Saturday, April 05, 2008

Cheyenne mayor to run for third term

Cheyenne Mayor Jack Spiker announced Friday that he's going to run for re-election. If successful, this will be his third term as mayor of Wyoming's capital city. He unseated incumbent Leo Pando in 2000 and breezed to a win in 2004.

Will I vote for him? Probably. It's had to argue with his long list of accomplishments. Tops on my list is the new public library (shown in photo), which was okayed five years ago in a special election for the sixth-penny sales tax. The first time the library was on the ballot, it was rejected by county voters (but not by me). The mayor and library director Lucie Osborn went back to the drawing board and came up with a better plan. Many of us were out in force before the election leafleting neighborhoods and talking to voters. My wife, 10-year-old daughter and I spent several Saturdays this way. I walked one neighborhood with the leader of a local home-schoolers coalition. She's a fundamentalist Christian, homeschooling her kids for religious reasons, but can't get that job done without the library. We talked education instead of religion.

The library opened last September during Cheyenne's book festival. It's a beautiful place and it's always busy. A real community center, and recently selected as one of "The USA's Top Ten Libraries" by USA Today.

If that was Spiker's only accomplishment, that would almost be enough for me. But he has a long list, one he outlined yesterday in his "State of the City" address to the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce. According to the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, his theme was "Cheyenne: Community of Choice." Not sure what that means, but it's backed up by an impressive list of items he's checked off on his to-do list.

The city purchased the Belvoir Ranch and its water rights and the Taco John's Events Center (first order of business -- change the name). It built a training center for the city's fire and rescue teams, and now all fire engines carry a paramedic on board. Downtown was renovated with the Cheyenne Depot Plaza and an attractive parking garage. The city coaxed Wal-Mart to build a huge distribution center west of town. Lots of jobs gained in that deal. In 2009, the National Center for Atmospheric Research will start building a supercomputer facility in the North Range Business Park. That will bring some high-level research staff to the city, and quite a bit of national visibility. It probably won't transform Cheyenne into Silicon Valley, but it does signal a shift from service/retail industry jobs to higher-paying R&D jobs.

Houses, schools, and restaurants are being built. Little America, located at the confluence of I-25 and I-80, ain't so little any more. A few weeks ago, I toured its new convention facility and it's spacious and nice and expensive. Spiker and city planners want to transform the corridor between Little America and downtown into "an attractive entrance to Cheyenne." Right now, that entryway is a concrete slab straddled by the railroad on the south side and truck stops and car dealerships on the north. The city wants to dress it up. A new median with trees and Xeriscaping would be a huge improvement. Not much you can do with the railroad, as it's big business in Wyoming. When I drive by, I admire the creative graffiti applied to the train cars by young artists from coast to coast.

There are some bones I have to pick with Mayor Spiker. Why so intent on building the new recreation center? This 17,000-foot, $55 million facility is on the May sixth-penny ballot. I wish the city had worked more closely with the YMCA and privately-owned workout facilities to determined the needs. In his speech yesterday, the mayor bragged about "partnerships." Hizzoner and staff did not seek partnerships in this arena. There are public-private partnerships all over the country between parks & rec departments and YMCAs. I'm a pro-growth guy, but I may vote no on this amenity. As in the first library plan, it needs further refining. (I admit to a bias on this subject because my wife Chris works at the Cheyenne Family YMCA.)

I always am noticing the rough state of the roads in Cheyenne. To be fair, we are just entering the official orange-cone season. I won't mind the detours and delays if the road's getting fixed. I travel around the state a lot during orange-cone season, and delays are inevitable. I'm used to it.

And this past winter, the streets were not cleared promptly. In the Rocky Mountain West, where snowstorms are inevitably followed by sun, we joke that most snow removal is done by the solar method. Many cities depend on it. That's true for Denver and Fort Collins, both cities in Colorado where I've lived through multiple winters. But over-reliance on the solar method of snow removal can be hazardous to your political future. Just ask former Denver Mayor Bill McNichols, a hard-charging progressive mayor who was undone by a blizzard.

All that said, I'm pretty sure I'll vote again for Mayor Spiker. Filing period for candidates is May 15-30. Let's see who his competition turns out to be. Then I'll make up my mind.


kainah said...

I don't know much -- anything? -- about Cheyenne internal politics but I agree that the library is a gorgeous new facility and the downtown is looking very nice these days. If they could make West Lincolnway an attractive entrance to Cheyenne, that would be a huge improvement.

I thought Jayne Mockler was also running for mayor. I've always liked Jayne but I wonder if she announced, expecting that Spiker wouldn't try for a third term.

Michael Shay said...

I heard that Jayne Mockler was leaving the State Legislature just so she could run for mayor. I like her and her politics, but as I said, Spiker has done some real positive things and will be hard to beat. He may get blamed if the rec center goes down in flames at the polls. But even that probably won't derail a third term.

Les said...

True, this blog entry is several months old, but Spiker running for Mayor? Don't know where you got that info. And for schools -- the city has nothing to do with that. The school buildings in this state are all handled at the state level...