Here are some editorials from newspapers around the state:
Community editorial: ‘Tis the season for detours and orange vests
From the June 9 Laramie Boomerang
There are many jokes about the seasons in Wyoming. One variation says that there are two seasons in Wyoming: Winter and road construction.
Well, despite some of the recent snow storms, there is no doubt that we are smack in the middle of the road construction season. Crews wearing orange vests are thicker than mosquitoes, and motorists are already mumbling and grumbling about the inevitable slowdowns and altered routes.
That’s true on city streets, county roads and major highways. And the construction zones will continue to grow until next fall. But if we want smooth, safe roads and a reliable highway system these inconveniences are just part of the price we have to pay.
Every weather-dependent activity is compressed in Wyoming. That’s true for recreation activities, house building, landscaping, sports and, yes, repairing and resurfacing the streets and roads we depend on.
It really is necessary to exercise some patience and understanding when dealing with some of these inconveniences. It is far better to take a few extra minutes to drive across town or somewhat longer for lengthier trips than to put up with potholes, degraded roads or potential highway danger.
Part of that patience needs to manifest itself in the form of courtesy and consideration for the construction workers who are doing the work. The construction zone speed limits are there to protect these men and women as well as those in passing cars and trucks.
Obeying those special speed limits and other regulations is necessary to keep the workers safe on the job. But it also keeps motorists and passengers safe. Not to mention that violating those rules can result in hefty fines or even jail sentences.
Wyoming has very little in the way of a mass transit system, so these roads are absolutely vital to life here. Instead of grumbling about delays, we really should be thankful for every mile of roadway that gets improved during the summer.
It is also important to remember that this is the time of the year when many newcomers or visitors are on our roads and streets. That means we should all be aware that the other driver may not know exactly where to turn or where to look for parking.
That’s another place where consideration and courtesy comes into play. Don’t crowd or honk at a hesitant driver. Be generous about yielding the right of way at an intersection. These visitors are our guests so it helps us all if we are courteous hosts.
And during the potential confusion of changed lanes, detours and unfamiliar traffic patterns we also need to keep an eye out for pedestrians and bicyclists who may be just as confused as the motorists. Let’s help keep each other safe.
It’s their job, not a burden
From the June 9 Gillette News Record
Three months ago, “transparency” was the buzzword around the state Legislature. These days, it’s clear that some legislators hope their colleagues move onto another cause and forget about a commitment to keeping public records easily accessible to the public.
Otherwise, one could speculate that there are other nefarious reasons that the Joint Interim Judiciary Committee voted last week to look into changing various parts of Senate File 57 after listening to complaints about a law that hasn’t even taken effect yet.
The law passed in March in no small part because of poor decisions by former State Auditor Cynthia Cloud, who couldn’t seem to find a way to open the state’s checkbook to scrutiny. The bill gained support after negotiations on all sides that, among other things, created an ombudsman position to settle complaints about the length of time to comply with records requests.
Sen. Mark Jennings of Sheridan County summarized it best: “It seems very strange that we’re very fixated on fixing a problem in a bill that hasn’t become law. It just seems premature to me or weird.”
Weird, indeed, unless that was the plan all along.
On Tuesday at a meeting in Gillette, the committee heard complaints from a handful of state agencies about some “unduly burdensome” requests that involve too much time by the Attorney General’s Office to scrutinize, both because of the size of the requests and other information that must be redacted that comes along with the sweep of documents requested. The Department of Environmental Quality said it has seen a 100% increase in requests since 2012. Committee members also learned that businesses have been created whose sole duty is extracting information from public data because there is a demand for it.
Far from feeling threatened by those, the committee and Wyoming residents in general should take heart. Government has been charged from the beginning with keeping documents so that we can find out what they are doing. Isn’t it nice that someone wants to scrutinize those documents? To use the information that public officials so dutifully keep? To care enough about government actions to go to the trouble of asking for documents detailing them?
The answers should be yes, yes and an even stronger yes.
Clearly, Sen. Tara Nethercott of Cheyenne isn’t a fan of SF57, saying early in the discussion that the committee could make “thoughtful” legislation rather than jumping into the fray of transparency.
The committee now has called for a number of changes to be considered at its next meeting, ignoring that a majority of the Legislature pondered changes and thought SF57 settled them. Rep. Bill Pownall of Campbell County called for its repeal.
The truth is that not one single government agency can say it can’t comply with SF57. The law hasn’t taken effect yet. There has been not one public records request made under it; there has not been one deadline gone unmet; there has been not one case that the still-to-be-hired ombudsman has looked at. None of that may even have happened by the time the panel meets again to consider changing it.
Agencies — and legislators — can only speculate.
Unspoken at the meeting was another truth: Government officials keep documents for the public’s benefit however those members of the public choose to use them. It’s their job. And it shouldn’t be considered a burden.