Mimicked, copied, flattered

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, count us as blushing.

Town officials, desperate to win over votes to raise taxes and flat out of original ideas, simply copied SHJH’s SPET Scorecard and made their own “corrections.”

We try to inform citizens and TOJ, along with Central Wyoming College a couple of weeks ago, merely taking our informative ads and copy them, adding their own insulting comments. It lacks imagination. It smacks of desperation.

In finally, someone stole the identity of Keep Wyoming Wild and created a fake Facebook Page representing the group. It is pretty sad that’s what some have resorted to. We are just trying to provide some insight into what we believe are choices that stand to accelerate growth even more in Jackson Hole.

Our ad:

 

Their ad:

 

Other Side of the Story: Whose future?

Have you noticed Save Historic Jackson Hole’s new ad campaign?

The “ads” are meant to look and read like informational news columns. Columns that tell an alternative side of today’s big issue stories.

We hope the community continues to stay engaged and thirsty for information on matters that concern our valley and its future.

Here is the Other Side of the Story for April 26:

SHJH growth

Whose future are we headed toward?

If left to their own devices, the well-intentioned folks running the town and county have shown they are incapable of slowing, or even recognizing, the out-of-control growth path we are on. Worse, if given the funds, they appear more than eager to rush hurtling toward Jackson Hole’s Brave New World.

It’s a future that former News&Guide columnist Todd Wilkinson said at the 6th Annual Wildlife Symposium will turn Jackson into Salt Lake City in less than 50 years at our current rate of growth.

It’s a future that routinely arrives sooner than our community can plan for it. An annual indicator report released this spring verified we’ve already hit and exceeded the 5% Growth Management Plan benchmark that triggers a revision of our Comp Plan. Instead, it was decided we’ll postpone another year to give time for local government to catch up with growth.

Meanwhile, the county still hasn’t addressed the most important part of its land development regulations: the Natural Resource Overlay (NRO). Similarly, the town has made little progress toward its implementation of the 2012 Comp Plan. The most vital aspect town leaders could and should address is the affordable housing mitigation rate. As gigantic new hotels sprout up in town, all local electeds can do is complain the mitigation rates are too low and their hands are tied.

Yet the town and county have found plenty of time to tackle other “important” things like trying to figure out how many millions of dollars it will take to get a bike path over Teton Pass. Or wasting weeks on the novelty of declaring Jackson a ‘sanctuary city’ by resolution.

In fact, the last thing the town managed to do to update the LDRs is to put in place zoning for strip clubs in Jackson’s Business Park zone.

Clearly, this whole growth thing is catching our electeds by surprise.

 

Since 2012, jobs growth is up 17%, residential growth is up 5.5%, commercial is up 4%, and lodging has increased 1.5%. Seasonal population is up by at least 90%, and more square feet of second homes has been built than workforce housing. We are creating jobs far faster than we can fill them.

We are headed in the wrong direction. Our roads are clogged, the wastewater treatment facility is close to maxed out, and the town is so full we are considering emergency camping in public parking lots that were built to address the serious lack of parking on our packed city streets.

Faced with these impending thunderheads of doom, our elected leaders have not only failed to cull a bloated list of SPET propositions, but they’ve actively campaigned for all $68.5 million worth of the taxes. Many of these SPET items will simply encourage more growth and accelerate how quickly we get to their vision of a better future.

Are these SPET items simply catching services up with growth, as our elected officials claim? Or are they examples of the institutional growth that has been one of the very causes of our overcrowding? It’s an urban spiral. More housing creates more need, which creates more building, which creates more housing need again. That’s a growth agenda that serves to increase headaches for us, sales tax revenue for government.

Remember when our elected officials claimed last fall’s general sales tax hike was not an increase in taxes because SPET would be going away? SPET not only didn’t go away but it’s back bigger than ever with 10 items that are mostly wants not needs. It’s a wish list so big, that if a true emergency (think Budge slide) comes along anytime within the next six years, we will be looking at a 7th cent of tax to add to SPET. Meanwhile our electeds are looking into an 8th cent of additional tax if they can convince state lawmakers to approve it.

