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Editorials

When the economy turns bad, communities are faced with tough choices.

One of those choices for the city of Powell was to impose a hiring freeze for this fiscal year. Under that policy, employees who leave their jobs will not be replaced.

Recently, the Powell Police Department became the first city agency to feel the impact of that policy with the resignation of one officer. His departure, coupled with the deployment of another officer with the Wyoming National Guard, has left the department two officers short of its ideal strength.

Chief Tim Feathers has said the situation is a normal part of the life of the department, and the department can adjust in the short term, but in the long term, it will become more difficult.

Under normal circumstances, public safety likely will not be compromised, but emergencies do arise, and there will be fewer officers to deal with them. The smaller force will mean longer hours for the officers and make it more difficult to cover for officers who are ill or on vacation. It likely will add to the stress of what already is a stressful job.

In the long term, it may not even save much money. As Mayor Scott Mangold noted, overtime costs could wipe out much of the savings from a hiring freeze.

Instituting a hiring freeze was the proper course of action given the uncertainty of the economy, but such a policy can't be set in stone. Our city leaders realize that, of course, and both Mangold and Feathers say they will be watching carefully to make sure public safety isn't compromised and that the morale of the police force is not damaged. Should that happen, Mangold has said the city would consider lifting the freeze and allow the hiring of another officer.

In the meantime, it is important for local citizens to support our law enforcement personnel. They have a tough job, and it's up to us not to make it any tougher.

This week, the old Powell High School auditorium/natatorium came tumbling down. All that remains of the structure, built in 1956, are massive heaps of concrete, bricks and metal — an all too familiar sight in the community as of late.

The auditorium/natatorium was third in a succession of demolition projects over the past six months, joining the demolished old Powell High School gymnasium and Westside Elementary. At those sites, only dirt remains.

Eventually, the old Powell High School also will share a similar fate, though it won't be demolished until a cafeteria is constructed for Powell Middle School. The old high school cafeteria is still in use and likely will be until a new middle school cafeteria opens.

Planning for a new middle school is under way, and construction of a new Westside Elementary recently began.

Though new buildings replace the old, memories of the old structures aren't easily forgotten.

Each building carried meaning. The elementary school where children began their education and learned early life lessons.

The pool where, for 50 years, residents learned how to swim and experienced triumphs and disappointments in competitive swimming. The auditorium where hundreds of nervous and bright-eyed kids gathered each year for time-honored Christmas programs. The old gymnasium that hosted many memorable proms, emotional graduation ceremonies and countless athletic competitions for more than 60 years.

Throughout the past 10 years, Park County School District No. 1 board members deliberated over difficult decisions to demolish and replace these buildings. Often, decisions and funding at the state level dictated how the local board proceeded.

We know the demolition of landmark buildings is difficult for Powell residents. The torn-down structures leave a void in the community, especially for those who grew up as students in the buildings.

Yet in their absence stand new structures, and many local youth are grateful for the new Powell High School, new Southside Elementary and new Powell Aquatic Center. Young students who use those facilities can attest to the fact that new memories are being made, and for the next generation, these will be the buildings that carry meaning.

Still, the changes remain difficult — and for many Powell residents, driving by the sites where old landmarks once stood always will stir memories.

EDITORIAL: Civility matters

Park County was privileged last week to host Jim Leach, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and his nationwide “American Civility Tour.”

Leach, a former Republican congressman, is traveling the country in an effort to change the climate of political debate in this nation, which has become increasingly hateful and destructive over the last generation. That trend has made it increasingly difficult for the country's leadership to make decisions on behalf of the nation.

What is necessary, according to Leach, is civility, which he indicated does not mean simply being polite, nor does it have anything to do with so-called “political correctness.” Rather, it means treating each other with respect, whatever our political differences.

Respecting the other person involves listening to his or her point of view, looking at an issue from that person's perspective and trying to understand why he or she thinks that way. Doing so is more likely to lead to rational discussion of differences rather than arguments filled with name-calling.

Unfortunately, it is all too easy to fall into such arguments, with opponents questioning each other's patriotism, faith or intelligence. Once that begins, reason is abandoned and all hope of resolution of differences is lost.

Today, we are in the middle of a nasty political debate marked by anger and name calling on both sides. Civil debate has been completely abandoned in favor of shouting and negative advertising. Hardly anyone is really listening to the other side.

