Several versions of the same phrase have been circulating in the form of internet memes recently: “Isn’t it weird that 2021 is pronounced ‘Twenty Twenty Won,’ and 2022 is pronounced ‘Twenty Twenty Too’?!”
On this second day of the new year, many of us feel like 2021 was just an extension of 2020, the year COVID-19 entered our vocabulary and turned everything upside down. Sure, things were better in some ways, with vaccines becoming widely available, businesses open and events like Cheyenne Frontier Days happening again. But any hope that COVID-19 would be a thing of the past by now was dashed by the arrival of the delta variant, and, recently, the introduction of omicron.
In places like Wyoming, where vaccination rates still haven’t reached 50%, cases surged, hospitalizations increased and death tolls rose. Already tired health care workers grew even more fatigued and frustrated as people who likely would have experienced mild symptoms instead fought to stay alive.
And along with the ongoing pandemic, 2021 also dashed our hopes that with the presidential election behind us, we’d be able to relax and enjoy a less divisive political environment. Of course, we’re approaching the one-year anniversary of the invasion of the U.S. Capitol, which was followed by a failed attempt to impeach former President Donald Trump for his role in the insurrection – including Rep. Liz Cheney’s vote in favor of impeachment, and the resulting fallout as Wyoming Republican officials voted to disavow her and others praised her for voting her conscience.
As summer waned and preparations began for a new school year, school board meetings became the place for disgruntled residents to voice their frustrations. Opposition to mask mandates morphed into protests over how the history of racism in our country is taught. The latest argument is over the sexual content of books in school libraries.
No, 2021 wasn’t the year that peace and quiet was restored in our great nation. And now we are at the start of another election year, which promises to bring more division and rancor. (More on that later.)
But rather than focus on the negative, we’d like to shine the spotlight on some things that have us excited about 2022. They include:
Local development projects – This year promises to be one of positive change when it comes to the look of certain areas of the Capital City. The Hitching Post Plaza will emerge from the rubble of the former hotel on West Lincolnway. Farther east, there’s anticipation about filling the hole between Wyoming Home and the Hynds Building that has existed since a 2004 fire. Construction is under way on the new Coyote Ridge Elementary School north of Dell Range Boulevard and east of Powderhouse Road, and right next door to the WTE, a groundbreaking is expected for the long-awaited Cheyenne Children’s Museum.
Continued cooperation at the local level – Speaking of positive changes, the overall sense cooperation and goodwill at city hall was definitely a highlight of 2021, as Mayor Patrick Collins took office and set a positive tone with all nine City Council members. Although a few small cracks began to show toward the end of the year, we fully expect that another goal-setting session this week will get the new year started in a productive way. It’s nice to see less opposition to efforts to improve downtown Cheyenne, too.
ARPA funds being distributed – Although we’re not thrilled by the recommendations we’ve seen so far, we are looking forward to the Wyoming Legislature working with Gov. Mark Gordon to set priorities for use of the state’s $1.1 billion portion of the federal American Rescue Plan Act money. But beyond the talk comes the actual distribution of funds and the positive impact it should have in communities across the state.
Redistricting – Again, we’re not sure what this will look like, since there were four different proposals on the table as of last week. But the fact Wyoming is conducting its redistricting process out in the open, with plenty of opportunity for public input, is incredibly positive. We look forward to an outcome that best serves the state as a whole.
COVID-19 vaccines for all ages – Although many older Wyomingites have so far refused to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, we look forward to the day when all ages can receive a dose, signaling the beginning of a return to normal. That should reduce the need for masks in classrooms, quarantines and other learning disruptions. We said it last year, and we’ll say it again a year later: It’s time to do all we can to put this pandemic behind us.
Of course, as we said before, 2022 is an election year, and we expect the race for Wyoming’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives to be the main focus. The former president has thrown his support behind Cheyenne lawyer Harriet Hageman’s attempt to unseat Ms. Cheney in the August primary, and it’s expected he will visit the Cowboy State sometime this year to hold a campaign rally for her.
Gov. Gordon is up for reelection this year, too, but any talk of a serious challenge from within the party has died down as attention shifted to the U.S. House race. It remains to be seen if any far-right conservatives upset with the way he has handled the pandemic will toss their hat in the ring.
Here in Laramie County, we foresee two races sparking the most interest – sheriff and district attorney. With longtime Sheriff Danny Glick announcing last year that he intends to retire, several potential candidates have launched campaigns, including current jail Capt. Don Hollingshead and former Cheyenne Police Chief Brian Kozak. And with the controversy surrounding current DA Leigh Anne Manlove, who faces charges brought by the Wyoming State Bar, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a serious challenger emerge for her position.
Of course, Valentine’s Day sees the start of the budget session of the Wyoming Legislature. We’d like to be optimistic and think this will finally be the year state lawmakers and special interest groups agree that something must be done to diversify the state’s revenue streams and move away from the dependence on mineral severance taxes. But we’re also realistic enough to know that’s not likely to happen. We’d love for them to prove us wrong.
We’d also like to think 2022 can bring a restored sense of civility throughout our interactions with one another. We will still disagree about a variety of issues, but we know we can do so without verbally attacking, intimidating or threatening those on the “other side.”
Here’s to a less raucous, more productive 12 months that bring you peace, joy and good health. Happy New Year!