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Social Justice Question & Answer

From Shelter JH's, One22, and PFLAG's Questionnaire

Teton County was recently named the #1 county in the U.S. for economic inequality. What does that ranking mean to you, and what specific actions (if any) would you take to address this inequality?

Jackson’s number one ranking of income inequality should be a giant wake-up call to those of us unaware of the economic disparities in our community. For the rest of us, it merely confirms what many of us have known. As a Councilperson, I would take action to ensure the people who labor to support our wonderful community are our number one priority moving forward. It is the job of our local government to ensure we have a fair market that reinforces and strengthens our community. Therefore, our focus should be on creating a sustainable community, where the individuals who support our community are valued and considered with regard to housing and transportation actions and development. When people are valued they invest in the community and care about its future and vice versa.

Laramie recently became the first community in Wyoming to pass a non-discrimination ordinance based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Last year, the Town of Jackson considered such an ordinance, but instead passed a non-binding resolution. What is your perspective on the need for a local Town of Jackson non-discrimination ordinance based on sexual orientation and gender identity? What would you like such an ordinance to accomplish, and why?

The Town of Jackson passing a non-discrimination ordinance is a firm commitment to the cause and also clearly demonstrates what we value as a community and what we will not tolerate. Frankly, a non-binding resolution sends a message to our LGBT community members and others that they and their safety and security don’t matter enough here in Jackson; we can do better. I would fully support an anti-hate crime ordinance in town, as it would be the first step in admitting we have these problems; then we can address them.

Many of our local human service agencies rely on state funding, which is decreasing. What do you consider to be the most critical human services needs in our community and what is the role of Town / County government in addressing these needs?

All of the services in our community serve specific people and needs in our community. I do not want to see any department or service cut out as the State has done. The role of Town government is to ensure we utilize the phenomenal opportunities we have to generate the revenue we need to provide these services and to make sure our expenditures are truly effective and needed.

Recently, 100 residents and workers marched to Town Hall asking for help with immediate, short-term housing emergencies - people are getting evicted and there’s nowhere for them to move. What specific short-term solutions do you support in response to those workers’ requests? How can Town / County government actualize these short-term solutions?

I marched to Town Hall in solidarity and I witnessed the men, women, and children who courageously detailed their struggles. Ideally, I would address the housing issue in three ways:

Short-term: I would lift restrictions on overnight parking. These community members are working and living out of their vehicles to support Jackson and if the problem is visible, there’s more motivation to fix it.

Mid-term: I would look at implementing renter protections, which benefit all of us. Banning or minimizing short-term rentals is effective - but we need to be aware of how local residents are hurting for the extra income that AirBnb provides; people are stretched thin as is and we need to keep that in mind.

Long-term: Understanding why we have the disparity between job creation and housing development is key to understanding what we do next and how we do it. Tackling LDRs and zoning to increase residential density and intensity where appropriate and motivate developers is also a goal.

Our community has set a goal of at least 65% of the area workforce living within Teton County. In your view, which parts of our local workforce should be prioritized for affordable/workforce housing units?

We need to prioritize the greatest contributors among us, those with the most skin in the game, and drop the ‘targeted’ income level to well below what it currently is and to focus on affordable rentals in addition to properties. It is these people who are often working multiple jobs to sustain our tourism based service industry, in our hotels, restaurants, adventure outfits, airport, etc. There are only so many hours they can work and commute and be away from their families before the detrimental effects start to bleed into the community as a whole. We also need to make sure the essential service providers are able to live here. We need everyone in this community to do the jobs they are doing in order for the whole town to stay afloat.

An enormous amount of energy has recently gone into restructuring the governmental housing organization. How will you ensure that public-private partnerships are created through an open and transparent process, and that housing selection for such projects is done in a way that is transparent and accountable to the public?

I will actively seek out partnerships and work with those who are interesting in improving our town and the housing situation. We need to bring as many stakeholders to the table as possible to address this in the most effective and transparent manner. As I stated in my responses to the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance’s questionnaire, some concrete steps Town and County officials can take to make public processes more accessible and to increase participation is to first make materials and meetings available in Spanish. They can also commit to solving the housing crisis; when people are working two jobs to pay their rent or mortgage participating in local government becomes a stretch.

