thus place motive as the operative fact to be determined in a trial alleging a “hate crime”.

In my opinion, criminalizing thought is a dangerous road to start down. Doing a criminal act ought to be enough to result in conviction if the act is proven, regardless of motive.

Additionally, “hate crimes” usually carve out special protections for certain classes of people – racial and ethnic minorities usually, and sometimes sexual orientation and gender classifications.

That means, when it comes to “hate crimes”,  all victims are not treated equally and that is also troubling.

But, even if my reservations about hate crimes are overcome or ignored, Wyoming still doesn’t need hate crime legislation. We don’t need such legislation because we already have it’s functional equivalent.

In The Hill column Mr. Wilker states, “in Wyoming, where Matthew Shepard, a gay college student, was beaten, tortured, and left to die, hate crimes are classified as misdemeanors [emphasis and link in original]. Shepard’s murder inspired an expansion of the federal hate crime law to include a victim’s perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.”

Mr. Wilker is wrong on several counts. First, Wyoming has no separate “hate crime” law, misdemeanor or otherwise.

If you click on the link Mr. Wilker provides in the above quoted text, you will find the Wyoming statute he claims is a “hate crime” is no such thing. It is a law prohibiting discrimination, not hate.

It provides for a penalty based on action not thought or motive. The elements of the misdemeanor crime cited by Mr. Wilker do not depend on a mental state but rather on a prohibited action, i.e. denial of a necessity “because of race, color, creed or national origin”.

In Wyoming, discrimination is a crime but not a “hate crime”.

The second reason Mr. Wilker is wrong is because Wyoming already has the functional equivalent of a “hate crime” law.

The Wyoming criminal code provides for indeterminate sentencing in most criminal cases. Criminal laws in Wyoming, for the most part, provide for a range of sentence between minimum and maximum periods of incarceration and fines up to a maximum amount.

The sentencing judge is vested with wide discretion in making sentencing decisions. He (or she) can sentence a felon to any amount of time, providing his sentence is within the maximum and minimum set forth in the statute. .

So what is the “functional equivalent” of a “hate crime” statute and how does it work in Wyoming? In Daniel v. State, (482 P.2d 172, 1982 Wyo), the Wyoming Supreme Court held that Wyoming’s system of indeterminate sentencing necessitates granting of broad discretion to the sentencing judge.

And, in exercising that discretion the judge should give consideration to all circumstances of the crime, aggravating as well as mitigating. That means that motive can be a factor to be considered by the judge in imposing sentence.

“Hate” may very well be an aggravating factor that results in additional punishment. A perpetrator whose motive is “hate” because of the victim’s status may find he is sentenced to additional time in the state penitentiary because of his motive.

Because Wyoming has an indeterminate sentencing system, which requires that all circumstances, including motive and the mental state of the defendant, be taken into consideration when sentencing, Wyoming has the functional equivalent of “hate crime” legislation.

It is not the law cited by Mr. Wilker in his opinion column in The Hill, but it serves our state well and without the necessity of incurring additional expense and time for a separate trial on the issue of what the perpetrator was thinking when he committed the crime.

The next time you write about Wyoming, do your research Mr. Wilker!

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Ray Hunkins: 100 Years Ago This Month, Wyoming Became The Equality State. Here Is How That Happened

in Column/Ray Hunkins

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By Ray Hunkins

One hundred years ago, on August 26, 1920, the United States Secretary of State issued a proclamation declaring that thirty-eight states had ratified the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, granting women the right to vote. The Amendment, entitled, “Woman Suffrage”, was short:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by a State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Many people believe that the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment was the beginning of equal political rights for women in the United States and around the World. Many people would be wrong.

Wyoming was among the 38 states that initially ratified the Amendment. But Wyoming was not a newcomer to women’s suffrage. As a Territory, it had granted women the right to vote in local and Territorial elections. But it had done more. From 1869 forward the women of Wyoming Territory not only had the right to vote, they also had full and equal political rights with men, including the right to run for, and hold, elected political office in the Territory. Wyoming’s radical experiment occurred fifty-one years before the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified

 This is the story of how the political decision was made to grant the few women who were residents of Wyoming Territory in 1869, equal political rights with men. It is the story of why that decision was made in the rough, violent, mostly lawless, women-starved, newly minted territory on the western frontier, called Wyoming. It is the story of Louisa Swain, who at the age of seventy, became the first woman voter in the World to cast a ballot under democratically enacted laws granting women equal political rights with men. It is the story of how Wyoming became the “Equality State”.

