Wyoming News Exchange editorial roundup, week of July 5-11, 2022 | Wyoming
Let freedom ring
From the July 6 Buffalo Bulletin:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
— Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
Of course the founders of our country did not wholly agree that all men were created equal. Certainly not Black Americans, or Indigenious people, or even women for that matter. The expansion to include people of color and women would take another 144 years to achieve.
But the idea that equality was self-evident was a radical idea and it was the very idea that serves as the cornerstone of our republic. In 1863, Lincoln was forced to remind Americans that “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” And America was forced to fight a war to prove that point.
We are more divided now than at any point in our post-Civil War history save maybe during the Vietnam War. Many have placed party over country and demand fealty to party in order to prove loyalty.
And so in 2022, we are at another crossroads in America and 246 years after the Declaration of Independence was written, we again must look back to the wisdom of Lincoln that “a house divided cannot stand.”
Let us look to the founding of our country for inspiration. It is “we the people” who consent to be governed. It is “we the people” who seek to form a more perfect union.
We cannot allow foreign entities and even our own politicians to seek to divide us. Our founders who signed the declaration pledged their lives, their fortunes and their honor to defend the basic idea of equality.
And so, while we should seek to ensure that our elections are secure, we should not fall prey to those who, without proof, claim that there is widespread fraud, especially here in Johnson County and Wyoming, where we know and trust all the election judges and elected officials. Let us not fall prey to those who only seek to destroy with no plans to build. Let us not allow those who stand to gain from conflict to drive a wedge between us.
This country was born of freedom and equality. As we reflect on our shared history, we should focus on how we can become more unified. It could be as simple as practicing a bit more grace and patience. We are all Americans. We all care about our country. And we have achieved our greatest accomplishments when we worked together.
Schools chief should focus on real problems within education system
From the July 10 Casper Star-Tribune:
To read Brian Schroeder’s June 3 message to the public, you’d think Wyoming schools were facing an apocalyptic threat. In a press release, the Wyoming superintendent of public instruction blasted an “overbearing and oppressive federal government that is completely out of control.” He described morally repugnant actions that sought to control and manipulate Wyomingites into “post-modernist thinking.” The leader of Wyoming’s public school system, only months after his appointment, warned of an “ever-relentless agenda of social engineering.”
What could have prompted such an angry statement? Was it the massive budget deficit facing Wyoming education system, which now stands at roughly $300 million? Was it the recent survey that found that 65% of Wyoming teachers would quit if they could?
No, Schroeder’s angst was centered on an update to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s non-discrimination policies. Specifically, a May announcement by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service that it would extend anti-discrimination protections laid out in Title IX to include gender identity and sexual orientation.
The superintendent slammed the Biden administration, saying it was trying to force a political ideology upon Wyoming by tying it to federal funding for student meals. In other words, comply with policies you don’t like, or vulnerable kids will go without food.
But there are more than a few problems with Schroeder’s comments, and a follow up statement he released a few weeks later. If the superintendent had turned in his work as a class assignment, his teacher would have surely docked him a few grades for accuracy.
Schroeder denounced President Biden and the federal government, but avoided criticizing the thing that started all of this: a U.S. Supreme Court opinion authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch, a staunch conservative appointed by former President Donald Trump. In a 2020 decision, the high court ruled that existing Title VII federal protections against discrimination on the basis of sex applied to sexual orientation and gender identity. The USDA’s actions are an attempt to bring its policies in line with that ruling, arguing that the same definition should apply to Title IX.
The superintendent also raised the specter of “boys in girls’ locker rooms” and “forced usage of pronouns,” in a second, June 22 statement that was just as apocalyptic as the first. But that’s not what the policy change would bring about, according to statements from USDA officials. The new policy would prohibit students from being denied meals in the school lunchroom on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, just like there are protections against denying students meals on the basis of other characteristics such as race and religion. Groups that get federal funding would have to investigate allegations of discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, just as they already do for other protected classes.
