NOTE: The following is a column written weekly by Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins.
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — It was a great sports weekend for the Collins Clan. We made a drive to Lincoln, Nebraska, to watch the Cornhuskers’ football team vs. Illinois. I have family in Illinois, so the bad-mouthing was as bad as the Huskers got thumped. Ninety thousand dedicated fans made the stadium experience amazing, but the best part may have been the marching band. My son, Jac, was able to find tickets that night to the volleyball game. The number-one-rated Lady Huskers’ volleyball team was amazing in their sweep over Maryland. I love volleyball, and the athleticism of the players was stunning.
We have spent so much time talking about our housing crunch. For me, the biggest concern is the working folks who are getting priced out of the housing market. Friday, I tuned in to the City Council work session, featuring our Affordable Housing Task Force. Brenda and Dan did a great job taking a couple of hundred pages from their report and explaining the most important points in 60 minutes. The biggest recommendation they probed to the city involved hiring a housing staff of professionals to work every day on developing a housing strategy and seeing the strategy implemented. Our local housing authority has a waiting list of 1,800 families looking for affordable housing, so we know the need is immediate and immense!
Last week I wrote about a solar farm coming to Laramie County and the schedule for the industrial siting process we will need to go through. I met with City of Casper’s city manager and deputy city attorney to ask for advice, as they just recently went through the same process. I appreciate their willingness to share and give advice. This will be a new experience for our team, and it is so important that we understand the siting requirements so we can help our community with the unmitigated impacts the construction of this project will bring to our city and county. I am starting to feel more comfortable with what is expected and look forward to working with our county commission to create an MOU to present to the Industrial Siting Council in January.
Earlier in the week, I attended a conference in Arizona. A highlight of the conference was a talk by an economist giving a prediction for the economic future of our area and nation. As we head back into our budget process after the new year, this information will be a great help in predicting revenues… As I sit writing this column while the snow flies, I can’t help but remember the warm Arizona weather, which confirms why people are snowbirds. Sigh!
I have been doing one-on-one meetings with all our department directors. I wanted to check in with each of them before reappointments occur on Jan. 3, 2023. I spoke with Police Chief Francisco about traffic and wanted to share a few statistics with you regarding his report. I have found that traffic and speeding have been one of the biggest conversations we have had with residents. Everyone is concerned with neighborhood safety. The department always looks at traffic enforcement and this year we made it a priority. In 2021 our PD made 9,134 traffic stops, mostly for speeding. Through mid-September of this year, traffic stops were at 11,301. When we extrapolate the numbers to the end of the year, we expect the number to be 15,068 or 65% more traffic stops. I am frustrated that neighbors must call in so much due to safety/traffic concerns. I appreciate those of you who make safety a priority while driving and our police officers who work the streets.
Back to housing — Longmont, Colorado, has decided to create a housing department in the city to focus on its housing issues. Again, I am very appreciative when folks meet and share experiences and information with us. Longmont invests $1 million from the general fund into the housing market each year, in addition to the money they get from marijuana taxes in the amount of $300,000 annually. They also pay around $200,000 a year to help with administrative costs. One-point-five million is a real investment to create affordable housing. One huge difference between what they’re able to do and what Cheyenne might struggle with is Longmont requires developers to create 12 percent of their housing projects as affordable projects. It has been a slow start, but their goal is 300 affordable units created a year. With our shortage, this would be amazing.
Last summer I attended the Alzheimer’s Walk in Holliday Park. This week, the team from the association came by the office to update me on the newest medical advances to fight Alzheimer’s and to receive a proclamation on behalf of the city, declaring the month of November National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness and National Caregiver’s Month. Alzheimer’s really scares me! The data shows that 10,000 folks in Wyoming are currently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, with 6.8 million Americans fighting the disease. If you have loved ones who are showing symptoms of dementia, please contact the Alzheimer’s Association. So many symptoms appear like Alzheimer’s but could be treated successfully. The team is doing great work within our city, state, and nation.
We have had a long-term partnership with our local school district for many years now. The school district helps the city by providing gym space for the city’s recreational programs and a current home for our gymnastics curriculum. We have thousands of kids and adults who use our Rec programs. In turn, we return the favor to the school district by providing them access to our golf course for practices and tournaments, use of our Civic Center, our police serve as school resource officers under contract, our Youth Alternatives Program grants services to their students, and we provide fields for the new high school girls’ softball team, cross-country courses and many more benefits on both sides. We met today since new staff from both sides do not have the institutional memory of how things have worked in the past. This relationship is too important to not spend the necessary time to invest in this essential partnership. Superintendent Crespo is a great asset to this community, and I appreciate her willingness to spend time on this and other issues.