Freudenthal: Couple local work with state resourcesWritten by Jennifer Womack
By Jennifer Womack, WLR Managing Editor
Casper – Governor Dave Freudenthal has challenged Wyoming communities to begin a locally visioning process while he explores options to support such efforts at the state level.
“It starts with you, but you can’t be expected to do it alone,” said Freudenthal in closing remarks at his recent “Building the Wyoming We Want” conference at Casper College. Freudenthal said the conference built upon discussions already going on in many Wyoming communities.
While details must be worked out, he suggested creation of a venue to guide communities in their planning efforts. He said the entity should reside outside the Governor’s office to protect its long-term intent from changes in administration. “It’s too important to tie to any one person’s term in office,” he said.
In terms of planning he underscored the importance of involving local stakeholders in the process. “What I do think is a fundamentally important point,” said Freudenthal, “is to have a process by which we think about the future and it’s based on the values of the people you say you want to affect. In the absence of that it’s not a vision, it’s a dictate from Cheyenne.”
Funding for such efforts, explained Freudenthal, could be tied to a budget footnote making the dollars available specifically for planning purposes. In the absence of that he said dollars would be spent on the immediate infrastructure needs becoming so common across the state.
As community leaders begin the process, Freudenthal advised they not tie it to one single project, but create a long-term vision for their community. “This is a project that belongs to the citizens of the state.”
“Be willing to say we can control our future,” said Freudenthal. “One of the things that keeps Wyoming from saying we can do this is that we’re always worried about the next bust, we’re always worried about the next downturn in prices, worried about the things beyond our control.”
“If we truly value open space we’re going to have to find a way to pay for it,” he said. He used education and the Hathaway scholarship program as a case in point. The state saw education as important and put its dollars behind the cause to ensure its future.