Schroeder, who’s only been in Wyoming for a relatively short time, insists all of this is totally out of step with the values of the Equality State. We disagree that most Wyomingites would object to a rule that says you can’t deny gay or transgender students meals in a school cafeteria merely because they are gay or transgender.
So why the fearful words? Why focus so heavily on this issue, rather than the myriad others facing Wyoming’s schools?
We hope Schroeder will address those questions. But it is fair to remind readers that he is in the midst of a tough election bid against a broad field of Republican candidates. And in a Republican primary, blasting Biden or attacking transgender protections will score you plenty of points.
The superintendent is encouraging Wyoming to fight the policy, even if that means losing out on $40 million in federal funding. He says he’s checked and Wyoming has the money to cover the cost itself. But that ignores the fact that Wyoming’s education budget has a $300 million deficit, and that lawmakers are famously skeptical of taking on any new costs, the least of which would be a $40 million annual contribution for what appears to be political posturing.
This episode raises another important question about the superintendent. Why isn’t he expressing this level of outrage over the very real problems facing the state’s education system? Why isn’t he insisting that lawmaker finally address the structural problems with Wyoming’s schools budget? Why isn’t he expressing outrage that two out of three teachers want to quit? It seems Schroeder would rather fight political boogeymen than fix that which is truly plaguing our education system.
We don’t need cryptocurrency
From the July 6 Cody Enterprise:
The State of Wyoming could be the first government to issue its own virtual currency.
Which brings up one very important question: Why?
We are not specialists in stablecoin/cryptocurrency issues. In fact, we certainly don’t understand the mystery and the reasoning behind crypto and the justification for it.
Crypto is reminiscent of the scrip issued by individual banks during the 1800s when the banks didn’t have enough cash. And the recent meltdown of the overall crypto-market seems to follow the pattern of the scrip.
When few people will accept scrip or crypto as payment for goods and services, its value drops precipitously.
Both chambers of the Wyoming Legislature passed Senate File 106, the Wyoming Stable Token Act, but Gov. Mark Gordon vetoed the bill earlier this year.
The bill is currently being revisited and will probably be brought back in the 2023 regular session. One benefit it offers that is different from other crypto is it would not be subject to much fluctuation since it would be linked to stable assets such as cash and U.S. Treasury bills.
Which brings up the same question. Why?
If it is backed by the U.S. dollar, why not just use the U.S. dollar for payments? Even with all of the dollar’s perceived flaws and fluctuations, it is still backed by the United States of America.
Additionally, the offering of a Wyoming virtual currency would put more demands and the need for more safeguards on the Wyoming State Treasurer’s office without any benefits we can see.
As we understand the logic behind the push for a virtual currency, the idea for the state is to sell the stablecoin for U.S. dollars and then put that money in a separate account to harvest interest.
Since the stablecoin is by design stable and will not fluctuate much in value, we don’t see any advantage for someone to purchase the currency.
Despite the recent meltdown in the cryptocurrency market, stable virtual curriences are currently worth about $160 billion.
With one caveat: Crypto is only worth what people will accept it for in exchange for goods and services. Otherwise, crypto is as worthless as the scrip issued by failing banks in the 1800s.
So regarding Wyoming’s push for virtual currency, our question is still, why?
— By John Malmberg
Pets should stay home as weather warms
From the July 11 Cody Enterprise:
We know many of our furry companions love a good car ride, but as summer temperatures rise they need to be left at home.
Temperatures in Cody have been in the 80s and will likely stay in that range for much of the summer.
This can be deadly for animals left in a vehicle – even if it’s just for a moment, and even if the windows are cracked.
Recently at Walmart, when the temperature was 87 degrees, two dogs sat in a parked car. Thankfully they were OK, but it could have had a much different ending.
According to the ASPCA, on an 85 degree day it only takes 10 minutes for the inside of your car to reach 102 degrees and just 30 minutes for the interior to climb to a scorching 120.
