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

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