Pinedale: All aboard!

New Pinedale city limit sign?

This is classic.

Our county leaders want to know a few things about you.

START Bus wants to know a few things about you.

 

In a survey released yesterday (feel free to take it) START Bus leaders want to know a couple of things including:

  • Would you move to Pinedale if START sent a bus there?
  • Can you drive the bus?

 

START
Will START consider runs to California next in order to get workforce housing bused into the valley?

In other words, even if a bus run would prove viable, START has no one to drive it. What else do our leaders need from us? Do they need us to fill it up, too, at Hoback Market on the way there?

 

Maybe Pinedale will end up being a part of the solution to our housing woes. Maybe our workforce would be more than happy to commute 4 hours a day to fold sheets for hotels charging $600 for a night’s stay.

 

Is this the community we remember? Is this the Jackson Hole we want to live in?

Housing director named

April Norton

April Norton has been chosen to head the new joint Affordable Housing Department. Norton was selected from an applicant pool of 15. That group was narrowed to three finalists last week that included Norton, T.R. Pierce, and S.C. Howard.

A panel of six conducted the interviews: Alyssa Watkins (county administrator), Julianne Fries (county HR), Bob McLaurin (town manager), Tyler Sinclair (joint planning director), Barbara Allen (BCC chair) and Sara Flitner (mayor). Watkins made the final decision today on Norton.

“April proved to be a strong candidate with a passion for addressing the future of our community and the competencies necessary for success in the Housing Director position,” Watkins said in a prepared statement. “We look forward to a successful program of housing production, preservation and management under her leadership.”

Norton is a 12-year resident of Jackson. She is currently a program officer for the LOR Foundation, where she has been employed since 2012. Norton also worked as associate director for Friends of Pathways and operations manager at the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce. She is married to Alex Norton, joint long-range planner for the town and county.

“Like most everyone else in this community, I want to find solutions to our housing problem,” Norton said. “Using my foundation background, which is rooted in community collaboration and solutions, I feel I bring a unique skill set to the housing director role and look forward to working with our community to address our workforce housing issues.”

Norton will take direction from town and county leaders as well as a three-member board (Matt Faupel, Amy Robinson and Danielle Goldyn-Haigh) put in place on May 1.

Wildlife: priority zero

Wildlife collisions will keep populations in check and keep Prazma in business.

Elected officials agreed to establish a Community Priorities Fund and in doing so completely ignored the No. 1 concern of the community: conservation. Time and again, when polled, residents of Teton County have been in unison when it comes to preserving wildlife, habitat and open space. In fact, it’s the one and only thing this diverse community can agree on.

Time and again, our desires are ignored.

The 2012 Comp Plan calls for the establishment of a “dedicated funding source for conservation easements and other measures that protect the wildlife habitat, habitat connections, and scenery valued by the community.” To date, none has been designated.

Mark Newcomb
Mark Newcomb, alone in fighting for conservation.

When presented with the perfect opportunity to do so—voting on a general sales tax increase to fund this community’s priorities—electeds once again said no to conservation. At Monday’s JIM, they voted unanimously to raise taxes for housing (50%) and transportation (50%), exclusively.

Commissioner Smokey Rhea expressed her concern that wildlife was not being considered. Commissioner Mark Newcomb took a stronger stance, electing to abstain from the vote in a show of displeasure. It was a nice gesture but a no vote would have been more powerful. Granted, abstaining meant he did not have to cast a vote that would likely be perceived as opposed to housing, which is a death sentence to any politician right now.

It certainly appears as if our elected officials are more worried about reelection and keeping their jobs than they are in doing the bidding of its citizens.

Questions?

Housing is the perceived fire that needs to be put out immediately—today, say elected officials. Adequate workforce housing inventory (rental or ownership) for lower- or middleclass has always been a challenge in the valley, but creating a tax to fund the issue is a desperate knee-jerk measure in response to the intense emotional clamor of the day.

A vote to raise taxes for housing would have gone nowhere in 2010 when the recession helped keep real estate process in check and adequate rentals available to a degree. At various times through the last two decades, housing has been on the front burner, back burner, and sometimes not even on the stove at all. Planning for the future of the county should be a big picture undertaking, not a menu serving of the soup du jour.

