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Lander, Wyo.—Democrats from across Fremont County came together in Lander Saturday to elect officers, participate in a panel discussion with leaders from the Wind River Indian Reservation and to plan for the Wyoming Democratic Party’s statewide re-organization meeting in Riverton on April 25th.
Ron Howard, an early childhood educator from Riverton was elected chair of the Fremont County Democratic Party. An enrolled member of the Northern Arapaho tribe, Howard spoke of the importance of getting people involved in the political process. “There are many important issues facing the people of Fremont County,” he said. “Whether they live in Atlantic City, or Ethete or Dubois, people need access to good, high quality healthcare, they need a living wage, educational opportunity and equal treatment and respect. I look forward to serving in this role, speaking out on the issues and helping people find their voice in an overwhelmingly one-sided political environment.”
Sergio Maldonado, a resident of Arapaho was elected as the Party’s vice-chair. Maldonado, a 2014 candidate for Wyoming Senate District 25, expressed satisfaction with his new role. “Throughout my campaign I heard people expressing a desire to be better served by their representatives. This will provide me with an opportunity to help grow the Party here in Fremont County and continue to fight for the issues that our community cares about.”
The remaining slate of officers includes: Secretary, Mary Haper of Lander; Treasurer, Mike Crosby of Lander; State Committeewoman, Kathleen O’Leary of Shoshoni; and State Committeeman, Rod Haper of Lander.
Democrats heard from a panel of leaders from the Wind River Indian Reservation, including public health coordinator and rancher Fernando Roman of Kinnear, artist Bruce Cook and educator Ron Howard of Riverton, and educator Sergio Maldonado of Arapaho. The speakers encouraged Democrats to make inroads with young people utilizing social media to inform voters about the issues that affect them. They felt that Democrats need to communicate positive thinking on important topics and that the tribes need to do a better job of telling the public the amount of money and jobs the reservation adds to the county and state economy. The panel’s comments were well received by the Party members.
On Saturday, April 25 the Fremont County Democratic Party will be hosting the state party meeting at 10 AM at the Intertribal Education and Community Center at Central Wyoming College in Riverton. Everyone is welcome for the state Party elections and updates on Party activities, including delegate selection plans for the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
We are here as Wyoming Democrats. And we have come to Rock Springs from all across the state. And what a state it is. We are spoiled by rich, diverse landscapes. From Bear’s Lodge/Devils Tower in the east; to the vast sagebrush seas of central Wyoming and on to the Wyoming Range in the west. From the Snowy Range in the south to the Bighorns and the Absarokas in the north. This is Wyoming and we are captivated by the beauty and the power of this land. It is incredible. And we are blessed.
Blessed not just by mountains and land, but by life-sustaining water– the Wind River and the Sweetwater. The Platte and the Belle Fourche. The Snake and the Green. These waters are life-sustaining and refresh our very soul. We are truly blessed.
This incredible landscape is the home to a rich tapestry of individuals all tied together by the commonality of being Wyomingites. We’re a diverse people from a variety of backgrounds —Here in Rock Springs they boast 58 nationalities among their residents. We have the latest transplant from one of the coasts wielding a MacBook and a dream of living in the West and pioneer families that have been on the land since the late 1800s. You’ve probably seen jacked up pick up trucks with the bumper stickers that say “Wyoming Native”; well in Fremont County we are the home of the real Wyoming Natives with the people of the Wind River Indian Reservation—the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho. We are much more diverse than we commonly recognize.
The people of Wyoming work in a wide variety of occupations– oil and gas, state and federal workers, educators, environmental community, agriculture, mountaineers. All work is noble and important and in Wyoming while there are many ways to make a living; none of them are easy.
People and place define who we are. We are all Wyomingites and while we share this landscape and the diverse population with many political outlooks only Democrats look at our landscape and see beauty first, not consumption. We see people first and not ideology.
Our Wyoming Democratic values spring forth from this land and its people. And we should be proud of these values. Our Wyoming experience says that caring about our neighbors is important, caring for our environment is important. Our Wyoming experience says that we get more done when we work together and lift up and honor every member of our community. Our Wyoming experience tells us to seize on commonsense solutions when they present themselves and not be dragged down by ideological fervor. Our Wyoming experience puts people ahead of corporate interests.
