By Bradley Harrington
“When men yield up the exclusive privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon.” — Thomas Paine, “Common Sense,” 1776 —
If you’ve ever needed a reliable guide to determine whether or not an economic endeavor is worth any time or money, you need only ask yourself one question: “Does it require a subsidy?”
If the answer is “No,” it’s financially viable and will fly on its own; if “Yes,” it’s a good-for-nothing, parasitical boondoggle with failure written all over it.
So, which of those replies applies to wanna-be mayor Amy Surdam’s pet project, the “Children’s Museum”? Here’s your answer:
“The Children’s Museum of Cheyenne turned in nearly 2,100 signatures over 248 pages of petitions Monday, with enough valid signatures to get a quarter-cent sales tax initiative on the November ballot.” (“Children’s Museum of Cheyenne tax to appear on November ballot,” WTE, Aug. 31.)
For those who remember, the Children’s Museum was originally developed as an attempt to fill the infamous “downtown hole” that’s been sitting on West Lincolnway, like a bombed-out Potsdam crater, for the last 12 years.
Complicated as it was by a tangled web of part-public, part-private ownership for most of that time, thoughtful readers might remember that, nearly two years ago, the City of Cheyenne ceded its one-third share of the “hole” over to the Children’s Museum … Provided that the Children’s Museum developed the property with private funds:
“This agreement is based on the premise that CMC will raise additional funds through private donations sufficient to construct a single integrated building on Parcels A and B that will be suitable for use as a children’s museum and for other uses as may serve the public interest.” (“City Contract #6242,” approved unanimously by the Cheyenne Governing Body on Sept. 22, 2014.)
Hmmm… I guess this latest pimple on the tail of the taxpayers voids that contract out, does it not?
So much for integrity and justice when it comes to Ms. Surdam’s respect for the sanctity of a contract. Consequently, come this November, local taxpayers might want to grab a good, solid hold on their wallets, as the raiders are on their way. And this lady wants to be our next mayor?
But it doesn’t stop there. I’ve been saying for years that the half-socialist, half-fascist aspects of what our fair city laughingly refers to as “economic development” first distort, and then eventually destroy, true free-market capitalism — and, as yet more proof, I offer you this:
“The developer of the historic Hynds Building in downtown Cheyenne has once again asked the Children’s Museum of Cheyenne to sell its property in ‘the hole’ next door to help provide parking for the building … [David] Hatch reiterated an offer he previously made in early July, stating he would buy the hole property for $235,000, and would donate an additional $100,000 toward the museum’s eventual construction.” (“Hynds building developer asks museum to sell ‘hole,’” WTE, Aug. 28.)
In a free market, where property and capital are privately owned and where government involvement is limited to the protection of property rights, the issue of parking for the Hynds development would resolve itself through the normal forces of supply and demand.
With Ms. Surdam’s hands on the taxpayers’ throats, however, those forces are nullified — and what we’re left with instead is political grandstanding, contract violations and yet another downtown “development” disaster. And that’s a surprise?
And, finally, we have this: Stephanie White, heiress to a 25-acre parcel of land adjacent to the old Hitching Post Inn, “is now proposing to donate two acres of that parcel to the Children’s Museum in order to relocate the project, thus freeing the ‘hole’ for Hatch’s use, should the museum board agree to accept the donation.” (“Donor offers land for kids’ museum,” WTE, Aug. 30.)
Based on what I’ve seen so far with Ms. Surdam and the Children’s Museum board of directors, I’m not optimistic that they will accept either Ms. White’s or Mr. Hatch’s offers. After all, the offer Mr. Hatch made this week is similar to the one he made back in July, and the CMC board turned that one down.
No, Ms. Surdam’s obviously made up her mind that the “hole” needs to be filled by this silly fraud of a museum — and she’s aiming to fill it alright, whether the taxpayers like it or not, whether there’s any place to park a bus or not, whether there’s any actual market demand for it or not.
This is what happens when you give some people political control over the property of others: Ms. Surdam’s $20 million pet project crammed down your throats despite your own opinions on the matter.
On the market, Ms. Surdam would be paying the price for her poor choices and actions through loss of profit. Here, however, it might very well be the rest of us paying instead.
Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: This column was originally published in the “Wyoming Tribune Eagle” on September 2, 2016. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.