With a specific purpose excise tax election three months out, groups in Jackson Hole are already mobilizing to push for causes they care about.
The first political action committee officially formed July 24 to support a ballot item for $22 million in additions to the Teton County/Jackson Recreation Center. Linore Wallace and Megan LaTorre are co-chairwomen for the PAC.
“We’re a grassroots organization; it’s just citizens who want to support the SPET initiative to expand the Recreation Center,” Wallace said. “Our focus is, if you support the Rec Center and you want to see this expansion, get out and vote.”
The advocacy group is only just getting started and seeking support from the community. It has formed committees focused on communications, fundraising and community outreach.
“We don’t have a ‘Friends of the Rec Center’ or a foundation to help fund this,” Wallace said, “That’s why we’re going to be needing some funding, donations from the public, so that we can do these things.”
Wallace pointed to the second gym, indoor walking track and climbing gym as amenities included in the proposed Rec Center expansion that will benefit the community.
“We’re a healthy community, and we want to stay healthy,” Wallace said. “The Rec Center is a place where people can do that.”
Another big-ticket SPET proposal, $10 million for wildlife crossings, has already seen canvassers dispatched around Jackson and Wilson last weekend to get out the vote for the ballot measure.
An organizer with the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Ryan Nourai, said his group began a canvassing program the day after town and county elected officials finalized the SPET ballot for Nov. 5.
“We hit the ground running basically the day afterward for wildlife crossings because that’s what this organization and its partners have been invested in for years,” Nourai said.
The Alliance hired a part-time canvasser and is looking to hire another, each of whom will help train volunteer canvassers as well.
They’re also planning to host informational tables at events and will soon air an ad at movie theaters, Nourai said.
Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum Director Morgan Jaouen said the museum is also preparing to advocate for its project — which would collect $4.4 million to purchase land for the museum on the Cafe Genevieve block at 135 E. Broadway — but is only in the preliminary stages.
Ten projects totaling $77 million are up for a vote in November. And while these groups are championing a particular cause, Wallace said Residents for Recreation isn’t trying to pit the Rec Center ballot proposition against the nine others.
“They’ve all got their merits,” she said. “All 10 could actually be passed.”
In fact, an effort is underway to create a campaign that would encourage voters to pass all 10 propositions, with special emphasis on the lower-profile projects.
The idea was suggested in town and county officials’ debate over whether projects should be voted upon individually or whether projects should be bundled into one or several questions.
“I am still waiting for the 100 emails supporting the ‘Yes on All’ campaign,” Town Councilor Arne Jorgensen said at a July 15 meeting.
“Are we fractured interests or one whole interest?” Councilor Jonathan Schechter asked. “There’s an opportunity for the community to step up.”
Commissioner Luther Propst said he’s joining a handful of other elected officials — acting independently as private citizens — along with other interested community members to catalyze the formation of such a group to advocate for some of the projects that don’t have a natural base of support.
Ideally, Propst said, the group would help get the word out about – the lesser-known or more complex projects, like improvements on Gregory Lane or the vehicle maintenance facility. The group would ask different advocacy groups for particular projects to work together with the umbrella group.
“It’s a communitywide collaborative effort,” he said.