This can lead to fatal heat stroke. Symptoms of overheating in pets can include:
• Excessive panting or difficulty breathing
• Increased heart and respiratory rate
• Mild weakness
Symptoms can also include seizures, bloody diarrhea and vomit, along with an elevated body temperature of over 104 degrees, according to the ASPCA.
And it’s not just in your cars you need to be aware. Make sure your pets have a shady place to get out of the sun, be careful not to overexercise them and use your best judgment to keep them indoors when it’s extremely hot.
You should also give your pets plenty of fresh, clean water when it’s hot or humid outdoors.
Keep walks during peak daytime hours to a minimum and never let your dog linger on hot asphalt. Being so close to the ground, their body can heat up quickly, and sensitive paw pads can burn.
So next time if you’re thinking, “Oh, it will just be a few minutes while I go into the store,” or “But I cracked the windows,” those explanations won’t amount to much if your pet becomes seriously ill or dies from being left in a vehicle.
Let your pet enjoy the cooler comforts of home during the next few months.
— By Amber Steinmetz
Concrete isn’t temporary
From the July 6 Jackson Hole News&Guide:
Placing 800 storage units on crushed gravel with landscaping, lighting and fire suppression doesn’t sound all that temporary.
But that’s the so-called “temporary” plan for state-owned land along Teton Village Road.
It seems reasonable to offer more storage. But the issue is how the state has rushed to pave the way for new commercial uses by ignoring its own regulations and local land use rules.
The State Board of Land Commissioners voted June 2 to approve two temporary use permits — one for storage and another for a recreational glamping business. This maneuver means those two businesses will not have to comply with county land use regs — giving those two commercial operations a notable advantage over other valley businesses.
Teton County is right to seek a court’s review — filed June 21 — to determine if this decision is legal.
The county rightly points out that glamping and storage units are not on the list of activities of “temporary duration” typically allowed under such a permit. That list includes things like construction, signs, stockpiles and water wells. The list also includes organized recreational activities, but with a specified duration of 30 days, according to the county’s legal complaint.
If state officials chose to use the temporary use permit to skirt regulations, that sure creates an unfair playing field — not just for businesses in Teton County — for anyone leasing state lands. The county argues that the more appropriate tool would be a special use permit that requires entities to comply with local land use planning and zoning laws.
The state land board includes Gov. Mark Gordon, Secretary of State Ed Buchanan, Auditor Kristi Racines, Treasurer Curt Meier and Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Schroeder. All five voted for the glamping. But Gordon and Racines both voted against the storage, acknowledging that it would be hard to remove after five years.
Deeded at statehood, trust lands are designated to raise funds for public schools, and state lawmakers have been pushing hard to squeeze more revenue from those lands in Teton County.
Raising money for schools is a worthy goal.
But the state has other ways to fund schools. Lawmakers, for example, could change the law to spend some of the millions of dollars Wyoming now collects in lodging tax on schools.
Ultimately, state lands might generate far more revenue for schools than they do today, especially in Teton County. But rushing proposals and skirting regulations isn’t the right way to raise money for education.
After all, don’t we want to teach our kids to play fair and follow the rules?
For energy prices to drop, stop threatening companies for producing energy
From the July 6 Powell Tribune:
If you traveled over the Fourth of July weekend, you felt the sting of filling up before your trip. Gas prices were down slightly from what they were earlier in June, but they remain painfully high.
While most people feel the impact of high energy prices most directly when they pay at the pump, the greater pain of this problem will be gradually increased in the coming year.
Energy is the industry that powers all other industries. If energy costs go up, the cost of all business goes up. Adding to inflationary pressures that grew out of the federal government printing large amounts of money to hand out to virtually every citizen in the country, those increased costs of doing business will be passed onto consumers — for just about every product we buy.
You might be spending more at the grocery store now, but in the coming year, it’s going to get worse. Farmers are paying more for diesel and fertilizer, which is made from natural gas. This year’s harvest will be much more expensive. After the crop is harvested, it has to be shipped to factories, which is more energy costs, and then to stores — again more energy costs.
