Jun 23, 2016

Police should weigh in on marijuana now, Colorado chief says

The big mistake made by the Colorado law enforcement community in the run-up to the state’s legalization of marijuana was to stay on the sidelines of the debate, a Denver-area police chief says.

“We didn’t engage, because we didn’t think it would pass,” Greenwood Village Police Chief John Jackson recently warned a group of police, elected officials and others from around Wyoming.

“And now,” Jackson said of Colorado's situation, “We have a free-for-all.”

Greenwood Village Police Chief John Jackson
The chief spoke at a June 6 “Marijuana Summit” in Cody, co-sponsored by the Prevention Management Organization of Wyoming, the Park County Coalition Against Substance Abuse and the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police.

The summit — focused largely on the potential dangers and harms of marijuana — came in the midst of a national and statewide debate about how the substance should be regulated. The group Wyoming NORML planned to put a medical marijuana initiative before Wyoming voters this year, but has since pushed the effort back to 2018; meanwhile, the Wyoming Legislature continues to debate various marijuana-related bills each year.

Chief Jackson, one of five speakers at the summit, urged Wyoming's law enforcement community to weigh in on legalization sooner rather than later.

“Educate your constituents on what you now know,” he said, adding, “You can turn the conversation into, ‘we know this will happen.’”

Taxes on marijuana sales brought $996 million into Colorado’s coffers last year, but Jackson said to “forget about the money.”

“Do not become some intoxicated with the revenues that you lose sight of the social costs,” he said, adding, “Everybody wants to talk about the millions — now $1 billion (in new taxes) — but nobody’s talking about what it costs for the increase in homelessness, for the increase in law enforcement, doing things that aren’t anticipated.”

Jackson spoke of new challenges for police that include increased difficulty in detecting impaired drivers. (The smell of marijuana on a traffic stop no longer constitutes probable cause for a search, he noted.)

“Everybody wants to talk about the millions — now $1 billion (in new taxes) — but nobody’s talking about what it costs for the increase in homelessness, for the increase in law enforcement, doing things that aren’t anticipated,” Jackson warned.

He acknowledged that arrests in Colorado have dropped in the wake of legalization, but suggested that’s in part because “your law enforcement’s confused and doesn’t even care any more” given the complicated and contradictory mix of federal and state laws.

Further, while white people in particular are being arrested less frequently, people of color are now making up higher percentages of those arrested, Jackson said of post-legalization data collected in Colorado.

“These are huge indicators where your law enforcement is still making inappropriate choices,” he said.

Jackson cautioned summit attendees about going up against the “marijuana lobby,” saying they “will run you over and you can NOT outspend them.” He instead suggested to “do your own thing that works for you” and take law enforcement’s message to voters.

As he wrapped up his remarks, Jackson encouraged Wyoming's police to “continue the fight, because it is right, it is worth it, it is needed, and people are looking at you to do the right thing.”

Summit attendees included representatives from the Powell and Cody police departments, the Park County Sheriff's Office, the National Park Service, legislators, educators, mental health professionals, religious leaders, a federal prosecutor, and other interested citizens, said Charlotte Carlton of the Prevention Management Organization of Wyoming.

Jun 16, 2016

Livingston seeks re-election to Park County Commission

Lee Livingston says he’s learned a lot over his last four years as a Park County commissioner — and that’s one reason he’s seeking a second term.

“I can be more valuable knowing what I know now,” Livingston said in a recent interview.

The Republican and Wapiti resident believes balancing the county’s budget will be the commission’s toughest and most pressing task over the next four years.

Lee Livingston
Livingston said he’d thought the talk of tight budgets and tough times was “kind of B.S. — right up until I got there” on the commission.

“I’m hoping it won’t last, but ... there’s some challenging times ahead in the county,” he said.

Livingston noted the county has made budget cuts each year he’s been in office and now will likely need to make deeper cuts and use some of its reserves.

Before tapping into the county’s roughly $16.5 million of savings, however, Livingston wants as many cuts as possible.

“That’s what we have reserves for: to help you get through tough times, not to carry you all the way through,” he said.

As Livingston sees it, if the cuts don’t save enough, it’ll then be time to consider things like reduced hours at the library and less money for the Park County Fair. The last option would be layoffs.

“I will not, as a county commissioner, start severely cutting or cutting what I think are essential services,” Livingston added, naming law enforcement and road and bridge operations as essentials.

The 50-year-old Park County native says his experience as “a small business owner that’s gone through some tough budget times” helped prepare him to guide the county.

“I will not, as a county commissioner, start severely cutting or cutting what I think are essential services,” Livingston said.

He’s owned and operated Lee Livingston Outfitting for two decades, leading trips into the Shoshone National Forest and, more recently, the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

He believes his experience dealing with officials on the Shoshone and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is also an asset.