Kind of brings a tear to your eye doesn’t it?… All of our values don’t mean much if we don’t tell people what we believe. These values don’t mean much if we don’t start winning more elections and change the dynamics of our government. We need to differentiate Democrats from Republicans and we need to call Republicans out when we see them playing games. We need to tell Wyoming what we believe.
We need to tell people that:
These are just a few examples where the Republicans are just plain wrong on the issues. We need to tell people about Wyoming Democrats compassionate, commonsense solutions to the issues that hold back many of our state’s less fortunate.
In 2012 I ran for the Wyoming Legislature from Lander. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I knocked on doors extensively, more than 2,500. I met people that I never would have met otherwise and explored neighborhoods that I had never visited before. It was great.
Earlier this week I came out of the office where I work in Lander and was walking up Third Street. I could see a man walking toward me. He is one of Lander’s marginalized. He is always unkempt and poorly dressed. I am sure that he deals with mental health issues. To my great discredit I thought for a moment about crossing the street, but my better side won out and we passed one another and exchanged a “hello.” After we passed each other, the man loudly exclaimed, “Hey.” I turned and he said, “Hey, Bruce, I still have your sticker on my car. Palmer for House!” Wow! That blew my doors off. I expressed thanks and we continued on our way.
Something about my campaign resonated for this man. But it wasn’t me, it is our shared Democratic values and our vision for a Wyoming that puts compassion, community and commonsense above ideology and political purity. We stand up for the marginalized. We believe in Wyoming’s workers and work on their behalf. We see beauty across our state and believe that balance is the best way to ensure that our children and grandchildren can experience the Wyoming that we love. We are Democrats and we are the Party of hope.
As we approach this election season we need to do so with a sense of purpose. For too long Democrats have been marginalized in this state. To some extent, I think we have accepted this. We talk politics among ourselves, but we’re afraid to speak out. It is time to step up and be proud. We need to recognize that this isn’t a game. Real people are counting on us.
Support the Party and our candidates. Write a check, make some calls, run for office, manage a campaign. Step it up, Wyoming Democrats. The work we do matters. Have a great convention!
From the Friday, April 11, 2014 “Riverton Ranger”
Former Riverton man among those challenging same-sex marriage laws in Wyoming
Apr 11, 2014 – By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer
Two Casper men will meet with the Fremont County Democrats this weekend to talk about a lawsuit challenging Wyoming marriage laws.
Carl Oleson and Robert Johnston are one of four couples involved in Courage vs. Wyoming.
Oleson is a former Riverton resident.
The suit challenges state law that prohibits same-sex couples from marrying and fails to recognize legal marriages of same-sex couples who married in other states — as Oleson and Johnston did in 2010 in Canada.
Oleson says the statutes conflict with the Wyoming Constitution.
“There is no provision in the state constitution that restricts marriage to between a man and woman,” he said.
According to published reports, Wyoming has asked the judge in the suit to dismiss the action, and state officials deny that the marriage laws violate the constitutional rights of same-sex couples in Wyoming.
Johnston disagreed, pointing to the impacts a marriage commitment has on taxes, inheritance and health care decisions, for example.
“(People) don’t realize the full range of the kinds of things we’re talking about,” he said. “This has to do with us being able to protect our home and the life we’ve built together over 17 years. … It’s about the rights and responsibilities that come with the kind of civil ceremony that provides you with those privileges.”
Same-sex marriage isn’t a state’s rights issue, he continued: it’s a civil issue.
“This gets to the core of the U.S. Constitution — liberty and the pursuit of happiness for everyone,” he said.
Oleson and Johnston first met in Las Vegas, but they moved to Casper in 2002 to care for Oleson’s father, who died in 2009.
Oleson was born and raised in Wyoming and attended school in Riverton. He said he is looking forward to visiting Fremont County this weekend.