 Early on the morning of September 6, 1870, Louisa Swain cast a ballot in rough and tumble Laramie, Wyoming. Although she was the first woman voter, she would be followed that crisp and sunny morning by many others; women who not only exercised their right to vote, but who also exercised their newly granted political right to run for office and hold elected and appointive positions in territorial, state and local government. The result was a cascade of “firsts”: First woman juror, first female bailiff, first woman governor, first female judge, and the list goes on.

Why did this happen on the western frontier instead of in the more refined and cosmopolitan east? What were the conditions that made equal rights for women possible in a frontier territory fifty years before it occurred elsewhere? The answers constitute a story worth the telling.

Civilization in Wyoming followed the progress of construction of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad, the Union Pacific. The UP brought a dozen towns to Wyoming where there had been none before, including Cheyenne and Laramie City, as it was then known. The construction crews reached Cheyenne in the summer of 1867 and Laramie early the following year.  The railroad also brought the Army for protection, along with surveyors, tie hacks, graders, bridge builders, tracklayers, ballasting crews and finally, train crews.  According to the papers of General Granville Dodge, the Chief Engineer of the Union Pacific, the construction crews, totaling some 1,000 men, were made up of ex-Confederate and Union Civil War veterans, mule-skinners, Mexicans, Irish, bush whackers, and ex-convicts. It was a rough crowd.

The Army established posts at both Cheyenne (Ft. D.A. Russell- 1867) and Laramie (Ft. Sanders-1866) to protect railroad construction crews from Indian raids.  These military posts were not mobile.  They did not follow the “end of track”. As a result, they were a stabilizing force for both Cheyenne and Laramie after the railroad construction crews had moved west.

Those involved with the construction of the railroad needed goods and services. Purveyors of hard spirits, bawdy- house owners, bartenders, gamblers and pimps arrived almost simultaneously with the track crews. Shopkeepers, liverymen, and settlers followed closely. One such settler was Louisa Swain who arrived with her husband, a cabinet-maker, in Laramie City shortly after the railroad construction crews had moved northwest toward Rawlins. Mrs. Swain would become the World’s first woman voter.

As was typical, the towns that grew up in the wake of the Union Pacific construction, at first swelled and then, when the tracklayers and tie hacks moved on (along with some of the worst elements), the communities either survived as communities, or they became ghost towns. Wyoming had some of both.

Cheyenne, a few weeks after the railroad construction crews came through and headed west to Sherman Hill, had an estimated population of 6,000. Only about 400 of that number were women. In the special census taken in the summer of 1869, after the end of track had climbed Sherman Hill and descended into the Laramie Valley, Cheyenne’s population had shrunk to 2,305. In the special census, all of the large county named Albany, where Laramie City was located, could only count 2,027 people. Only one year later, in the 1870 census, after the track crews had moved into Utah, the whole of Wyoming Territory retained only 8,104 hardy souls, of which 1,000 were women.

In 1864 Wyoming had become a part of Dakota Territory. But the capitol of Dakota, Territory, Yankton, was a long way from Cheyenne, and an even longer way from South Pass City.  There were no direct lines of communication between those two parts of Dakota Territory and the two parts were separated by Indian lands, some of which were occupied by hostiles.

 Responding to the cries for law and order and the urging of those in Wyoming for a government closer to the people, Wyoming was removed from Dakota and became a separate Territory. President Johnson signed the act creating Wyoming Territory on July 25, 1868. On that day the Union Pacific tracklayers were approaching Rawlins.

Wyoming became a separate territory, at least in part, because Congress’ attention was focused on the construction of the transcontinental railroad and the expectation that settlement would occur along its route. .

The desire for “law and order” in Wyoming, and especially in Laramie City, was well founded.  On June 12, 1868, Laramie City residents went to the polls and elected a provisional Mayor. Three weeks later he resigned. In a letter to a local newspaper, he explained the town was “ungovernable”. The rest of the elected officials promptly followed suit. The Journal of American History described the conditions that led Laramie City to be nicknamed, “Hell on Wheels”:

Asa Moore, proprietor of the Diana and the Belle of the West, with the support of

the other saloon, brothel and gambling establishment owners formed a rump

government with himself as mayor and justice of the peace. Sam Duggen, one of

Moore’s henchmen, was appointed town marshall. Duggan did have some familiarity with

the law, having been acquitted of murder in Cheyenne just prior to his arrival in Laramie.