“As an outfitter and, I believe, as a commissioner, the relationship with both of those agencies is better now than I’ve ever seen it,” Livingston said.

He said it’s not like the county and federal land managers always agree — “We don’t,” he says — but the communication has improved to where he feels “like they want us to be part of it.”

Other commissioners generally express a dim view of how things have been going with federal land managers, but Livingston describes himself as more “cautiously optimistic” than jaded.

“I don’t think we’re always going to get everything we want,” he said. “But I feel there is a possibility of getting some of what we want.”

Over the next four years, Livingston said his priorities also include helping to get the grizzly bear and the wolf removed from the Endangered Species List.

“I think those are positive steps for the county,” he said.

Before becoming a commissioner, Livingston’s served as president of the Cody Country Outfitters and Guides Association, on the board of the Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association and on the Park County Predator Management Advisory Board.

Jun 14, 2016

Striking down Laramie ordinance, court says DWUI penalties must be left up to Legislature

Wyoming’s cities and towns can’t create their own, tougher laws against drunk driving, the state Supreme Court says.

In a Friday ruling, the Wyoming Supreme Court struck down a City of Laramie ordinance that imposed stiffer penalties for people caught driving with particularly high blood alcohol content levels.

Wyoming Supreme Court in Cheyenne. Courtesy photo
Laramie leaders passed their “aggravated offender” ordinance in 2010. It required the city’s municipal court to sentence drunk drivers to at least a week in jail if their blood alcohol content (BAC) was .15 percent or higher; a second offense with a BAC of .15 percent or more, meanwhile, required at least a month behind bars. (A driver is considered legally drunk as soon as their BAC hits .08 percent.)

The Wyoming Supreme Court said Laramie leaders overstepped their authority in creating the enhanced penalties.

Justice Kate Fox wrote that the state Legislature has created uniform traffic laws, intended to prevent uncertainty and confusion.

Wyoming law does require anyone caught driving with a BAC of 0.15 percent or more to get an ignition interlock device — which prohibits them from driving unless they can provide a clean breath sample — but does not impose any other extra punishments based on BAC. There’s no minimum sentence for first-time offenders and the minimum for a second offense is seven days.

“It is clear the legislature intended traffic regulations, including those related to driving while under the influence, be uniformly applied throughout the state,” Fox wrote in the ruling. In voiding Laramie’s ordinance, she said the city’s enhanced DWUI penalties were “disrupt[ing] the uniformity of the statutory scheme.”

Laramie’s ordinance had been challenged (on different grounds) all the way back in 2012, by a woman who was arrested that February for driving while under the influence for a second time in 10 years and with a BAC of .18 percent. It took more than four years for the issue to reach and be decided by the Supreme Court.

Last week’s decision may mean lesser sentences for that woman and another man who’d challenged the law after a 2014 DWUI arrest.

~ By CJ Baker

Jun 9, 2016

South Fork business owner running for commission

Park County may not be subject to all the burdensome government rules and regulations as some other places, “but the control’s still there,” says Republican county commission candidate Boone Tidwell.

“And if anybody’s going to try to make a change, it’s going to occur here,” Tidwell said. “It’s going to happen in a small place like Cody, where you can make a difference.”
Boone Tidwell

The South Fork resident and bail bonds company owner said he’s “beyond believing that my future or my grandkids’ future is going to be repaired by Washington, D.C. (and) I’m beyond believing it’s going to be repaired by Cheyenne, Wyoming.”

Tidwell said he’s prepared to put in the work and training needed to do regular county commission business — like setting budgets and working with employees.

But more importantly, “I feel this gives a man like me a podium in order to raise the awareness of the Park County citizen as to the things we’re discussing here,” Tidwell said in a recent interview.

Those things include pushing back against federal overreach, improving government communications and ensuring strict adherence to the U.S. and Wyoming Constitutions.

Tidwell said the Big Horn Basin has a lot of resources it can’t touch because of federal rules. He suggested local governments should stop accepting federal money and its strings in the same way that “a good (heroin) junkie goes to rehab and figures out how to detach himself from that.”

Tidwell wants people to think about what Park County and the broader Big Horn Basin community might do if there was a major, national crisis. For example, “are we prepared for an event such as a dollar collapse?” he asked.

Tidwell also sees room for improvement in the relationships between the county commission and the municipalities of Powell, Cody and Meeteetse and believes he could foster better communication. He suggested commissioners should regularly attend town and city council meetings.

Tidwell also wants to bridge the gap between citizens and their government through constant communication.

“I want the people that I represent to know exactly what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, how it affects them and then let them pick their resolution,” Tidwell said, saying he would be a “true Constitutional representative.”

“I’m always open to a better idea,” he said, adding, “The only thing I will never sacrifice is my obligation to my oath” to defend the Constitution.

(Tidwell’s one-line summation of the Constitution is, “you can’t harm anybody and you can’t take their stuff.”)

