A call to arms
“Ask not what your country can do for you but ask what you can do for your country.” Since the scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in Jackson, the professionals and staff of the Teton County Health Department have answered the call of duty and led the fight for the greater Jackson Hole community. Every day for over a year our hometown heroes have worked tirelessly to protect us and get everyone vaccinated in our community.
We have had the great privilege of being able to assist the Health Department since December, when the vaccine first came to the Hole, organizing the vaccine lines and being able to work with other committed community members of Team Rubicon. We have witnessed how dedicated our health professionals have been. Without their commitment many more of us would have gotten sick, or worse.
Now, today, it is the responsibility of every American to stop this pandemic by getting the vaccine. It is the call to arms of our generation. No excuses, no waiting. Just as every living president and family has done, get the shot today. Let us all rise and show the world that the United States of America can still be the shining city on the hill by doing our part in this great struggle of our time. Our dads and granddads went off to D-Day and did it for all of us; we can at least get a vaccine. Getting off the boat in Normandy or off the helicopter in Khe Sanh or Fallujah was dangerous or deadly; our generation can at least get a shot in the arm to protect our country from this pandemic.
Susan and Marc Segal
Missing ladies’ smiles
Was supposed to be in Hawaii right now but I don’t have the vaccine. So I’m the only guy in Vegas (at the time) that only lost 212 bucks. So I took the rest of my stimulus check down to Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and got twisted with the rest of the USA that had had enough of winter, and nobody wore a mask and nobody died.
Hitchhiked from Bullhead City, Arizona, to Alpine in 50 hours, broke, and didn’t need to wear a mask until I got back to Jackson. And then a friend in Wilson said that they were going to eliminate the mask mandate on Saturday. Nope. They extended it!
But it also reminded me that Jackson isn’t like the rest of the West! This is where the men put up their hair and the women open doors. A different place, for sure. Back at work building unaffordable housing and tipping my hat to the boys and trying to figure out what that lady’s smile looks like? Luckily I have a few ex-girlfriends and don’t need to explain anything. If you’re single in Jackson, Wyoming, good luck meeting someone new until May 17.
Jackson, and until the snow melts, Etna
Crisis of child care
This letter was addressed to Teton County commissioners, the mayor and Town Council and copied to the News&Guide. — Ed.
Thank you for taking the time to declare a week the week of the young child. I am writing to you today to tell you that it is not enough. I wrote to you two years ago telling you that child care is at a tipping point in this county, and, sadly, the situation has only gotten worse. In the last week I have heard that one child care is closing and that another child care will have to close soon if they cannot find space. These are not small institutions. The child care looking for a space works for 18 families, and I believe the operator has been looking for a space for over a year.
Providers are already facing an entire host of regulatory requirements, and on top of that they face the stigma of being a “liability” for landlords while also facing a burden of rising rents. Providers do all this while barely earning a living wage. Many providers have no support system, no health care, no paid vacation, no long-term leases. They are continually asked to put in 10- to 11-hour days for low pay. If this county continues to do nothing to help providers establish their business here, this county could possibly face a town where there are only one or two child care providers left.
The town and county sponsored a survey to try to figure out how many child care centers were needed. However, while the results state that there may be enough child care spots for children in the county, I would encourage you to dig deeper. One spot does not equal one child because the reality is that care from infancy to age 2 is totally different from 2 to 6. The survey did not ask how many times families changed child care providers or why they changed. In my opinion it did not adequately detail the stress of the situation.
Does the child care center provide care for the entire shift for which you work? Is it in a convenient place for pickup and drop-off? Do you like your current provider? Would you change providers if you could? Can you afford your child care? When my child was an infant I had to leave my child in care that was not my first choice; it was my only choice. It was awful.
In the last year the workforce nationwide has seen women drop out at alarming rates, and yet this country just shrugs its shoulders. It is expected that women will make all the adjustments necessary to accommodate the decisions of our governor with no thoughts on what that means for our jobs, our lives and our economies. Teton County is often accused of being “different” from the rest of Wyoming, but I would say on this issue it is the same.
There is no government position pushing to ensure affordable quality child care like there is for housing.
The Children’s Learning Center has 200 children on its waitlist but cannot expand services because it is too hard to find staff and it struggles to fundraise on children’s issues. (What is the point of living in the wealthiest county in America if even we choose to not support child care?)
The News&Guide will put a grizzly and her cubs on the front page multiple times in a week and yet claims there is too much going on to discuss the child care burdens facing families in this county. Our Chamber of Commerce is not hosting roundtables on this issue. There is no foundation fighting to institute a universal pre-K program so that all children 4 and up have access to the skills they need to enter kindergarten.
It is time for all of us to acknowledge the real reason for this antipathy. It is because this country and, dare I say, our liberal county, are sexist. When a woman becomes pregnant no one turns to the male partner to ask, “Will you continue to work?” When a male partner announces to his boss an impending birth, it is assumed he will need two or three days off, and, frankly, he is likely lucky if he gets even that.
As a working mother it is completely apparent that in discussions of child care the underlying message is that if the situation is so bad women should just quit their job or reduce their hours. A woman working is viewed as choice instead of an expectation. And so, when our county is faced with a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic when schools and child cares close, it’s assumed that families, especially women, will take on the burden. That women have no right to ask for more help because they should be at home.
Our society needs to recognize that we need women in the workforce and that women have children. These two aspects of our lives should not be separated. There are numerous reports and papers detailing the economic and societal benefit of women remaining in the workforce. There is a real impact to women’s lifetime earnings and retirement security when our society allows her to work. Allowing her to work means helping to provide safe, affordable child care.
Additionally, let us not forget that the majority of people who provide child care services are women. We constantly devalue, undermine and dismiss their work on behalf of our children. For some reason our society does not believe they should be paid a living wage and have insurance, paid vacation and sick leave. All of us could not do our job without them; our society would not exist without these teachers and caregivers, but we do not give them the respect they deserve. I have come to believe that this is because they are women and additionally many are women of color. They are arguably among the most important essential workers in this county. Why don’t we do more for them? What is holding us back?
I am asking all of us to do more on this issue. This issue will not be solved by one privileged middle-aged white woman lecturing you through yet another letter. This issue needs employers, workers, foundations, fundraisers, commercial and residential building owners, families and legislators to come together to solve this issue.
It is time for this county to discuss mandatory maternity and paternity leave, universal pre-K, incentivizing landlords to offer and build space for children, paying providers a living wage and supporting families, especially women. We should discuss how the lack of child care impacts all of us — not just those of us with children. That this community should care about children because they will grow up to take care of you and will be a part of our society. They will be your nurse, your bank teller, your construction worker, your doctor, your ski patroller. A rising tide will lift all boats. Taking care of our children now benefits every single person in this community, today and every day in the future.
I look forward to the day when we no longer feel the need to declare the week of the young child because we are doing the work that young children need.