By Bradley Harrington
“We must have no carelessness in our dealings with public property or the expenditure of public money. Such a condition is characteristic either of an undeveloped people, or of a decadent civilization. America is neither.” — Calvin Coolidge, “Foundations of the Republic Speech,” 1924 —
For anyone laboring under the delusion that Cheyenne’s governing body actually knows what it is doing, maybe this jewel will help rid you of that illusory idea:
“The Cheyenne City Council on Monday voted to reject an offer to sell the former Cheyenne Police Department building to the Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne … The 6-4 vote followed substantial discussion including objections over the transparency of the sale process, the appraised value of the building versus its sale price and poor communication between council members and its leadership.” (“Council City Council kills police building deal with diocese,” WTE, Aug. 23.)
To provide a little background: As most city residents know, the old police HQ on Capitol Avenue has been vacant since the CPD moved into the new Public Safety Center. Back in July, the Cheyenne Catholic Diocese made an offer of $1.09 million for the building, which was appraised in December, 2013, as being worth between $1.09 and $1.33 million.
“The practice of the city,” said Mayor Rick Kaysen at that time, “is not to sell below appraised value.” (“Cheyenne Catholic diocese considers old police HQ,” WTE, July 8.)
Except, of course, when it is becomes the Mayor’s policy to attempt to do exactly otherwise, as last Monday’s City Council meeting reveals:
“He [Councilman Dicky Shanor] also dropped a bombshell, pointing out that the diocese’s offer of $1.09 million, while in line with an appraisal done in 2013, was actually $80,000 short of a more recent appraisal done just this year by the same appraiser.”
This news was a bit of a shock to most of the rest of the governing body: “The fact that a second, more recent appraisal had been done stunned several council members, who asked why they hadn’t been told about it prior to Monday’s vote.”
Oops… Because we forgot? Um, not quite I’m afraid, as Mayor Kaysen “acknowledged that the second appraisal had been done, and found the police building was worth between $1.17 to $1.27 million. He said that the information had been shared with council leadership in an early July meeting, well after the diocese’s offer had been made, but that apparently hadn’t been shared with some of the rank-and-file members.”
So, the least that has happened here is that council “leadership” doesn’t give a rip whether the “rank-and-file” riff-raff have critical information at their disposal. Arrogance? Or incompetence? Take your pick.
It also, however, shows Mayor Kaysen’s statement about “not [selling] below appraised value” to be hot air at a minimum, since “early July” (when the “leadership” was informed of the new appraisal) and July 7 (the date of that quote) demonstrate the mayor was aware of that updated information when he made that statement.
Which makes it more than “hot air”; that makes it misleading at best, if not downright deceitful. Oops, can we say “oops” yet again?
And, even after all of this came to light, Mayor Kaysen still voted to sell the building under its appraised value — as did councilmen Brian Cook, Scott Roybal and Richard Johnson.
This, Dear Reader, is what passes for “leadership” these days in the fair City of Cheyenne. It’s a good thing these “leadership” people aren’t in charge of anything more serious than the city’s finances, as they could give our state and federal government “leadership” a definite run for our money on those levels as well.
And, after all, $80,000 is $80,000. Especially when you consider that, according to another recent WTE story, “Since sales taxes are two months in arrears, [City Treasurer Lois] Huff only recently learned what the final take for FY 2016 was: $15.8 million, which is nearly $2 million, or 11.2 percent, below projections.” (“Sales tax decrease impacts city budget, sixth-penny timeline,” WTE, Aug. 24.)
Thus, that $80,000 difference comprises 4 percent of that sales tax drop — and every little bit helps when you’re going broke and blowing money you don’t have.
As for how the “rank-and-file” members responded to the news of the more recent appraisal — well, it wasn’t good, and Mr. Roybal summed it up best (but voted for it anyway):
“I feel like this is ‘Animal Farm,’” he said. “We’re all councilmen but some are more equal than others.”
So: Is it a “farm,” Mr. Roybal, or have we escalated things to the status of a full-blown circus? With you as one of the dancing bears?
Sorry, Mr. Coolidge, but here we are, nearly a century later, and America has devolved into quite a “decadent civilization” indeed.
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 August 26, 2016. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.