The trip was organized by Fremont County Democratic Party chairman Bruce Palmer, who met the couple in Casper last month.
“In fact it was the weekend after we filed (the lawsuit),” Oleson said. “He was there speaking about his experiences as a Democrat in Fremont County. … I was really impressed with him. And I think we’re both honored to be asked to speak.”
Johnston and Oleson will meet with the Democrats at 4 p.m. Sunday in Hudson’s Town Hall. Johnston encouraged attendees to come with questions; he sees the event as an opportunity to engage in discussion about a sensitive issue.
“I’m a firm believer that if you have the conversation, then things can move forward,” Johnston said. “We may not always agree on everything, (but) the reality is we should still be able to be in the room together and have that conversation.”
Oleson doesn’t think the topic has to be divisive.
“It’s not about how we’re different from anybody else — it’s about how we’re exactly alike,” he said. “That’s not politics. That’s just community.”
In the end, he hopes Courage vs. Wyoming will result in changes to more than state statute.
“We need to change minds as well,” he said. “People need to see us as their neighbors, not like some concept, as the ‘gay agenda.’
“The gay agenda is an American agenda — it’s equal rights and equal protection, a safe place for everybody to live.”
Palmer said he invited the Casper couple to Fremont County because the same-sex marriage issue is getting a lot of attention now in Wyoming.
Several groups have been formed to support the cause, including Wyoming Equality and its subsidiary Wyoming Unites for Marriage. Freedom to Marry is a national campaign that recently launched a marriage equality ad in Wyoming featuring former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., and the national Human Rights Campaign stopped in Casper this week for a community event.
“For a long time it’s been the gay and lesbian community sort of out there on their own fighting for what they want in the state, whether it’s a safe places for kids in schools, or a safe places for parents with kids who are gay, lesbian or questioning,” Oleson said.
“Now, all of a sudden, we’ve been able to broker those years of boots on the ground work here with some of the national organizations who are really starting to put their savvy behind marketing and public opinion.”
The local Democratic party platform doesn’t specifically mention same-sex marriage, but Palmer said the group believes in the civil rights and equality for all. He also thinks marriage equality aligns with core Wyoming values.
“We talk a lot in Wyoming about liberty and personal freedom,” he said. “This is the Equality State. I think as long as there are people who aren’t treated equally under the law, it’s a misnomer.”
Palmer has heard people on the other side of the debate who think same-sex marriage somehow harms traditional marriage. He said he doesn’t understand the logic behind that argument.
“I’ve been married 35 years to my wife,” he said. “There’s nothing someone else could do that could diminish my marriage. …
“The other side is being married to my wife is the best thing I’ve done,” Palmer added “Why wouldn’t I want everyone to have that kind of happiness?”
For more information, visit turnfremontblue.com.
This op-ed piece written by Bruce Palmer, FCDP Chair, appeared in the February 11 Riverton Ranger as a letter to the editor and in the Lander Journal on February 12.
A Wyoming Worker’s Legislative Agenda
This week the Wyoming Legislature convenes for a 20-day budget session to hammer out the budget for the next two years. Fortunately, the state is in a strong financial position with solid revenues and billions in the bank.
Sadly, though, while our Republican dominated legislature is stuffing money in the bank they are ignoring investment in our most valuable asset—our working people. Every employee should be appropriately compensated and moving forward financially. They should be valued and treated fairly. The Wyoming legislature through word and deed is drastically missing the mark in this area. This state would be best served if our leaders abandoned their ALEC-fueled zealotry and adopted the following worker’s agenda.
First, give our state employees and educators the raise they deserve. After four years without a raise our state employees have seen their buying power go down as the cost of living has gone up and their retirement contribution increases. Governor Mead in his budget proposal recommends a 2.5% increase for two years. This does not make up for the four years without a pay increase, but is better than the bank more/invest less two percent recommendation coming from the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee.
Our educators face a similar challenge. Wyoming schools have been without an External Cost Adjustment (ECA) since 2008. The lack of an ECA, a “cost of living” increase for school districts, leaves districts with a cumulative 14% increase in expenses without a corresponding increase in revenue. The squeeze applied by the Legislature means that local school boards are left to decide between buying books and retaining their best staff.