This is one key factor in why some economists predict we’re heading toward a recession.
President Joe Biden and his supporters, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), have been cranking out rhetoric to try to convince you that, when it comes to our growing energy crisis, they are entirely blameless.
In September 2019, when he was campaigning for president, Biden told a crowd of supporters, “Look into my eyes. I guarantee you… we’re going to end fossil fuels.” He showed his commitment to that promise after becoming president by, among other things, banning oil leases and drilling on federal lands, as well as canceling pipeline contracts.
This, of course, wasn’t the first time the president of the United States, in addition to a phalanx of powerful people, promised to deprive the entire globe of the energy source that supplies 80% of the world’s energy needs. While world leaders vow to completely eradicate the entire fossil fuel industry, climate activists do all they can to stop the permitting of critical infrastructure, such as pipelines.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that between 2011 and 2021, oil and gas exploration investments declined by 50%. When powerful people and angry mobs are threatening to do everything in their power to destroy an industry, investors are going to pull back. Less investment means less production. So, the supply is not increasing at a time the demand is increasing as people come out of the pandemic and try to get the world moving again.
There is absolutely nothing technological limiting the oil and gas industry from producing enough energy to meet demand. Thanks to fracking technology, America is quite capable of not only meeting our energy needs, but exporting this valuable product to other countries.
To be fair, anti-fossil fuel activists were convinced, as many of us were, that we had alternatives that were not only entirely adequate to the task, but cheaper. We’ve been told unequivocally that wind and solar are steamrolling over the entire fossil fuel industry.
A look at the numbers says otherwise. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, since the 1970s, an aggressive campaign to replace fossil fuels has increased the share of wind and solar electrical generation from 0% to 9.7% in the United States. Electrical generation is a small piece of the energy pie. Transportation and industrial heating are a much larger portion, so the total energy produced by wind and solar in the U.S. is under 4%, because outside electrical generation, wind and solar are largely useless.
Warren points to oil companies’ record-high profits as proof the entire problem is a result of industry greed. Strangely, in 2020, when oil prices fell to negative numbers, she wasn’t praising those companies for their charity. If oil companies could just raise prices to increase profits, prices would never collapse. Yet, they do frequently.
Government policy, driven by climate activism, has artificially restricted fossil fuel production. No matter how much you shame people for using fossil fuels, that will have little impact on demand. At the end of the day, people need energy, and fossil fuels remain one of the most cost-effective means to meet that demand. So the demand has grown, while everything was done to punish the people who were producing the supply.
That puts oil companies in a position to make a lot of money off that artificially low supply, but you can’t blame oil companies for this ironic and unintended consequence of a short-sighted and highly misguided energy policy.
The bad news is that even if Biden and all those who fight so hard to keep fossil fuel companies from producing energy suddenly stopped what they’re doing, it would still be 12 to 18 months before the supply would start to grow. The even worse news is that most of them view high energy costs as a great way to sell you on the false promise of wind and solar. Hold onto your wallets. It’s going to be a long road back to energy sanity.
— By Kevin Killough
Recycling changes are good, but more are needed
From the July 10 Wyoming Tribune Eagle:
For those who have been frustrated by Cheyenne’s limited recycling options for years, it was almost as exciting as finding money in a jacket pocket or under a couch cushion.
Effective immediately, the city’s Sanitation Division is accepting clear, brown and green food-grade glass, as well as plastics labeled with #4 (LDPE) and #5 (PP). The only #5 plastic not accepted is clamshell food cartons, commonly used for takeout.
After years of tossing out plastic drink cups, yogurt containers and disposable kitchen utensils, it’s exciting to know these items can finally be repurposed instead of ending up in the landfill. Of course, they need to be empty, rinsed out, dry and loose (not bagged) before being tossed into your blue-lidded recycling container. But we think that’s a small request in exchange for the environmental benefit.