There really isn't anything new about this. American politics have featured such campaigning since the days of Jefferson and Adams, but it shouldn't be that way. In today's climate, this lack of civility has the potential to paralyze our nation's ability to govern itself.

We should make every effort to be respectful in our political discourse, listening to those with different points of view and trying to understand why they believe as they do, rather than writing them off as evil.

In other words, we urge everyone to be civil.

It's easy to notice the bright green paint and solar panels at Plaza Diane. Less obvious are other ways the downtown plaza is green — from the recycled materials used in the building to the outdoor water conservation system.

Plaza Diane's green elements helped it earn the second-highest level of certification — gold —in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

It's an accomplishment to be proud of.

Plaza Diane is Powell's first LEED-certified building, joining just nine other certified projects in Wyoming and 32,000 projects worldwide.

Overseen by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED is the most widely used and recognized green-building initiative in the nation.

Plaza Diane incorporated LEED standards through its energy-harnessing solar panels and irrigation drip system that conserve electricity and water.

The center was created from an old World War II-era filling station; rather than demolishing the entire building and starting anew, architects reused the existing building and found ways to recycle or reuse 90 percent of the material.

With green design elements in place, the challenge now is to keep Plaza Diane operating as an energy-efficient center.

Some critics of the national LEED program have said that though the green buildings may be environmentally friendly by design, there's no follow-up to verify that projects actually conserve energy down the road.

“What really needs to happen is the transformation of the owners and the operators of the buildings to ensure that the building is being operated properly,” said Rick Fedrizzi, head of the USGBC, responding to critics in an NPR interview.

The Plaza Diane Board of Directors (which includes two owners of the Powell Tribune) is seeking independence from the city of Powell in operating the community arts center, and as leaders move forward, we encourage them to look for ways to continue operating it as an energy-efficient building.

With its LEED certification, Plaza Diane has become a local model for green building —one that can lead the way in the community and entire Big Horn Basin.

Sometimes there's no good way to do something that needs to be done.

Such is the case with Montana's efforts to clean up an environmental mess near Cooke City that has been polluting water flowing into Yellowstone National Park for years.

As part of that project, Montana plans to haul nearly 50,000 tons of mine tailings from Cooke City to Whitehall, Mont., by way of the Chief Joseph Highway. This has raised concerns from some in Park County, who fear that a number of big trucks hauling heavy loads through Sunlight Basin and over Dead Indian Pass will disrupt travel through the scenic area, create danger for other motorists and cause damage to the highway.

Mostly though, the current anger expressed by Park County officials stems from the fact that they weren't consulted before this plan was put in place.

When the Tribune investigated the situation back in June, though, the project didn't seem to be a secret. We learned that the Wyoming Department of Transportation was able to review the condition of the Chief Joseph Highway before a contract was awarded by Montana. The department determined that the highway was capable of handling the traffic with certain conditions.

Montana DEQ waited until the review was done and agreed to WyDOT's conditions before awarding the contract.

One Park County commissioner said at that time that the Wyoming Highway Patrol would be watching the highway closely to ensure safety, and he had great faith that WyDOT and the patrol could handle the situation.

As for disrupting tourist traffic, the extra trucks couldn't possibly be more disruptive than average road construction projects — and many of those last longer than the one summer planned for hauling out the tailings.

The plan to haul part of the waste out of the area appears to be a compromise. Ideally, all of the tailings would be removed, but that is impractical. Leaving all of them in place, on the other hand, increases the risk that a seismic event would cause containment of the tailings to fail. The compromise is to haul some of the waste away to provide more secure containment of the rest.

Once that decision is made, there are only three ways to haul out the waste. It should be obvious to anyone who has driven it that the Beartooth Highway is not an option. The highway from Silver Gate into the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone is not engineered for heavy trucks, and this stretch of road is very narrow, with no shoulders, in many places. In addition, sections of the road are bordered by forest, reducing visibility for some distance, so it's not an option, either. That leaves Chief Joseph.

The purpose of this project is to stop acid from leaking into a creek that flows into Yellowstone Park. That is a worthy goal, and because it is a worthy goal, it is worth the price of a summer's disruption on the Chief Joseph Highway.

