CASPER, Wyo. — Greetings out there! It’s the first Friday of fall and time for the latest edition of Oil City Speaks!
Do you think the City of Casper should entice employees to get COVID-19 vaccines with some money? Are you excited about the prospect of North Casper getting a grocery store? Have you decided how you’ll vote on the “sixth cent” tax in Natrona County? Are pit bulls unfairly labeled as dangerous?
We’ve gathered a collection of reader comments that touch on all those questions and more. We invite you to explore those with us in this week’s Oil City Speaks!
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- The City of Casper is considering launching a vaccine incentive program to encourage more city employees and their family members to get vaccinated. Here’s a thought-provoking comment in regard to that proposal:
The city council did not issue a decision one way or the other this week on whether to move forward with the vaccine incentive program. If it happens, fully vaccinated employees would be eligible for a $250 bonus. Employees would also get $100 if their spouses or dependents living in their household get fully vaccinated. The program would be supported by federal CARES Act dollars allocated to the city as well as funding from the Casper-Natrona County Health Department.
The city is proposing the program as it deals with a rising number of employees forced to miss work due to COVID-19 infection or exposure. City Manager Carter Napier told the city council that 141 employees, or 16% of the city’s workforce, have been forced to isolate or quarantine since the end of July. He said that 60 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and the city has calculated that 80-90% of those employees have not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Some people are opposed to the idea of paying people to convince them to get vaccinated, and David suggests that it is not only vaccine skeptics who don’t like that tactic. What actually is a “conviction”? What are your convictions? How tightly or loosely do you think convictions should be held? Do you see it as a good sign when someone’s conviction runs deep and they are unwilling to be persuaded by financial incentives? Or do you think people grip too tightly to their convictions and a little more flexibility of mind and heart is preferable? Do you support the concept of vaccine incentive programs? Or do you think that is a fundamentally flawed approach?
- On the topic of how local tax dollars should be used, are you aware that absentee and early voting has started for a special election asking voters to consider implementing a “sixth cent” special purpose tax? The tax would specifically raise about $4.4 million for two projects — repair of a water pipeline that brings drinking water to Midwest and Edgerton and for finishing the reconstruction of Midwest Avenue in Casper’s Old Yellowstone District. Here are some thought-provoking comments in regard to how some Natrona County voters are thinking about the proposed tax:
The specific purpose “sixth cent” tax is unlike the so-called “fifth cent” (often referred to as a the “one cent”) tax in that the “sixth cent” tax would be temporary and automatically go away once the funding is raised. The “fifth cent” is a general purpose sales and use tax that isn’t limited to specific, temporary projects.
Both Nathan and Casey seem to think that a temporary tax for a project that will ensure a reliable source of drinking water for Midwest and Edgerton is a worthy proposal. Raising the necessary amount of funding for that project and the Midwest Avenue reconstruction project is not expected to take more than six months, after which the tax would go away.
Do you think it is worth it to pay an extra penny in sales and use tax for half a year for the proposed projects? What do you think of Casey’s suggestion that the Midwest Avenue reconstruction project is a “superfluous want”? Do you agree that tying that road project to a drinking water-related project is a “shady” tactic? Do you think the Midwest Avenue reconstruction project has its own merits that are worthy of being supported by the proposed tax? Do you think that in general, special purpose tax questions should be posed to voters for multiple projects or should voters be only asked to consider one project at a time?
If voters approve of the sixth cent, what message do you think that sends? Would that indicate voters support both projects? Or do you think it might pass because voters support only one of the two projects? Do you think about voting data as an important metric in gauging where public opinion is at?
Is “shady” always a pejorative word in your mind or does it ring to you sometimes as a synonym for “clever”?
- Sticking to the topic of tax revenue, let’s turn to a story about Wyoming Downs possibly getting a full retail liquor license for its new “Blue Roof” location in Casper. The Casper City Council is expected to decide whether to approve of a transfer of that license from Wyoming Bootlegger Liquors, which is going out of business, to Wyoming Downs. Here’s a hot take in regard to that liquor license transfer:
Wyoming Downs was snubbed by the city council this summer when it sought a bar and grill liquor license for the “Blue Roof,” which is located in the building that was home to the former Sidelines Bar & Grill. Wyoming Downs operates off-track horse race gaming machines and is taking advantage of Wyoming’s recently legalized online sports wagering market through a relationship with BetMGM.
Eric Nelson with Wyoming Downs told the Casper City Council this summer that with just a restaurant liquor license, the company expected to generate $125,000 in tax revenues per year through the new sports wagering lounge at the “Blue Roof.” With a bar and grill license, he estimated that figure would jump to around $400,000 per year.