It’s the squeaky wheel today. It is causing politicians to bend to pressure and forget a few things:

  • Is government built housing effectively solving the problem? We need to build 3 Groves each year for the next 10 years to keep up with projected growth. Government subsidized building (using the latest metrics) works out to a cost of nearly half a million dollars per unit. We’ll need $125M in today’s dollars, to do this. Can’t be done.
  • Will a private-public partnership get the job done? Based on current numbers for the Housing Trust’s Redmond-Hall project ($12M for 28 units), this arrangement can put housing on the ground for $429,000 a unit. Not much better.
  • What part of building apartment complexes maintains dark skies at night, or natural landforms, or pristine hillsides/buttes, or keeping open vistas? All called for in the Comp Plan.
The future of Jackson Hole its headed toward dense apartment complexes serviced by mass(ive) transportation.
The future of Jackson Hole its headed toward dense apartment complexes serviced by mass(ive) transportation.

One last thing. Let’s say electeds really didn’t give two shakes about wildlife/habitat/open space even though, when asked, valley residents respond somewhere around 75% in favor of funding these priorities, or at least considering them the most important thing we care about as a community.

Given that, wouldn’t it be prudent to at least include conservation on the short list of things we want to tax ourselves for? If a penny increase in sales tax proposal went something like 50% for housing, 30% for transportation, and 20% for wildlife/habitat preservation—wouldn’t that at least be a little more palatable to voters? Sweetening a tax increase with a little sugar might have worked.

As it stands, ANY amount of money we throw at housing will likely be perceived as either a waste or unproductive. We can give START Bus a zillion dollars tomorrow to buy a trillion buses and that still won’t mean more people will ride the bus.

Our elected leaders have virtually guaranteed the failure of this tax at the polls this November.

The homeless have a voice, and their struggles are certainly real and sorrowful. Jackson Hole’s wild creatures, its beautiful landscapes and unspoiled natural features cannot speak. Save Historic Jackson Hole has been and will always be dedicated to reminding our government leaders what we as a united community have always stood for: Wild Wyoming.

Commercial buildout

Downtown Jackson has enough potential commercial space.

Faced with staying put with 1994 Comp Plan numbers that included 5.1 million square feet of commercial potential in the town and county, joint leaders were feeling pressure to increase these numbers. Some groups advocated for more nonresidential buildout while others — like Save Historic Jackson Hole — rallied against more commercial being added to the downtown District 2.

Town electeds heard our voice. They changed their minds and, together with the county commissioners, voted unanimously to hold to what nonresidential currently exists on the books. It’s a sensible solution.

SHJH was also successful in changing the minds of the council regarding parking spaces for residential properties in D2. Only one space was going to be required for a downtown apartment regardless of how many bedrooms it had. It is unrealistic to assume a family or multiple families renting a 3BR unit would have only one car. Regulations were changed upped to one vehicle per bedroom (2 max).

But it’s not over yet. Individuals and organizations like Think About It, Jackson Hole are rallying to have the vote overturned or changed. The LDR revision must go through three readings to become a regulation. It is expected to meet stiff opposition at every step.

First reading is Monday, June 6, at 6 p.m. in town hall chambers. SHJH would love for you to make this meeting if only to show support for what town officials have already decided, and to make sure they don’t get their mind’s changed at the last minute by special interest groups.

Budge Slide: questions remain

Town prepares a $10 million fix of Budge Drive with $6 million coming via a hopeful SPET initiative.

Judd Grossman, candidate for town council, wrote the following on his Facebook page. We reprint here only because we at Save Historic Jackson Hole have been asking ourselves the same questions.


Regarding the Budge Slide, Town needs to do a better job of answering the following questions:

  • Who’s fault is the slide?
  • Do we understand what went wrong and have we taken steps to make sure that the errors aren’t being repeated?
  • Why should the taxpayers foot the bill?
  • If the taxpayers pay up front to fix the slide will Town be able to clawback the money once the courts decide who is liable?
  • Is the Town legal team aggressively fighting for the taxpayer’s interests?
  • What are the real odds of the slide creating catastrophic damage to Broadway?
Judd Grossman
Judd Grossman

Often public safety is used as an unassailable argument for government initiatives. Public safety is a core government responsibility, but needs to be tempered with return on investment based on real actuarial math, and a careful analysis of who is actually liable for the remediation. I’m reminded of the Great Recession bank bail out where the taxpayers were cajoled into bailing out the private sector in the name of impending economic disaster.

