Equality State Policy Center — History

In the mid-1980s, several grassroots membership organizations created an informal coalition called the Wyoming Alliance for Accountable Government. As its name suggests, the Alliance focused primarily on working for open, accountable state government – a government accessible to citizen input regardless of the issue involved. The informal coalition work proved so valuable that the coalition was established as the Equality State Policy Center in 1993. The new ESPC began trial policy initiatives to democratize the legislative process and foster greater citizen participation. The ESPC’s board made a commitment to permanence and growth in 1998 by hiring a full-time executive director. This was followed by the ESPC’s first biennial retreat the following April, where the coalition adopted a mission statement and program of work designed to build its capacity and programs. Over the next two years, ESPC exceeded all expectations in its meteoric emergence as Wyoming’s “good government watchdog,” as dubbed by the media, and the state’s primary agent for change with “staying power and conviction,” as described by the coal industry. Since then, the ESPC coalition has grown to 30 grassroots organizations, including conservation and sporting groups, labor unions, professional organizations, and civil and social justice groups. The ESPC board has expanded the coalition’s work into three main program areas: accountable government, tax and fiscal policy, and Wyoming Working Families. The ESPC also provides training for citizen activists and conducts voter education and mobilization projects among historically un- and under-represented constituencies.

Sweet Sixteen banquet a blast

ESPC brings friends together to celebrate progress since 1993

Sarah Gorin at ESPC Sweet 16 PartyMembers of the Equality State Policy Center celebrated our “Sweet Sixteenth” Oct. 2, 2009 in Casper with speeches from friends and board members, by handing out awards to some great progressive leaders and the Legislature, and with entertainment provided by a dance troupe from Cheyenne. More than a hundred Friends of the ESPC attended and shared in the amazing progress that has occurred over the first 16 years when the ESPC became known as Wyoming’s “good government watchdog,” opening closed doors and bringing sunshine into the state legislature and agencies. Dr. Pete Simpson, always entertaining and funny, talked very seriously about the integrity of the ESPC’s work and noted how it has sharpened many policy debates. He noted that in Wyoming’s “live and let live” culture, the ESPC reminds the public and policy-makers of the need to care for the single mother and her children and others less fortunate. Former Western States Center executive director Dan Petegorsky shared tales of the early efforts to launch the ESPC and noted the feathers ruffled by some of its first work in the Wyoming. State Sen. Cale Case, co-chair of the Legislative Technology and Process Committee, accepted our first-ever Sunshine Award recognizing the Legislature for its creation and continuous improvement of its website. The site now offers a wealth of information for the public. ESPC Treasurer Linda Burt told Sen. Case that “we don’t want you legislators to get the idea that we’re completely satisfied … but we do want to recognize the very significant improvements that have been made.” The ESPC board gave the Progressive Visionary Award to Sarah Gorin, one of the founders of the organization, in gratitude for Sarah’s “exceptional commitment to the mission of the Equality State Policy Center.” The ESPC’s first full-time director Tom Throop was given the Progressive Leadership Award. Throop launched many of the Equality State Policy Center’s civic participation programs and conducted much of its original research. Railroader Richard Sanchez, who has helped ESPC canvassing efforts in Rawlins for years, was recognized with the Grassroots Volunteer Award. Flores de Colores, a traditional Hispanic dance group formed by Danelle Moyte of Cheyenne in 2003, highlighted the diversity of Wyoming’s culture for the celebration. The performance was supported in part by a grant from the Wyoming Arts Council, through funding from the Wyoming State Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts.