FROM OUR READERS

By on October 25, 2016

Who Really Supports Tenant Rights

Monday’s newspaper featured a story on tenant rights protections. It was written as a response to a proposal by mayoral candidate Pete Muldoon to do something about the shameful state of tenant protections in Wyoming. But the headline writer got it wrong: “Mayoral candidates Propose Renter Protections If Elected.”

Muldoon is the only candidate with a proposal.

Current mayor Sara Flitner was quoted as saying she’s looking into it, and claimed she wanted to have a first draft done by the end of the year. But she’s had almost two years to do something, and we have yet to see a proposal. At a candidate forum in August, when asked if she supported tenant protections, her response was “maybe.” Where is the leadership on this issue?

Our renters have the rights of second-class citizens. They’re desperate and have no leverage, and landlords can take advantage of this by refusing to repair or deal with unsanitary conditions. They can refuse to offer leases, which leaves tenants at the mercy of their landlords, wondering when the rug will be pulled out from under them. Their First Amendment rights are violated—landlords are known to prohibit tenants from displaying campaign signs for candidates because the landlord doesn’t like it. And they can legally face retaliation for complaining about any of this.

If Muldoon had not pressed the issue, does anyone really believe Flitner would now be talking about tenant rights in the eleventh hour?

– Bo Elledge
Jackson, WY

The People’s Movement

Whatever the outcome of our election, I am very happy to see a grassroots process happening in the race of mayor. Grassroots movements aim to raise money, build organizations, raise awareness, build name recognition, win campaigns, and to deepen political participation. Grassroots movements derive their power from the people and their strategies seek to engage people in political discourse to the greatest extent possible. Grassroots movements are associated with bottom-up, rather than top-down decision-making. I think this is the way it should be. Nationally and locally, we’ve drifted very far from a representative government.

We have a few candidates that have personal agendas and will have conflicts of interest when it comes to making decisions regarding the future of Teton County and its development, due to their profession or family ties. When a candidate has to rescue themselves due to conflicts of interest they must not discuss, question, comment or vote on that matter. To me, that means they are unable to do the job they were elected to do. When you see a change to whom some candidates turn to for donations you can expect to see a change to whom those elected officials will be accountable. What does it mean when money becomes a fixture on a once-sleepy local political landscape? It can’t be good.

For more than 30 years we have lacked the kind of leadership it takes to resolve issues critical to our very survival. We have been unable to adhere to comprehensive plans and we have allowed money to complicate, distort, and delay decision-making at every turn.  Decision-making has been fear based. Our leaders continue to have their hands out for money to solve these issues. However, money from our pockets isn’t the answer and there is no guarantee that the money will be used for its original purpose. It’s time to make a change. I am wondering when the people of Jackson are going to take their town back.

Please vote.
– Carla Watsabaugh
Wilson, WY

Mayor Does Too Little Too Late

If our upcoming Jackson mayoral election were about voting for the person you know and like best, it would be a tough choice for me. I happen to know and like both candidates.

But this election should not be a popularity contest, nor should it be personal; it should be about taking a strong and clear stand on the issues and having the ability to boldly lead our town into a sustainable future.

While Pete Muldoon has a clear position on limiting downtown commercial development, Mayor Sara Flitner has demonstrated a willingness to give more to commercial interests. Their projects would further exacerbate our housing crisis by creating more low-wage jobs and a greater demand for scarce affordable housing. Not to mention adding unnecessary and unwanted congestion to downtown.

On rental housing, Pete has proposed a renters’ “bill of rights.” It includes specific protections such as minimum notice for evictions, leases for all rentals to ensure some level of housing security and a requirement to keep apartments in reasonably good repair. These specific requirements would hardly be onerous and they’re the right things to do.

Sara’s rental housing policy is too little too late. In an Oct. 24 newspaper article, she said she had been looking into the issue.

“The basic thing we could do, that would be a positive step, is to have more clarity to ensure basic safe and secure conditions and better relationships,the mayor said. Wyoming law already provides an inadequate bare minimum standard for security and safety and is one of the weakest tenant laws in the nation.

How to you codify “better relationships”? What does “more clarity” mean?

The mayor said she’d give us details after the election. Really? I would suggest that Sara take a bold step now and tell us exactly what she would like to achieve regarding rental housing so that we know where she stands before we vote.

Politicians with many constituents to please give vague answers and put off the hard decisions. Leaders clearly state their goals and take bold action to achieve them.

– Roger Hayden
Jackson, WY

Save the Working Class

For decades the working people of Teton County have been pushed to the wayside by decisions on matters of zoning, by antagonism towards tourism, hostility towards businesses and a priority for wildlife. Are all those actions deliberate? Who knows, but they are consistent. If we are to carry on this tack our population will dwindle significantly. The threat will become reality for those among us who do the indispensable works and functions to keep services going. With the coming elections we could send a signal that we are not content with the current situation. We are ultimately responsible for electing representatives who are competent, visionary and courageous.

A 1 percent sales tax is on the ballot; here is a chance to get funds rather painlessly, mostly provided by visitors. It is slated to help, in a small way, affordable housing and transportation. The only drawback is our elected officials will be allocating the funds and endless discussions would delay the implementation.

Sadly, we have spent years and several millions of dollars on a revision of the Comprehensive Plan, which we will find ways to mitigate. We should have applied all this brainpower to think about alternatives for Jackson Hole’s economic future. Instead we don’t know where we are going as far as developing other sources of incomes, which could reduce the inequalities in our county. Heaven forbid!

