By on July 2, 2013


70313propsIt’s 10 o’clock. Do you know where your children are?   DISS

If the long arm of government feels like Plastic Man with his incredibly stretchy arms after reaching into school vending machines to extract the Twix and Milky Ways, well, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Local school administrators hell-bent on entering the Digital Age are hot on an idea to electronically track our kids as they get on and off buses. It sounds like the first phase toward eventual GPS transmitters sewn into the backpacks of all students so TCSD#1 can keep tabs on all their pupils in real-time. Why stop there? What about chip implantation?

Computer software designed by an ominous-sounding company called “Zonar” would require students to wear a radio-frequency identification card at all times so that a Big Brother database could tally their ingress/egress from school buses.

Wait, what? Have students gone missing? Are parents expressing an interest in knowing their child’s whereabouts at any given time after they drop them off at school? This sounds like a solution in search of a problem.

The school board has come up with some doozies before – breathalyzer wands, year-round schooling, banning dogs from a pathway they don’t own, etc. – but this plan makes it sound like the trustees have too much time on their hands. The school district needs to worry about how they’re going to pay to pave the sports complex parking lot before they venture off on some cockamamie scheme to electronically monitor their students. Paroled felons have more rights than a Jackson fourth-grader.

Kate Mead, normally the voice of reason, doesn’t seem to be against it. Trustee Paul D’Amours, a lawyer by trade who has fretted previously about treading on Constitutional rights, told the Daily, “there are a lot of good things that can come from this.”

Wake me up when this is America, again.

 Prickly Cactus pushing the right buttons   PROPS

So far, everything Cactus Communications has come up with has felt right and worked better. The ad agency in charge of boosting tourism during the valley’s off-peak months has had a measurable impact thus far in spending the county’s lodging tax moolah. Cactus has utilized social media like a 12-year-old, as promised, and their campaigns are spiffy and nifty (or whatever the kids say today).

Their Colorado-targeted “How was practice today?” mobile guerilla marketing billboards were more in your face than Jackson Hole’s knee-deep powder. Now the idea is to court the intermediate skier who may be put off by our gnarly, double-diamond reputation.

Next winter’s slogan – “There’s more to winter than skiing” – will focus on less-than-uber skiers with something called a “black and blue” pitch. The campaign will feature zoomed-out photographs of groomed runs and shallower slopes, rather than snorkeled powder hounds shooting impossible couloirs.

Cactus receives close scrutiny from the Travel and Tourism Board, who make sure the agency stays on point. So kudos to all involved, it’s working.

 Local officials vow to get tough on VRBNo-nos   PROPS

Finally, town and county officials say they are going to get tough on illegally operating short-term rentals in town. They scheduled a joint meeting Monday to talk about how to attack the problem.

Unless permitted to do so by zoning, absentee homeowners who are renting out their property for less than 30 days at a time are in violation of city and county code. Neither the town nor county has had the manpower to enforce the ordinance, so scofflaws operate brazenly by advertising on the Internet under various Vacation Rental By Owner-type sites and often hiring local property management companies to facilitate the lucrative enterprise.

There are a few problems with the arrangement. It’s not fair to neighbors who actually live here and don’t care to see the neighborhood treated like a Motel 6 swimming pool. It’s not fair to hotels, motels, and other lodging facilities that play by the rules and contribute sales and lodging tax to the town and county. And finally, it removes precious rental units from the inventory so year-round worker bees are forced to commute from 45 minutes away.

We first railed on this in the Jan. 18, 2012 Props and Disses column, after which the town and county did nothing. We later followed it with a feature story pointing out the worst offenders. Not much happened after that, either. Now that the News&Guide finally got in the game (see last week’s NaG front-page story), perhaps a sufficient fire has been lit under councilors and commissioners.

About Jake Nichols

Jake is a work in progress.


  1. SKY

    July 3, 2013 at 5:59 am

    In regards to the Cactus Communications’ “measurable impact”, that’s not something you can measure a return-on-investment on in a reliable way. An improving economy for rich people will drop more people into Jackson’s real estate market, skier-based winter economy, and up-scale stores. If things improve for our economy, was it Cactus or the overall economy? Was it the snow levels, or was it Cactus? Was it everyone else on social media or was it Cactus? You’ll never k know. The “There’s more to winter than skiing” idea is as old and tired as the cowgirl goes skiing idea. Cactus sells Jackson like every other resort town.

  2. jake

    July 3, 2013 at 6:53 am

    True, Sky, but there were a few quantifiable indicators like increase in website click-throughs, page hits, and stuff like that. Increase in social media traffic. Whether that translated into web users actually visiting and spending is questionable but using an extrapolating formula I’m sure they know a certain percentage who surf, eventually visit.

  3. Limit

    July 3, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Click-throughs aren’t cash as you note and as was illustrated by the Jonathan Schechter story in this week’s N&G: . Of course, JS was telling us that the real-estate market was forever dead so take his comments with a grain of salt. Additionally, Click-Throughs may correlate with CC’s work but not be a result of their work. A better economy will generate more traffic and may be the cause of increased interest in JH.

    One question to ask is did click-throughs increase compared to other resorts? How much does it cost for a Google AdWord like Jackson Hole vs. Aspen or Park City? Other analytics would be interesting to look at.

    Jackson is a commodity in the resort business. Attractive pricing will drive more traffic to the Hole and we see local leaders making that bet every day when they do things like sell subsidized airfares to winter trust-funders much like Smiths sells bananas.

  4. Dave

    July 6, 2013 at 7:33 am

    “everything Cactus Communications has come up with has felt right and worked better” Jake has drank the juice. Cactus Communications is batter at selling itself than it is at selling Jackson. A local firm should have gotten the contract. We would know without a doubt that the investment had an actual measurable payback for our community. Anyone can do guerrilla marketing and increase web traffic. There’s no evidence that Cactus had any economic impact on Jackson’s winter season or off-season.

  5. Buy them a Drink

    July 6, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    Yelp. “This past winter, however, despite the fact that the marketing folks had plenty of
    time to plan their efforts, all that planning resulted in stagnating core taxable sales
    and sharply lower lodging sales. Then throw in the fact that Jackson Hole had
    arguably the best snow in the entire Western U.S. this past winter, and the decline
    in lodging sales becomes especially distressing, for destination skiers follow the
    snow and lodging is the single best economic indicator of our tourism economy.”

    Jake’s drunk on something.

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