This is a special monthly edition of KHOL’s top of the hour news break with Jackson Mayor Hailey Morton Levinson and station news director Kyle Mackie. Their interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
KYLE MACKIE: Let’s get started talking about COVID-19 vaccines. Teton County is doing very well compared to its neighbors and the rest of Wyoming in terms of getting residents vaccinated. But what I’m wondering is if it’s enough to protect us and to really turn the tide in this pandemic if our neighbors in nearby counties and across the state aren’t getting vaccinated at those same high rates?
HAILEY MORTON LEVINSON: Currently, almost 40% of our local population has been vaccinated. So, I think that’s super encouraging. It’s also very encouraging that we have plenty availability of vaccine for anyone that is willing and able to get their vaccine, which I encourage all of us to do so. The only way that we’ll get through this pandemic is for all of us to embrace the vaccine and [accept] that the science is safe and that we should be getting it so that we can get back to normal and to saving lives.
MACKIE: So, switching gears a bit, there was just another recent report on the Jackson Hole real estate market showing basically no signs of slowing down in early 2021. I just wonder how you’re keeping an eye on those trends and what, if anything, you’re sort of hoping to do as mayor to try and slow this market explosion down, you know as there is this just this crisis of a lack of affordable housing?
MORTON LEVINSON: Yeah. You know, [it] obviously touches on a lot of things. There’s like global, national, state pressures. You know, I think another article came out about Wyoming, and since we are very favorable to the wealthy and it makes it, as we know, a second home, fourth, fifth home haven for people. And that’s something that we have to deal with here in Teton County even more acutely, but also have less ability to move the needle possibly in a quick fashion, I guess. And then thinking about what we can do as a community, individually, it’s something that we’ll never solve, but it’s something that we will always work towards. And I always feel strongly about doing everything and anything that we can. You know, I’m excited about the housing preservation program that launched since I think we’ve last spoken. That’s a way for people to get into the housing market with a down payment assistance, and then we can record a deed restriction in perpetuity on that home. That’s exciting. It’s also like, you know, a handful of homes at a time, so it still feels a little bit stressful that it’s not more.
MACKIE: Is there anything else that you’d like to share at all today? Any other top priorities that you’d like the community to know about?
MORTON LEVINSON: Yeah, you know, I did want to share that on Monday at 9:00 a.m., the Town Council is reviewing the budget. And that is something that we often don’t see a lot of public participation in, but it is where we talk about all these issues and how funding affects them and where we’re allocating tax dollars. We typically do a number of special budget meetings between now and mid-June, end of June, when we have to officially adopt the 2022 budget, which is what we’re talking about.
MACKIE: Well, that’s something we will certainly keep covering here at KHOL. Thank you again Mayor Morton Levinson for joining us today.
MORTON LEVINSON: Thank you for having me.
Listen for more of KHOL’s interview with Mayor Morton Levinson in this week’s episode of Jackson Unpacked, airing Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. and Friday and Sunday at 12:30 p.m.