Friday, February 28, 2003


Caveat lector (as always): What follows, whatever follows, is written directly from the spleen. I'm posting relatively late in the day because I thought I'd need a "cool down" period after reading the news that set me off this morning, but now I realize that no amount of time is going to cool me down. Only reconsideration, retraction or other positive action by our beloved State Senate can accomplish that. Maybe. Possibly. But probably not. Reader beware...

The slight misnomer notwithstanding, the headline on page A7 of yesterday's Casper Star-Tribune says it all: "Cities' economic development bill gutted." (I say misnomer only because in calling it a "cities' economic development bill" the headline writer conveys the impression that this bill originated with the cities instead of with the governor's office. Minor quibble, maybe, but details count, especially in headlines. Sigh).

House Bill 264 got re-referred this week, to the Senate Appropriations Committee, and that committee took out a lot of the funding provided for in the original version of the bill before handing it back to the main body of the Senate for debate. The original House version of the bill, you may recall, would have spent $135 million over the next ten years to help Wyoming towns and cities shore up infrastructure for economic development purposes.

Now there's $8.4 million ($5 million from the General Fund and $3.4 million from a "mineral royalty grant program that has not previously been used (!!!)") in a one-time appropriation to create a "business ready community account."

At issue, apparently, is concern on the part of the likes of Sen. John Schiffer over diversion of coal bonus money (funds coal companies bid to secure leases on federal land) to make that initial investment in that account grow. Says the article, "a portion of that money is used to build new schools."

By all means, let us take the town of Medicine Bow as our model for the rest of the state, Senators!

Nothing against Medicine Bow, mind you. It's a perfectly nice town, but, let's face it, there's nothing going on there economically or culturally, despite the fact that back when I was a teenybopper the good people of that berg and Hanna blackmailed our school district into building in each of those towns brand spanking new unnecessary high schools exactly identical to the then-very-much-needed one for Saratoga. The financial burden thus incurred haunts us even today, as does the irony of the current situation in Medicine Bow: no economic activity to speak of (there's a historic hotel tourist trap and bar, a gas station, a motel... am I missing anything?), a school population of, what, 11 kids? And what percentage of those kids are the children of teachers in the Medicine Bow schools again? Close to 50? Oh and what's that? Yes, I know, there could be double the number of kids in that school if that one Mormon family hadn't elected to home school...

Yes indeed, a perfect model for the rest of our state, no?

I admit, I am engaging in a bit of hyperbole, channelling Chicken Little for a moment or two, but honestly, to what other conclusion can I come when our state leadership declines to help our towns and cities pull themselves out of the economic shitter but is still concerned about taking money away from the fund to build new schools?

Who (besides teachers' kids) is going to be attending school when every family not blessed with a fat trust fund has left the state to find a job that will allow the children to eat something besides government cheese and wear something on their feet besides those rubber tire sandals Abbie Hoffman taught us to make?

Is our entire state just to become a giant jobs program for teachers? And the odd (probably out-of-state) building contractor?

Man, those teachers better plan on having Mormon-sized families to fill those school buildings, cuz none of the rest of us are going to.

I'm not done ranting yet, either, because there's also Sen. Irene Devin, who "expressed concern that the Business Council would be mirroring efforts of the State Loan and Investment Board, which also gives grants to communities."

OK, fine, Irene - then just double the appropriation made to the SLIB, but then take away most of that organization's bullshit requirements – which, among other things, dictate that a municipality can only fund one project at a time with SLIB money. Want a firetruck? Then you'd better wait until next year to fix your water tower. Plugging a leak in a water supply ditch? Then your ambulance better not break down until next year. You want to what? Fix up some dilapidated buildings so that maybe you can attract or develop some private sector business? Not this year: we just gave you your allowance that you frivolously blew on complying with brand new DEQ regulations governing your sewage treatment plant. Or, here's something radical, repeal that stupid de-earmarking crock you threw at us two years ago and give local governments a way to take care of themselves again.

Anything but "mirroring."

Mirroring? Maybe in a strictly funhouse sense of the word.

Oh well, at least it's still possible that HB 264 is going to squeak through in some fashion or other (there will definitely have to be a big time conference committee to reconcile what the House and Senate have each done to this bill), and a little money set aside for economic development is better than none at all.

Even if it is administered by the Wyoming Business Council. But that's a topic for another day.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003


I can't think of anything more useless, sinister and downright creepy as the rash of home redecorating gimmick shows that have infested our young century.

They creep me out, even as I occasionally find myself taking in high dosages of same on holidays and other "down time" with My Own Dear Personal Parents. It's not just the stupid ideas (turning a bedroom into a pullman car! Hanging real, living moss on the walls! Converting a crappy old car into a child's bed!) or the rampagingly passive-aggressive interactions between the decorators and the dupes they convert into serf-workers in exchange for the chance to be on national television. It's also the complete frivolousness of it all, the futility, the incredibly dumb objects that people can be seduced into paying good money for.

I still think these shows are a horror, but, well, the law of averages requires that even Satan himself occasionally performs a mitzvah.

In the midst of one of these risible redecorations, two words that I would never have put together in a million years, got put together as the decorator/host/bimbo babbled on.

Those words being "chalkboard" and "paint."

