SPET: Add your 2 cents (or 1 cent)

Save Historic Jackson Hole would like to remind citizens that you have an opportunity to be heard regarding the latest sales tax hike proposed by government. The special purpose excise tax (SPET) is back. Town and county representatives would like to put several SPET initiatives on a May 2, 2017 special election ballot.

The meeting will take place on Monday, January 23 at 2 p.m. in the commissioners chambers.

If you can spare the time, please attend the meeting to discuss what items should be included in a round of SPET, and whether a second penny should be added to your sales tax in order to cover a wish list that exceeds $100 million. A total of $53.2M going toward 8 town/county projects is currently the ticket preferred by a SPET committee. Another $35.1M was whittled out by the committee but could be in play should electeds decide to increase SPET to 2 pennies. And still an additional $6.75M is being requested by Central Wyoming College for construction of a Jackson campus, and $17M in matching funds is desired by St. John’s Medical Center for a new living center.

Much to our surprise and disappointment, there is still no talk of money being appropriated for what this community says it values most: wildlife. As we continue to mow down 400 animals a year on our roadways (this winter has been even more devastating), elected officials have not appropriated money for wildlife crossings nor have they offered to put such a project on the SPET ballot.

Find out more.

Show up or catch the livestream.



Like it grows on trees

“Eclipsing” even a Teton County spending spree.

Our local government is hard at it again: spending. Faced with what critical care and first responders claim is a virtual Armageddon scenario, town and county officials have been convinced to set fire to a hundred grand for the planning of the Great American Eclipse. The complete solar eclipse will take place in Jackson Hole at 11:35 a.m. on Aug. 21, 2017. It will last approximately 127 seconds. For that, elected officials are hiring a fulltime dedicated employee for $50,000, and dropping another 50-large on “preparations,” which basically amount to renting as many porta-potties as the county can get their hands on.

After studying the dire situation, Teton County Emergency Management Coordinator Rich Ochs assembled a team of 37 stakeholders including local law enforcement, park and forest officials, and medical personnel. They ran through a two-day Threat and Hazard Identification Risk Assessment training seminar for a solar event that will last two minutes. The horrors of it all is, according to Ochs, the fact that the event will be so popular it will (wait for it, and try not to gasp out loud) draw tourists to Jackson Hole. Perhaps as many as 40,000, according to some estimates.

The reasonable person might have two thoughts here:

  1. We are already a tourist destination hosting about 4 million people, annually. We’ve managed to survive this long.
  2. Planning for this event sounds like a job for Rich Ochs.

Ochs told town and county politicians he was stretched to max, especially during summer, and would greatly benefit from a new hire that could oversee the planning and coordination of handling MAYBE 40,000 visitors for one day in August. That bill would come to $100,000—$50k for the position’s salary and another $50k for his/her expense account.

Expected path of the solar eclipse on August 21, 2017.

It’s a waste of money, pure and simple. And for what? This event could end up being a bust. Town and county officials may be getting all worked up over nothing. SHJH managed to obtain the following email from town council member Jim Stanford who was the sole “nay” vote on the spending spree. Stanford addressing county commissioners via email wrote:


Below is a link to one of the major websites offering information about the eclipse. Note that Jackson is not one of the “best places” recommended.

I just spoke with a friend who used to live here and is a journalist. He is also an eclipse enthusiast who has traveled to witness total eclipses from Alaska to Asia, Africa and Australia.

The eclipse fanatics are dedicated but a relatively small and nerdy group, he said. We ought to be preparing for a few hours of bad traffic—the event will not be Woodstock but more like the 4th of July fireworks, he said.

What eclipse watchers value most are duration of totality and road access, which as this website makes clear is important for driving elsewhere to seek clear skies if necessary. As such, Jackson Hole is less desirable because of its distance from interstates. And the place with longest duration of totality is Missouri.

I remain opposed to spending $100,000 on this, given the current county law enforcement budget and the fact that the money could be spent on many other deserving programs.

For what it’s worth,



Into a new era

Some old, some new…local government takes shape for 2017.


Natalia D. Macker (L) and Greg Epstein (R) sworn in for their four-year terms on the Board of County Commissioners.

At the Board of County Commissioner meeting, Greg Epstein and Natalia D. Macker were sworn in for the start of their four-year terms as commissioners. It was Macker’s first election victory despite having two years under her belt. She was tapped to replace outgoing Melissa Turley in 2015. It’s Epstein’s first foray into politics. Both Macker and Epstein are Democrats. The BCC is now Paul Vogelheim-R, Smokey Rhea-D, Mark Newcomb-D, Natalia D. Macker-D, and Greg Epstein-D. Newcomb was named chair, and Macker named vice-chair by a vote of the board.

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Mark Newcomb
Natalia D. Macker
Greg Epstein
Smokey Rhea
Paul Vogelheim


Hailey Morton Levinson (L), Pete Muldoon (C), and Jim Stanford (R) take oath of office for the Town Council on January 3, 2017.

At the first town council meeting of the year, two familiar faces were re-sworn to the council and a new mayor was seated. Hailey Morton Levinson and Jim Stanford both vowed under oath to uphold the duties of town council for another two years, each. Mayor Sara Flitner handed the reins to Jackson to Pete Muldoon, who will serve the city’s first four-year term. The council consists of Bob Lenz, Don Frank, Jim Stanford, Hailey Morton Levinson, and Mayor Pete Muldoon.

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Pete Muldoon
Jim Stanford
Don Frank
Hailey Morton Levinson
Bob Lenz