Candidates articulate positions for primary
By Benjamin Graham, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
August 8, 2012
With only two weeks left before primary elections, candidates in the crowded Town Council race will attempt to differentiate themselves from the pack at a gatherings Aug. 9 and 13.
The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, will host Monday’s event at Davy Jackson Elementary School from 6-8 p.m. Teton County Library and local media co-host.
“It’s a good chance to put a spotlight on the issues” said Sandy Shuptrine, member of the league and longtime organizer of voter information programs. “We want voters to be thinking for themselves and making informed decisions.”
She said the task is especially important in Jackson because of the turnover in the community. It’s important to be able to introduce new people in town to the candidates and the issues, Shuptrine said.
The league sent six questions to each candidate. At the “Know the Candidates” gathering, candidates will be stationed at tables and the public will be able to approach them with individual questions.
Candidates will have another chance to stake their positions before the primaries. JH Weekly is hosting an informal political forum Aug. 9 at Thai Me Up. Candidates will field questions from the public at the gathering, which is slated to begin at 9:30 p.m.
The Jackson Town Council could face significant turnover in the elections. Councilor Greg Miles, who initially filed to run again, pulled out of the race in July. The only incumbent left in the race is Mark Obringer, who is seeking his fifth term on the council. Two seats are open.
Councilor Melissa Turley is seeking election to the Teton County Board of Commissioners. If she wins, town officials will have to appoint someone to her vacant seat.
Candidate Steve Harrington sat on the council for one term from 2002 to 2006 before losing in the general election. Candidate Jim Genzer has served on the school board.
Other contenders are Jim Stanford, Kelly Egan, Emy diGrappa, Phillip Cameron and Hailey Morton. All are political newcomers.
Town councilors’ terms last for four years, although the primary election ballot has that information wrong. The top four vote getters will move on to the general election in November.
Role of Town Council in the lives of Jackson residents
Cameron: -Local government must be efficient, effective and consider the short- and long-term needs and resources of the community; its citizens, infrastructure and services.
-Jackson’s situation is complex because local government must consider both residents and visitors.
-Local government impacts citizens daily and is also the level of government which residents can be most directly involved in.
diGrappa: -Role of town council is to provide informed and responsible leadership to residents who live and work in Jackson.
-Council should provide an educated decision-making process in a democratic and civil manner.
-Process should be transparent and should include public forums allowing the community to understand and vocalize their opinions on the matters that affect their lives.
Egan: -Supports a small government that focuses on creating a stable infrastructure for its citizens.
-Stable infrastructure should include comprehensive communication facilities, modern sewer and water access, a well-staffed police force and well-maintained roads, parks (for people and pets) and pathways — as well as designated open spaces.
Genzer: -First priority is to provide basic services, such as police, fire, EMT, sewer, water and good streets.
-Does not support narrowing streets, eliminating parking or installing bump outs.
-The town and county need to share future growth equally. Town does not need to become the future “dumping grounds” in the county for high-density housing.
Harrington: -Town’s role is to shape policy that supports the community’s quality of life and specifically addresses health and safety for locals and visitors
-Would prioritize police, fire, road sewer, water and essential social services.
Morton: -Town council’s role is to represent and serve the residents of Jackson.
-Each council member’s duty is to make the best decisions based on the needs and goals of Jackson and its residents.
Obringer: -Town’s role is to serve and protect.
-Town council should provide a feeling of security, functioning streets, running water, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, economic development, transit and pathways as well as social services.
-The next challenge is completion of the comprehensive planning process, which entails dissecting character districts, discussing zoning maps and building LDRs.
Stanford: -Town government should provide efficient and effective services.
-Police should protect and serve citizens.
-Town should work with the county to streamline government and improve efficiency.
-Every citizen who comes before the council deserves a fair shake. Councilors should set policy that reflects community values.
The Forest Service property purchase
Cameron: -Wants to see the property stay in public hands and would like the community to be able to weigh in on the decision via the SPET ballot.
-Believes the land to be very important to the future character of North Cache.
-Thinks the town would make use of the land in a way that’s consistent with the community’s character.
diGrappa: -Town should try to buy Forest Service property.