Park County shouldn't stand in the way.

With plans brewing for a 144,000-square-foot monastery and coffee-roasting facility, Meeteetse residents anxiously await the Park County Commission's decision on the proposed project.

Opponents and supporters have vocalized their views during recent public meetings, where a recurring concern for Meeteetse area landowners is whether the monastery will draw masses of visitors.

Though the monastery would be located on an isolated private ranch — 14 miles from the nearest public roadway — some neighboring landowners worry the elaborate structure still will attract a high number of daily visitors.

Ranchers who have open range livestock along Meeteetse Creek Road have valid concerns about the potential influx in traffic, as do those who chose to build homes in the secluded area for the peace and quiet offered there.

Yet Carmelite monks who would reside at the monastery stress that they, too, want to maintain the location's peaceful and quiet nature.

Plans call for the monastery to be open from 7 a.m.-5 p.m., but monks have said the public will be there only for faith-related visits on a rare basis. And they assure the 150-seat chapel will be used only on rare events, such as a monk's ordination.

For the sake of neighbors in the area, we hope the promise holds true — that the monastery is a place of solitude rather than a sight tourists flock to see.

If Park County Commissioners approve the project, monks residing on the Meeteetse ranch must be conscientious neighbors.

The Meeteetse Creek Road is private, and it's understandable why ranchers want to keep traffic at a minimum. The monks must ensure the monastery doesn't attract a constant stream of visitors.

However, landowners also must be reasonable with their concerns and requests. Development occurs, and though change isn't always welcome, the New Mount Carmel Foundation should have the right to build at the site, as long as monastery plans meet planning and zoning rules.

No Meeteetse resident ever expected a 144,000-square-foot French Gothic monastery to be proposed in their community — but just because the project is uncommon in Wyoming's mountains doesn't mean it should be unwelcome.

EDITORIAL: Remembering 9/11

This weekend, Americans will be observing the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

As is true with most special days, the observance will take many forms, ranging from quiet, prayerful moments of silence to public patriot demonstrations. For some Americans, the observance will be thoughtful remembrances of the victims; others will focus on anger at the terrorists and the culture that led them to kill so many people.

That last category is symbolized by a Florida church, which intends to burn copies of the Quran on Saturday. The pastor of the church is billing it as an act of defiance, demonstrating to Muslims that we are not afraid of them.

That's the wrong way to observe the occasion. It is true, of course, the 9/11 attackers were Muslims, but that doesn't justify an act that offends millions of Muslims for the actions of a few dozen. This is particularly true because many Muslims were victims on 9/11, and their deaths should be treated with the same respect as the deaths of Christians, Jews, and followers of other religions who died Sept. 11, 2001.

The planned Florida event does the opposite, insulting those followers of Islam who were murdered that day, and, by extension, those of other religious faiths who died with them as well.

More than that, though, this action is wrong because it assumes all Muslims are evil because of the actions of a few. It makes no more sense to do that than to condemn all Eastern Orthodox Christians in the world for the atrocities committed against Bosnian Muslims by Orthodox Serbians, or all Catholics for bombings by the Irish Republican Army in the name of Catholicism.

The First Amendment protects the right of that church to carry out its plans, of course, just as it protects the right of American dissenters to burn an American flag.

But having the right to do something doesn't necessarily make it a good idea to exercise that right. As General David Petraeus has pointed out, the Florida burning may have nasty repercussions for American troops trying desperately to win over the Afghan people, and it could foment reciprocal violence here at home as well.

We can't do much about what's going on in Florida up here in Wyoming, but we can focus our own observances on commemorating 9/11 victims rather than injecting hatred of the millions of Muslims in the world — nearly all of them who are innocent of participating in the terrorist attacks.

We should promote the end of such violence, not add to it.

As hunting season begins, many outdoorsman wish they could aim their guns at wolves. Rife with controversy since they were first re-introduced 15 years ago, gray wolves have now grown 1,700-strong in the Northern Rockies amid ever-present political tensions and court battles.

Worried about dwindling elk herds and the constant threat to livestock, many Wyoming residents believe wolves must be hunted to regulate the growing population.

But hunting wolves remains illegal in Wyoming — and now in Idaho and Montana as well, where managed wolf hunts occurred last year.

