By on November 4, 2014

DISSTongueTax shelter is nothing to brag about

The nonpartisan Tax Foundation says Wyoming’s business tax climate is the best in the nation. Politicians eager to take credit and tourism industry heavies “viralizing” the acclaim heralded the news uniformly.

Pump the brakes. It’s nothing to be proud of.

Granted, Wyoming is a better place because the state does not burden its people or corporations with a state income tax, nor does it make it agonizingly difficult to conduct commerce in the Cowboy State. But the notion that this favorable climate will attract business and spur the economy is shortsighted.

Some businesses will and have made the move to headquarter in Wyoming. But mostly what the cheap cost of doing business in this state does is attract shell companies, tax dodgers and other leeches looking to beat the system. We are the Cayman Islands of America.

According to a special investigation conducted by Reuters in 2011, more than 2,000 companies are registered in Cheyenne, Wyoming. If that doesn’t seem like a lot, hang on. Those 2,000-plus corporations are all headquartered in the same building — a nondescript 1,700-square-foot brick house at 2710 Thomes Avenue. The Chinese are there, steel magnates, oil giants, CPA firms, you name it.


2710 Thomes Avenue. Photo credit: Kelly Carr, Reuters

Thanks to Wyoming Corporate Services, a business-incorporation firm that specializes in establishing “shell” companies, these heads of industry are able to take legal advantage of Wyoming’s conducive corporate climate to create paper entities and hide assets. Is this the Wyoming we are patting on the back? Are we boosting the economy or inviting ghosts offering little to no contribution to this great state?


PROPSFistbumpCool school

“I do this work a lot. You don’t see data like this,” were the words of evaluator Drew Moore after combing through the school district’s dossier in mid-October. Evaluators recommended Teton County School District No. 1 for another five years of national accreditation with AdvancED.

The 10-member AdvancED team interviewed hundreds of students, instructors and administrators. In the end, TCSD excelled nearly across the board when compared to the rest of the organization’s 32,000 institutions. The one category where scores were below par was “purpose, direction, governance, leadership capacity and stakeholder feedback” — an area already targeted and addressed by the board of trustees with ongoing district office reorganization.

“I am extremely pleased that the high quality of instruction that exists throughout the district was affirmed by this accreditation review,” superintendent Pam Shea said.

The good news comes on the heels of a 2013 National Blue Ribbon Award for the high school given by the U.S. Secretary of Education and a recent No. 1 statewide ranking by U.S. News and World Report.

“I think this is another indicator, along with the Blue Ribbon and the U.S. News and World Report ranking, that the teaching and learning here are exceptional,” Shea said.

But don’t expect district leaders to rest on their laurels.

“We embrace a continuous improvement process,” Shea said. “There is always something we can look at and understand more deeply, and improve upon.”


DISSTongueYellowstone Why-Fi? 

No! No! A thousand times, No! Yellowstone National Park officials are toying with the idea of wiring the nation’s first national park into the 21st century, and it’s a bad idea.

Discussions with CenturyLink about installing a $34 million fiber-optic line through Grand Teton National Park and into Yellowstone would improve smartphone coverage and Wi-Fi speeds at the cost of contributing to the world’s addiction to high-speed escapism.

Why can’t Yellowstone remain the pristine getaway it was intended to be in 1872? The Yellowstone Act of 1872, signed by President Grant, designated the region as a public “pleasuring-ground,” preserved “from injury or spoilation, of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders within.”

Fiber-optics is a “spoilation.” It may be unpopular now, but Yellowstone will one day be more revered for shunning technology rather than embracing it. First World locales free from Netflix, Twitter and other instant cyber gratification are increasingly hard to find.

YNP officials should be encouraging visitors to turn off and tune out. For a department perpetually crying poverty, the $34 million would be better spent patching roads and fixing sewer lines. Get your hands dirty. Leave the gizmos in the van. Insist on at least one last sanctuary where the quiet won’t be shattered by a Bruno Mars ringtone and wildlife viewing will be its own Wikipedia entry.

About Jake Nichols

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