Wyoming Liberty Group
Cheyenne residents were upset when they learned that City of Cheyenne officials had sent a notice of violation to a homeowner at the corner of Warren and 3rd Avenues demanding that she remove a cottonwood tree stump that is located in the City’s right-of-way. According to the Cheyenne Urban Forestry Division’s Assistant Director, “in the case of stumps, it’s often an aesthetic issue when the stumps need to be removed. City regulations require the stump to be removed and ground up to a depth of 8 inches.” However, the landowner claims that her stump is special because she had it carved into a statue. So is it a stump or a statute? And a quick look around Cheyenne raises an even more fundamental question, should it even make a difference?
Halloween has passed, but it seems zombie bills come back again. One example is Representative Byrd’s Abandoned Buildings bill from the Wyoming Legislature’s 2015 General Session. The abandoned buildings bill was a direct attack on owners of historic buildings in downtown Cheyenne who have struggled for years to find profitable tenants to fill their buildings. The House Corporations Committee rightly killed the bill last session, but like all good zombies, it came back again.
James Madison warned us in Federalist #10 of the violence “a number citizens who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens” can do to liberty. 3,368 voters in Casper just illustrated his point by neglecting to perform their civic duty to stand up for the rights of a vulnerable minority during the City of Casper’s Smoking Referendum Special Election on November 3.
On November 10th in a Special Election Cheyenne’s voters will decide whether to transfer executive power from their elected mayor to an administrator working for the City Council. Beyond the details of the proposal, Cheyenne voters must answer a bigger question: Do voters believe that elections work?
This question is about whether the American experiment of representative government, fought so hard for by America’s founding generation, has worked. Cheyenne’s voters are asked to revisit the foundational questions of how to organize governmental power, of which Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, and Madison wrestled with so thoroughly in the early years of our republic.
Core property rights principles can help resolve Casper’s ongoing debate about smoking in bars better than some one-size-fits-all regulatory regime. The right to exclude others can empower individual bar owners to sort out how much or little smoking occurs in bars across Casper. Therefore, Casper does not need a citywide ban on smoking in bars to ensure smoke-free facilities are available—so long as the City is willing stand with the individual bar owners who want to prohibit smoking in their own bars. The City of Casper can help ensure the market meets the needs of all bar customers and owners by protecting private property rights instead of banning smoking citywide.
Article 6 of the Cheyenne Unified Development Code imposes aesthetic design regulations on developers. One of the basic goals of the UDC’s design regulations is to make new buildings look pretty according to the standard of attractiveness defined in the UDC. As usual, the government-imposed rules for what buildings are pretty enough ignore the cost of the required decorations. This cost is how the Cheyenne UDC actually harms the people who live and work in Cheyenne. One current housing development project working its way through the regulatory approval process shows exactly how the high cost of pretty buildings hurts individuals and their families.
Wyoming’s two largest cities are currently struggling to define how city leadership will work in the near future. Cheyenne’s City Council is pressing forward with a proposal to strip the elected mayor of most of his authority in favor of a city administrator that the City Council will hire. Casper’s City Council must also find a new City Manager to take office later this year because the current manager is retiring in November.