The state has billions in the bank. Why are we nickel and dimeing our state employees?
Second, raise the state’s minimum wage. At $5.15 an hour Wyoming’s minimum wage is the lowest in the nation, and it is worse for tipped positions, where the minimum is $2.13 an hour. Fortunately, most minimum wage workers in Wyoming are making the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, but even this is significantly less that they should be making. The minimum wage of $1.60 an hour in 1968 would be worth $10.56 in today’s dollars meaning today’s minimum wage earner has lost more than 30% in buying power. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2016 would directly impact 33,000 of Wyoming’s workers, nearly 13% of the workers in the state.
Third, take advantage of the optional Medicaid expansion to cover 17,600 Wyomingites, nearly 90% of whom are stuck in low wage jobs with no benefits. There is no reason not to accept the expansion. The Federal government will pay 100% of the cost the first few years scaling back to 90% in 2020. This expansion actually saves the state 47.4 million dollars!
Governor Matt Mead says he can’t support expansion because he hasn’t liked the health exchange rollout. This is irrelevant. Medicaid is a well-established program that has been helping people gain health security for decades. Senator Eli Bebout says we can’t trust the Feds. Perhaps. But we count on the Feds for 41% of the state budget and Senator Bebout’s oil and gas business relies on Federal oil and gas leases. Republican arguments against Medicaid expansion are lame at best and they offer no alternative solution. Expanding Medicaid shows compassion and commonsense.
Finally, repeal Enrolled Act 37, the Vacation Theft Act that became law on July 1 2013. Nearly every Republican voted to pass this bill changing the definition of compensation in the state of Wyoming to no longer include earned, accrued vacation. Not a single Democrat voted for this bill because we believe that workers earn their vacation and if they leave a job the vacation accrued should be paid out to the employee. The Wyoming Supreme Court believed that too, until Wyoming Republicans changed the rules, further eroding workers rights.
Republicans are good at putting money in the bank, but are just plain wrong on the issues that effect Wyoming working people. Democrats believe in fiscal responsibility and we believe that investments in people pay off in both the public and the private sector. Providing a living wage and sensible benefits, fairly administered lead to high output. If you are looking for “Return on Investment”, people are your best bet.
Feb 4, 2014 – By Eric Blom, Staff Writer
Fremont County Democrats say they are hoping to help working-class people get health insurance by pushing for the Wyoming Legislature to expand Medicaid. At a Jan. 19 meeting, the county party passed a resolution supporting the expansion.
The federal Affordable Car Act allows states to offer the federal health insurance program to people with higher incomes than were eligible before, and the federal government will pick up most of the added cost.
“We’re encouraging what we think is a compassionate solution and what we think is a common sense solution and that is saving the state of Wyoming a significant amount of dollars,” said FCD chairman Bruce Palmer.
About 17,000 Wyoming adults are ineligible for either Medicaid or subsidized health insurance through the new federal exchange created by the ACA, according to a Jan. 6 report from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The Wyoming Legislature in 2013 vote against accepting federal dollars to extend Medicaid coverage to those people.
Democrats are conservative with their expectations.
“We’re trying to push as best we can, recognizing it’s definitely a Republican-dominated legislature here,” Palmer said. “I think just keeping this issue in front of people, talking with our legislators about it (are ways FCD can support it).”
In Wyoming, adults without children are cannot receive medicaid benefits and cannot get subsidized insurance if their incomes are below the poverty level. Adults with children who make more than 56 percent of the poverty level are ineligible for Medicaid, but if they earn less than 100 percent of the poverty level they also cannot receive subsidized health insurance.
The Medicaid expansion set out in ACA would cover those people.
“Those who will be included in Medicaid expansion are working class folks, generally working minimum-wage jobs without benefits,” Palmer said.
