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(OPINION) The Mayor’s Minute from Mayor Patrick Collins (5/24/24)

Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins (City of Cheyenne)

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This week started off with a morning coffee shop meeting. I wanted to discuss taking a different approach to the homeless population we have here in Cheyenne. We have many nonprofit organizations that are working very hard to meet their needs. No matter how hard they work, there is just not enough money. We have folks that help clothe, feed, house, provide medical care, and mentor them into self-sufficiency. I am in awe of what all these groups do daily, every day of the year. My meeting brought up more questions than answers, but I am looking forward to more interactions that may lead to ways we can make our limited resources go further and more efficiently.

Have you ever heard of the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz? I hadn’t until I was invited to a concert they put on at East High School. I have no musical ability, none, but I have a real appreciation for those who are blessed with musicality. Terell Stafford was introduced as one of the best trumpet players in the world, and when he hit the first note I was a believer. He was joined by five amazing high school musicians from around the country. They played and then were going to do a peer-to-peer session with the East High Jazz Band. The music was amazing, but I think the best part was when Dr. JB Dyas explained the rules of jazz. It is an American music form, starting in New Orleans. Once I learned the rules of jazz it became so much more fun to listen to. Reminds me of when my son started playing soccer and I learned the rules like offsides. The game became so much more fun to watch. I now know the head and how the rest is all improvisation with the musicians listening to each other and answering back and forth. Lisa Henry came from Kansas City and provided the jazz and blues vocals. The 600 kids at the concert went crazy with appreciation. What a gift to be at one of only six high school concerts in the county this year. I am planning on spending some time this summer listening to jazz.

One of the hard parts of having a military base in our community is you get to know and love some of the folks there and then they get transferred to another base in another state or country. Judy and I took the Command Chief Ru Hlongwane and her mother Geniva to dinner to say goodbye and to thank them for all the hospitality they have shown us over the past two years. The great news is Ru has been recognized for her great work with the airmen on the base with a new job at Barksdale AFB in Louisiana. We will miss her great smile and huge hugs. Good luck Ru and Momma!

The Pump House was a source of water for the Cheyenne community a century ago. It was a beautiful building made of the same stone that was used to build the UP Depot. Today it is abandoned and in disrepair. The city council has made stabilizing the building a goal to make sure it is preserved for future generations. My goal is to restore the building and get a tenant in the building. Councilman Pete Laybourn was assigned the task of helping keep the project on track by the council and we met this week to give him an update on our progress. The good news is we have a local civic group interested in moving into the Pump House. We still must get the planning done to understand the challenge, but it is so exciting to know we have a potential path forward to save this old building and get it back into serving our city.

I believe building a downtown hotel in the area just north of the Rib & Chop House would be transformational for the businesses located in the area. One hundred and fifty people a day living and shopping in the area would make such a huge impact. For 10 years now we have been meeting with a group from Lincoln, Nebraska, and hoping they would build that hotel on the land they already own there. We got an update on their progress this week. I learned the challenge is the hotel developers are so busy building in other communities that they just have not had the time to focus on Cheyenne. Everyone sees the potential; they are just busy. I encouraged them to look harder and promised we would do what we can to help support the project.

The city and county have worked together for a long time to combine and share operations when it makes sense. We share the Joint Communication Center, Animal Control, GIS Cooperative, MPO, and the City County Health Department. Animal Control and MPO are treated as city departments; the others are treated as county departments. It’s common sense to combine responsibilities and it saves the taxpayers money. We are on different budget timelines — the city budget is almost through the process and the county budget is just getting to the commissioners for approval. That means we don’t always have the correct budget requests before the budget is put together. I am encouraged as the commissioners and I have agreed to bring our shared departments together to jointly discuss their operations and budgets early enough in the process so that both governing bodies will have good information before completing the budget process.

We have been talking a lot about affordable housing and how we are so short on housing in the Capital City. One aspect we learned about was the Welcome Home Wyoming program from the Cheyenne Housing Authority. It is a down payment assistance program designed to get people at 140% AMI and lower into owning their own home. They use Stifel Financial to help make the program work and we met with them to see how the program works and if a potential HUD entitlement could help more people own a home. As usual, there are more questions, but our staff is excited to see what HUD has to offer and how the city can contribute to the effort.

We all read about the crypto mining company with ties to China that was closed by President Biden. I met with Clean Spark COO Scott Garrison, whose company is working with Black Hills Energy to take the land and electricity to mine bitcoin. Clean Spark is an American company that has grown to one of the largest in the country. They use the latest technology and should be able to make up for what this community lost with the closure. The President’s move protected our national security by removing a risk to our base. Happy to see the move and the potential new American operator for this location.

I have known Kishore Kodru for years now. He stopped by to share a huge new investment he and his wife are planning to make in south Cheyenne: a day care, indoor children’s activity center, and restaurant. It is exciting to see entrepreneurs make investments in this area. We have seen several new businesses open in the past couple of years along South Greeley Highway. Thanks, Kishore, for your continued investment in our community.

It is high school graduation this weekend here in Cheyenne. We have five members of the Mayor’s Youth Council graduating. I would like to thank them for their service to the Council and wish all the graduates happiness and success in their futures.

The Memorial Day holiday this coming weekend is a wonderful chance to spend time with friends and family but it’s important to remember our American servicemen and women who fought for our country. I encourage you to spend time this weekend remembering our nation’s fallen military members and their families.

Mayor Patrick Collins