A decision last month by federal Judge Donald Molloy brought wolf hunts to an end in all of the Greater Yellowstone Region.

Ruling that it violated the Endangered Species Act to remove protection in two states but not in Wyoming, Molloy restored protection to gray wolves in Idaho and Montana.

Many rightfully blame Wyoming for halting wolf hunts in our sister states.

Wyoming's wolf management plan calls for the animal to be shot on sight in most of the state — around 90 percent.

Considering that plan too hostile toward the 320 wolves that dwell in Wyoming, federal officials rejected the state's management plan and maintained protection for gray wolves.

It's unrealistic for Wyoming leaders to expect wolves to go directly from the endangered species list to unregulated, open-season hunts in most of the state.

If wolf hunts are to occur in Wyoming in the future — and, it appears, in Montana or Idaho —state lawmakers must modify the shoot-on-sight predator zone.

We agree with Tom Strickland, assistant U.S. secretary of Interior, who criticizes Wyoming's position.

“The court's decision clearly shows that, for the gray wolf, recovery requires Wyoming to change its policy,” Strickland wrote.

“If Wyoming were to join its neighbor states and develop a wolf management strategy with adequate regulatory mechanisms on human-caused wolf mortality, including hunting, all three states would benefit.”

With 1,700 gray wolves roaming the Northern Rockies, the species must be de-listed and managed through hunting — but for that to happen, state leaders must change their management plan.

EDITORIAL: In defense of Al Simpson

Former U.S. Sen. Al Simpson is currently under fire for his response to the leader of a women's organization regarding Social Security.

By describing Social Security in terms that were, shall we say, indelicate, Simpson offended a whole bunch of people who, predictably, have demanded that President Obama fire him as co-chairman of his National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

Obama has said he will not do that, and consequently, has drawn fire himself.

This is not the first time that the senator's words have been criticized. He admits to having had to withdraw his foot from his mouth on many occasions, and his “colorful” language and metaphors could often be described as offensive.

But, while not defending the senator's choice of words, we think the sentiment he expressed is valid. In the interests of government fiscal responsibility, Social Security must be part of the discussion along with every other government expenditure.

We have a national debt because all of us make demands on the government to spend money while simultaneously demanding lower taxes. Fulfilling both demands is, of course, impossible. All of us, including Social Security recipients (one of whom is this writer), are part of the problem.

However crude or insulting some may find Sen. Simpson's remarks, he should be commended for having the courage to raise the issue. That willingness to offend special interests is probably the reason why President Obama appointed him to help lead the Fiscal Responsibility Commission in the first place.

We may not entirely agree with Sen. Simpson's position or his way of expressing himself, but we hope President Obama sticks to his guns and keeps the senator on the commission.

EDITORIAL: Spay/neuter your pets

It's a horrible situation Powell residents never expected to occur in our own backyard: 157 cats seized from a local home.

On Thursday morning, dozens of felines were removed from a rural Powell house and transported to the Park County Fairgrounds. From here, many of the cats were taken to animal shelters in larger communities, where they await adoption.

While the recent case of cat hoarding is extreme and difficult to comprehend, it also highlights the importance of spaying and neutering cats and dogs.

Cats and dogs in need of homes are nothing new in Powell.

Strays, unwanted pets and abandoned animals often find themselves in the local City of Powell/Moyer Animal Shelter, where they wait for someone to adopt them. As a no-kill shelter, the local organization houses felines and canines for as long as it takes — sometimes, animals have waited a year or longer to be adopted. Once, a dog waited three years before it finally found a home.

Currently, the shelter harbors about 15 cats and a dozen dogs.

If more residents spayed and neutered their pets, fewer unwanted animals would end up in the animal shelter.

All adult animals awaiting adoption in the shelter are spayed or neutered, said Elfriede Milburn, president of Caring for Powell Animals. If a kitten or puppy is adopted, its new owners are given a certificate to have it spayed or neutered at a discounted price.

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 6 to 8 million cats and dogs will end up in animal shelters across the nation this year. Unfortunately, many shelters are unable to keep animals long term, and an estimated 4 million cats and dogs are put down each year in America.

It's clearly a national problem, but the solution can start locally. To help prevent animal over-population, spay or neuter your cats and dogs. Rabbits aren't the only animals that multiply like rabbits.

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