*Announced candidacy after our Candidate Speed Dating events
Planning is about how, and for whom, we create the future of our community. Wildlife, year-round residents, second homeowners, and tourists all depend on our one-of-a-kind landscape for ecosystem services, health, and our economy. What is your dream scenario for the future of Jackson Hole? What is your nightmare?
Jessica Chambers: I hate to even allow myself a dream scenario but: There’s affordable housing, food, and services for everyone. All of my friends, young and old, and colleagues are able to buy homes here to make whatever life they want, e.g. having children, building a career, river guiding. People value hardworking people, community investment, wild spaces and wildlife that surround us. People recognize the most valuable part of the ecosystem are the human inhabitants that make the decisions about protecting the rest of the ecosystem. Neither working people nor animals will be displaced. Our natural resources are preserved and pristine. There’s robust public transportation that gets visitors and locals around and into the park, and many people out of their vehicles. Solutions are geared toward maintaining the workforce.
My nightmare is the exact opposite and/or extremely wealthy people over running the place, pushing the locals, old-timers, and wildness out.
Pete Muldoon: My dream is enough housing for our workforce, with development concentrated densely in town or complete neighbors, with a drastic reduction in the necessity for a vehicle and incentives to bike and walk. The open space should be preserved, as developing it will increase reliance on driving and further threaten our conservation abd climate goals.
My nightmare is sprawl, and the development or redevelopment of residential areas into second homes which will drive our workforce out of the county and encourage them to drive here for work.
Jim Rooks: I was hit by a car while riding a mountain bike on the Elk Refuge last summer. I suffered catastrophic injuries. My family has suffered at my side. One of my first thoughts coming out of emergency surgery was, “This is how the animals must feel living in our valley everyday.” Jackson is unique because our land, water and wildlife have been protected. However, our wildlife are being run over, our drinking water is becoming contaminated and our habitat is dwindling. Our current reality is the start of a nightmare trend.
My dream is that we place our environment as top priority, forever.. I dream of our children hearing bugling elk, catching (and releasing) wild trout, and knowing the ways of our native ancestors in realizing that WE ARE NATURE. We cannot harm nature and remain unharmed as humans. Our economy, community and destiny are integrally linked with our environment.
Devon Viehman: Dream: Jackson grows in a way that creates a high quality of life for all residents. We can learn from other communities’ successes and failures to ensure that we don’t become just a resort destination. And we would have wildlife crossings!
COVID-19 is taking a toll on our community and shining a light on many social issues (like food insecurity and evictions) that the pandemic exacerbates. What policies would you adopt to ensure public health and safety is a priority?
Jessica Chambers: Stabilizing policies are most needed. I worry about the most vulnerable, and a step above, with low-wage jobs and families. People need access to affordable or free quality childcare options because these workers do not have PTO; they don’t work, they don’t have income, they don’t pay rent or feed their families. They lose jobs, then housing and so on and so forth.
Given our already dire situation that the lack of affordable housing options presented – so many human resources that we need to enact many of these public health and safety priority policies, such as child-care certified workers, working through policy solutions is daunting. Frankly, there are so many variables to consider and obstacles to hurdle, it’s hard to know what is possible. However, I would take every measure possible to ensure the health and safety of our community members. Nothing else matters if we do not do that.
Pete Muldoon: Increase funding for human services, increase the supply of stable housing.
Jim Rooks: C19 is a monumental challenge to our collective health and safety. But, I do not want us to forget that Jackson had serious issues related to mental health, suicide, sexual assault and domestic violence. These issues have been exacerbated by Covid, especially within vulnerable demographics that have been hardest hit by Covid. While our nation has spent trillions on Covid response, as a candidate for Jackson Town Council, I do not want to lose focus or funding for our local health and human services.
As a student of history, I understand that disease has long plagued humans. I support science, medical expertise, and common sense. I also think visionary government and inspirational leadership is required. Positive messaging works. Social norming works. Good people make good government. We the People must unite under a common cause. Our children’s education, our economy, and our quality of life are all at risk.
Devon Viehman: Town Council has limited power for this. Our state has already enacted protections utilizing CARES Act funds. I voiced my concerns and let the state know the importance of using those funds to assist renters. The Wyoming Community Development Authority distributes those funds. The tenant applies for assistance each month and funds are allocated directly to the tenant’s landlord. As long as the tenant is current on their rent, the landlord cannot evict. Retail renters also struggle. The Wyoming Business Council has grants available for their rent too. Even if they received PPP funds, they can apply for funding to cover losses incurred and costs of PPE. I will continue to stand up for our renters, homeowners, businesses and our vast network of nonprofits dedicated to health and human services that need to be funded in order to continue essential services for our community members.
There are many potential solutions for our transportation problem like building new roads (Tribal Trail, the North Bridge, and expanding Highway 22), expanding START service, building pathways, and charging for parking in downtown Jackson. What’s your transportation vision for the valley, and what role does local government play?
Jessica Chambers: Always the concern with building roads is will they just add more cars until we’re right back to where we started, with additional risks for wildlife conflict. I want people out of their cars, but in order for that to happen we need to make taking public transit more desirable than sitting in your vehicle. Ideally Jackson has a robust public transportation system that services ALL areas of the valley, with significantly expanded service into the park during the summer. It’s a heavy lift.
Local government controls public transport and pathways, the latter not so useful in the winter. But, making anything happen always comes down to funding and political will. I’ve got the will to prioritize public transport and locate funding/revenue streams to move in that direction. Paid parking and pedestrian street solutions fall under local control, but inclusion and consideration of local businesses is essential.
