Here are some editorial opinions from around the state:
Make it a priority to make your voice heard in 2021
From the Jan. 3 Wyoming Tribune Eagle
Early in 2020, when few in Wyoming had even heard of COVID-19, a different issue was slowly gaining the attention of Cheyenne residents: whether to allow three local school board members to be elected by residence area, rather than continue to have all seven chosen by everyone in the district.
After initially being recommended by a district committee, the proposal was shelved by the full Laramie County School District 1 Board of Trustees because most members felt it wasn’t ready for approval. It could have died there, never to surface again.
But a group of mostly south Cheyenne residents wasn’t willing to let that happen. They pressed current trustees to revive and revise the proposal, then participated in several public meetings, making it clear that they have felt ignored for years on a variety of issues.
In early October, the LCSD1 Board of Trustees voted to approve the change, which will go into effect in 2022. Instead of seven at-large trustees, starting that November, three of them will be elected by areas roughly matching the district’s South, East and Central triads.
This newspaper’s editorial board supported the change for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was our strong belief that a diversity of voices improves the outcomes of governing bodies because the needs and concerns of more people are considered.
Also in 2020, in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis Police officer, the Cheyenne Police Department became the first in the state to add three civilians to its use-of-force review board. The hope is these residents – two of whom are racial minorities – will provide greater transparency when it comes to the public understanding how and when force is used by officers.
Police Chief Brian Kozak said creation of the review board had been in the works for about a year prior to its announcement in November. But it was going to be comprised of just officers until he saw NAACP President Stephen Latham participate in meetings held after Floyd’s death. Mr. Kozak said that convinced him to add citizens to the board, including Mr. Latham.
Both of these are examples of the types of change that can be made when citizens decide to step up and make their voices heard. Which is why, as we said briefly here last week, we hope to see much more public involvement in 2021.
Because it’s one thing to sit here, week after week, writing and publishing editorials that we hope get the attention of public officials. But when citizens take up those and other issues, the chorus of voices is much more likely to get their attention.
So what are we asking you to do? First, pay attention to the issues being considered at the city or town, county, state and federal levels as much as possible. A good place to start is right here in the pages of your hometown newspaper, but we also encourage deeper dives into complex issues using reputable, nonpartisan sources, whenever possible.
This is crucial, because an uninformed citizen spouting off at a public meeting is a waste of time – for our public officials and those who are informed and waiting to testify.
Next, decide what issues you’re most passionate about and let your elected officials know how you feel about them. That communication can come in many forms, including emails or letters to specific elected officials, or attending meetings, either online or in person. (And while we’re on the topic, we encourage government officials at all levels to continue livestreaming meetings online even after COVID-19 protocols are lifted. We’re seeing better participation as a result of online access, and we believe it better serves people with disabilities and those with other reasons why they can’t attend in person.)
Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the option of writing a letter to the editor of this newspaper, as well. You are allowed to submit up to 350 words twice a month for publication on these pages, and we know local officials are reading them on a regular basis. (Heck, sometimes they even write letters themselves.)
Other options include joining an advocacy organization related to the issue you’re hoping to influence and/or contributing financially to such a group to help fund its lobbying efforts.
You can also join a local nonprofit civic group (such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Zonta, Chamber of Commerce, etc.) that champions a cause or is open to hearing about the needs in the community that aren’t currently being met. These groups often have the greatest influence locally because they represent a group of residents and are well-respected by elected leaders.
Whatever methods you use, we hope you decide to make it a priority this year to get involved and make your voice heard, just like Melvin Turner Jr. did. When he was announced as a citizen member of the CPD use-of-force review board, Mr. Turner said, “It’s almost like voting – if you don’t participate in helping the voice of your community be heard, then how can you complain?”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Start the new year with a defiant act of kindness
From the Jan. 2 Sheridan Press
With all that happened in 2020, it’d be easy to kick off 2021 with a literal kick — a kick in the teeth, a kick in the rear or perhaps by kicking in the door. None of those kicks, though, would solve the woes of 2020, even if they made you feel better in the short term.
So rather than start the new year with a kick, consider starting 2021 with a different act of defiance. Start it off with grace, peace and civility.
In a social media addicted, anonymous troll-posting world, a simple act of kindness can feel revolutionary. The kindness doesn’t even have to be shown to others, you could start off the year by showing yourself a little love. Not sure what that means?
Here are a few examples:
— Rather than spend time arguing with people you don’t know on social media networks, ignore those notifications Jan. 1 and simply be present in the moment. That doesn’t have to mean a bunch of meditation or touchy-feely emotions (though it can!). It can simply mean doing whatever it is you’re doing in the moment rather than allowing yourself the distraction of reactions.
— Do something active. Exercise has been proven to release endorphins and reduce your perception of pain. The activity doesn’t have to be strenuous, but a little motion in your day can ease your mood and begin the year with positivity rather than grumpiness.
If you do want to direct a bit of kindness to others, the options may prove endless. For example:
— It isn’t supposed to snow in the next several days, but when it does, you could help clear a sidewalk or driveway.
— You could sign up to help with home-delivered meals through The Hub on Smith.
— You could volunteer for virtually any nonprofit activity.
— You could send a note to a friend or family member who could use a little cheer.
And, of course, if you wanted to really stir the pot by adding kindness to the beginning of 2021, you could:
— stop making uncivil remarks in public debates.
— give grace to those who make mistakes.
— make a peace offering to those you’ve had feuds with in the past.
When meanness, harsh remarks and anger seem to dominate social media feeds and public remarks, the true act of revolution is one of kindness. Call us snowflakes, that’s OK, but the real act of rebellion these days is showing light in darkness, kindness in turmoil and forgiveness among grudges. Get your kick by starting 2021 on a positive note.