Weekly News Roundup: Friday, Aug. 19

Miss the headlines this week? Catch up on Liz Cheney’s post-loss political future, a rebrand for Jackson Hole Babe Force and the latest with the Flat Creek Apartments project.
A vintage truck was parked next to the stage set up at Mead Ranch just outside of Jackson where Rep. Liz Cheney delivered her concession speech on Tuesday, Aug. 16. (Kyle S. Mackie/KHOL)

 

Teton County voters weigh in on Wyoming’s primary elections

Teton County voters cast their ballots Tuesday in Wyoming’s primary elections for everything from governor to local town and county positions. And despite their political differences, the voters KHOL spoke to at one polling place did agree on one thing: The importance of participating in the democratic process.

“Voting! That’s what motivates me,” said a man named Charles.

“It’s my civic duty, and it’s not that I’m forced to–I want to,” said a woman named Mary. “It’s part of being a citizen of the United States.”

“Being a part of the local election process is super important,” added another voter named Alex. “[We] gotta have our voices heard.”

In the most local races, incumbents Arne Jorgensen and Jonathan Schechter will continue to the general election for two open seats on the Jackson Town Council along with Devon Viehman and Kat Rueckert. The Teton County Commissioners general election will see Republicans Peter Long, Tom Segerstrom and Kasey Mateosky and incumbent Democrats Mark Newcomb and Luther Propst compete for three open seats. More in-depth coverage of those elections and more is available from the Jackson Hole News&Guide.

After losing House seat, Cheney vows to keep fighting Trump

Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-At-large) might have lost Tuesday’s primary election for her U.S. House seat, but she has no plans of leaving politics anytime soon. Politico reported Wednesday that Cheney intends to start a new political organization in the coming weeks that she says will focus on educating Americans about “the ongoing threat to our Republic” and mobilizing a unified effort to oppose any future reelection campaign by former President Donald Trump. 

The threat Cheney says Trump poses to U.S. democracy was also a major theme of her concession speech in Jackson Tuesday.

“Our nation is barreling once again towards crisis, lawlessness and violence,” Cheney said, referencing the Civil War. “No American should support election deniers for any position of genuine responsibility, where their refusal to follow the rule of law will corrupt our future.”

Cheney lost the Republican primary to the Trump-endorsed Harriet Hageman, an attorney from Cheyenne who has echoed Trump’s false claims that the 2020 presidential election was “rigged.” She won by a margin of more than 37 percentage points.

Heated debate over Flat Creek Apartments project

The public comment section of a Jackson Town Council workshop Monday afternoon featured heated arguments for and against the proposed low-income housing development known as Flat Creek Apartments. The project would be located at 400 West Snow King Avenue, on town-owned land across the street from the rodeo grounds. 

The location has proven controversial because the acre in question is the current site of the Teton County Fair’s Exhibit Hall. That hall is being torn down in the wake of this year’s fair and a new community center is already in place across the street to replace it. Critics of the project say this is just the beginning of a series of cuts that would eventually eliminate the entire rodeo and fairgrounds.

“I am an advocate of affordable housing,” said Mary Martin. “I would build affordable housing everywhere we could if we could but not at the fairgrounds.”

“Affordable housing: There isn’t anybody that denies that this is important, and it’s a hard thing to solve. But it can’t be solved by robbing us, the voter, of the historic character of this community,” said another opponent named Horton Spitzer.

Martin and Spitzer were two of more than a dozen local residents who packed the workshop to speak out against the project. Others angrily threatened lawsuits to stop the development and alleged that the process to approve it has been “crooked” and corrupt, leaving several town council members, including Jim Rooks, to call for decorum in the chambers and civility in the debate.

“I’m disappointed. I don’t want to recognize this part of my town,” Rooks said. “When we talk about Western heritage and culture, a big part of that as I was taught… is you didn’t go throwing darts at people, especially in public settings, you didn’t craft conspiracy theories and claim that somebody’s a liar or on the take and all this kind of stuff, unless you had a defensible, evidence-rich scenario.”

A handful of local residents also spoke up in favor of the Flat Creek Apartments Monday. Nancy Marquina thanked the town councilors for taking Jackson’s low-income residents into account.

“Unfortunately, those people aren’t here today because they don’t have the privilege of being able to speak to you all,” Marquina said. “They’re either working two full-time jobs or doing the most, and they’re not even able to spend time with their family.”

After public comments concluded, several councilors emphasized that they recently extended the Teton County Fair Board’s current lease through 2030 and have no plans to get rid of the fairgrounds or rodeo. They also pushed back against allegations that the council is lying about the project or somehow corrupt.

“This is not about the fair or the rodeo going away, and when that is the argument, when that is the discussion that’s put out there, great harm is done. Because people are threatened–people who take this really seriously, as I do,” said Vice Mayor Arne Jorgensen, who was born and raised in Jackson. “I don’t need to be lectured to about my work and my appreciation for the fair.”

A 3-1 vote at the end of the discussion means current plans for the project will proceed. Council Member Rooks was the lone dissenting vote, but he said he didn’t oppose the project but rather a change in plans not to request a rezone for the site.

Jackson Hole Babe Force rebrands to Women In The Tetons

The local nonprofit Jackson Hole Babe Force is rebranding, complete with a name change. The organization dedicated to empowering all women to seek adventure in the mountains is now called Women In The Tetons. 

President Lauren Roux said it’s a change that’s been in the works for a couple of years since survey feedback started to get collected in 2020.

“Our goal is to kind of encompass a little bit more of our greater community through the name change, in making sure that we are including women of all ages [and] both sides of the [Teton] pass,” she said.

Roux added that she loves the history of the group’s former name, which started as a riff on the all-male group of pioneering skiers known as the Jackson Hole Air Force. However, the women’s group has evolved beyond just skiing and now offers outdoor education on activities like mountain biking and swiftwater rescue as well as its flagship all-female avalanche courses.* The new name also removes a word that Roux said the survey found just wasn’t resonating with people.

“I think you can use the word ‘babe’ in so many different contexts,” she said. “So, depending on how you use it I think it can be a fun word. But I also can see how being called a babe can kind of sound a little bit degrading or intimidating. So, you know, we just wanted to steer away from that.”

Moving forward, Roux said Women In The Tetons will continue to focus on providing mountain education for women in the greater Jackson area, including Teton and Star valleys. 

*Full disclosure: This reporter benefitted from one of Women In The Teton’s avy scholarships last winter!

Town warns against spam utility emails

Finally, some Jackson residents have alerted the town about receiving suspicious emails about utility billing. The town officially warned residents in a Monday press release not to respond to any such spam messages. 

Officials said the town will never contact community members from a Gmail address or request payment or any other personal information through email.

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About Kyle Mackie

Kyle is a multimedia journalist who joined KHOL as news director in January 2021. Prior to moving West, she reported on education, immigration, racial justice and more for WBFO, the NPR affiliate in Buffalo, NY. With a background in international reporting, Kyle has also worked in Israel and the Palestinian territories and the Western Balkans. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international affairs and geography from The George Washington University and master’s degree in journalism from the City University of New York. When not out reporting, Kyle can usually be found trail running, climbing, skiing or grooving to live music.

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