Weekly News Roundup: Friday, May 13

Miss the headlines this week? Catch up on special requests for taxpayer funds, local water conservation efforts and a new anti-violence program.
Teton County Fairgrounds
A Specific Purpose Excise Tax (SPET) proposal to relocate the Teton County Fairgrounds, which hosts the summer rodeo in Jackson, will not go before voters this fall. Town and county officials cut the proposal as they prioritize the community’s most urgent funding needs. (Greg Janée/Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0])

by | May 13, 2022 | Weekly News Roundups

 

Town and county considering special tax proposals

Public meetings about applications for Specific Purpose Excise Tax (SPET) funding kicked off Monday. Hundreds of millions of dollars in proposals have been submitted for projects like workforce housing, water quality improvements, fire stations and a homeless shelter. Advocates for each proposal urged elected officials to select what they consider the biggest community issue requiring funding through the voter-approved 1% sales tax paid by residents and visitors in Teton County.

“As the manager of the largest inpatient unit of St John’s Health, I continue to struggle with employee retention and recruitment–all directly tied to the lack of housing and the cost of living,” said a representative from St. John’s Health.

“If you’ve been around during the school days, there’s just simply not enough space for our academic endeavors here at the high school,” added a representative from Teton County School District #1.

Town of Jackson and Teton County elected officials heard from all of the SPET applicants this week. The two jurisdictions share the funds, using them to pay for community facilities, infrastructure and amenities that would otherwise require other revenue sources. The next step is for officials to rank their choices and decide which projects should get a cut of the estimated $100 million of funding if approved by voters in November. Public comments will continue to be accepted on the SPET applications over the next few months.

Proposal to relocate rodeo grounds shot down

The Teton County Fairgrounds in downtown Jackson will remain in its current location—at least for now. A SPET application to move the fairgrounds, which hosts the annual summer rodeo, was one of many submitted to town and county officials last month. However, electeds cut the proposal this week as they begin to prioritize the funding requests that will go before voters this fall. 

Several local residents spoke against the move at a public meeting Monday, including Steve Duerr.

“I have to believe that keeping the rodeo grounds where it is, where people from around the world—Australia, China, India—can walk from a hotel to the rodeo grounds and see a family rodeo is something distinctive about the character of Jackson Hole we can’t lose,” Duerr said. 

Local advocates in favor of a move have argued that the fairgrounds could have more space on the outskirts of Jackson while allowing for much-needed, high-density housing to be built in town. County officials say moving the rodeo grounds could still be subject to a future debate, but no immediate relocation seems likely.

Wyoming lags behind in conservation

Wyoming has conserved zero acres of federal public lands since 2009, according to a new report from the nonprofit Center for Western Priorities. That’s less than all other states in the region, and it runs counter to the fact that 71% of Cowboy State voters want new protected areas, according to recent polling. 

More than 22 million acres of Wyoming lands are currently open to industrial and commercial use, but conservation efforts are underway to try and preserve wildlife corridors, river ecosystems and lands ripe for recreation before they get developed. The Biden administration has a goal of conserving 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030—an effort opposed by most prominent Wyoming politicians.

New youth program promotes ‘healthy masculinity’

Who were your biggest influences as a kid? For a lot of young boys, their coach is on that list. And a new program from Jackson Hole Youth Soccer and the Community Safety Network is trying to harness the respect and value that athletics help instill in children’s lives and promote anti-violence behavior. 

Adrian Croke is director of education and prevention for the Community Safety Network. She said the pilot program, now starting on the U-14 boys soccer team, mirrors evidence-based initiatives from elsewhere in the country. 

“It is a series of conversations built around really healthy masculinity. It focuses on nonviolence and uses a lot of the language and the things that coaches are already talking to their athletes about,” Croke said, like, “leadership, teamwork, courage, respect, standing up for what’s right, working together [and] working towards what you believe in.”

The conversations will take place ahead of the boys’ practice. Each session will tackle a different topic, from digital harassment to consent, and coaches will lead the discussions with the goal of making the athletes mentors within their social circles.

Teton County master planning process for water conservation underway

The first of many meetings about Teton County’s new Water Quality Master Plan was held last week. The goal of the collaboration between both private and public organizations from throughout Jackson Hole is to create a comprehensive plan to preserve local water resources. That includes both high-profile cases like contaminated drinking water in Hoback and also lesser-known issues like stormwater runoff.

Carlin Girard is executive director of the Teton Conservation District. He said that for an issue as big as water quality, the community needs all hands on deck.

“I really think that wastewater in particular, but also the management of drinking water systems, some of these things aren’t really suited for one-off individually addressed solutions. Instead, you need a systematic approach that weighs and balances feasibility, funding and the benefit of those different options,” Girard said.

The timeline of the master plan, including more stakeholder and public meetings, fundraising, writing out a set of guidelines, and finally implementing the guidelines through local government is set to take place over about the next two years. Conservation organizations are also asking town and county officials to prioritize clean water through SPET allocations.

New Hageman ad funded by Trump Jr. PAC and local donors

A new political action committee will be blitzing Wyoming’s airwaves in the next few weeks to campaign for Harriet Hageman, the Trump-endorsed challenger for Rep. Liz Cheney’s congressional seat. An ad featuring the chair of the super PAC, Donald Trump Jr., will get broadcast on television and radio stations prior to a rally for Hageman with former President Donald Trump in Casper over Memorial Day Weekend. 

Rep. Cheney has voted with President Joe Biden just 12% of the time since 2021, according to the political publication FiveThirtyEight. That’s on par with most other Republicans and less often than Wyoming senators John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis. The super PAC funding the Trump Jr. ads has received plenty of money from outside the Cowboy State, according to Federal Election Commission data, but has also drawn large donations from a few prominent Jackson Hole residents, including the widow of former state gubernatorial candidate Foster Friess. 

Victor man killed in kayaking accident

A resident of Victor, Idaho, identified as Steven Koning died in a kayaking accident in northwestern Montana last weekend, according to officials in Lincoln County, Montana, and The Associated Press. Koning was the former co-owner of Snake River Kayak and Canoe, according to the Jackson Hole News&Guide, and he still regularly guided boating trips in Yellowstone National Park.

Official reports of the accident said Koning was navigating a rough stretch of the Yaak River when he fell out of his boat and his partners were unable to rescue him.

KHOL extends our condolences to Koning’s friends, family and loved ones.

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