And although the city, for a brief time, used to accept glass to build drainage layers in the landfill, it has been especially dispiriting to have to toss glass bottles and jars into the trash bin, knowing full well they could easily be melted down and reused.
Now, with fewer limitations on what’s accepted, the hope is more people will get engaged in the recycling effort. That, in turn, will lead to more consumer products made from used plastic items, such as toys, tableware, shoes, bags and home furnishings.
Yet as exciting as this news is, we think there’s even more that could be done. All it would take is local residents and elected leaders coming together to make recycling an even bigger priority, even if that means paying a bit more for certain options.
Here are just a few things we think are worth considering:
Making it easier to recycle more – We understand the reasons certain limitations exist, especially since most of them are financial. For example, the recycle bins are emptied every other week, even though many people actually fill their recycle bins faster than their trash carts.
Just this week, we spoke with a member of a family of five who said she usually has three or four bags of recyclable materials stacked up in her garage because they generate it faster than the city can pick it up. She’s willing to wait, but others surely aren’t, so we imagine many items that could be recycled are still ending up in the landfill.
With the high cost of fuel these days, and the difficulty in hiring and retaining truck drivers, it’s probably a nonstarter to suggest that the Sanitation Division switch to weekly pickup of recycling containers. It’s probably equally ridiculous to suggest larger families could opt to pay more each month for more frequent pick-ups.
Sure, the city will accept these items at the Felix Pino Transfer Station, but it costs $1.25 per bag. How about waiving that cost for city residents, who are already paying the monthly pick-up fee?
Encouraging rural county residents to recycle – Even though recycling isn’t profitable for the city, it is a “diversion tactic,” according to Public Works Director Vicki Nemecek. That means it saves space in the landfill, which extends its useful life. It’s the same reason the city has a program to collect yard waste and turn it into compost.
Most, if not all, private trash haulers in Laramie County don’t offer a roadside recycling program, which means, if they’re motivated to do so, those who live outside the city limits must drive their recyclable materials to the Transfer Station and pay the $1.25-per-bag fee.
If it’s free to drop off yard waste, why not waive the fee for plastic and glass, too? We’d prefer to have the large blue drop-off bins located around the city again (even if not in grocery store parking lots), but we understand those come with their own problems, such as people using them as a dumpster or items piled up on the ground around them if they fill up too quickly.
Whatever method is chosen, more people should be encouraged to recycle by removing as many barriers as possible.
More education about recycling options – This one’s easy, mostly because the city is already connected with a great resource that’s free of charge for anyone with a smartphone.
By downloading the Recycle Coach app and entering your city address, you can get detailed information about what is and what isn’t accepted. You can even set the app to remind you when it’s time to take your container to the curb.
Another option would be to affix new stickers to the front of each recycle bin, reminding residents what can and cannot be recycled. When the program first began, each bin displayed these stickers, but most have worn off long ago.
Encouraging more use of reusable items – We’ve previously advocated for more use of reusable items, including, first and foremost, grocery bags. Although they can be returned to local supermarkets – and yes, we know they’re used by many people as garbage can liners at home – we think it’s time for city leaders to ban the use of plastic grocery bags. As they do in Jackson and in other communities, stores could charge 10 cents a bag for paper sacks, which would encourage more people to bring their own cloth bags. (It also would help keep plastic bags out of local trees and streams.)
As we said at the beginning, we appreciate all efforts by the Sanitation Division staff to reduce the Capital City’s environmental footprint. Accepting more items is great news, and we hope it encourages residents to do their part to keep more waste out of the landfill.
David Adler: Shaping the future of American constitutional law
The constitutional issues that the Supreme Court addressed — and answered — in the landmark case of McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) have shaped our nation’s constitutional law for two centuries. McCulloch is of such surpassing importance that a prominent biographer of Chief Justice John Marshall, who wrote the Court’s unanimous opinion, said that if Marshall’s “fame rested solely on this one effort, it would be secure.”