His deputy, Edward Franklin, had his law enforcement career curtailed when he was shot

and wounded while stealing mules from the Army and was incarcerated in the Fort Sanders

guard house. Throughout the summer of 1868 the town ran wide open day and night.

Shootings and murders occurred daily and after dark respectable citizens stayed off the

Streets. Laramie City was truly, ‘Hell on Wheels’.

In frustration with the lawlessness in Laramie City, a growing number of law-abiding residents supported the formation of the largest vigilante group in the West, some 500 strong. They hung, shot, rousted and ran out of town, the worst elements of Laramie City’s criminal class.

Meanwhile in Cheyenne, the first territorial legislature convened on October 12th, 1869.  William H Bright from the western Wyoming mining town of South Pass City, known as, “ Colonel Bright”, was elected President of the first territorial legislature’s upper chamber, known as, “The Council”.  Colonel Bright was a southern gentleman and reported to be a veteran of the Confederate Army. He was also a Democrat. Colonel Bright had made the long trek from South Pass City in far western Wyoming, to Cheyenne with his mind made up that enfranchisement of women should commence in the Territory and that it should be a priority of the first legislative session.

 Esther Hobart Morris, destined soon to become the first woman ever to hold judicial office, was also from South Pass City. South Pass City was not a large community and it is almost certain that Col Bright and Ms. Morris were acquainted, and probably well acquainted. Although there is no record of it, it is probable that the two discussed Colonel Bright’s intention to introduce legislation enfranchising women when he got to Cheyenne for the commencement of the first Territorial legislative session.

On the morning of November 9th, 1869, Col Bright took to the floor of the Council and announced that on the following Monday, “or some subsequent day”, he would introduce, “a bill for women’s rights”. Good to his word, the bill was introduced on November 27th as Council Bill Number 70 and was entitled, “An Act To Grant To The Women Of Wyoming Territory The Right Of Suffrage And To Hold Office”. Council Bill Number70 came up for final passage on December 6th, 1869. On final reading the votes were Yeas 6, Nays 2, with one absence. The lower chamber concurred and Territorial Governor Campbell, a Republican appointed by President Grant, signed the bill. It became law on December 10th, 1869. In relevant part, it provided:

     Sec.1. That every woman of the age of twenty-one years, residing in this territory, may

                  at every election to be holden under the laws thereof, cast her vote. And her

                   rights to the elective franchise and to hold office shall be the same under the

                  election laws of the territory, as those of electors.

     Sec.2.  This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.

The 1869 territorial legislature also passed bills to protect the right of married women to hold property and earn income and an equal pay requirement for school teachers of different genders, “when the persons are equally qualified”. The lower house even adopted a resolution setting aside a seating area for, “ladies who may desire to attend the deliberations….” It can readily be seen that the Territory’s legislators had an interest in women’s rights that were not shared in other parts of the Country. In that respect, Wyoming was fifty years ahead of its time.

After the bill to grant women equal political rights became law, the first subsequent election was on September 6th 1870. The first woman to cast her ballot at that election was Louisa Swain.

Louisa Swain was born in Norfolk, Virginia in 1800 or 1801. Her father was a seafaring captain, lost at sea when Louisa was a youngster.  When she cast her ballot, Louisa was 70 years old and a grandmother. She was also highly regarded by the law-abiding element of Laramie City. Some evidence suggests Louisa Swain was selected to cast the first ballot by the ladies of Laramie at a meeting held the night before the election was to take place. On the morning of the election, Mrs. Swain put on a fresh, clean apron over her housedress. She walked to the polls early in the morning unaided and unattended, carrying a little bucket for yeast to be bought at the bakeshop on her return home. Bystanders stood and watched as she approached the polling place when it opened. A witness reported that Mrs. Swain made a determined effort to be the first voter at the polls. The Journal of American History recites, “it is interesting to note that the domestic instinct was not consumed by the new political opportunity and that the judge of elections recorded the vote of this gentile, determined, white haired woman with more than an ordinary degree of reverence.” After casting her ballot, Mrs. Swain went to the bakeshop, picked up her yeast, and went home to bake bread. Meanwhile, ninety-two other women cast their ballots that day in Laramie City.