Should a business’s ability to generate more tax revenue be the main driver when the city council considers what to do with the limited number of liquor licenses available in the community? What do you think of Zane’s suggestion that there is some “foolish” spending occurring via the city? Do you agree with that notion or do you conversely think that the city is mainly responsible with how it utilizes taxpayer dollars?
What do you think of the emergence of many gambling machines around Casper and Wyoming in recent years? Do you see this as a positive due to the economic activity and accompanying tax revenue it generates? Or do you have concerns about possible negative social implications of more widespread access to gambling? Or do you think it is a nuanced issue and that gaming has its place? What is that place? Do you think there are too many gaming facilities and too many gaming machines in businesses that didn’t use to have them? Or do you think the proliferation of the machines throughout the community is acceptable or desirable?
- The Casper City Council this week agreed to sponsor two grant applications for projects that aim to transform former Casper elementary school facilities. Those grant requests are from the Casper Housing Authority for a project at the former Willard Elementary and from the Wyoming Food for Thought Project for a project to transform the former North Casper Elementary into an urban food center. Let’s look at some thought-provoking comments that came in response to Food for Thought’s proposal:
Executive Director Jamie Purcell told the city council on Tuesday that the Wyoming Food for Thought Project’s vision for North Casper as an urban food center would include the following:
- A neighborhood grocery store
- An urban farm
- Community gardens
- A shared-use commercial kitchen space
- A food business incubator
She said that the closest grocery store to to North Casper is 1–3 miles away, depending on where someone lives in the community.
How important is it that someone have nearby access to a grocery store? How do you get your groceries? Do you still go to a brick-and-mortar grocery store or do you order groceries online? If you still go to the grocery store, how do you get there? Do you drive? Do you ride your bike? Do you take public transportation? How much time does it take you to get there?
What if a trip to the grocery store took you two or three times longer than it does for you now? How would that impact your life? What other things in your life wouldn’t get done? If it was much more time-consuming or difficult for you to get to a grocery store, do you think you might choose to sacrifice certain food items that are an important part of your current diet? Would you rely more on snacks from a nearby gas station or trips to a fast food restaurant? Would you try to grow more of your own food?
How much do you think about food and how it arrives to your kitchen and onto your plate? Have you ever asked children these kinds of questions? Did you ever see the surprise on the face of a younger kid who first learned that corn grows out of the ground and doesn’t literally “come from” the grocery store? How did so-called “food deserts,” which are areas far away from grocery stores, become a problem in the United States? Does that problem grow out of the ground like corn or did it grow out of something else? What’s the source?
- While the Casper City Council agreed to sponsor two Community Development Block Grant applications this week, it declined to sponsor a grant application to support a proposal to transform the First & Center Building in downtown Casper into affordable housing for people transitioning out of homelessness or coming out of rehabilitation programs. The investor and realtor proposing that project said the estimated cost was around $4.5 million. Here’s a thought-provoking comment in regard to that aspect of the proposal:
The building that Erin Marquez wants to transform, known as “The Tower,” was built in 1954, originally as an addition to the historic Gladstone Hotel that was built in 1923. The original Gladstone was demolished in 1970. The proposed building renovation would create a total of 35 units with the ninth floor dedicated as a COVID-19-safe workspace and a grab-and-go kitchen for tenants.
Members of the city council praised Marquez for the vision she has for the building, but declined to sponsor her grant request. The Community Development Block Grants are federal funds that are administered in Wyoming through the Wyoming Community Development Authority (WCDA). Since the WCDA only provides the grants directly to municipalities rather than private organizations or nonprofits, the city would need to sponsor requests like what Marquez proposed in order for such projects to receive funding.
City Manager Carter Napier said on Tuesday that he thought the council should be cautious about proposals that aren’t able to show a fully developed capital plan and evidence that necessary funding for the project has been secured.
While creating affordable housing in downtown near to public transit options may be a positive concept for the community, Maureen suggests that this project may be more expensive than envisioned. There is a big gap between $4.5 million and $10 million.
Do you think about such things when looking at empty buildings and spaces around Casper? In the downtown area, many of the older buildings require extensive work in order to get up to modern building and safety codes. Does it frustrate you to see space go to waste? Are you encouraged to see that people like Marquez are at least trying to come up with ways to bring more life back to abandoned or underutilized buildings?
