Candidates recognize ecosystem, city needs
Forum puts spotlight on those running for office in most densely developed quarter.
By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
August 4, 2010
Candidates for the Jackson Town Council and Jackson mayor are striving to find a balance between conservation and too many rules about issues such as preserving the town’s character, the snowmobile hill climb, idling cars and reusable bags.
The politicians made the comments at Candidates Forum on Conservation where four-term incumbent Mayor Mark Barron faced off against former Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance director and mayoral candidate Franz Camenzind. Incumbent councilors Bob Lenz and Melissa Turley were joined by town Planning Commissioner and council hopeful Michael Pruett at the event.
Mayoral candidate Jim Evanhoe and council candidates Ray Elser and Kevin Peterson did not attend the forum, which took place at the Jackson Hole Middle School July 22.
When asked about public transportation to Jackson Hole Airport and Grand Teton National Park, Turley cited a recent study that showed such a system as currently unfeasible but said she supports the idea.
“I really think we need to continue to study options for mass transit to the parks and the airport,” she said.
An anti-idling initiative supported by late Jackson Hole High School standout Willie Neal drew praise from Pruett. But the real estate developer said he wouldn’t necessarily want an anti-idling ordinance.
“Anti-idling is a great concept,” he said. “But I would favor education programs over regulations.”
Similarly, getting rid of plastic bags at grocery stores is a good idea, but a surcharge on those bags probably isn’t appropriate, Lenz said.
“I would promote biodegradable bags and reusable bags,” he said. Tourists might have a hard time bring canvas bags on their vacation.
“Who is going to carry canvas bags on an airplane?” he asked.
Maintaining the character of Jackson Hole is important, Camenzind said.
“I think it’s something that we’re all concerned about,” he said. He supports smaller buildings and would repeal planned mix use development guidelines that give developers more density in exchange for benefits to the community.
“We should not try to outclass the Vails and the Aspens,” he said.
Lenz agreed that Jackson’s character is important.
“It’s in our best interest to preserve that character,” he said.
Lenz supports restrictions on building heights.
“I’m interested in setbacks and landscaping,” he said.
When asked about closing Deloney Avenue and Center Street in downtown Jackson to motorized traffic, Barron said he supports events in the center of town but would not support closing off the streets.
“At this time I’m not convinced that would be an enhancement for downtown,” he said.
Both mayoral candidates said they would continue the annual World Championship Snowmobile Hill Climb that takes place at Snow King each year.
“We live in a community known for extreme recreation,” Barron said. “We have one weekend a year when the slednecks show up, and I support that.”
The hill climb does not necessarily coincide with the town’s goals to curtail fossil fuel emissions, Camenzind said. But the event is “part of the heritage and institution of Jackson,” he said. “I wouldn’t try to stop it.”
Turley said she would consider a sales tax to fund open space, but said she did see opportunities for growth outside of Jackson proper.
“I don’t think the town is the only opportunity for future development,” she said. “There are nodes that are appropriate.”
Responding to a question about an infrastructure tax to pay for transportation improvements, Pruett cited the economy.
“Our transit system is overloaded right now,” he said. “It’s a struggle. I would not support increasing taxes right now, but I would look toward pathways and [the Wyoming Department of Transportation] to improve our transit system.”
Pruett also called wildlife the number one priority in the community. “At times, [wildlife] does conflict with development on the outskirts of town,” he said. “But we have to consider wildlife as well.”
Wyoming Conservation Voters sponsored the event.