Nothing but the truth, please

Did you catch Louis Wang’s “Guest Shot” in this week’s News&Guide?

The informative article contains some important facts and data points often overlooked or simply misrepresented. Again, there is no denying Jackson Hole has an imbalance in its supply of affordable housing versus commercial development. Study after study has shown that to be a stark reality. What is most often debated is how to go about addressing the disparity.

Save Historic Jackson Hole maintains that many politicians—with the aid of biased reporting—believe the solution lies in taxing the public to pay for problems created by employers who don’t pay an adequate living wage, and greedy developers who develop commercial properties that exacerbate our housing and traffic problems without being held financially accountable to adequately mitigate their impacts.

Following is Wang’s opinion piece in the November 23 issue of the News&Guide.

O P I N I O N   


Balanced reporting is always required

Balanced reporting of the news can be challenging. It’s easy to attend public meetings and repeat what the politicians said, but real news coverage cannot end there. Elected officials have their viewpoint, why this or that happened, but it’s only one viewpoint. And it may not be accurate.

The press is obligated to present both sides of an issue, and sometimes that doesn’t happen.

The lead article in last week’s News&Guide, “Tax denied, town needs new funding,” may be off-base. The tax was for housing and transportation — $12 million a year for public housing and the bus.

Maybe voters said no to the expanded programs themselves, not just the funding source. Maybe they’re against more public housing and buses.

The bus isn’t a transportation solution and voters know that. Subsidized housing increases crowding and traffic gridlock. Maybe voters didn’t want more gridlock.

It’s more likely voters were simply defending their quality of life. They just want a livable place to call home.

One town councilor said “we’re being asked to address transportation and housing problems” and “we’re not afforded the funds.”

Voters denied the funds. That’s true. And the same voters are extremely generous as evidenced by many $-millions of voluntary giving. So why would they say no?

They didn’t agree with the program. They don’t see middle class public housing as a solution to the problem of overcrowding. It makes things worse, not better.

The pro-tax folks spent a lot more money than the anti-tax folks. The pro folks put up a fancy website, too, and they lost.

Politicians need to accept the loss and stop pretending voters support their big-growth agenda.

Maybe the headline should have been “Voters say no to public housing.”

The article warns of “increasing congestion due to the council’s fiscal inability to fund projects.” That’s simply not true. Funding the projects will increase congestion. More people, more congestion.

Voters said “no” to limit congestion and protect their quality of life.

Politicians think they have a mandate for public housing, but that never came from the voters. There is no mandate for housing or the bus. The mirage of a mandate came from politicians that spent five years manipulating the comp plan.

Voters never voted on the so called “community priorities” stated in the comp plan. And the politicians that crafted the plan never did a real transportation study. Maybe they didn’t want to know the answer.

A legitimate transportation study will show what voters know already: Our road network is maxed out. Highway 22 is maxed out, the “Y” is a big-time bottleneck and you cannot push more traffic through town. Maybe the headline should have read “Voters say no to more gridlock.”

Unfortunately, there’s a whole lot of pretense in local politics. The truth is:

  1. The Comp Plan isn’t the people’s plan. Politicians spent more than $200,000 to ensure voters couldn’t vote on it.
  2. Voters never said yes to the “community priorities.” They were dictated by politicians in the Comp Plan.
  3. The Comp Plan is only an advisory document, but politicians treat it as gospel when it suits them.
  4. The bus has been around for four decades and carries only 1 percent of trips. Voters subsidize 85 percent of the cost. As a transportation solution, the bus is a failure.
  5. Subsidized workforce housing is a handout to local businesses. Voters don’t want to subsidize local businesses, some of which are very wealthy.
  6. The Chamber of Commerce supports public housing and transportation because it’s money in its members’ pockets.

We need to be realistic. Our roadways can’t handle more growth. In an August 2015 article, the News&Guide reported that a Jackson man had “seen his 20-minute drive from work in Teton Village increase to a full hour.”

On Nov. 8 voters said no to overcrowding. They said no to local government housing and transportation programs, not just the funding.

They voted for a livable Jackson Hole. Louis Wang is a Jackson resident affiliated with Save Historic Jackson Hole. Columns expressly represent the views of the author.