The SPET ballot process is the perfect venue for these concerns to be discussed and resolved. Which begs the question: Why are the Town and County killing SPET after August, and replacing it with their own unaccountable, blank check, money grab in the form of a General Excise Tax Increase? Are they expecting that we won’t have any more unexpected (or preplanned) big ticket capital expenses in the future?

2016 Candidate field set

elections 2016

The deadline to file for Town and County offices has passed.

As of 5pm today, the official list of candidates for Mayor, Town Council and board of County Commissioners is as follows:

 

MAYOR

Sara Flitner    (sara@flitner.net)

Mark Obringer    (mobringer@bresnan.net)

Stephen McDonald   (stephen.mcdonald@jacksonhole.com)

Pete Muldoon   (jacksonholepete@gmail.com)

 

 

TOWN COUNCIL

Hailey Morton Levinson   (hailey@haileyforcouncil.com)

Jim Stanford   (jamesestanford@gmail.com)

Judd Grossman   (campaign@juddgrossman.com)

Jessica Sell Chambers   (jessica.s.chambers@gmail.com)

Anne Schuler   (a.schuler@bresnan.net)

 

COUNTY COMMISSION

Natalia Duncan Macker-D   (mackerforwyo@gmail.com)

Lisa daCosta-R   (lisa.dacosta@gmail.com)

Sandy Shuptrine-D   (sandyshuptrine@wyom.net)

Greg Epstein-D   (info@gregepstein.com)

Nikki Gill-R   (nikki@jhherefordranch.com)

Marvin “Trey” Davis III-R   (audreyntrey@gmail.com)

 

Labor camps shot down

Herring-Tent-Cities-6

The town discussion on a potential campsite for temporary laborers derailed before it ever got going. Councilman Jim Stanford appeared to be the only one interested in exploring the idea but he was not joined by his colleagues.

Don Frank said, “I have to ask the philosophical question: Is it the government’s job to house employees…or private businesses that should take the lead to house their own employees?”

Both Frank and Bob Lenz had no appetite for using the Home Ranch lot as a temporary camping site. They said that belongs to parking guests of downtown Jackson.

Mayor Sara Flitner, on the verge of tears, said she feels for the families currently living out of their cars or on the brink of being homeless.

“I’m disappointed. I’m a mom. The backseat of a car is nowhere for a family to live,” Flitner said. “I know our community is facing pressure, but I am going to encourage this council to focus on permanent, longterm solutions for the people who are cleaning our toilets, cleaning our schools, [etc]…”

Flitner called some solutions well-intentioned (“Like the father and son who put the baby bison in the back of their Tahoe,” she said) but without sensibility. The mayor said she was particularly dismayed by a call she received last night informing her that one family in the valley may be asking their 15-year-old daughter to drop out of high school so she can get a job and help the family make rent on their studio apartment.

Stanford blamed online social media discussions earlier today for derailing the discussion before it could even get going.

“It’s unfortunate that before we could even have this discussion there was an online ‘arms race’ that seeks to distort this issue,” Stanford said.

He added that he was willing to “take the bullet on this” if that’s what it took to “show a little bit of compassion for folks being squeezed right now.”

The council decided to take no further action on the possibility of temporary camping facilities within town limits but did agree to let Stanford explore potential options with county leaders on possible suitable sites for temporary housing.

 

 

Come, Work, Camp…(tent not provided)

Tent city


We will be watching with great interest this afternoon’s town workshop where discussion will take place about creating possible camping areas for Jackson’s peon workforce.

Councilman Jim Stanford has led the charge to create temporary man camps where 90-day wonders could come and toast marshmallows around the campfire in between their shifts schlepping food and folding sheets for tourists.

These labor camps have been proposed at various public parks, including Phil Baux Park, Miller Park, and Powderhorn Park. There is also slated for discussion the possibility of using Karns Meadow as place to plop as many as 150 tent sites.

Tent city

Really? This is where we are headed?

Instead of turning to government for expensive and radical solutions to our housing crisis, perhaps we should step back and take a hard look at what kind of labor force it takes to support our current lifestyle and economy in Jackson Hole. Maybe we should learn—as a lot of Americans have had to—to live within our means. Sure, we are the wealthiest county in the nation measured by the almighty dollar, but what of the dismal state of our labor capital?

If we can’t support a bountiful summer season of tourism—if we can’t staff the hotels and restaurants, keep traffic moving, and pay for the public services demanded—maybe we should go back to the drawing board and ask ourselves some deeper questions. We can’t go on like this.

