Just for the heck of it, on occasion I enjoy reading the editorial opinions in newspapers from the Western United States.

Some of my go-to newspaper websites are in places I’ve enjoyed visiting, like Sheridan, Wyo., for instance. After arriving in Sheridan some three decades ago in cowboy boots, a flannel shirt and Levi’s, I was asked by a few locals if I was in town as part of the big rodeo. I wasn’t. But the timing was funny, since almost every other out-of-towner was dressed like me – and there for the rodeo – the annual Sheridan-WYO-Rodeo that began in 1931.

This week, I visited The Sheridan Press newspaper website at https://thesheridanpress.com. A column by Sheridan County commissioner Tom Ringley caught my attention.

Ringley’s column addressed the issue of whether Sheridan County ought to have three or five county commissioners. From his column:

“First of all, as a serving Sheridan County commissioner and not up for re-election, I speak only for myself. But I need to comment on the question, which only seems to come up in election years, of whether we should have three or five commissioners.

“Thankfully, it’s not up to politicians to decide that question. It’s up to the people. Whatever they say the number should be, then that’s what it is. That’s why we have five commissioners now. Before the election of 2006, a petition was circulated, and the required number of signatures was obtained to put the question on the ballot. During that election, the proposal was approved, and consequently, two additional commissioners were elected in 2008. So now, 10 years later, some are advocating that we should go back to three commissioners. I don’t propose to advocate here for either three or five because both have worked. From 1888-2008 – 130 years, there were three commissioners. The county survived. From 2009 to the present there have been five commissioners. The county is surviving.

“So why go back to three? From what I hear, those who advocate going back to three say that the current five-person commission is working well, but if we eliminate two, the county can save approximately $100,000. I pondered that and did some cursory research. Would you believe that a
five-person commission today doesn’t really cost any more than the last three-person commission did in fiscal year 2007-08?

“In FY 2007-08, the budget for the three-person commission was $271,000. In FY 2018-19, the budget is $282,000. Not much difference there. Those budgets reflect the total cost to support the commission – salaries, benefits, travel, supplies and the mandatory publishing of public notices and records. Some of the line items have changed over the years, but the total cost is what is important.
What has really happened is that the five-person commission has scrubbed the budget so that today we really get five commissioners for the previous price of three – generally speaking.

“It’s the people’s choice. But the thing is you don’t really have a choice until the issue gets put on the ballot, and you can vote on it. And it’s not going to get put on the ballot until someone does the work to circulate a petition and obtain the required number of signatures. So, until that happens, I’m afraid all this talk about whether to have three or five commissioners is just a lot of political rhetoric. Actions speak louder than words.”

Since I’ve always been of the mindset that whenever it involves government, less is more, it’s always been a bit curious to me that a county government of 40,000 can be led by a commission of three, whereas in a city of 6,500, it takes a council of eight. Go figure.

Instead of endorsing a county commission of five, I’d opt for a body of one. It’s worked some places before, after all (at least in practice).

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• Then there was this gem by Tom Brennan, an Anchorage (Alaska) Times columnist and author, on repealing the 14th Amendment.

Brennan writes at https://www.frontiersman.com/: “This nation should repeal the 14th Amendment to eliminate an unwise incentive to game the immigration system. The odds are against its happening, but Congress should try to straighten out a problem that is bringing millions of illegal aliens
to this country – and keeping them here.

“As it stands, the birthright citizenship provision of the 14th Amendment motivates foreign nationals to cross our borders illegally and gives them an advantage over others when efforts are made to deport them. President Donald Trump has a flamboyant personality that turns many people against the ideas he advances, but he is often right. It seems unlikely that he would be able to fix the constitutional problem by executive action, but his attempt would focus attention on a problem that needs fixing.

“The 14th Amendment was passed in 1868, three years after the Civil War, and was aimed at granting citizenship to children of freed slaves, many of them blacks who were brought to this country after being captured by slave-traders in Africa. The amendment has four primary sections, the first being birthright citizenship. The other three deal with issues related to Civil War military service matters.

“The 14th Amendment could probably be repealed since the other sections don’t seem relevant in today’s world, but as a practical matter it doesn’t seem likely to happen. The nation’s liberals – and their friends in Congress – would come unglued.”

Liberals often come unglued, though. It’s what they do. Liberals can win 99 out of 100 issues and still demand more. As long as there’s a rational, conservative thought left on the planet – or, heaven forbid, someone having fun – they are not satisfied.

They will always be distraught. Maybe an occasional cold draught would help ease the liberal mindset. Who knows.

My best bet is that where we once sought common ground as Americans, we now seek further polarization. Why? Because we like it.

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• Lastly, and most seriously, from The Sacramento Bee I read that more than 90 first responders have lost their own homes in the deadliest California wildfires on record.

The Camp Fire has devastated the town of Paradise and has destroyed at least 7,177 structures, the Bee reported.

Paradise, Calif. Mayor Jody Jones confirmed that 17 Paradise police officers lost their homes, as did all members of city council and 33 firefighters in Butte County alone. The fires have claimed more than 40 lives, with hundreds more still missing.

The International Association of Fire Fighters is raising money for many of the first responders. The IAFF Foundation website is https://foundation.iaff.org if anyone wants to donate.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press.