“I want the people that I represent to know exactly what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, how it affects them and then let them pick their resolution,” Boone Tidwell said.

A Vietnam War-era Navy veteran who’s traveled the world, Tidwell later spent two decades as a San Bernardino County, California, sheriff’s deputy in roles that ranged from patrol to detective.

Tidwell left law enforcement in 1994 and went into the bail bonds business two years later.

In 2004, San Bernardino authorities charged him with various crimes that primarily alleged he and his employees had paid inmates to solicit business for the company.

The case dragged out for more than six years. Tidwell said he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars defending the allegations (which he says were “all bulls—”) and never received an arraignment or preliminary hearing.

In 2010, Tidwell reluctantly agreed to plead guilty to five misdemeanor charges and received a fine and unsupervised probation, according to past reporting by the San Bernardino Sun. After completing his sentence, Tidwell asked a judge to dismiss the convictions from his record and that request was granted, he said.

“If I’m guilty of something, I’ll raise my hand,” Tidwell said. “I was absolutely not guilty.”

He moved to Park County in 2006 and made alternatives to incarceration — such as GPS monitoring — his focus. Tidwell initially mentored some other bail bonds companies then started his own, Freedom Fighters, about two-and-a-half years ago.

Tidwell said being a businessman has made him a fiscal conservative; he believes governments shouldn’t spend more money than they take in and should operate as much like a business as they can.

He’s one of six Republicans running for two available seats on the Park County Commission.

Jun 7, 2016

Cody Enterprise editor hired to teach at Powell High School

A Cody editor is returning to the classroom.

Vin Cappiello, editor of the Cody Enterprise, was hired to teach English at Powell High School, beginning in August.

The Park County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees approved hiring Cappiello during its meeting last week. Cappiello previously taught at Cody High School before becoming the editor of the Enterprise last year.

Cappiello will replace Scott McKenzie, who will become Powell High School's dean of students.

PHS is shuffling some of its positions following the retirement of instructional facilitator Ray Bieber.

The dean of students position includes some responsibilities of an instructional facilitator, who helps teachers with curriculum. McKenzie will oversee attendance issues, assessment work, student data and the school improvement plan.

“I think this is what Powell High School needs at this time,” said Kevin Mitchell, superintendent of Park County School District No. 1.

Mitchell said transition to a dean of students will not impact the district’s budget.

Jun 2, 2016

Local building contractor running for county commission

A long-time Park County building contractor is making a bid for the county commission.

“I just think it’s time for some new blood in there,” John Marsh said of his decision to run. “I know it’s a tough, thankless job.”

John Marsh
Marsh has been a licensed contractor in the City of Cody since the late 1980s. He lived there for decades, spent the last 12 years in Powell and is currently in the process of relocating to Meeteetse.

“I’ve kind of lived everywhere in the county now, and I think I have a pretty good feel of what people are kind of about around here,” the Republican said.

Marsh says he is not a politician, but a contractor who does his business with a handshake.

“I have my whole life, being a Wyoming native. And I’d like to get a little more back to that,” he said, saying things in government sometimes seem unnecessarily formal.

Marsh feels strongly that commissioners should be limited to one or two terms in office. The not quite 59-year-old said he would hold himself to that limit if he was elected.

“A guy gets stale if he’s in there too long,” and with unlimited terms, “I think that could possibly lead to the ‘good ole boy politics’ deal,” said Marsh. He also supports term limits for other offices, like Congress.

Marsh thinks the county government needs more transparency, citing the number of closed-door meetings that commissioners hold.

“I just think they go in executive session an awful lot and we never hear the outcome of what was going on,” he said.

Marsh worked as a maintenance technician in Park County’s Buildings and Grounds Department from March 2011 to April 2015. Marsh said he supplied a contractor’s license to the county, doing work that included drawing plans and dealing with Cody building officials.

“I just think they go in executive session an awful lot and we never hear the outcome of what was going on,” he said.

Marsh — who owns a business called Cabin Creek Quality Builders — went back to being self-employed after his time at the county was over.

Marsh says he’s not anti-wolf, but he believes both they and grizzly bears need better management.

“I love grizzlies and wolves, but I think we should be able to hunt them, for sure,” he said.

Marsh also offered that he disagrees with the county’s 2005 acquisition of the Park County Complex in Cody, calling it a “bad decision.”

“I think it’s a financial drain on the county and I don’t think we’re geting much bang for our buck on that” Marsh said of the building, though he added that he doesn’t think there’s any going back now.

Marsh said he won’t be accepting any donations for his campaign. People with any questions can reach him at 307-868-2123 during evening hours.

He said he doesn’t have any axes to grind with the commission.

Marsh is one of six Republicans running for two available seats on the Park County Commission. They’ll face off in the Aug. 16 primary election.

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