Mayoral race hones in on town character
Lance sees degradation, but Barron says there has been improvement.
By Noah Brenner, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Date: October 8, 2008
Jackson’s two candidates for mayor see the character of Jackson, and changes to that character, quite differently.
Incumbent Mayor Mark Barron and challenger Mike Lance outlined their thoughts about the town and vision for the future before a packed house at Teton County Library Saturday.
“We are losing the character of our town because we are losing the youth and middle class part of our town,” Lance said. “I see that as a very deep and troubling problem.”
Lance told the crowd he was running for the seat because the direction of Barron and the current Jackson Town Council is harming the character of the community and not providing enough housing opportunities.
“I’m running to try to stem the tide of some of the commercial growth happening and the impact it is presenting that is preventing future generations from having the opportunity to live here,” he told the crowd.
Barron said he sees changes in the town very differently and pointed to a handful of town initiatives, including the preservation of Karns Meadow, the construction of more than 100 affordable homes, increased attention to downtown and the town’s decision to purchase renewable energy.
“We live in the coolest community on the planet,” he said. “We have locals who said they haven’t been downtown in years and they are going down there and having a blast.”
Barron said he is running to continue many current policies and work to further his goals of consolidating government, encouraging energy efficiency and providing work-force housing and quality commercial development.
“I am running for mayor because I haven’t finished what I have strived to do,” Barron said.
Barron said commercial development, much of which is centered in large, planned mixed-use development projects in downtown Jackson, is what is providing housing for workers and creating a more vibrant, active downtown.
“Downtown is where community redevelopment is designed to happen,” Barron said. “Along with commercial development and redevelopment has come many employee housing units and affordable housing units.”
The planned mixed-used development tool, which has been controversial because it allows bigger buildings if developers meet certain conditions, is hurting the community by encouraging commercial development that is not locally oriented, Lance said.
“I am opposed to the PMD [regulation] and particularly the way it’s been used because I haven’t seen a lot of community benefit,” he said. The housing mitigation rate “has been way too low and what mitigation we are seeing is having adverse impacts on existing neighborhoods.”
Barron said the alternative to mixed-use redevelopment downtown was to push development to the south into the northern South Park area, something he opposed in the past and continues to oppose.
Lance reiterated his support for increased density in northern South Park.
“I supported annexation in 1990 and again in 2002,” he said. “I still think it is the proper place to grow. Do we need to go all the way to the south end? No, but I think opportunities exist to provide housing there.”
Both candidates supported raising the current 15 percent housing-mitigation rate. Barron said he supported a 25 percent rate, while Lance did not endorse a specific increase but said the current rate is inadequate.
When asked how they would curb town spending in the face of a declining economy that could lead to lower tax revenue, Barron returned to the idea of consolidating town and county governments to eliminate redundant services, a central platform in his campaign. He also said he has supported taking a hard look at law-enforcement budgets.
Lance said he would first cut services used primarily by tourists, citing the $147,000 allocated for operation of the parking garage as one example. He also said he would support greater scrutiny of expenditures for health and human services organizations that receive annual appropriations from the town.
“There are a lot of people that have their hands out and don’t want to apply themselves sometimes,” Lance said. “When it comes to cutting the budget, we have to look long and hard at the agencies with their hands out and are they providing a service people need.”
Even though funding for social services has increased at a greater rate than the rest of the budget, Barron said it was a good investment.
“I have increased the level of funding for health and human services, and I think that is one of smartest investments we can do as a local government,” he said.