It’s time to take back control of our community and steer it toward a more livable future. Somebody has to.

Other Side of the Story: START should stop

Have you noticed Save Historic Jackson Hole’s new ad campaign?

The “ads” are meant to look and read like informational news columns. Columns that tell an alternative side of today’s big issue stories.

We hope the community continues to stay engaged and thirsty for information on matters that concern our valley and its future.

Here is the Other Side of the Story for April 19:

SHJH START stop

Other Side of the Story: Unintended Consequences

Have you noticed Save Historic Jackson Hole’s new ad campaign?

The “ads” are meant to look and read like informational news columns. Columns that tell an alternative side of today’s big issue stories.

We hope the community continues to stay engaged and thirsty for information on matters that concern our valley and its future.

Here is the Other Side of the Story for April 19:

SHJH Unintended

Big, bad bus: START should stop

SHJH START stop

Big, bad bus: START needs to stop

Take a quick glance at the 2017 SPET proposals. One thing jumps out. START Bus has three of the 10 asks, tying up nearly half the record-setting $68.6M in projects on the ballot. At $30,130,000, this would be the total SPET ballot in most years.

And it’s hardly surprising. This agency has been burning money for more than a decade. Public subsidies have kept START afloat—to the tune of $60 million over the last 10 years. Every year taxpayers bear the burden of bailing out the bus, forking over $3 million, annually.

And it’s getting worse. Operating costs are expected to go up, again, next fiscal year by $491,000 (a 15% jump). Conservative estimates say START will lose another $5.4M in 2008.

But instead of belt-tightening and trying to figure out how they can stop the bleeding, START is stomping on the gas, pedal to the metal. They want new buses (they have about 30 now). They want housing for their administrators, mechanics and drivers. They want more bus storage space and a bigger maintenance facility, even after building their current $17M space. Their master plan calls for another $30 million in upgrades to their Karns Meadow bus barn.

These numbers are eye-popping; and there’s more.

The Integrated Transit Plan (ITP) calls for a doubling of ridership by 2024, and a doubling again of that by 2035. Lofty goals for a mass transit system that has stalled on ridership numbers since 2008. The plan also calls for START’s fleet to grow to 60 buses by 2024, and 120 buses by the year 2035.

START cannot afford to run the buses they have now. How will they ever fuel and hire drivers for 120 buses? Assuming they can find the money to purchase that many.

Are these targets attainable? The former START director didn’t think so. He’s no longer with the agency.

START’s aggressive spending spree has already walloped taxpayer’s right in wallet. The bussing business anticipates losing $8.1 million a year by 2024. They admit they’ll likely be running $18 million in the red by 2035.

And for what? It is estimated that public transit in Teton County accounts for 1% of all trips made in the valley. At best, the agency hopes to grow that number to 3% by 2024. So, the bus is not removing cars from the road. In fact, at least one industry expert says the idea buses are a solution to gridlock and traffic jams is foolhardy.

“As far as buses taking anybody off the road, that’s a real mythical notion,” Wendell Cox said. Cox is a respected urban planner and leading expert in American mass transit. Of Jackson Hole, Cox added, “You will probably not find a larger transit system for a community your size.”

Mass transit only really works when it’s transporting masses—and Jackson Hole simply isn’t there…yet. We don’t have the people, the roads, or the routes. But folding a monstrous bus system with a ballooning budget into a hyper-growth agenda seems to be our electeds’ plan toward a metropolitan utopia.

Reactions to SPET’s pro-growth agenda

Two letters to the editor in today’s (April 12) News&Guide were encouraging.

One from Laurie Genzer contemplates the notion we might be at carrying capacity now:

 

Maxed out

Is local government really looking out for us?

Our roadways are maxed out; our sewage plant is getting there; we’ve got benzene in our water, yet government is quiet, unconcerned.

Their focus is more growth, more tax revenue, perks for the few while they ignore the majority.

They’re blind to the problems of growth: overcrowding, empty buses, traffic jams …

Every town and county has its carrying capacity. There are limits to growth. What is the carrying capacity of Jackson Hole? Government has been asked that, and they ignore it. They don’t want to know.