FCD members spoke with lawmakers at the Legislature’s Joint Labor and Health committee meeting in Lander in November and demonstrated outside. The local party also is coordinating with Fremont County’s lone Democratic legislator, Rep. Patrick Goggles, of Ethete, to push the issue, Palmer said.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. government would pay all of the cost of the expansion for a few years, then amount would decrease to 90 percent. Republican arguments that the state cannot count on the federal government to make good on that promise are not convincing to the FCD chairman.
Wyoming counts on federal dollars for highways, schools, mineral severance taxes and the Abandoned Mine Lands program, already, Palmer said.
“I see us fighting to keep those dollars, and I think we should, but to say some dollars are worth fighting for and other dollars we’ll just turn up our nose to is just ridiculous,” he said.
The Legislature’s Labor and Health committee on Jan. 10 approved advancing two bills expanding Medicaid to a lesser degree than Democrats are calling for. One, called “Medicaid Fit,” would offer more limited benefits, and the other, referred to as the “Arkansas model,” would take the federal Medicaid funding and use it to buy private health insurance.
Both would save the state less money and offer worse benefits than expanding “traditional Medicaid,” Palmer said.
FCD supports two other measures Palmer says are aimed at helping working people.
The first would repeal a law the Legislature passed in 2012. The act allows employers to take away employees’ accrued vacation time when they retire, resign or are fired if the employee and employer have a written agreement.
“People work their job, earn their vacation and to have that taken away seems unfair,” Palmer said.
Before the new law passed, the state Attorney General’s office held workers were entitled to be paid for accrued time-off when they left their jobs.
The other would raise the state’s minimum wage to $9 from the current level of $5.15. Many Wyoming businesses must follow the federal minimum wage of $7.25 because they are engaged in interstate commerce.
“It’s a growing concern because it just hasn’t kept pace with inflation, Palmer said. “A minimum wage earner has less buying power than they did 10 years ago, 20 years ago.”
The month of November has been a roller coaster for supporters of Medicaid expansion in Wyoming. It started with the Joint Health, Labor and Social Services Interim Committee meeting in Lander. Opportunities for expansion seemed more possible with the committee discussing a new Wyoming Department of Health report outlining five possible paths to expansion, all of them offering varying degrees of coverage to Wyoming’s working poor and savings to the state of Wyoming.
Supporters turned out in droves picketing outside (in single digit temperatures), packing the house for the discussion and speaking out during public comment. A broad coalition of interested organizations coordinated this outpouring of support, including the Wyoming Association of Churches, the Wind River Health Care Disparity Council, the Lander Ministerial Association, the Fremont County Democratic Party and others. This diverse group, feeling some momentum, came together because we feel that Medicaid expansion is the right thing to do for Wyoming, bringing together the compassionate nature of our people and the common sense that is held in high esteem by every Wyoming resident.
When helping those less fortunate and saving the state lots of money can be done at the same time it seems like it would be easy to make the right decision but, sadly last Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, Governor Matt Mead slowed the momentum, announcing that he remains opposed to the optional expansion of Medicaid. In announcing his opposition he pointed to the clumsy rollout of the online health care exchanges. He must know that, while the Medicaid expansion and the exchanges are both part of the Affordable Care Act, they are two entirely different topics. The state of Oregon has signed up 70,000 people as part of the Medicaid expansion using paper and pencils, an approach the Governor must be familiar with since this is the way our students must do our state-wide testing after Wyoming’s failed roll-out of a computerized PAWS test.
In Wyoming, expanding Medicaid to include those making 138% of poverty level would allow nearly 18,000 of our residents to gain access to health care. Nearly 90% of these individuals work one or more jobs trying to make ends meet. They are poor, but just like you and me they get up in the morning and head to work to put food on the table. Unlike those of us fortunate enough to have employer-sponsored health insurance these folks don’t get insurance at their job and they don’t make enough to go and buy it. Food and shelter, naturally, are going to come first.
These people earning very modest incomes at jobs with no benefits deserve compassion, not scorn, but the words of Senator Charles Scott reveal the true feelings of the paternalistic Republicans. In the committee meeting he indicated that when considering Medicaid expansion they needed to be careful because the poor will chose to live below the poverty level to keep their Medicaid. Really? Sorry Charlie, people don’t choose poverty.