The day after her historic vote, the Laramie Daily Sentinel ran an editorial, which read in part,

“Mrs. Swain is an old lady of the highest social standing in our community,

universally beloved and respected, and the scene was in the highest degree

Interesting and impressive. There was too much good sense in our community

                    for any jests or sneers to be seen on such an occasion”.

The Republican Boomerang reported the event as a, “shot heard round the world”. Dispatches and cables heralded the news of universal suffrage for Wyoming Territory. The “big little Territory” was on the map.

Colonel Bright, ever gallant, was reported to have offered this toast at a gathering on election night: “Here’s to the lovely ladies….once our superiors, now our equals”.  

In the East, outside of the suffragette community, there was only passing interest, and that mostly evidenced by snide remarks and snobbery. For instance, The Nation, in its March 5, 1870 edition, slandered Wyoming women with this:

The experiment [women’s suffrage] is also being made in Wyoming Territory; but

The women there are but a handful, and, it is said, leave much to be desired, to use

a very safe and convenient Gallicism on the score of character, so that their use

of the franchise will hardly shed much light on the general question.

Scrivner’s Monthly, opined in February, 1875,  “it seems far more likely to us that within ten years Wyoming will ‘go back’ on her woman suffrage record, than that any State of the Union will follow her present example”. Scrivner’s came close to being prophetic.

The euphoria in Wyoming caused by the unique experiment in granting women full and equal political rights with men, did not last long. The Democrats (assisted by a Republican Governor), having achieved fame and approbation by passing the first legislation granting women equal political rights with men, soon began to backslide and lend credence to Scrivner’s.

In 1871 the Second Territorial Legislature convened. The First Territorial Legislature had become famous and took pride in its place in history at being the first legislative body ever to have passed laws granting women equal political rights with men. Two short years later, the Second Territorial Legislature convened and became the only territorial or state legislature ever to attempt to deprive women of political rights.

On November 16, 1871, Democratic Representative Castle introduced a bill to repeal women’s suffrage as House Bill Number Four. In contrast to the First Territorial Legislature, which was solidly Democratic, in both the upper and lower chambers of the Second Territorial Legislature, there was a scattering of Republicans. The Journal of American History explained: “it was evident from the moment it was introduced, nine days after the legislature convened, that there was a determined effort on the part of the Democrats to repeal the law which had given women the right to vote”.

Why did the Democrats in the Second Territorial Legislature do an about face and attempt to abolish equal political rights for women? The most likely answer is that in an era before the secret ballot, the women of the Territory were known to have voted Republican. Indeed, the election of the Territorial delegate to Congress, a Republican, was attributed to the female vote in the 1870 election. The Democrats had had enough of the experiment. Women suffrage was not serving the Democrats’ political interest.

The day after the bill to repeal women’s equal political rights was introduced, it passed the House by a vote of nine to three, with one absent. The three votes against repeal were all Republicans; the nine for repeal were all Democrats. The bill to repeal was then sent to the upper chamber. Here also, the bill to repeal the landmark law granting women equal political rights met opposition only from the Republican members.  The repeal bill passed the Council, five Democrats voting for it and four Republicans voting against it. The repeal bill, having passed both houses of the Territorial Legislature, was sent to Territorial Governor John A. Campbell, a Republican.

Governor Campbell, without hesitation, promptly vetoed the repeal bill. In his message Governor Campbell explained his veto: 

            It is simple justice to say that the women entering for the first time in the

            history of the country, upon these new and untried duties, have conducted

            themselves in every respect with as much tact, shrewd judgment, and good

            sense as men.

In order to pass the repeal bill over the Governor’s veto, a two-thirds vote of each chamber was required. In the House the vote to override, “the Governor’s veto to the contrary not withstanding”, was nine Democrats, in favor, two Republicans against and two absences. Thus on December 9, 1871, the bill to override passed the lower chamber by the required two-thirds majority, with no votes to spare.

The fate of the Territory’s experiment with equal political rights for women was now in the hands of the Territory’s upper chamber, the same chamber that had given birth to equal political rights for women two years earlier. If the Governor’s veto was to be overridden, the Council was also required to pass the legislation by a two-thirds majority. Here also, the veto override failed on a strict party line vote. All five Democrats voted aye, and all four Republicans voted nay.  The Council’s Journal reported the results: “There not being a two-thirds vote the bill was lost”.

