The War Down at City Hall

By Bradley Harrington

Brad Harrington

“I object to the creation, by ordinance, of a team designed to handle duties which are already the responsibility of existing city departments … I believe this is poor governance, and I hope that together we can ensure this does not happen again.” — Memo from Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr to the City Council, April 24, 2017 —

Just in case anyone hasn’t noticed, there’s a war going on down at Cheyenne City Hall — and the results of that war will have profound implications for how this city is run for years into the future.

The battle lines have now been drawn, and — physically — they center on the parking lot across O’Neil Avenue from the Municipal Building.

This war is in fact, however, ideological in its nature and actually concerns itself with two visions of governance — and the ultimate fate of that parking lot will be a minor blip on the screen compared to the realignments that will flow from the results of the clash between the visions.

In Vision #1, best described as the “command” approach, we have the idea that government can create growth and wealth by taxing the population and reallocating those resources in a fashion other than what those dollars would have supported if left free to find their own ends.

Economically, the “command” vision redistributes wealth on the premise that governments can foster “economic development” by engaging in those redistributions (although exactly how it is that this alleged fact of reality operates is never defined).

Politically, the “command” vision necessitates the use of force on at least two fronts: (1) The initial act of plunder that acquires the loot; and (2) the distortions to market forces that are spawned in the sectors of the economy where the politicians choose to reintroduce the plundered wealth (the “Good Ole’ Boy Network”).

And, ethically, isn’t it clear that the entire premise of the “command” vision is that some people know what’s “best” for other people?

In Vision #2, best described as the “market” approach, we have the idea that government’s role in creating wealth has more to do with providing the legal, political and infrastructural requirements necessary for a market society to function, than to playing an active role in wealth redistribution.

Economically, the “market” vision functions on the premise that “wealth” and “resources” are privately-owned products — and that true “economic development” consists of stepping to the side while market producers create more wealth.

Politically, the “market” vision advocates sound fiscal policy, minimal government involvement in the marketplace and reduced taxes — all on the idea that the best thing government can do for people’s lives is to give them the actual protection and support their freedoms require, and then stay out of the way.

And, ethically, isn’t it clear that the entire premise of the “market” vision is the belief that people are best left to manage their own affairs peaceably as they see fit?

For at least as long as I’ve been here in Cheyenne — I got here in 2001, about two months before 9/11 — Vision #1, the “command” approach, has been at the ascendancy in both city administration and council composition. Mayors and council members have come and gone — but the ideas of “planning,” along with the planners themselves, seem to stick around forever.

Until now, that is …

After learning from City Engineer Jim Voeller about possible shenanigans regarding the funding of the West Edge’s “Civic Center Commons” project — the “Holy Grail” for the planners — Voeller and Mayor Marian Orr halted all its work.

Well, the council’s planners went bonkers over that — with the three loudest and most outspoken being Councilman Pete Laybourn (Ward 1), Council President Dicky Shanor (Ward 2) and Council Vice-President Mark Rinne (Ward 2).

So, back in March, Rinne proposed an ordinance that would wrest control of that project away from the Mayor’s office, granting it instead to a “project management team.” Two meetings back, that ordinance passed.

The planners’ latest salvo came last Monday evening, when they delayed the bid process for the 26th Street interceptor project (known to be good flood control engineering) — because the planners know that work will render most of their CCC “park amenities” unnecessary from a flood control standpoint.

And, since the CCC FEMA grant has to be used for those purposes, the 26th Street interceptor will essentially kill the planner’s plans on that project … It’s one or the other.

So, on the one hand, we’ve got a mayor and engineer who want to solve flood control problems — and, on the other hand, we’ve got a planner-majority on the city council who want to throw money, morality, common sense and good engineering to the wind — all so they can build a park THEY think will spark West Edge “development.”

And, hanging in the balance over this conflict? How well your property can handle a flood — oh, yeah, and those two competing visions of course.

Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email:  bradhgt1776@gmail.com.

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