When you’re at capacity, more isn’t better. And we, as a community, are about full up. Look around, you see it everywhere. You feel it when you’re stuck in traffic. We need to stop and take a breather.

What can we do as individuals? How can we send a signal? You do it at the voting booth. Say no to nonessential SPET items. Say no to nonessential spending.

Your vote on May 2 matters, if you make it matter.

There’s only one SPET item that could be essential: the fire stations. It’s No. 9 on the ballot. None of the other items arereally urgent. Life will
go on just fine without them.

Until local government looks at the problems of growth, real problems we all face, just say no in the voting booth.

Make your voice heard.

Laurie Genzer Jackson

 

The other, from Julia Heileson, brings up numerous good points we should all be thinking about:

 

Impacts of growth

By loading up the SPET ballot with so many projects the electeds have done us a big favor by highlighting just how much growth is projected for the valley. The growth-inducing impact of these projects is mind-boggling. They all mean more employees and some more users as well, in turn requiring more teachers, doctors, schoolrooms, stores, roads and parking spaces, plus government staff to oversee it all. This on top of the recent Hotel Jackson, the new four-story Marriott, the monstrous expansion proposed for Snow King and the huge recreation complex contemplated on South 89. Yet every week the paper features at least one story highlighting the severity of the housing shortage. A new community college would be especially problematic. How would the students and teachers be housed? Jackson simply cannot be all things to all people. The valley is in serious danger of losing forever the homey Western ambiance, beautiful open spaces and wildlife environment that have defined it for so long.

Julia Heileson Jackson

Other Side of the Story: One-sided Journalism

Have you noticed Save Historic Jackson Hole’s new ad campaign?

The “ads” are meant to look and read like informational news columns. Columns that tell an alternative side of today’s big issue stories.

We hope the community continues to stay engaged and thirsty for information on matters that concern our valley and its future.

Here is the Other Side of the Story for April 12:

SHJH One Sided Journalism 4-12-17

 

Sacrificing what we love on the altar of affordable housing

In the immortal words of former county commissioner Hank Phibbs, “You shouldn’t sacrifice the things we love about this valley—conservation, wildlife, open space—on the altar of affordable housing.”

What a statement.

The need for housing in Jackson Hole is real. Most all of us have been there. But should government be spending your money building homes for some who may have arrived to the valley only recently, and who may have more financial means available to them than the hardworking folks trying to pay their own mortgages right now?

The burden of providing more affordable housing options lies squarely with the businesses, institutions, and government agencies that need these employees. When government meddles in private sector issues, the result is usually an expensive mess. Taxpayer money to purchase land and build affordable housing has been squandered by a housing agency now defunct. Public-private partnerships tread dodgy ground. Who gets a house? Who doesn’t? Who is more important to the community—a teacher, an ambulance driver, a planning department employee?

Transportation is a huge issue as well. Our streets and highways are clogged. Even in the offseason. Is the solution simply paving—more roads, wider roads—while we continue to mow down our precious wildlife?

Can we not collectively acknowledge Jackson Hole likely has a carrying capacity, and we might be at it now? We cannot preserve the unparalleled beauty and charm of this community, and continue to build and build. More hotel beds, more condos, more banks, more grocery stores, more schools—more everything is strangling this valley with uncontrolled growth.

Save Historic Jackson Hole has sometimes garnered a reputation as an organization that merely says “no” to everything. That we offer no solutions. Maybe there are no viable solutions—we hope and trust our elected leaders will continue to explore them—but we recognize what isn’t an answer. Building and spending our way out of housing and transportation challenges is shortsighted and foolhardy.

Taxing and spending $70 million in SPET initiatives won’t house everyone who wants to live here and it won’t get vehicles off our roads. It won’t come close. We can’t build houses and buy buses fast enough to accommodate everyone that wants to live here. And we certainly shouldn’t be depending on government to do it for us.

SHJH does not say no to development. We say yes to wildlife. Yes, to protecting our irreplaceable natural resources. Yes, to maintaining a quality of life that attracted us all here to begin with.

 

Jake Nichols, executive director of Save Historic Jackson Hole