We’ve seen a trend: people live here on a part-time basis, who do not need to work and have no comprehension of ordinary life in Jackson, use financial clout and top it with legal actions to get their piece of paradise intact at the detriment of the working people. The State of Wyoming statistics shows that 35 percent of the real estate in Teton county is occupied less than one month in a year. That fact is enough to make a worker looking for affordable housing feel nauseous. The zoning laws promulgated by the people who do not care about ordinary folks is one of the main reasons why real estate is so expensive here.

And for those who want to limit tourism in some fashion— for argument sake, with a touch of sarcasm and cynicism, let us close all the hotels except for a couple for stranded motorists at sundown. For good measure we should also close the ski resort at Teton Village, backcountry skiing is much healthier anyway. Snow King could still be opened as our recreation hub. The consequences would follow. All commercial airlines would go away as they could not justify staying financially. Salt Lake City air traffic controllers will handle private jets.

Most of the foreign workers, documented or not, would leave. That would help to ease the housing crisis and the transportation issues. Hundreds if not thousands of blue-collar workers and white collar ones would lose their jobs and would be forced to depart with the entire emotional trauma that it would cause.

We would be left with huge properties occupied less than one month a year by proprietors who would bring their own staff anytime they would visit their empty mansions.

St John’s Hospital would be reduced to a clinic.

By 2036 the population would dwindle to 5,000. It would be like stepping back to the 1940s. Let’s not let this scenario materialize.

The only endangered species here is the working class. We should put as much energy into preserving as we have for the fauna and nature around us.

– Yves Desgouttes
Wilson, WY

1 Percent of the Details

Although no real discussion of the proposed town and county housing program has yet to take place, we are being asked to vote on a 1 percent tax that will fund it.  I’m guessing a lot of us might like to vote “maybe.”   

The problem, of course, is that the devil is in the details, and so far no one knows what those details will look like. The actual policy that gets implemented, if the tax passes, will depend on who gets elected and how commissioners structure the program. Sorting this out will take considerable time and effort.  In our rush to provide major funding for some kind of solution—any kind of solution—we have yet to come to grips with the delicate, lengthy and difficult process of designing the program we’re being asked to fund in advance.   

If three out of five commissioners cannot agree on how to focus the housing program and spend the money intelligently, those funds will sit unused, as well they should, awaiting the next election. Though I’m startled to be saying it, I don’t think of this as a basic flaw in the proposal. Rather, it seems more like a viable, built-in, check and balance mechanism that should prevent the town and county housing initiative from going off the rails.

Everything will depend, of course, on how carefully commissioners craft a program that takes into account both the concerns of the public and the potential for unintended consequences. Being in favor of “workforce housing” is not an acceptable mandate because it’s too vague. Being committed to exploring how we can spend the money intelligently—or else not at all—to accomplish carefully defined and focused housing goals could, on the other hand, be a realistic choice.    

In the meantime, individual candidates for county commissioner can state explicitly what they’d be willing to support up front.

My advice, for starters, would be to fund only restricted housing for town and county employees, including the hospital, the school system, the library, and a few select nonprofit social services that we have come to rely on as a community. Any housing that comes up free should go back into the original subsidized pool and made available again to the same sub-set of social infrastructure employees. Let’s start by using the money to keep our core social service employees living within the community they serve.

As to the future of an expanded program that might include the private sector work force, let’s stay flexible enough to avoid stoking the fires of additional commercial development by subsidizing its need for employee housing.  That should be a private responsibility.  If new businesses find it hard to plant roots in Jackson Hole that is probably a plus rather than a minus.  If winter housing becomes unaffordable during the summer months for established year-round employees we may want to look at rent controls.  And bussing short-term employees into town from outlying communities on a daily basis during the summer may reduce unnecessary and unwanted local development.  Everything should be on the table.

We’re definitely backing into this additional 1 percent sales tax decision. Still, if we can agree now on a viable income stream, it should be possible to start an open-ended conversation, moving forward slowly. But commissioners are going to need smarts, honesty, and a willingness to say “no” to stay out of trouble.

-Loring Woodman
Wilson, WY

Woyming Voters Should Write-In Sanders

The Op Deny 270 movement is a strategic plan to write in Bernie Sanders for president. No prior registration is required in 10 states. California is the eleventh state pending approval October 28 on the SOS website.

The 10 write in-states include Wyoming, Vermont, Oregon, Washington, Iowa, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Alabama, New Jersey.

If Bernie Sanders can win two to six states, he can deny Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump from getting 270 electoral votes.

There is also a very popular write-in candidate Evan McMullin of Utah, who may win that state’s six electoral votes. He is also on ballot in Idaho, and has strong support there as well.

If no presidential candidate reaches 270, then the house votes for president between the top three people who won states. Each house delegation of representatives gets one vote.

We believe if Bernie Sanders was the third choice, there is a very good chance he would be selected. There will be a new house, due to most of the seats being up for grabs this election. Paul Ryan and many House republicans have pulled away all support for Trump and no longer endorse him. They do not like Hillary at all, and would love to take it away from her at the last moment.

More damaging information comes out about Clinton and Trump every day. By Election Day, more scandals will have surfaced for both.

Bernie Sanders is safe, well liked and respected by many members of the house, whom he served with for years. Everyone also knows the DNC cheated and rigged the primary against him. He would have easily won nomination if the DNC had not interfered on every level. This led to the five top Democratic Party officials resigning, including Debbie Wasserman Shultz, former chair.

There are many people and groups in the “Op Deny 270, Write-in Bernie Sanders campaign.” There are a few websites to find out more information. At opdeny.com, you’ll find information and links.

There are also links to our Vermont Volunteer phone bank. We need more people helping, getting the word out, that this is a viable option, a chance, a possibility, if Independents stand up with Bernie supporters in those 10, soon to be 11 states.

– Op Deny 270, Write-in Bernie Sanders campaign

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