Council waits on new member
By Benjamin Graham, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Date: January 17, 2013
After interviewing candidates for close to four hours Wednesday, council members chose a new planning commissioner but not a replacement town council member.
Town officials asked the applicants for both positions about their views on affordable housing, rewriting the new land development regulations, alternative transportation and other issues.
Council members then voted to close the meeting to discuss their preferences.
After an hour of deliberation, they reconvened in public to announce that Mark Pollard, a New Zealand native and project manager with construction company On Site Management, had been pegged for the open planning commission spot left by Barbara Allen. Allen was elected to the Teton County Board of Commissioners.
Council members said they would meet again to discuss the 11 applicants for departed councilor Melissa Turley’s seat, who also was elected to the county board.
Another closed session has been called for this morning. A final decision could come sometime today.
After the meeting, council members were tight-lipped about the discussion behind closed doors.
But they did say they were impressed by what they saw in the applicants, Phillip Cameron, Lisa Carranza, Chandler Church, Kari Cooper, Emy diGrappa, Kelly Egan, Don Frank, Mike Gierau, Stephen McDonald, Mark Nowlin, John Stennis and Jon Stuart.
The council asked them about their backgrounds, their motivation and their opinions on a number of issues.
McDonald, a daily START bus rider, used his time to explain how he would improve mass transit service in Jackson.
“START bus in town is not very ridable,” McDonald said. “Circuitous routes prevent average people from riding the bus. There needs to be express runs on Broadway.”
Most people wouldn’t mind walking a few block to reach an express stop, he said.
McDonald also noted that he speaks Spanish, which could help involve Jackson’s Latino community with town politics. He ripped off a few sentences for the council.
Others addressed the comprehensive plan and the new land development regulations, a topic that the sitting councilors continually brought up.
“I think that’s too long,” Stennis said of the three- to five-year schedule for rewriting the regulations. “I think that’s going to hurt our community. I’d like to see it be two years.”
Asked to name a council decision he disagreed with, Stennis, a planning commissioner, cited Walgreens, which the town approved last month.
“I thought the project didn’t meet the town design guidelines,” Stennis said. He tried to sway fellow commissioners to vote against it.
Mayor Mark Barron was particularly interested in the political histories of the applicants. He asked many whether they had ever campaigned for public office. For others, he wanted to know if they had ever applied for the planning commission. Answers varied.
Egan, who ran in the primary election last summer, said she is seeking a council seat because many of the town’s appointed positions don’t have much influence.
“I feel as though a lot of time the commissions, while they have certain authority in theory, they do a lot of work that ends up [being] an exercise in frustration,” Egan said.