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Past mayor incorrect on MOU history; positions contradictory

Feb 26, 2014 - Dennis Heckart, Sarasota, Fla.


As a longtime Riverton resident now living in sunny Florida, my heart and roots are still in Wyoming and especially Riverton -- my hometown.

I have been following the EPA/tribal story in The Ranger. I heard a radio program with past Mayor John Vincent this month. Mr. Vincent detailed the history of Riverton and the state of Wyoming not negotiating with the tribes on water rights, gambling and the voting rights issue -- all of which were lost to the tribes in expensive court battles.

He further suggested that racists in the community of Riverton had created an "anti-Indian petition" in response to his proposed memorandum of understanding, or MOU, and effectively killed that as well.

Not true. His own city council is responsible for the collapse of those discussions.

At the time, the then-mayor promoted the memorandum of understanding as the panacea for all ills and negative feelings between tribes and city. And, to correctly clarify, the petition was not anti-Indian, it was anti-MOU.

The history: I had been invited to present the MOU petition signed by hundreds of Riverton citizens to express their concern to the city at a regular council meeting, not because I was a county commissioner but simply as a Riverton citizen. I approached the podium with well over 100 citizens seated behind me. Just as I began, a city council member interrupted and made a motion to "table the discussion." Seconded and passed.

The then-mayor still tried to give me the floor because dozens of upset citizens were staring at him. That same council member objected with "point of order -- that has been tabled."

Mr. Vincent knew parliamentary procedure. This was probably a pre-planned procedural move to avoid the ire of both Riverton citizens and the tribes. The discussion was ended, and the effect was no citizen input.

Soon thereafter, a letter was received by the city from the Northern Arapaho Tribe, saying it no longer wished to discuss the proposed MOU because it created angst within the Riverton population.

Related concern: According to the Feb. 12 Ranger front-page article, about that same time in June 2009, then-Mayor Vincent wrote a letter to the EPA. The Ranger reported that the letter included the mayor's words: "The lands within the boundary of Riverton are no longer part of the reservation and are not Indian country."

I encourage every citizen to read that story if you have not done so already. I guess I don't understand the competing and contradictory positions held by Mr. Vincent -- given his past pro-tribe positions.

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