-It would be a visionary move for the council and would provide long-term benefit.
-The property is unique because it backs up to the recreation center and the elk refuge.
-Land could also help mitigate traffic congestion at Cache and Broadway.
Egan: -Opposes purchase of Forest Service land or its inclusion on the SPET ballot because appraised cost is high, town resources are already stretched thin and the town has other SPET requests that are more pressing.
-Would support a qualified organization with a clear plan for the use or conservation of land to submit its plan for inclusion on the SPET ballot.
Genzer: -The price tag is way too high, especially when a third of the property is wetlands.
-If the purchase is to be put on the ballot, it should include the cost of building a new road between King Street and Mercill Avenue.
-Property should not be the location of a new START facility or of housing or commercial buildings.
Harrington: -Would like the Forest Service to stay in Jackson but understands concerns about funding.
-Before making a decision, he would like to know whether the Forest Service offices would stay in Jackson, whether the appraisal price is negotiable and if the land will be needed for public services under the new comprehensive plan.
Morton: -Is uncomfortable with the town spending $12 million in tax dollars to purchase land for which the town has not defined a purpose. Says the purchase could take several years to pay off through SPET and additional tax dollars will be needed when a final use is decided for the land.
-Would be more comfortable with the purchase if there was a plan for the land.
Obringer: -Is on the record supporting the purchase.
-Says the community’s support of the purchase will help make the decision.
-Is not sure what the eventual use will be but says that if it stays in public ownership for a civic purpose, it will be better in the long run than an additional 10 acres of commercial zoning.
Stanford: -Says town should do everything it can to keep the Forest Service headquarters in Jackson, but says there is no guarantee that buying the Cache property will have any effect on that decision.
-Is skeptical of the town buying the land, especially given the appraised price of $11.5 million, without having a specific purpose in mind.
New Comprehensive Plan and building density
Cameron: -Supports an incremental shifting of density that allows for preserved scenic resources and encourages efficient planning, design and building near existing utilities, roads and other infrastructure.
-The process should have frequent evaluation, benchmarks and triggers to ensure Jackson Hole doesn’t end up with the worst of both worlds: sprawl in the county, congestion in the town and more building than previously allowed.
diGrappa: -The conservation of open space and wildlife dictates the necessity to move density into town.
-Communities should be developed in ways that reduce the number of people commuting over the pass and through the Hoback Canyon. This would help Jackson Hole meet two major goals: keeping cars off the road for wildlife preservation and cutting down on fuel use and carbon emissions.
Egan: -More in-town options will create a more vibrant and diverse economy, which will make in-town living and visiting even more desirable.
-Jackson doesn’t have to sacrifice the character of existing neighborhoods (including setbacks and building heights), in-town open spaces or sense of community.
Genzer: -The citizens and voters of Jackson should be able to vote on whether they want to accept the new comprehensive plan.
-Is disgusted that town officials are fighting against letting the people vote on the plan.
-Is against high density and several- story buildings in town.
-Wants to keep a Western, small-town atmosphere in town.
Harrington: -Wants to put numbers to the plan and use computer models to work through various scenarios.
-Would like to have a better idea of what changes will need to be made to essential services, such as roads, sewer and water.
Morton: -More density in town will inherently help preserve open space elsewhere in Teton County.
-The alternative to density in town is sprawl in the valley, which would be to the detriment of preserving open spaces.
-Town should pursue balance to make sure both town and the valley develop in line with what residents want and need.
Obringer: -Finding workforce housing in town is a separate goal from maintaining open space in the county.
-Is confident that the protection of rural character is at the top of the to-do list for county officials.
-Believes that Jackson has the density necessary for the next 10 years if it is just moved around to the appropriate locations.
Stanford: -There are ways to reduce density in the outlying areas of the county without piling all development in town.
-Would consider regulations that make clustering mandatory and reduce the density bonuses given to developers of new subdivisions.
-Says the commercial corridor along south Highway 89 between the Y and High School Road could be redeveloped.