Thus by the slimmest of margins, the Republicans assured that Wyoming would not become the only political subdivision in the Nation to ever abolish equal political rights for women. Had one Republican faltered in his conviction, in either chamber, Governor Campbell’s veto would have been overridden and women’s political equality would have been lost for many years.

It is ironic that history would allow both political parties to claim they were the true champions of women’s equal rights. The Democrats could claim they fostered the experiment and the Republicans could claim they preserved it. Both would be right.

The citizens of Wyoming Territory became comfortable with the idea of women suffrage. Ten years after the bill granting women equal political rights was passed and signed into law, the Speaker of the Wyoming House observed: “My conclusions are that the household or family is more interested in good government than a single man is, or indeed can be, and if good government be the ultimate sought by a civilized people, I see no safer, wiser or better way of securing that object than by a ballot in the hand of a woman.”

The year before Wyoming became a state, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Wyoming Territory remarked:

It [women suffrage] has been weighed and not found wanting. It has made our elections quiet and orderly. No rudeness, brawling or disorder appears or would be tolerated at the polling booths. There is no more difficulty or indelicacy in depositing a ballot in the urn than in dropping a letter in the post office.”

In anticipation of statehood, Wyoming elected delegates to a constitutional convention that convened in September of 1889. Forty-nine delegates attended the convention, all of them men. On the fourteenth day of the convention, a delegate from Cheyenne proposed that women’s suffrage be put to a separate vote of the people before being incorporated into the new state constitution. The proposal was hotly debated by those in favor of and opposed to the idea of equal political rights for women. Those in favor of submitting the issue to a vote of the people argued that some of their constituents were opposed to woman suffrage but in favor of statehood and would vote against the proposed constitution if it contained a section allowing for woman suffrage.  The sponsor of the proposal, who said he was in favor of equal political rights for women, argued that such a provision was a departure from the norm and therefor should be subject to a separate vote of the people who had never had a chance to vote on the subject.

Delegate Hoyt summarized the sentiment against the proposal:

No man has ever dared to say in the territory of Wyoming that woman suffrage is a failure. We stand today proud, proud of this great experiment….Why then this extraordinary proposition?

The proposition failed on a vote of twenty against and eight for.  The constitution, with provisions mandating equal political rights for women, was passed unanimously by the convention and on November 5, 1889; the citizens of what would soon be the State of Wyoming adopted it. Two separate constitutional provisions touched upon equal political rights for women.  Article 1, Section 3 provided:

Equal political rights.

Since equality in the enjoyment of natural and civil rights is only made sure through political equality, the laws of this state affecting the political rights and privileges of its citizens shall be without distinction of race, color, sex, or any circumstance or condition whatsoever other than individual incompetency, or unworthiness duly ascertained by a court of competent jurisdiction.

That provision by itself was apparently too obtuse for the assembled delegates and they addressed the subject of woman suffrage and equal political rights again, and more directly, in Article 6, Section one, which provided:

Male and female citizens to enjoy equal rights.

The rights of citizens of the state of Wyoming to vote and hold office shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex. Both male and female citizens of this state shall equally enjoy all civil, political and religious rights and privileges.

Wyoming citizens had spoken on the subject of women’s political rights, both through their elected delegates to the constitutional convention, and directly in adopting the constitution. But, opponents of the Wyoming experiment had one more opportunity to express themselves.

Only months after the constitution was approved by the citizens of Wyoming territory, Congress took up Wyoming’s petition to be admitted as a state in the “Union of States” There was opposition from the Democrats, especially in the House of Representatives. Though the Democrats were not keen on the admission of another Republican leaning state, one of the main articulated objections had to do with the evils of Wyoming’s experiment with woman suffrage. Nevertheless, the House of Representatives passed the act by an uncomfortably close vote of 139 to 127. The Senate followed suite and Wyoming became a state on July 10, 1890.

In 1893, the Wyoming state legislature provided for a “great seal of the state of Wyoming”. The bill stated in part:

Standing upon the pedestal shall be a draped figure of a woman, modeled after the statute of the ‘Victory of the Louvre,” from whose wrists shall hang links of a broken chain and holding in her right hand a staff from the top of which shall float a banner with the words “Equal Rights” thereon, all suggesting the political position of women in this state.