Louis Wang

Tax Tanks

Was it merely resistance to a tax hike?
Was it reluctance to hand our local leaders a blank check and trust the money will make it’s way to housing and transportation?
Was it a rejection of the socialist aspect of government-provided housing for the middle class?
Was it the trickery and deceitfulness employed by town and county officials, who were so desperate to develop another funding source they insisted this was not a tax increase when it was obvious that most voters saw through that?

It could have been a number of things, but the fact remains: the people have spoken. If we are to address our housing shortage and traffic challenges we will have to do so with a careful, measured approach that involves more than just throwing money at the problems.
As in the referendum, once again Save Historic Jackson Hole feels so very fortunate that the intentions of the majority were heard, acknowledged, and triumphant.
It’s time to move forward, as a community dedicated to retaining our small town, western charm.

Tax Hike: bad idea

We are not in favor of a proposed sales tax increase in the name of funding housing and transportation strategies.

We couldn’t have said it better than the local Tea Party. Nice job, folks!


Here is a text version of the Tea Party’s new ad:

The Hole in One

Vote NO on the 1% tax!

The arguments being used to sell the 1% General Tax to Teton County voters, at best, are less than honest. At worst, they are reprehensible for trying to guilt us into voting for it. The claim is that if those not voting for the 1% are against housing and transportation; don’t care if Teton County workers live in cars, tents, or are just plain homeless; and will be responsible for all the traffic snarls at the “Y” intersection. Teton County residents should be outraged that some office holders and the nonprofits we already support are trying to guilt us into lavishing more funds on them and that they think us so naive that we can’t see the truth.

Let’s be clear: no one who opposes the 1% tax is against housing and transportation solutions. Once again, to make sure it is heard. NO ONE who opposes the 1% is against housing and transportation solutions.

Let’s review the many problems associated with the 1% tax and the misleading way it’s being sold.

  • The money collected will go into the general fund. The pledge signed by the elected officials to spend the funds on housing and transportation is not binding – not on themselves and not those who might replace them in the future. It may not even be legal to dedicate general funds for specific projects.
  • There is no guarantee that the 1% tax, unlike a SPET, will ever expire. It takes a simple vote by the town council or county commission to extend it indefinitely.
  • Is it a tax increase? Yes! Going from the state’s 4% base to 5% was an increase. Going from 5% to 6% – whether by SPET or this 1% tax is also an increase. And, there is every likelihood that the sales tax in Teton County will rise to 7% and stay there as new SPETs are piled onto the 1%.
  • Why give our electeds even more funds when they have demonstrated a lack of ability to manage the funds they have? Think of the projects funded without a bidding process or an agreed upon budget. Think about chronic cost over runs and failed deadlines on housing projects, pathways, the pathway bridge, projects approved without consideration for maintenance or operational costs, etc. The government appears unable to make tough choices and to distinguish between “wants” and “needs” in our community.
  • We frequently read in our local newspapers that county revenues have never been higher, thanks to ever increasing levels of tourism, even if state sources of revenue are declining. Do we really need the revenue from the 1% tax?
  • Proponents imply that without the 1% there will be no budget for housing and transportation. If this were true, from where did the funds for past projects come? And where are the funds for future projects under consideration? The budgets either exist or our electeds are spending money they don’t have, which would be even more irresponsible.
  • If the 1% tax is approved, every dollar previously earmarked for housing and transportation can be reallocated to other projects that elected officials find appealing. This windfall provides a new source of discretionary funds and is a very subtle and unstated effect of the 1% tax. Don’t believe for a second that there aren’t funds for housing and transportation in the existing budget or that such projects won’t be funded in the absence of the 1% tax. Wouldn’t you call it dishonest when your votes are courted without full disclosure?
  • Finally, who is Community Priorities Coalition that is supporting the 1% tax so vigorously. You won’t find them identified on their own web site. But they are the Friends of Pathways, Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Jackson Hole Community Housing Trust, and Valley Advocates for Responsible Development. Now these are not bad people or bad organizations with bad causes. But why are they all lined up in a coalition to support the tax? Well, maybe they see a windfall of freed up budget funds as a new source of funding for themselves. In a time of supposed fiscal belt tightening, at least some of these organizations’ pet projects could be classified as “wants” and not “needs.”

So what can you do?

Well, obviously, vote against the 1% general sales tax. Force our electeds to be fiscally responsible, make tough decisions when necessary, and fully disclose all the ramifications of their budgets and funding requests.