Private citizens in South Park said they don’t want to live next to more housing. Private citizens in JH Golf & Tennis said they don’t want to live next to more housing. Private citizens near the Bar J Wrangler property said they don’t want to live next to more housing.

Fine, that’s their right as a property owner. But our rights as “The Public” is to have our parks be parks. Places of refuge where we can escape the big city rush and trade concrete for grass. Guess what? We don’t want major employers’ workers living on “our” land either. That’s not a solution. Either pay them more or house them.

And it’s doubtful the Karns family envisioned their beloved meadow would become the home of a bus depot and then a labor camp. They sold Karns Meadow to the town for pennies on the dollar with the understanding that it would be forever protected. Now the town is contemplating buying their way out of that conservation deal.

It is a sad and dire state of affairs when these types of drastic measures are proposed. We can’t just keep flogging the oxen. At some point we need to take responsibility for the boundless greed and growth machine we’ve created.

Enough will never be enough for some. It’s time to step off this treadmill and stop this madness.

To be clear, Save Historic is not opposed to personal opinions and private property rights. We respect any individual’s right to maintain/retain their property value. Proposed housing solutions and developments should have to adhere to the expressed desires of the community as stated in the 2012 Comp Plan and governed by current land development regulations with respect to wildlife, natural resources, and areas where denser housing has been zoned appropriate. 

Our intent is simply to point out instances that underscore the obvious: We are a community at maximum carrying capacity. Building and bussing our way out of our housing problems is not a solution. 

No Guest Shot

SHJH ad

At Save Historic Jackson Hole we are always trying to get our message to the community in the most cost-effective manner. Big developments are taking place in the LDR revisions following the 2012 Comp Plan and we want citizens to know what these growth-enabling changes will bring to the valley: more people, more hotels, more businesses, more traffic.

We believe there is a finite carrying capacity for this valley and we are rapidly approaching it as lack of housing, traffic jams, and other indicators would suggest. Our latest message was denied free publication in a timely manner by the News&Guide. After consecutive Guest Shots by pro-growth individuals (the current mayor Sara Flitner and the former mayor Mark Barron) we thought it only right that an alternative voice of reason be heard. We could not get in under the Guest Shot for the 5-11-16 issue of the News&Guide so we decided to take out a paid ad.

Find it on page A22 in this week’s paper.

SHJH ad

 

Spending spree on housing begins

housing money

housing moneyThe town council has decided they will wait no longer. They will not wait on whether or not a Housing Authority ever reshapes into anything trustworthy. They will not wait to see if voters will decide to tax themselves so government can build subsidized housing for the less fortunate in JH which includes (by the mayor’s definition) $500,000 homes for lawyers who make a million dollars a year.
The town council has already forked over $1.65 million to the Housing Trust for the workforce rental project slated for Redmond and Hall. Town leaders said they could scrape up another $2 million from the budget. The Trust said thanks, but that’s still not enough. They want a total of $6 million from the town and/or county by next summer before they will begin construction on what Mayor Sara Flitner called a “top priority” project.

At a budgeted $12 million, total, the 27 units would work out to a subsidized $444,444 each.

We enjoyed Cody Brinton’s response to the news story on this in the News&Guide.


We reprint here:

Cody Brinton takes aim at taxpayer waste.
Cody Brinton takes aim at taxpayer waste.

“Mayor Flitnor I’d like to remind you this is the USA and not france and not socialism—The government has no business in the housing industry– a couple of points— If the politicos where serious about solving the housing shortage they would remove much regulation– they would allow trailer parks so Juan- Jane and Jerry could buy there own homes- have pride in ownership and some skin in the tax paying game– I promise you this—you are running folks out by raising taxes to cover others housing– It is not my responsibility as a tax payer to help the resorts and tomahawk shops have employees— cut regulation so they build their own employee housing. Your bed tax is working your driving more people here and not using the money for the services needed. If you raise my sales tax— I wont buy anything but groceries and when our defunct legislators put a food tax on I will commute to purchase it— Your like a bunch of pick pocketing horse thieves stealing tax dollars to create housing that devalues my home– Not one more penny of my tax dollar to house ANYONE– The resorts can block out rooms for their employees but your not going to reach into my pocket to help them attain high profits! In matter of a few weeks utilities could be laid for mobile homes– easily several hundred spots could be open for people fill- the problem is you think these ugly poorly constructed homes your putting up are superior to modern mobil homes— and your wrong.”

— Cody Brinton