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   

GUEST SHOT

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