Pete Muldoon: We have to move from parking minimums to parking maximums. We have to focus bus service on reduction of VMT, not on simply increasing routes. We have to make it feasible to live here without owning a car, if that’s what people want to do. We can’t keep widening highways and providing unlimited free parking and then wondering why people drive. House people, not cars.
Jim Rooks: I support human pathways. Period. Eco, bike, and people-friendly transportation and tourism can be features of our community. We have already invested tens of millions of dollars into these local and visitor amenities, which can be prudently expanded and maintained. Our START system is the same. We are fortunate to have a public transit organization with the experience of START. I support an intelligently designed and strategically built Tribal Trails “Connector,” especially if WYDOT wants to help pay for it! Highway 22 and 390 can also be improved. I support sections of a 3rd turning lane on Highway 22, as well as highway 390, as long as they include wildlife corridor protection, such as under/overpasses and fencing. I’m not opposed to paid downtown parking, especially if such funds are directed into transportation solutions. As far as the “North Bridge” is concerned, I won’t believe it until i see it!
Devon Viehman: I support a HOV lane on Highway 22 and the START expansion plan that includes new routes because more routes with direct lines and the ability to zoom past the idling traffic incentivizes usage.
Paid parking isn’t something I support until we can mitigate the additional stress it would have on downtown businesses. The completed study showed we don’t need paid parking since the turnover rates are above the goal that paid parking would potentially create.
I propose we create a program that incentivizes the local workforce to park a couple blocks away from the square or at a minimum be responsible for moving their car when they are supposed to. A tiered fine system could be part of the solution. Workers who don’t want to park away from town could be issued a zone-restricted parking pass with the fee going toward START bus funding or other infrastructure improvements.
Local landowners have recently made a splash with major proposals to develop northern South Park. What is your take on the current proposal and what’s your vision for that area?
Jessica Chambers: The North South Park proposal was a great jumping off point, but we need to make sure there are many, many more deed restricted housing units built and conservation issues resolved. Schooling of new residents will absolutely need to be addressed. We get one shot at projects this large. Our decisions will move us in the direction of either the dream or nightmare scenario.
Pete Muldoon: It should be densely developed, with little parking and plenty of pathways, affordable to median income and below, with the preservation of most of the open space. Anything less than that means it should not be developed at all.
Jim Rooks: The Gill and Lockhart proposals may be the most important housing developments in our valley’s history. I have quickly and consistently expressed that I do not support the Gill proposal as presented. However, I strongly support these developments in concept. No major Jackson Hole real estate proposal is perfect, but my current response to the Gill proposal at “Northern South Park” is, “Thank you very much. Let’s sit down and work out a plan that honors the significance and complexity of this proposal.” I appreciate the fact that a century-old, community-oriented family has worked and sacrificed to preserve open space, and is dedicated to thoughtful development. The “devil is in the details” with this plan. I am very confident that a cordial and mutualistic approach with the Gill family, as well as the Lockharts, would result in “complete neighborhoods,” including riparian and habitat protections, schools, parks, pathways, and open space.
Devon Viehman: We can secure workforce housing inventory to address these shortages. Our community needs to balance thoughtful planning, rising construction costs, and demand. There isn’t enough tax dollars for government-only housing projects. We need private-public partnerships to keep up with our valley’s housing needs. We should keep the dialogue positive when ideas and investments are brought to the table. The Gill family’s parcel is part of the solution. A covenant designates 65% of the lots to deed-restricted homes including 30-40 lots going to Habitat for Humanity. We have some more work to get done though to truly address the need for lower income housing that will require some sort of subsidy. To reach an affordable price point, we might have to consider whether or not people would be willing to do without a garage or second parking space in order to not have to commute.
How would you address water quality issues like unsafe drinking water and polluted creeks and streams throughout our valley?
Jessica Chambers: Local conservationists were sounding this alarm before the construction of Munger Mountain Elementary School: Addressing water quality starts with a comprehensive county-wide wastewater plan under the advice of the Teton Conservation District and Protect Our Water Jackson Hole—I defer to the experts on macro solutions.
However, I would support a Town measure to mandate “best-practices” for landscaping and lawn care, which simultaneously promotes awareness. All water run-off in Jackson ultimately runs (under the town) into Flat Creek, so everything we do in town has an effect on the creek’s water quality in town and beyond. Of note, ToJ has been very deliberate with snow removal and placement as well as street cleaning and stormwater runoff treatment.
Finally, there are water quality considerations with NSP: one, its streamside location, but more so addressing the added strain on sewage infrastructure and water processing that an upzone would bring.
Pete Muldoon: We need to connect county areas up to the towns waster water plant, if there is capacity. Other plants may be needed. Better storm water systems are needed as well, especially if we are going to build town more densely.
Jim Rooks: Water quality is one of my top priorities. Water extends beyond jurisdictions and municipalities. We are all essentially “down river” from known contaminants. Water quality is also multifaceted. Ecoli and other hazards have crept up in our community from within. Septic systems are leaching and fertilizers are flowing into our waterways. We must protect our water. We are fortunate to have a highly skilled government water staff who have been warning us, and teaching us, about issues and solutions. We have several non-profit organizations, who are committed to clean water. I am proud to have a Trout Friendly sign in my yard, which requires little extra effort to ensure our native trout can thrive in our ecosystem. This is not a partisan and polarizing issue, this is water. We must unite to ensure the water that enters our beloved valley exits in a like manner.
Devon Viehman: The longer we wait to correct our water issues the bigger and more expensive they get. I’m prepared to implement policies founded on evidence derived from the Stormwater Management Plan.