Later in an interview with K2 television Senator Scott was on television with this gem, “The traditional Medicaid program does considerable harm to the recipients, by encouraging excessive utilization of health care.” The poor are harmed by too much health care? Oh, my. Thank goodness the Republicans are here to save the poor from doctors!
In the instance of Medicaid expansion the Republican’s wrong-headed, paternalistic and strange ideology is keeping them from using the common sense that they claim as a bedrock value. According to the Wyoming Department of Health, Medicaid expansion will save the state 47.4 million dollars over the next six years. But the savings don’t stop there. When people are sick they seek medical care insured or not. The Wyoming Hospital Association calculates that 200 million dollars a year is spent on indigent care in the state. It is fiscally irresponsible to continue the fight against Medicaid expansion.
In spite of this recent setback from Governor Matt Mead, there is always hope. The Governor has said that he will continue to evaluate the law. Recently, Ohio’s Republican governor John Kasich did just that and used administrative rules to expand Medicaid in that state over the objections of the Republican controlled legislature, saying, “There seems to be a war on the poor.” He went further saying that, “So Ohio gets a good deal. We get $14 billion of Ohio money back to Ohio to deal with some of the most serious problems.”
Help the poor and get back the money that each of us pays in taxes to solve a problem here in Wyoming? Is it possible? Will Governor Mead and the Republican-dominated Legislature let compassion and commonsense carry the day in Wyoming, too?
It is American Education Week. This short essay by Fremont County Democratic Party Chair and FCSD1 Trustee, Bruce Palmer appeared on county10.com.
My career in education began 52 years ago when at age five my Mom put me on the bus for the very first time. And off I went to Bushy Hill Elementary School. My world was rocked.
I was surrounded by a new routine, with people that I didn’t know, in a building that was totally foreign to me. And I did fine. Better than fine. I started on a life-long journey that still goes on. The reason that I did fine was the awesome people that suddenly spent more time with me than my parents did—classroom teachers, custodians, bus drivers, and kitchen staff. They were dedicated to my experience and every one of them was a teacher—a purveyor of information, a shoulder to cry on, a role-model.
Everyday there are kids just like I was heading off to school. And every day there are educational victories, big and small, happening in our public schools. It isn’t just happenstance. It is because caring, intelligent and passionate teachers are there making it happen. It takes heroic efforts and our teachers of all types, whether in the classroom or the lunchroom, will always be heroes to me. This American Education Week let’s remember some of the heroes that made a difference in our lives. It is never too late to drop them a note or stop them in the grocery store and let them know what a difference they made. Here are a few of my heroes:
Mr. Leo Alvares—my sixth grade teacher and my grade 11 Language Arts teacher. Tough, demanding and fair Mr. Alvares would bring the class to attention with a brusque, “Without discipline there is no freedom.”
Ms. Marcia Brolli—Mrs. Brolli was my Language Arts teacher in 9th and 10thgrade. We worked and we had fun. Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” never looked as wild as it did when played out by a group of 10th grade boys! “Et tu, Brute?”
Dr. John Lindell—One of my political science professors at Hartwick College, Dr. Lindell taught me to write. The problem was I thought I knew how. He cleared up that misperception early in my college career and that led to academic success further down the road.
Dr. Diana Christopolous—Diana was just a few years older than I was when I started college. She was cool and progressive and we learned a lot in her American History classes. She challenged us to think differently and encouraged us to use a variety of mediums to express our thoughts.
These four people played a huge role in who I am today. Our schools in Lander and across our wonderful country are filled with American heroes. Who are the heroic teachers in your life?
Watch the video: Medicaid Expansion k2 short
On Saturday, September 28 in Riverton we will be “Walking for Workers,” knocking on the doors of registered Democrats, giving them information about the Fremont County Democratic Party and asking that they sign a petition in support of the repeal of Enrolled Act 37, the Vacation Theft Act. Message points and all the materials needed will be provided. We’ll meet at the Bandshell at Riverton City Park and canvass from 10 am until 2 pm and then regroup for munchies and stories. Sign up here: