On the scale of “party” to “Town Council meeting,” Leah Shlachter says the Swap Meet is somewhere in the middle — but “definitely closer to the party.”
“It’s a different way of connecting, for the politicians to connect with the community as well as the community to connect with them,” Shlachter said.
Shlachter is the adult programs coordinator at Teton County Library and she’s reviving the Swap Meet series that debuted in 2017. The weekly get-togethers invite the public to come in and discuss a hand-picked, topical article with a local elected official or two.
“You can read this article and have a shared text to start the conversation,” Shlachter said. “It’s the shared jumping off point. Everybody has read this, so we’re on the same page when we start.”
She said the official three-minutes-per-person public comment period at the start of town and county meetings is important, but it’s not for everybody. The Swap Meet aims to cultivate conversation about important issues in a more casual setting.
Last time around, she said, “It gave the public and community access to conversations with their local representatives and electeds in a way that’s off the record, that they’re not held accountable to having their opinions, they could have their opinion change,” Shlachter said. “They could get to know their electeds on a different level.”
Shlachter said the “article club” format removes obstacles like cost and time invested in a full book.
“Articles are easier to digest,” Shlachter said. “They’re easier to share. You can read it right before you come and you don’t have to buy it.”
The first Swap Meet is set for 6 p.m. Thursday in the library’s Ordway Auditorium. County Commissioner Luther Propst has selected articles about autonomous vehicles, impacts of the “cars of the future,” and the problems that stem from using “level of service” as a standard for evaluating our roads.
He said the articles signal the changes Jackson Hole, and the world, will soon face with the advent of autonomous vehicles. One of his selected articles says that by 2030, 95% of passenger miles travelled are predicted to be served by cars owned by tech companies. This has implications for immediate Teton County projects like transit and the planned widening of Highway 22, as well as architecture, congestion management and planning more broadly.
“With transportation, technology is about to just upset the apple cart,” Propst said. “Speaking of housing, if you just subscribe to an autonomous vehicle, your garage becomes an equipment room or a rental unit. The downtown parking garage becomes obsolete. There’s a lot of changes this could bring about.”
Propst said the Swap Meet offers important and unique community dialogue.
“It’s great the library is catalyzing conversations not just about the immediate, urgent priorities or immediate, urgent trivialities but about a deeper look into the future,” he said.
Attendees are asked to “come out and be curious.”
“I want people to be curious about the process, about issues, about their community, about how policy gets decided. And it’s not always those formal processes, it can happen anywhere,” Shlachter said. “Seeds of ideas happen anywhere. It’s just kind of trying to cultivate that and to cultivate relationships.” ￼