Monday, October 12, 2009

Render unto the city that which is the city's, and to heck with the county

Latest local issue is whether rural residents, those people who moved to unincorporated Laramie County so they wouldn't have to pay for city services, should be able to vote in city elections.

My immediate response was, "You're kidding, right?"

This issue arose out of the City Council's cellphone ban. Soon, an ordinance goes into effect that allows cops to ticket those who drive under the influence of cellphone (DUIC). That's only the hand-held variety. Motorists can buy headsets and talk to their cutomers or family members or BFFs 'til the cows come home to their rural ranchettes.

A country resident who owns a business in the city, M. Lee Hasenauer, grew restive under the restrictions and began a petition drive to overturn it. He collected a bunch of signatures and the Cheyenne City Clerk's office is going through them to see if there are at least 2,802 valid ones to hold a special election on the issue. The odd thing is, all petitioners must be city residents and the election would be held by the city. So rural residents, including Mr. Hasenauer, won't be allowed to vote. He believes that he and other county residents who own businesses in the city should be allowed to vote in its elections.

That's where the legislature comes in. It would have to change the laws to allow voters living outside a certain jurisdiction to vote there.

So, Mr. Hasenauer got busy and arranged a meeting with the Laramie County Commission that will include Rep. Tony Ross and Sen. Pete Illoway. According to yesterday's Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, "the meeting is listed in the county commission's weekly schedule as 'city elections open to county.' "

Kudos go to any citizen who who gets involved, no matter the issue. You have to hand it to Mr. H -- he's made strides on this issue in a short amount of time. Even if he's shot down on this, I would encourage him to continue his civic engagement and extend it to volunteering at the YMCA, organizing food drives for the Comea Shelter and mentoring budding entrepreneurs at Triumph High School -- the school for kids who've gone astray and need a hand up.

But that's not what this is about, is it? It's about power, as is the case with most things. Mr. H lives in the county but wants to tell the city what to do. I wonder what he and his neighbors did the last time the city announced a county annexation? Much wailing and gnashing of teeth. County residents go apoplectic when annexation is even mentioned. Yet, these same people also benefit from the core city that is the home of a fantastic county library, courtesy of a countywide sixth-penny tax ballot; the Civic Center; all of the Cheyenne Frontier Days events; Cheyenne Symphony; Cheyenne Little Theatre Players; YMCA and fitness clubs; all of the county's secondary schools; restaurants and bars (even a new martini bar); etc.

I know that county residents patronize and contribute to all these organizations and businesses. When you county folks buy groceries at Wal-Mart on Dell Range, your sales taxes come back to you -- two cents of every six-cent tax goes to the county and four cents to the state. The city does not tax you for your trip from the county wilderness into the big city. In fact, city businesses welcome your expenditures which go to pay salaries, money that is spent in Cheyenne (and often in Fort Collins and Denver). Apparently, one of those businesses belongs to Mr. H.

My advice to county residents? If you want to be involved with your city, then do it. But don't dream up some non-issue to try to change the laws. We welcome your involvement. If that's not your cup of tea, then we'll let you take care of the prairie dogs and we'll take care of the symphony and the library and the post office and the state museum and Depot Plaza and....

No comments: