I had my eyes opened at the town of Jackson and Teton County joint information meeting last week. After listening to the discussion I’m now fully in support of “bundling” the proposed projects on the specific purpose excise tax ballot measure.
I went to the joint meeting because I was questioning why the Rec Center expansion was proposed to receive $22 million while the community housing proposal was only $5.5 million. I’m a longtime housing advocate, so naturally I wanted to reverse those numbers. Switcharoo, that was my idea. On the way to the meeting I talked with one of my neighbors, a mom with young children. Laura told me she was in favor of the Rec Center because the community has outgrown the facility and kids need more space and fun opportunities, especially in winter.
I walked into the meeting thinking about all our different and competing needs and how each of us votes for what we personally need or want.
After listening to the elected officials discuss bundling I changed my mind. I realized that we don’t need to allow voters (meaning me) to cherry-pick the projects that personally benefit themselves, as voters often do. We don’t need to pit one need against another. We can go another way.
Less than 50 percent of registered voters went to the polls for the last SPET election, and they did not approve funding for housing or for transportation system needs. The majority of the Town Council is for bundling because they want to see the housing and transportation projects move forward. There are several options for bundling being discussed, and bundling for SPET has been done in other counties.
The issue being debated this month is actually about trusting our elected officials. We are a representative form of government, after all. We elect people and empower them to make decisions based on study, reflection and debate. It’s a rare voter who has the time or inclination to study capital facilities needs in depth. That is our elected officials’ job and they’ve done their homework.
Listening, I realized that bundling is being so hotly debated because of our national political climate. Distrust of politicians is being fed on a daily basis, whatever side you are on. This pervasive distrust is influencing our local decision-making in complicated ways.
I decided to write this piece because of an ad placed by Save Historic Jackson Hole in last week’s paper. The ad, titled “Bundling Is Manipulation,” uses language such as “pork barrel politics,” “spending frenzy,” “bureaucratic scheming” and “dirty politics.” That language does not apply to our local elected officials.
Every single one of our elected officials is dedicated, hardworking and sincerely trying to do what’s best for the community’s future. Yes, there will be disagreements about issues — inevitable and healthy — but there is no justification for denigrating anyone in this debate about bundling. Go to the meeting Monday to see for yourself how fortunate we are. The thoughtfulness and openness of our elected officials is impressive.
Most important, what we are experiencing in this debate is a growing division between the town and the county when what we need is growing cooperation and mutual support.
That division is also apparent in other housing issues. We all understand the differing demographics between town and county, and we know that income inequality is increasing. To remain a unified and egalitarian community we will need to intentionally pursue town and county cooperation, a sense of shared purpose and a spirit of compromise.
The SPET issue is bringing that division into sharp focus. The town and county are deadlocked, and they both need to approve the SPET ballot measure to move forward. We need to find middle ground.
Elected officials are hearing from many people opposed to any bundling of the SPET projects. Please speak up for “Bundling for Balance,” and let elected officials know how you feel. It’s tremendously important for us to express confidence in our elected officials and not allow the tone of our national political crisis shape the future of our community.
Praise be to public service and let’s let our representatives do their jobs. The next meeting is Monday, so they need to hear from you before then. It’s easy to email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.