Tea Party stirs the pot

Mysterious ads linked to local Tea Party have been eye-opening.
Mysterious ads linked to local Tea Party have been eye-opening.

Tea Party leaders are making some good points lately. We’ve been enjoying their under-the-radar ad campaign urging voters to take a hard look at proposed new taxes.

We deserve to know where our tax dollars are going. We are owed a reasonable explanation for why Housing Authority funds have failed, to some degree, in putting actual housing on the ground.

An informed electorate is our goal. Nothing more.

No new taxes

This one should fit right in the wheelhouse of the local Tea Party.

The people have spoken.
The people have spoken.

A News&Guide poll shows the community is very particular about what we are willing to bear the burden of. We work hard for our money, and to have government come asking for more of it in order to staff a monster Housing Authority department/agency AND to fix Budge slide might be pushing the envelope a bit, no?

More than 83% of respondents said this is a town problem. They need to figure out what went wrong and who did what. Only 8.9% want to see the costs to fix the slide covered by a special purpose tax (SPET). Eight percent think WYDOT should step up (Good luck with that; their budget is tapped out).

Not budging a bit

No one is denying Budge slide is a potential public safety issue. We feel for the families and local businesses that have suffered for two years now. But why is no one from the town looking into what went wrong?

There are only two ways to interpret the issue. Either, as some town officials have declared, we have a precarious butte with a 60-year history of eroding and something was bound to go wrong. Or town engineers were overly optimistic (following town electeds’ over eagerness) to get Walgreens in Jackson. Then there was the 200,000-gallon water leak from a private residence atop the butte.

Is this mess yours to pay for?
Is this mess yours to pay for?

If the butte had a history of geological activity and unstable behavior, why on earth would development be allowed that plopped a new Walgreens at its base? A project that required extensive grading and carving into the hill. If the slide was simply an Act of God that could not be foreseen, it sure seemed to coincide in a perfectly timely manner with the addition of the pharmacy store carved into the hill’s toe.

Judging from the poll results, we think the community deserves some better answers. All we’ve seen so far from our town is a payoff to homeowners so they wouldn’t seek legal action—Bencor (Walgreens) did the same— and an urgent plea to “not play the blame game. Let’s not point fingers. Let’s look ahead to the fix,” say town staffers.

That’s not good enough. That’s irresponsible government. If they won’t investigate the possible causes, a current lawsuit in the works will bring everything into the light. Until then, it sure looks like we aren’t willing to foot the bill.

This week’s SHJH ad

Look for Save Historic Jackson Hole’s ad in the 2-17-16 News&Guide weekly paper.

In an effort to inform and educate the community we thought it the right time to question the effectiveness of the Teton County Housing Authority to date. They have owned land—purchased with taxpayer money—that they have not built housing on. Some parcels have gone unused for a decade or more. They have built housing that does not target low- or even mid-income families. And they have mismanaged funds. They can do better.

The answer is not hiring more people to do their job. Some of the blame lies with our electeds. County Commissioners have not demanded more accountability and better results.

Before we make decisions to create new positions and government departments, let’s make be sure we are fixing problems and not merely buying new ones with money we don’t have.

SHJH ad in 2-27-16 issue of the News&Guide.
SHJH ad in 2-27-16 issue of the News&Guide.

Town spends thousands to save $25


Wonderful family events like the annual Easter egg hunt on the town square will be allowed to continue...as long as event organizers fork over their $25 application fee because the town is feeling the crunch of their FY2017 budget.
Wonderful family events like the annual Easter egg hunt on the town square will be allowed to continue…as long as event organizers fork over their $25 application fee because the town is feeling the crunch of their FY2017 budget.

Save Historic Jackson Hole was present (well, sort of…we caught the live stream) at today’s town workshop where councilors made decisions to whomp nonprofits with a $25 event application fee for things government should be happily providing for like the town Easter egg hunt.

“It’s reasonable to recoup costs the town incurs,” Don Frank said. “[Applicants] should view this as a bargain not a burden.”

Then the town turned around and agreed to throw hundreds of thousands of dollars toward the design and build of Phase I of a new Parks & Rec maintenance facility complete with 3 stories and at least 10 2BR apartments.

They also discussed spending money on a ticketing system and police monitoring of the parking garage so that taxi companies and freeloaders alike quit bogarting the structure with vehicles that sit and gather dust for weeks at a time.

Lots going on and we have more in-depth coverage of what your town electeds are up to. Stay tuned.

South Park development

A proposed development in South Park would put 206 homes on 203 acres on Nielson Ranch/Lucas property there. The arrangement would also put 22 homes in on Spring Gulch with the promise to preserve open space there.

While the project is not without merit, Save Historic Jackson Hole has concerns about the pre-application for this proposal, which will be developed by Steelhead Partners LLC (David Quinn). Deliberate attempts have been made to “fast-track” this application in order to get in order the wire. New LDRs, set to take effect in April, would prohibit such a development but with a 3-year moratorium currently lapsed, this looks like a proposal seeking to capitalize on a grey area of time.

We have urged county planners and commissioners to take a close look at this application, and to make sure every “I” is dotted and every “T” crossed.

In order to get the project approved by April, applicants have asked the required Environmental Analysis be waived. That is unacceptable. Some of the area in play at Spring Gulch is in the NRO (Natural Resource Overlay) and the South Park Loop parcels are part of the county’s Rural Preservation subarea and in prime riparian habitat.

There are too many red flags here. Any development proposal this large and impactful  should be carefully vetted. Pushing it through the process in a hasty manner to beat a deadline is worrisome at best.

They got to the Governor

Matt MeadGovernor Matt Mead broke ranks with local government in Jackson Hole. After both the county and town agreed the NPS preferred Alternative C for the 8-mile Moose-Wilson corridor was the most appropriate, Mead said they’re wrong.

In a letter to the Park Service, Mead said Moose-Wilson Road should have a bike path and questioned the 200-vehicle limit, claiming cueing cars might impact air quality. Both criticisms of Alternative C mirror exactly the argument put forth by Teton Village Association (TVA) and Friends of Pathways (FOP).

Mead said he was concerned for public safety (presumably the safety of bikers choosing to use the road as it exists without a dedicated path). Let’s look at the facts: In the 10-year period from 2002 to 2012, Park data records show a total of two bicycle-related incidents. Two total. One of these accidents involved a cyclist crashing into a PARKED dump truck.

bikers vs grizzlyAdding a dedicated bike path will not only be a statistically insignificant measure in reducing injuries to bikers, it will likely put more at risk. Studies by Schmor 1999 and MacHutchon 2014 find bicyclists move as quickly as cars and silently. They spook bears and cause them to frequently charge and attack riders.

Mead has said in the past that local government closest to the people is best and most effective. He has often postured Wyoming against Washington, telling feds to let us run our own state. Now, the governor seems to be changing his tune. Suddenly, suit-and-tie politicians in Cheyenne know what’s best for Jackson Hole. They know better than the Park Service; more disturbingly, they think they know better than our town and county leaders.

Jerry BlannAfter years in the making, with dozens of studies and hundreds of stakeholders involved in the method; and after hearing public input numbering in the thousands, why are TVA and FOP (collectively known as “Jerry Blann”) suddenly being allowed to hijack the process? These are niche, special interest groups at best. But they apparently have the Governor’s Office on speed dial.