- Let’s turn to one more city council-related story. Citizen Jake Phillips was honored on Tuesday for bravery he demonstrated when a pit bull attacked another citizen this spring. Here’s a heart-warming comment that came in response to that story:
During Tuesday’s council meeting, City Prosecutor Jacqueline Brown praised Phillips’ for his actions.
“He sacrificed his own personal safety and well-being to come to their rescue,” Brown said, adding that what he did was “one of the most selfless acts the victim had ever witnessed.”
Would you intervene if you saw someone being attacked by an animal or another person?
- When Brown talked about Phllips’ actions related to the dog attack, she specified the breed of the attacking dog as a pit bull. However, she did not specify the breed of a dog that was attacked by the pit bull along with the human victim of the attack. Some readers had problems with only the pit bull’s breed being mentioned. Here are some though-provoking comments in regard to that:
Do people hold unfair or unjustified attitudes toward pit bulls? Or is there legitimate reason why people should have some caution about that breed of dog?
From 2005-2017, pit bull attacks led to the deaths of 284 people in the United States, more than any other breed. That is according to a report from DogsBite.org, a national dog bite victims’ group. Pit bulls accounted for 65.6% of fatal attacks on humans.
“In the 13-year period of January 1, 2005 to December 31, 2017, canines killed at least 433 Americans,” the report states. “Pit bulls contributed to 66% of these deaths. Rottweilers, the second leading canine killer, inflicted 10% of attacks that resulted in human death. Combined, two dog breeds accounted for 76% of the total recorded deaths.”
Does that kind of data suggest to you that it is important to consider the breed of dog when an attack on a human occurs? Or do you think such data is leaving out a consideration of other important factors?
Some studies have suggested that smaller dogs are actually more aggressive toward both humans and other dogs, though there bites may be less likely to be fatal as a large dog. Dachshunds, Chihuahuas and Jack Russell Terriers were found to be the most likely to bite or attempt to bite human owners or strangers in a 2008 study published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science.
What do you think? Are pit bulls getting an unfair reputation? Or do they deserve some special attention since their attacks are more likely to lead to severe injury and death, even if small dogs are actually more aggressive?
- Let’s turn to a story about Pathways Innovation Center students working on a new Casper Mountain and North Platte River-themed wall to honor people who have donated to the YMCA of Natrona County’s new swimming pool and youth adventure center project. Here’s a heart-warming comment in response to that story:
Are you excited to have a new indoor swimming option in Casper? When new things come into the community, do you think about the work that happened behind the scenes to make that happen? When you have a little extra money, do you consider using it to support projects you like in the community?
The new wall being developed by Pathways Engineering Graphics II students to honor donors is a three-dimensional design that features Casper Mountain as a backdrop and a flowing river with a fly-fisherman. Designs of native fish feature the names of people donating to the YMCA of Natrona County project.
Not only does the project honor those donors, but the school district says it is also giving students some good experience.
“Working on this project really taught me more about making presentations in a way I don’t think I would have learned otherwise,” student William Pollock said in an announcement from NCSD.
- To finish things off this week, let’s turn to a light-hearted, heart-warming, pair of comments about a more serious issue of drought conditions impacting feed supply in Wyoming. Governor Mark Gordon has issued an executive order allowing hay haulers to haul more hay more often amid the drought conditions:
These comments are simply fun. When there are serious problems are you able to keep your sense of humor tingling and alive? Or are there matters which you think simply should not be joked about?
- That’s all from Oil City Speaks for now! Disagree with anything we said? Great! Feel free to get involved with discussion about what’s happening in our community by commenting on stories posted to Oil City’s Facebook page. Have a great day!
Why are we putting together this Oil City Speaks story?
Oil City News is all about offering coverage of the people, places and events that shape the community we love. We strive to provide informative stories for our readers and value dialogue about the Casper area community and the Cowboy State.
What makes for a valuable online discussion? It is no secret that readers are sometimes wary about the “dreaded” comments section (on stories posted to Oil City’s Facebook page). While comments may seem frustrating at times, they can also allow people to voice their perspectives, add more information for readers to consider or give people a way to celebrate their community together.
That’s why we’re bringing you Oil City Speaks, a selection of noteworthy reader comments from our local coverage. We care that you care about your community and we want to take the time to recognize comments that stand out to us. We’ll also offer some fact-checking on comments.
We’re not here to police your comments or your views. Comment Guideline: We welcome comments expressing all points of views on our posts–positive and negative–but reserve the right to remove posts that contain inappropriate language, links to items for sale, hate speech, personal attacks, threats, or are off-topic.