What is our main problem?
Depends on who you ask, but I’d say housing and conservation issues are tied for first AND are inextricably linked. We need people/workers who are truly invested in our community full time, which involves being able to live here, which in turn results in knowledgeable residents who care for and protect our ecosystem and home. The ‘turnover’ economy/community doesn’t serve us, the community, nor our beloved valley.
What makes your housing solutions special?
I’m actually looking at ‘old’ ideas. Most recently, I’ve begun looking into building cooperatives, such as were used in Nova Scotia in the 1930-40s. (Coincidentally apropos: Gov. Mead just declared October “Cooperative Month”.) Apparently, there was some movement in this direction in the 90s in Jackson; I’d like to know what stalled it and what we can do to encourage and support local workers and families to embark on this process. We have a examples from all over the world of creative and beautiful ways to create affordable housing- it requires political will. However, incentivizing the private sector to build ‘affordable housing’ is akin to full throttling the gentrification we’re already experiencing; essentially it disproportionately adds even more wealthy inhabitants to an uneven housing market, which in it of itself dismantles the community as we know it.
What to do about the Integrated Transportation Plan?
Hire a Transportation Director and then let this person work with the planning department to move us forward; don’t micromanage him/her. Also, let’s keep the focus on the greater good of what future changes will bring with regard to protecting our environment and ensuring we maintain a sense of community. Changes are scary but they are a constant; we need to adapt to survive as a community and to simultaneously protect our delicate ecosystem.
Are you pro penny tax option on the November 8th ballot?
I am 100% for the 1% sales tax option on the the November ballot. For the moment a 50-50 split between housing and transportation works for our current community needs, and so does the fund. If we don’t like what the electeds decide to do with money in the future - that’s why we have elections. Given the guaranteed budget cuts statewide - we absolutely need to have some conversations about alternative sources of revenue - as I’ve said before - we do not utilize our full tax options and then reach out our hand to the state. Additionally, we need to keep pushing for a real-estate transfer tax at the state level - especially in Teton County many property owners in the hills are getting off scot-free; they expend little to no sales tax for 49 weeks of the year as their property sits vacant but generates jobs, and the property isn’t taxed to its fullest potential; a real estate transfer tax could be profound.
What are you most afraid of with dwindling state funds?
I’m concerned with our social services budget. The town and county pay a fraction of what’s typical as far as social services go - we rely so heavily on Old Bill’s and philanthropic giving. It’s not a sustainable system - and rather than doing their jobs, EDs spend a hefty portion of their time just gearing up for and chasing funds until Old Bill’s. With budget cuts coming from the state - making up the budget difference is going to be that much harder but we need to make up the difference, i.e. look for alternative revenue generators, and put ourselves on a more sustainable track with regard to funding our social services. That being said - when people have a decent quality of life, education & training, housing security, they need fewer social services overall.
What's good or bad with local leadership and protecting our natural resources? and what more can be done?
Leadership could do a better job of prioritizing and tackling the growing list of issues we have in order to address those affecting our natural resources and wildlife. What it boils down to is ineffective and overcommitted leadership and lack of courageous political will. One of the most alarming things I learned about our current mayor is that when asked about keeping public lands in public hands she was quoted in the News & Guide as saying, ‘never say never’, which reveals a total disconnect with our community’s objectives and economy. That comment is incomprehensible when it’s pretty well documented the pristine ecosystem we have is likely due to the immensity of public lands surrounding us. If current leadership doesn’t ‘get it’ how can we expect her to steer the ship - especially with the urgency of our environmental issues mounting?
What is one of your off-the-radar issues - something not everyone is focused on?
Things are far too complex for the average person to keep up with town matters short of having a full time job or staff to do so. Many signed the D2 petition simply because they couldn’t understand the ordinances. I met with Councilwoman Levinson the other day and then with Planning Director, Tyler Sinclair. We separately discussed the shortcomings of the current organization for public involvement. I have some ideas, which I discussed with Tyler, about streamlining the process to involve more people and to eliminate the rush of objections at the final hour. The process we have now is ineffective and time-consuming, and wasteful of resources with regard to staff and council obligations - even adding a regular Town Hall type meeting could be helpful to keep the council in contact with the public and vice versa.
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