Pathways and “complete streets,” such as Redmond Street
Cameron: -Community needs to have streets that work well for walkers, bikers and drivers.
-Wants to promote projects that provide residents and visitors with the option to choose safe and cleaner alternatives, which would lessen Jackson Hole’s energy and emissions footprint.
-Says Redmond Street is not perfect but is better because the street is safer for users and encourages people to get out of their cars.
diGrappa: -Pathways are consistent with Jackson’s long-term vision of being a “green” community and will strengthen the tourism economy.
-Redmond Street is an example of an important path-friendly street for pedestrians, bikes and convenient bus transportation and is in line with the Comprehensive Plan.
-It is important for the council to strive for frequent open communication with residents in established neighborhoods.
Egan: -Pathways need to be integrated into all town planning, but also the town should address the multiple modes of transportation used by constituents and the conflicts that can result.
-Changes to Redmond were a failure of the process. Says that, based upon conversations with residents, the street no longer functions properly for those who live there.
Genzer: -Wants to evaluate the cost of maintaining the town’s current pathway system before building more.
-Believes the town’s efforts to narrow streets and eliminate parking is wrong.
-Says Redmond Street is a disaster and that something needs to be done to correct it.
Harrington: -Would like to take the present road system in town and encourage certain streets for particular types of travel.
-Some streets, by nature of how and where they were built, will not accommodate all modes of transportation.
-Buses need room to operate, bikes need less trafficked streets and people need sidewalks.
-Doesn’t like Redmond Street and thinks bulb outs are a waste.
Morton: -Wants Jackson to be a pedestrian and alternative transportation friendly town.
-Believes the town’s intentions with Redmond Street were right, but says the final result could have been better.
-Says council can listen to residents’ concerns from Redmond and improve developments moving forward.
Obringer: -Residents and officials all support pathways and Jackson Hole’s 40 miles of pathways is a great start.
-Considers sidewalks part of the pathway system and says he will continue to support street projects that take all of the user groups into consideration during the design process.
Stanford: -Supports building sidewalks, bike lanes and pathways to make neighborhoods easier places to walk and bike, as well as drive.
-Says town may have gone too far in narrowing Redmond Street, especially with the bulb-outs, which he says only are appropriate on high-density crossings around Broadway and Pearl.
-Says there could be a little more room on South Cache for motorists, cyclists, snow removal and pedestrians.
Role of SPET
Cameron: -The key projects being discussed for SPET all deserve due consideration for funding.
-The landfill project is unquestionably critical.
-Is hesitant to limit the scope of qualifying projects for the ballot because of some past projects that have been impressive.
diGrappa: -A limited number of carefully discussed projects should be on the ballot for public vote.
-Says projects and the SPET money that pays for them belong to taxpayers.
Egan: -Believes the town and county have projects that are deserving of SPET support.
-Thinks that it is important for the SPET ballot to remain open because it is one of the truest ways to determine the wishes of the community.
Genzer: -His choice would be to not use SPET because it is one more direct cost to taxpayers, even though a good percentage is paid by tourists.
-But says there would be some projects, such as the landfill cleanup, that would be difficult to fund without the tax.
Harrington: -Says all groups should be allowed to apply for the SPET ballot.
-Believes too many recent projects were drawn on the “back of a napkin.”
-Says private and pubic projects should have concrete plans and well- researched cost estimates.
Morton: -Says the landfill cleanup is required, the Forest Service land purchase has a time limit, building the pathway completes a community vision, and building a bus barn for START will allow for better maintenance and services.
-Says all the proposed projects will cost more than SPET can raise in four years. Officials must prioritize what is needed and what is most important for Jackson’s residents.
Obringer: -Town council spends a tremendous amount of time building relationships that lead to opportunities to better serve our community, such as day cares, the hospital. How can we historically not consider all SPET projects town and county projects?
Stanford: -The town and county are right to reserve the next SPET ballot because of pressing infrastructure needs.
-Cleaning up the old landfill is mandatory and finishing the pathway is a high priority.
-Says it’s wise not to lock up SPET too far into the future because it’s difficult to predict what other infrastructure needs will arise in the next four to five years.