It's been brought to my attention several times that people are unclear about what I do professionally and are concerned that I am a 'novice' with no government experience...
Like Senator Simpson encouraged a few weeks ago, one should do something in life and then run for elected office and I have. Presently, my profession is that of Household CEO, Domestic Engineer, and Director of Child Development, all the while running a campaign and doing educational consulting jobs, primarily for the Teton County Model United Nations Conference with Interconnections 21. As an elected official though, I’ll get a significant bump in salary.
In the past, I have had far less challenging positions: At 25, I was a radio affiliate and project manager for King Biscuit (Flower Hour) Entertainment. At 26, I was a Winston Fellow in France, researching while teaching in two middle schools. At 27, I was a producer for David Alpern’s Newsweek on Air. At 28, my life dramatically shifted course when my mother died and I needed to take care of my 9 and 15 year old brothers. I have since gotten a Master’s Degree in Education and have taught all around the valley and in the state. As for having ‘no’ experience in government: I studied International Affairs/Political Science in New York City; I was educated by and worked closely with diplomats, ambassadors, United Nations Professionals, Non-Governmental Organization staff, policy makers, and experts in many fields. My research and analysis have won awards; and I still author international policy and procedural guides and conduct trainings, albeit for a younger audience. Mostly though, people should vote for this ‘novice’ because I have a low threshold for trying unorthodox measures that have been proven effective. The last thing we need right now is someone who wants to do things the way they’ve always been done.
Do I believe in the vision of the Comp Plan?
As much as I support the Comp Plan and its objectives, the vision inaccurately represents this equation as linear. Human inhabitants care about preserving and protecting an ecosystem when they are valued and invested in the community and when their immediate problems such as housing insecurity, childcare, or health issues do not overshadow issues such as climate change. Jackson struggles to ensure a decent quality of life for a large portion of its residents. And, since our fingerprints are already all over this place, we must acknowledge the role of protecting the inhabitants, both with and without voices as a necessary means for protecting our ecosystem. But, yes - of course - if we destroy the environment we destroy ourselves with it.
I try not to feel my way through important questions; the connection between one’s investment in the community and how much one cares for the surrounding environment is backed up by research and evidence. As you stated in your opening remarks you, “know of no city, state, or region that has developed an industrial or post-industrial economy while also maintaining the basic health and integrity of its surrounding environment.” I do not know of any location under the circumstances you described, where they, as Terry Tempest Williams said the other night, “put people before profit”. It is my hope given our size, level of education, and self-awareness, we could lead in this area and demonstrate that sustainable profits are linked to sustainable communities and ecosystems.
Can Jackson grow?
Jackson Hole is clearly confined politically, economically, and geographically. Our population cannot grow unchecked especially living the way we currently live. However, there are clear ways we can adjust the way we live but that will require political will and for people to accept a different way of living. There are a lot of unrealistic and contradictory opinions expressed around here; we as a community are going to have to reconcile these conflicting views in order to achieve the vision laid out in the Comp Plan. Another thing Terry Tempest Williams said the other evening is, “We need to learn to speak the language of ‘We’.” We have some very real threats facing our way of life here, such as the effects of climate change. When all of our backyards have been scorched in mega wildfires, ‘not in my backyard’ will have new meaning. One thing that could be very helpful is to make Jackson youth friendly, so we don’t have a ‘brain-drain’. Ultimately, residents need to make up their minds with regard to what they want.
How will I tell developers 'no' in order to protect the environment? What will guide my decision making?
These are not either-or situations. When the community-economy-ecosystem triangle is balanced, each element supports each other. Ultimately, sustainability is the best way forward for everyone and everything. I have an artillery of resources both academically and professionally to rely upon as far as policy goes - however, do we really need experts to tell us sustainable practices are the best way forward? Common sense is enough. During a conversation with planning director, Tyler Sinclair, I firmed up my guiding questions that will inform my decision making when I’m on the Council: Will this protect our ecosystem? Is this sustainable? Will this maintain community?
How do we express our priorities as a town? What will you commit in the budget to protecting the environment and ecosystem?
An organization expresses its priorities through its mission and vision, which is reflected in its policy, which is then reflected in its budget. Further, priorities reflected in policy, may require no line item whatsoever. As for pledging funding that will directly support preserving and protecting the area’s ecosystem, how can anyone make such a pledge? Everything we do is in the spirit of protecting the area’s ecosystem or ought to be; there’s no way to extract this one piece from the rest of what we do in town; and anyone who thinks it can be done is not seeing the big picture. Housing is linked to transportation is linked to conservation is linked to education is linked to the ecosystem, and so on and so forth. I do support wild neighborhoods and ensuring habitat connectivity but that is expressed in other areas of the budget.
Environmental boundaries supersede local boundaries; how should we handle the interconnectedness of our natural resources with regard to neighboring communities?
“Boundaries” are non-existent when we’re talking about the environment. It is imperative we partner with people up and downstream from us, but first we must cultivate our own garden. One specific action we can take is to invite the mayors of our bedroom communities to the table to discuss a wide range of issues that straddle boundaries and the protection of our ecosystem; these leaders have made it perfectly clear they want a seat at the table. In general though, Teton County should do everything in our power to lead by example and exchange best practices with our neighbors; it would be wise, in our best interest, and excellent for the ecosystem.
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