That language was passed by the legislature and signed into law by Wyoming’s governor twenty-seven years before ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. It remains law today.

Now you now know the story of how Wyoming became the, “Equality State”. But the question remains, why Wyoming and not some other state or territory? Why did this happen in a frontier territory, at the very edge of civilization? What was it about the culture of the frontier, of Wyoming, that made such an event possible?

We have seen how women vastly outnumbered by men as construction of the Union Pacific moved west through Wyoming. Women were precious few and because that was so, they were precious. Decent women were respected and put on a pedestal. Their honor was defended and their detractors attacked, sometimes with a vengeance. State and local laws and ordinances were passed which sought to punish men, sometimes severely, for insulting women. Cowboys were sometimes even afraid to talk with respectable women for fear of getting into trouble. One social scientist reported that Wyoming ranch hands about the turn of the century would shout out a warning to their friends, “Church time” when a married woman approached and then would lapse into respectful silence until she had passed.

Side by side with this respect for “decent women” was a proclivity toward violence, alcohol, rowdiness and a preoccupation with women of the night. . Over and over again contemporary reviews of the success of suffrage in Wyoming focus on improvement in decorum at the poling places. The absence of drunkenness and rowdiness at the polling places was attributed to the presence of women.

There is no doubt that those who began to settle the West, looked forward to civilizing it. Mostly, they yearned for peace and tranquility. Men conquered the territory but women made it habitable. There was also the belief that if women could vote the effort to civilize the territory would b easier. As one Wyoming stockman from long ago put it,  “I always said that I wanted a woman to walk beside me, not behind me”. That is why Wyoming became the Equality State.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  This is courtesy of the Louisa Swain Foundation, publisher of “The View From Thunderhead” by Ray Hunkins. This piece is the first chapter of that book which is a project of the Foundation in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the world’s first woman voter. The Foundation will commemorate Louisa Swain’s vote 150 years ago, and passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States 100 years ago, at the Foundation’s History House in Laramie, 317 S. 2nd Street, on September 6th, 2020, “Louisa Swain Day”.

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Ray Hunkins: Ludicrous, Wyoming Follows Same Orders As New York City

in Column/Ray Hunkins

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By Ray Hunkins, columnist

On March 22 I wrote a column entitled “And Then, What?” which was published on this site.

The point of the piece was to remind us that policy makers charting a course for battling the Wuhan corona virus in Wyoming and the Nation, needed input and recommendations from those familiar with economic issues, in addition to those familiar with the medical issues involved.

Before choosing a course of action, it was suggested, the decision makers pondering the extension of the economic shutdown, should ask, “if we extend the economic shutdown, then what?”.

The President, acting on the recommendation of his medical advisors, utilizing what was soon to be shown as grossly inaccurate models, extended the voluntary shutdown, by a month, until the end of April.  The strategy in extending the shutdown was “to bend the curve.”

We were told that, “bending the curve,” meant to eliminate the possibility of overwhelming the medical infrastructure by having too many patients hospitalized at the same time. Various governors, including Wyoming’s, announced compatible measures, some voluntary, some mandatory.

We now have had roughly a month of economic inactivity, or at least sharply diminished economic activity. It is now possible to observe both the progress of the “war” on the virus and the “war’s” impact on our economy. Neither are pretty, but a question yet to be answered is this: is the economic shutdown necessary beyond the end of April?

The “war” on the virus, in some form, will continue until the virus is no longer a significant threat to our population. Tactics (as opposed to strategy) will continue to be debated. The medical people have explained that the pause in economic activity is not designed to eliminate contagion of the disease, only to delay contagion until the apex has passed so as not to overwhelm the hospitals.

Once the shutdown is lifted, transmission of the disease will resume unless there is immunity. Immunity can be achieved with a vaccine or by what is known as, “herd immunity”.

So far, the “war” has produced the following relevant medical statistics: As of this writing (April 5), our government reports 330,00 cases of corona virus, out of a population of 331 million, with 9,528 deaths. About half the cases and more than half of the deaths are located in just three states: New York, New Jersey and Michigan.

In Wyoming, 207 cases have been reported out of a population of 567,000. Five Wyoming counties have had no reported cases. Three counties report only one case. Only five counties report more than 10 cases.