One of our community members recently faced a situation where his landlord had refused to sign a written lease and then evicted him on less than 30 days' notice, despite collecting rent every 30 days for many months prior to the eviction notice. While researching his options, he found that Wyoming laws disproportionately favor landlords and provide virtually no protections to tenants, and that our local ordinances contain nothing at all on the subject of landlord-tenant law. What tenant protections regarding evictions, leases, rent increases, repairs, or other issues, would you support?

As much as some people don’t like the idea of being told what to do with their renters - the actions of some landlords are dictating what happens in our local economy and to our community members. The Town could implement a rent-stabilization ordinance that would allow for a reasonable and measured annual increase in rents. More has to be done at the state level to address this issue and I would lobby for changes to be made there as well. We have metropolitan problems and that requires metropolitan solutions - and rent stabilization is not rent-control.

Currently, new residential development is required to include 25% affordable units (on-site, unless it’s not possible), and new commercial development is required to mitigate the employment generated by a percentage of “peak seasonal employment” (but not by any year-round employment). During the Housing Summit, some stakeholders recommended changing these requirements. Would you seek to change either program? If so - why and how?

I am not in support of businesses providing housing for their employees - it turns into a form of indentured servitude tying workers and jobs to their housing instead of to the community. It also directly benefits the businesses. Seasonal workers are a little different in this regard, and perhaps businesses should bear the responsibility of housing these workers, since they are stop and go. We should limit commercial growth and job growth as much as possible until we better understand why we’re experiencing the crisis we are in.

In a related area, I would like us to examine smarter and less regressive tax options in the future, some of which requires action at the state level, and the diversification of our economy to focus more on local residents and not simply place all of our eggs in the tourism basket. If we minimize the need for seasonal workers and focus more on locals that will likely alleviate some of the stress created in seasonal ebbs and flows.

What is the role of youth in shaping the future of our community? How do you intend to engage younger, working residents in civic processes?

The role of youth in shaping the future of our community is being quickly decimated. When children who grow up here can’t come back to live here, we have serious problems, including brain drain. It’s not very smart of us. Engaging younger, working residents in civic processes requires a multifaceted approach that includes fixing the housing situation, opening up opportunities for local and year-round employment with livable wages. Basically, it requires us to focus on making this place a more livable place that doesn’t cater to the needs and desires of any one group.

What is the role of our seniors in shaping the future of our community? How do you intend to engage our elders in civic processes?

One of the ways I engage elders in our community is by simply picking up the phone or sitting down for coffee and listening. Our seniors hold the memories and knowledge of what this town and community was and can be. We will never return to what Jackson was decades ago. However, our elders have seen the fresh blood and new voices come into this town and change it for better and for worse. Our older community members possess the long-term history and context of change that is invaluable moving forward. They, like our younger and minority groups also suffer from poorly thought out or knee-jerk changes to our town and community. They are the ones who sat on the planning boards and commissions and who determined a sustainable path forward - A path that runs the risk of being overrun by various interests, many of whom see Jackson as a commodity to exploit or manipulate with little to no regard for the collective values our community shares and has already expressed.

What is the role of Latino community members in shaping the future of our community? How do you intend to engage Latino community members in civic processes?

A third of our community is Latino and they're integral in shaping our future. I am engaging the Latino community by reaching out, asking questions, and listening. Latinos suffer a lot of mistreatment in our community ranging from outright racism, to discrimination in the workplace, to microaggressions. We should be embarrassed by this. Many Latinos from all age ranges have shared stories about their experiences in Jackson that are shameful. Many people don’t understand that many in our Latino community are citizens, but are not treated as such - which is not say undocumented workers or their families deserve to be treated poorly or rudely. However, there is this idea held by some either knowingly or not, that depending on any number of qualifiers, certain people deserve our respect, care, or civility. I value all of our community members, which is why I took a basic, but important step, and translated my campaign materials and website into Spanish.

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