The importance of the issues before the Court — the extent of federal power, the limits of state authority, the nature of the Union and the principles and methods by which the Constitution should be interpreted — were apparent to all. The Court, fully aware of the confrontation between national and state authority, permitted nine days of oral argument, three times longer than ordinarily scheduled for important cases. It also relaxed its rule that permitted just two attorneys for each party and allowed each side to present three lawyers, each of which happened to be among the nation’s most distinguished members of the bar. Chief Justice Marshall observed that the attorneys’ performance reflected “a splendor of eloquence, and a strength of argument seldom, if ever, surpassed.”
Luther Martin, lead counsel for Maryland, and a delegate to the Constitutional Convention who fought against ratification of the Constitution, urged state sovereignty and narrow construction of the Constitution to persuade the Court that Congress had no authority to charter the National Bank. States, he asserted, possessed power to tax branches of the bank doing business within its jurisdiction. Congress lacked authority to create the national bank, Martin argued, since there was no enumeration in the Constitution of such a power.
Congress, Martin claimed, could not create the bank on the premise that the “Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution” — Article I, section 8, paragraph 18 — authorized it since creation of the bank was not “absolutely necessary” to managing the government’s monetary and financial problems. At issue was the scope and meaning of the Clause, which provided: “Congress shall have Power . . . To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department of Officer thereof.”
On the fundamental nature of the Union, Martin argued for Maryland, the Constitution was not created by the people, but rather by the states, “and all the powers which are not relinquished by it, are reserved to the states.”
William Pinkney for the federal government, countered with the argument of “popular sovereignty”: the Constitution “springs from the people,” rather than the states. William Wirt, U.S. Attorney General and the legendary Daniel Webster who, until the emergence in the 20th Century of Thurgood Marshall, had won more cases before the Supreme Court than any attorney in our nation’s history, argued for broad interpretation of congressional authority. Justice Joseph Story, perhaps the most scholarly of Justices, said of Pinkney’s closing arguments to the Court: “Never, in my whole life, have I ever heard a greater speech. All the cobwebs of sophistry and metaphysics about States’ rights and State sovereignty he brushed away with a mighty besom.”
Congress, Webster contended, enjoyed by virtue of the Necessary and Proper Clause, the authority to create the National Bank. He told the Court that the question of the constitutionality of the bank had been thoroughly explored during the debate surrounding its enactment and that the three branches of the government had been acting for more than three decades on the assumption that the bank was constitutional. In Webster’s view, this longstanding interpretation “must be considered as ratified by the voice of the people.” Pinkney added that this construction was especially weighty because the creation of the bank in 1791 was the handiwork of the First Congress, which contained many of the men who wrote the Constitution.
On the interpretation of the Necessary and Proper Clause, Webster argued for a broad or liberal interpretation of the language. “Necessary” and “proper,” he argued, should be understood as synonymous, which meant, simply, that “such powers as are suitable and fitted to the object; such as are best and most useful in relation to the end proposed.” Webster declared that whether Congress had chosen the best means, or the wisest policy, was for Congress and not the court to decide. Here, Webster and his colleagues were urging judicial modesty — judicial self-restraint — pleading for the Court to refrain from imposing its own view on the best means for executing the government’s powers.
The question of whether states might tax the bank, that is, the federal government, led Webster to ask the Court: “If the states may tax the bank, to what extent shall they tax it, and where shall they stop?” He added, “the power to tax is the power to destroy,” and warned that states might assert the power to tax “the proceedings in the courts of the United States, and nothing but their own discretion can impose a limit upon this exercise of their authority.” Surely, he declared, the framers of the Constitution had not intended that the exercise of national powers should depend on the discretion of state governments.
With that, we turn next week to Marshall’s landmark opinion.
David Adler, Ph.D., is a noted author who lectures nationally and internationally on the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and presidential power. His scholarly writings have been cited by the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts by both Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Congress. Adler’s column is supported. in part. through a grant from Wyoming Humanities funded by the “Why it Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation” initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils and funded by Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Adler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.