The greatest number of cases is in Laramie County with 44. No deaths have been reported anywhere in Wyoming. Despite these statistics, the medical advisors in Washington, and some people in Wyoming, clamor for the imposition of statewide “stay at home” orders where none have yet been issued. Wyoming does not have such an order. The idea that Wyoming must, in the interest of public health, institute the same measures as the state of New York is preposterous.

The idea that residents of Platte County, where no cases have been reported, must obey the same orders as the residents of the five boroughs of New York City, where 68,000 cases have been reported, is ludicrous.

Yet the authoritarians among us, seeking uniformity of process, blithely advocate the imposition of draconian measures everywhere, urban and rural states alike, ignoring the facts, our federal system and the separation of powers mandated by our Constitution.

On April 4th, the Casper Star Tribune reported that 12% of the reported cases in Wyoming were known to have required hospitalization, though in 24% of the reported cases it was not known if hospitalization occurred. There are 1261 staffed hospital beds in Wyoming, according to the American Hospital Directory.

Hypothetically, in the unlikely event 36% of the reported cases required hospitalization, the patients would have taken up 71 beds across the state, assuming they were all in hospitals at the same time. Because of these facts, “bending the curve” of the disease in Wyoming would seem to be unnecessary, perhaps even unhelpful.

 The “war” has also produced the following relevant economic statistics: Since March 1st, over 10 million Americans have filed for unemployment. The past two weeks have erased nearly all the jobs created in the past five years. But that is just the beginning. Financial advisor Stifel Nicolaus’ chief economist predicts peak unemployment of 30% in the U.S., saying in an April 3, 2020 report, “As we continue to keep the economy closed, more than 45 million Americans are expected to lose their jobs.” The St. Louis Fed agrees, predicting unemployment could rise to over 30%, surpassing the peak of the Great Depression.

In Wyoming, no current unemployment statistics are available, but on March 21, the Casper Star Tribune reported the Department of Work Force Services, which handles unemployment claims, was “inundated” with calls resulting from an order issued by the governor shutting down certain Wyoming businesses.

By order, all restaurants and bars were closed except for “take out”. The Department reported 37 people were assigned to take calls on that day and there still was an hour’s wait for callers on the Department’s multiple lines. About 10% of the state’s work force is involved in the food service and restaurant industry. In 2019, that amounted to 28,700 jobs.

With the widespread closing of eating establishments nationwide, not surprisingly the meat complex and cattle markets collapsed.

On April 5th, the Casper Star Tribune reported the biggest one-day loss in choice grade beef prices – $0.798 a pound and observed, “As public precautions regarding the novel coronavirus extend further into the spring, farmers and ranchers drift closer towards financial doomsday.”

This is a clear prediction that the “public precaution” mentioned might be synonymous with financial ruin for Wyoming agriculture. My friend Del Tinsley, former publisher of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and a cattleman himself, verifies that the feeder market tanked last week and Wyoming ranchers are more than a little concerned.

It’s impossible to predict the extent of the economic carnage that is being imposed on our nation and on Wyoming. When the dust settles, I believe we will see that for Wyoming, the cure has indeed been worse than the disease. That is simultaneously, both a blessing and a curse.

But, one thing is certain. The longer this shutdown goes on, the worse the carnage will be. All the government checks and loans, all the red tape and bureaucracy, all the billions and trillions of government largesse that will have to be repaid by someone – none of it will be the magic remedy that makes us economically well again- never mind “great.”

With appropriate precautions and best practices, we need to get back to work and we need to do it at the conclusion of the current shut down – at the end of this month – by May 1st. No more economic shutdown extensions.

The sooner Wyoming goes back to work, the sooner our restaurants and small businesses are opened for business, the sooner we can begin to climb out of this economic, cultural and social purgatory in which we have been placed. Placed there for 71 hospital beds that were available when needed.

Wyoming isn’t New York, New Jersey or Michigan.  Chugwater isn’t Brooklyn. One size doesn’t fit all. It never has.

Ray Hunkins, author of the book, “The View From Thunderhead”, was the Republican nominee for Governor of Wyoming in 2006. He is now retired and lives in Cheyenne, west of Wheatland in the Laramie Mountains and in Tubac, Arizona. He is an Emeritus Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and the International Society of Barristers.

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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.

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