Seems the victim of the d/h/b's ministrations had a habit not unfamiliar to certain of my companions, that of posting Post-It notes to himself all over the place, creating a look most untidy and somewhat crankish. I, of course, found it pleasing and comforting the way it was, sort of Empire of Hardware meets my refridgerator...

But the d/h/b insisted he, the homeowner, would be better served by... chalkboard paint.

Any surface can be a chalkboard with... chalkboard paint.

No more Post-Its and assorted other clutter with... chalkboard paint.

Notes fall down, calendars get unwieldy, grocery lists get lost, but... chalkboard paint lingers on.

Visions of a substantially Unabomber Cabin at Kate's Landing danced before my eyes. Gone would be the upside-down wallpaper in my kitchen. I'd make it a chalkboard! My stupid old "Warm Mornings" furnace had just been crying out, all this time, to be made a chalkboard, and now, with chalkboard paint (ought I to be capitalizing those words, so significant have they become?), at last would be heard its cries de cour. And my closet door's plaintive wail, too, would be gently silenced.

And one of the greatest banes of my funky existence, the tendency for weird, pesky inspiration to strike at 3 a.m. when the house is freezing cold and dark and my bed and electric blanket cozy and impossible to leave, could similarly be dealt with. A chalkboard above my head and some glow-in-the-dark chalk and no idea need ever escape me because I continually and wrongly assume that an idea that great will still be with me when I wake up in the morning, again.

But where would I acquire me some of this miracle substance?

As its entry on my own chamber website proclaims, if the Empire of Hardware doesn't have it, you don't need it.

And so to the Sewer King, pestered that very morning at coffee.


"Chalkboard. Paint." my hands indicated one word to our left, the other to our right, high in the air as though inscribed on a marquee.

I brought my hands closer together.

"Chalkboard paint!"

"Chalkboard paint?"

"Chalkboard paint."

"As in you want some?"

"Oh, yes please. Do you have some?"

"I don't know the answer to that." Pause for some scribbling on the hand. You know true friendship by the priority given to even one's weirdest requests by the pal: if you make the hand, you've made the grade, hit the big time, achieved the status of, glory be, something to be dealt with before the hand gets washed.

Days went by. Agonizing days. Days of skis and ice fishing, of meetings and projects, of rock shopping and bar hopping. And then... at coffee (of course)...

"Come with me, young lady. We even have it in stock."

Rapture! Joy! Bliss that cannot be tallied on one's chalkboard!

But oh, it's a spray paint.

Chalkboard spray paint. Hmm.

Ever resourceful, ever adaptable, I snagged a can anyway and went happily home.

The fumes were tolerable, I suppose. Unless perhaps they killed off entirely those parts of my brain and respiratory system that are bothered by such things, in which case, bah, what did I need those for anyway?

As I reported my silly new project to my friends at Secular Johnson, however, I was given a momentary jolt of dismay.

"Oh. My. God." one pal's immediate reaction began. "It really is the Unabomber Cabin!"

Seems Ted Ka-whatever, too, had festooned his walls with chalkboards in his day, though he lugged in actual chalkboards from, e.g., a bombed-out school or something and physically hung them from the sagging walls of his cabin, there to cover with equations and bomb plans and early versions of his manifesto in which he first condemned tunafish, but then performed the gentle edit that produced the famous anti-technology rant that still gets passed around like a modern day Protocols of the Elders of Zion or something.

Imagine if he had had access to chalkboard paint!

And so now, many decorating sins are hidden, buried under admittedly uneven layers (I'm no great hand with a spray can) of green paint festooned with all manner of lists and observations and cryptic reminders of ideas for stories, ideas for projects, conspiracy theories, recipes, ingredient lists, and the list of what books I've loaned out to whom (yes, dear readers, I am keeping track of that). And my calendar.

And while not every surface, even liberally coated with Chalkboard Paint, doth make a fine chalkboard (the upside-down wallpaper is the best, most eraseable, most legible), still, it's a pleasing shade of green, somewhere between Forest and Kelly.

And the Unabomber Cabin comes that much closer to feeling like home.

Monday, February 24, 2003


HB 264 (that's the "Business Ready Communities" bill setting aside money out of the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund to be turned over as grants or loans to Wyoming towns for economic development infrastructure spending) made it out of the Senate Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee on Friday, so now it's "on General File," meaning its next stop is a first reading by the Senate as a whole. IF it manages to get introduced, there will be three readings, and thus three chances for the Senate to tinker with it more, so it ain't over yet.

In case anyone is interested, here is the roll call vote from the committee. Do note who voted "NO". She might be worth contacting to find out what she doesn't like about the bill (Sen. Barrasso told me recently that a lot of members of the Senate are looking down their noses at ALL spending measures regardless of those measures' merits, so I will give a little benefit of the doubt until I know something more specific, but still... Hmm.):

2/21/2003 S09 Recommended Amend and Do Pass
Ayes:  Senator(s) Barrasso, Coe, Decaria and Hawks
Nayes:  Senator(s) Mockler
Ayes 4    Nays 1    Excused 0    Absent 0    Conflicts 0

More later about something else entirely... I promise! I know not all of my readers appreciate all of this politicking, but it's part of who I, your humble blogger, am!