The Candidates: Mayor

By on November 1, 2016

Mayor (nonpartisan)

Candidates: Mayor Sara Flitner and Pete Muldoon

Sara Flitner

Q: In what ways is our quality of life being eroded and/or enhanced?

Flitner: There are more people here and more visitors, too, which means more pressure on our roads, trails, pathways, classrooms and waiting rooms. A lot of people feel the impact of these changes and struggle with the feeling they are losing something. Helping people get through complex issues and difficult discussions is the highest service our local elected officials can provide, and I am committed to doing that. It’s a challenging time for Jackson, but when I go for a walk up Cache Creek or look down on our town from the top of Josie’s Ridge, I know we are really lucky.

Q: Do you support implementing rent control measures in town?

Flitner: As we move forward with the Housing Action Plan, which essentially prioritizes rental housing, we have the ability as a municipality to keep rent affordable for apartments we build or buy. As far as rent control for the whole town goes, it’s something that has to be addressed first at the state level. I just got excellent input from people interested in helping me from a Latino policy council, and they had great ideas for tenant protections. Making sure people are safe, warm and living in humane conditions is a place to start.

Q: What do you say to the critique that Jackson’s housing crisis is deepening because of inaction? 

Flitner: The housing crisis has been deepening, but I don’t accept that it’s due to inaction. According to one of the community’s leading housing nonprofits, we have seen more action on housing in the last six to 12 months than in the last 15 years. It’s hard because a lot of people are affected by housing insecurity, but I know we are taking significant steps to change that. To build a single house, you have to save, pay for, plan, sketch, design and permit. We have set the table to do that on a larger scale, and I think people recognize that doesn’t happen overnight.

Q: What are the biggest health concerns facing this community and how will you address them?

Flitner: I am most concerned about our adolescent population right now. Our addiction and suicide rates are much too high. I am working with a group of social service leaders to ensure we have a response ready for the state budget cuts, because their services are the reason we don’t have greater problems. When Teton Youth and Family Services had to cease services for a few months last summer, over a dozen kids were admitted to St. John’s for attempted suicide. I am thrilled to be partnering with the school district and St. John’s Wellness Department on mindfulness in the schools program designed to help kids.

Q: Tell us about your leadership style. How do you run a meeting?  

Flitner: I am fair, efficient and open. I have the trust of the council and people who come before us because they know I lead in the open. I am decisive, but collaborative and inclusive. We have a talented council, and not using that resource to the maximum level would be a disservice to our community. Plus, I am the mayor, not the queen. I am one of five votes, and though we use the “strong mayor” structure, everything goes better when we respect each other, work together, and have fun together.

Q: Where will we house Jackson residents who are currently without homes this winter?

Flitner: In speaking with business owners, I support their efforts to take an active role in pairing housing with their employees. Local government is way less effective in dealing with the immediate problems, which is where our nonprofits and businesses have been working. I am going to continue to focus on long-term solutions and balance for our community with policy and strategy.

Q: How important is the presidential race to you? Who will you vote for? What do you think are the most important national issues? 

Flitner: It’s the leader of our country. I can’t imagine how it’s not critically important to everyone. As an Independent, I don’t think it’s that helpful to alienate people by touting candidates, so I don’t spend a lot of time touting my candidates. However, I will never vote for a candidate who bullies, assaults, and discriminates. I am comfortable with people who have different views and priorities; it makes me a better thinker and strengthens my ideas. The most important national issue is the same as the local: trustworthiness, civility, skills to bring people together and get things done.

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Pete Muldoon

Q: In what ways is our quality of life being eroded and/or enhanced?

Muldoon: It depends who you are. If you’re wealthy, your quality of life is likely being enhanced with more restaurants, amenities, and an ever-growing number of shops and services that cater to you. But if you’re not, you probably feel you’re being squeezed out of the valley to make room for the ‘haves.’ You’re working longer hours to make ends meet, and watching your small town and caring community slowly disappear. And for people who’ve lived here a long time, the option to pick up and leave just doesn’t exist. Studies have shown inequality is bad for everyone, not just those without means.

Q: Do you support implementing rent control measures in town?

Muldoon: I don’t. Solving our housing crisis is a community responsibility, and I think that rent control unfairly burdens landlords, many of whom are doing the right thing. I also don’t see a way to implement it effectively, and we might end up worsening our housing shortage by incentivizing people to take homes out of the rental pool. I’d prefer to see a subsidy from the town to landlords who agree to rent at a discount to workers. The Housing Department could qualify tenants and administer the program. And we need some basic tenant rights to go with this.

Q: What do you say to the critique that Jackson’s housing crisis is deepening because of inaction? 

Muldoon: I think it’s true. It’s the main reason I’m running for office. Our current mayor believes that collaboration is the answer to everything, but collaboration only works when people are on the same page. Getting them on the same page is what leadership is all about, not waiting around for everyone to agree and to be happy with every decision. Our housing crisis is an existential threat to our community. Solving it is the key to our community’s survival. We need a mayor who will use political capital and the powers of public persuasion to actually lead instead of worrying about being criticized.

Q: What are the biggest health concerns facing this community and how will you address them?

Muldoon: I think the lack of stable, secure housing is perhaps the biggest health concern facing us today. Health outcomes for homeless people or people with substandard or insecure housing are significantly worse. Stress, depression and higher substance abuse rates result from this as well. To solve our housing crisis, we’re going to need to make significant investments in community rental stock, deed restrictions, increased mitigation rates, and rental subsidy programs. The good news is that we can do these things if we choose to.

Q: Tell me about your leadership style. How do you run a meeting? 

Muldoon: I think being prepared is the most important thing. I’m fascinated by policy and how things work and don’t work. I don’t plan on a career in politics or lobbying; I just want to get things done. I’ve been an activist and have written about politics and economics for years because I have a passion for it, not because I’ve been paid to. I don’t take things personally. I’ll compromise on details, but not on principles. And unlike our current mayor, I won’t be negotiating with former or future lobbying clients. I’ll be able to base my decisions on what’s best for the community.

Q: Where will we house Jackson residents who are currently without homes this winter?

Muldoon: There aren’t a lot of options for emergency winter housing. New housing takes time to develop, and that’s why it’s unacceptable that we haven’t moved more decisively to put shovels in the ground when we’ve had the opportunity to do so.

I would support the town playing an active role in working with local motels that are closed in the winter to secure housing for our workforce. But the summer season is just around the corner, and we have a huge new Marriott opening with even more workers. I’ll lead the discussion about emergency housing solutions that Mayor Flitner refused to have.

Q: How important is the presidential race to you? Who will you vote for? What do you think are the most important national issues? 

Muldoon: The presidential race is extremely important to all of us. I voted for Bernie in the primary; he’s not perfect, but he was the best option we had. And I’ve already voted for Hillary Clinton. Yes, she represents the establishment politician, but her opponent is an open racist, sexist, xenophobe and fraud who is an absolute embarrassment to our country. Climate change is an existential threat. Wealth inequality, structural racism, sexism, civil rights, the drug war, war in general, money in politics, elite domination of public policy, political corruption, mass incarceration, homelessness—these are all issues we have to confront as a nation. PJH

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