By Bradley Harrington
“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Elective Affinities,” 1809 —
A “Potemkin Village,” according to Webster’s, is an “impressive façade or show designed to hide an undesirable fact or condition,” and stems from an old Russian story about Crimean Governor Grigory Potemkin building a fake portable village on the Dnieper River in order to bedazzle Empress Catherine II as she journeyed throughout the area back in 1787.
As the Empress progressed on her travels, so the tale continues, the “village” would be broken down and reconstructed elsewhere in order to bamboozle her into thinking the region was much more developed and economically viable than it truly was. That way, you see, the put-on would serve to attract the people and economic growth the phoniness was pretending to have already.
Despite the fact that most historians agree this narrative is little more than a fable, however, the IDEA of a “Potemkin Village” is clearly alive and well — and the best example of such a false front here in Cheyenne is none other than our own new airport terminal.
After all, aren’t such buildings supposed to service airlines and their passengers? Since we have neither, though, doesn’t that make our new terminal, built at a taxpayer cost of over $18 million, just about as phony of a façade as it gets?
True, we can’t break it down and move it around in order to fool the Feds into thinking we’ve got two or three of them, say, which would have been nice — but that’s just a minor detail.
Now, if we had raided taxpayer pockets for another $1 million or so, we could have at least put up a few “life-sized” airplane silhouettes … And a few dozen John Wayne and Clint Eastwood cardboard cutouts would have been a great touch for grouping around on the tarmac, too, don’t you think? I mean, just how “Wyoming” do you want to get? We certainly wouldn’t have to worry about them getting run over by a plane or anything.
Oh, well; it was just a thought.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, it appears our airport’s got some serious airline funding issues. According to one WTE story, in fact, we have “90 days to secure a replacement carrier or the Transportation Security Administration will de-federalize” our checkpoint, and re-establishing it “could take more than six months.” (“Cheyenne Regional Airport taskforce in talks with Allegiant Air and SkyWest,” WTE, March 30.)
Oops, but that story’s already well over a month old, isn’t it? So, I guess this particular gallon of milk’s getting ready to expire as of “June 24” the story said, which is barely a month-and-a-half away … My, how the time flies! Certainly much better than our airplanes.
So, what’s going to happen if that magic day arrives and we’re still short an airline? Well, Dear Readers, then we have a problem, for “‘closing that federal security checkpoint is like closing our interstate,’ said [CRAFT President Wendy] Volk. ‘If we do nothing, it would be a loss of $850,000 in Federal Aviation Administration entitlement funds for maintenance and projects.’”
Oh, my! WHAT “projects”? The cardboard cutout crowds? Shucks, how about if we use that money to pay off the “roughly $325,500 in lease payments and operational costs” still owed the airport by Great Lakes Aviation, the last airline (of many) to permanently fly off into the sunset out of Cheyenne? (“Airport officials optimistic as Great Lakes shuts down service,” WTE, March 28.)
That would still leave us with $524,500 of federal loot to play with, you know, and I’ve got a great use for that, too: Let’s pay off Knife River, the contractor who built the roads and aviation apron around our new terminal, but who is now busy “suing the Cheyenne Regional Airport Board for unpaid expenses” (“Knife River suing Cheyenne Regional Airport Board,” WTE, April 19).
Yep, it appears that “during contract work throughout 2016 and 2017, the city of Cheyenne endured a storm that led to additional costs associated with the completion of projects” — extra costs that Airport Director Tim Barth approved “in a written confirmation, according to Knife River,” all of which totaled up to “$314,541, plus attorney and court fees.”
So, that means we’d still have $209,959 laying around — and, if you ask me, we’d best use that for our 2019 federal qualifications. After all, THAT kind of money will not only get us plenty more of the John Wayne and Clint Eastwood cutouts we need, but we’d even be able to throw in a bunch of Elvis Presleys and Marilyn Monroes as well.
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 May 13, 2018. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.