Contact: Clare Stumpf, ShelterJH Coordinator
ShelterJH is endorsing housing champions for the local election: early voting opened on September 18!
ShelterJH sent all local candidates a questionnaire, co-hosted a Candidate Forum with Act Now JH, and also held a closed-door workshop to educate candidates on ShelterJH’s policy platform. Then the ShelterJH board discussed all candidates based on their answers to the questionnaire, forum responses, and their public actions and statements to date. Our criteria included our judgement of their commitment to affordable housing in general; their commitment to our most vulnerable neighbors in particular; their likely effectiveness; and their alignment with our policy priorities such as tenant protections and sustainable public funding for housing. We did not consider political party affiliation, personal connections, or personal support for any candidate, and our board member who is working directly on a campaign recused himself entirely from that discussion.
Mayor of Jackson
The two candidates for Mayor of Jackson represent different approaches to key housing issues. Both candidates have the opportunity to learn even more about the most effective approaches to addressing tenant protections, COVID-19 responses, and potential developments like northern South Park. One candidate demonstrated a deeper understanding of the myriad effects of the lack of homes that locals can afford on our community as a whole.
- Hailey Morton-Levinson is an experienced leader with a record of supporting tenant protections and establishing a housing ombudsman as a Town Councilor. She supports dedicated public funding for housing and recognizes the fundamental housing equity issues in Jackson. The ShelterJH board encourages her to be even more assertive in her approach to tackling homelessness and inclusionary zoning in Town.
It was not easy to pick only two of the four candidates for Town Council. All four have demonstrated an understanding of the local housing crisis and have promised action on housing our community members. Devon Viehman, although new to the local political scene, is committed to learning about the housing crisis in the valley. Devon has the potential to become a strong housing champion in time. Jim Rooks is a dedicated community leader who has made personal commitments to housing our workforce. We are grateful for their commitment to housing, but given the gravity of our local housing crisis, we need the Council to go beyond good work to truly outstanding work and new levels of leadership.
In the end, it was clear that two candidates have been focused on housing since the inception of their political careers. As a housing organization, our mission is to identify leaders who will prioritize solving our housing crisis – especially for our most disadvantaged community members. The ShelterJH board is endorsing two candidates as champions for housing:
- Pete Muldoon has served as the Mayor for the last four years and made strides in addressing housing issues since his inauguration. His mayoral experience has equipped him with an invaluable perspective and knowledge of housing issues and specific solutions in the valley like the real estate transfer tax and the spectrum of deed restrictions. He touts inclusionary zoning, incentives, mitigation rates, and public funding as fundamental aspects of confronting our housing crisis. He is the only local candidate who does not own property in the valley, and this personal experience gives him critical insight into the demographics ShelterJH aims to serve.
- Jessica Chambers has run for Town Council before and has consistently identified housing issues as one of her main concerns. ShelterJH recognizes Jessica’s bold, social-justice-oriented approach to housing the valley’s workforce, which this community desperately needs. Jessica supports establishing a public housing fund, increasing the lodging tax, and providing affordable rental units, all of which are essential components of addressing local housing shortages.
The ShelterJH board found the County Commission candidates represented a greater range of focus on housing: some candidates are clearly committed to housing our workforce, while some have prioritized other worthwhile community goals. Some Commission candidates say that they believe in housing affordability but also believe the “free market” will provide it, showing a clear lack of understanding of our local conditions. Christian Beckwith has demonstrated a desire to learn more about our housing challenges, and as a dedicated environmentalist understands the importance of housing our workforce locally. He has the potential to become a strong housing champion in the future. The ShelterJH board is grateful for incumbent candidate Greg Epstein’s service to our community, but also has concerns about his reliance on the free market to provide homes local workers can afford. If re-elected, we hope Commissioner Epstein will work with us to identify how to be a more effective housing advocate in his second term, as we recognize that he understands the need and identifies with community members who face housing insecurity. Candidate Peter Long did not complete our questionnaire, and therefore we did not consider endorsing him. ShelterJH is endorsing the following candidates for Teton County Commission:
- Wes Gardner is campaigning for a second time for a seat on the Teton County Commission and has a strong civic engagement record as a START board member. He understands the importance of initial and permanent affordability and has been open to ShelterJH’s input throughout his campaign. Wes takes a tactical approach to our housing crisis and has been a vocal critic of the Gill proposal as it is currently written, citing his concerns about deed restrictions and the neighborhood planning process.
- Natalia Macker is an incumbent candidate seeking re-election. As Commission Chair, she is tasked with setting the Commission agenda and working to build a consensus in order to move projects forward. This position can be difficult and she has at times played it safer than ShelterJH would like, but she has voiced her support for a holistic planning process and diverse housing types for northern South Park. ShelterJH is committed to diversity of thought, and as the only woman on the Commission, Natalia brings a critical perspective.
If you haven’t registered to vote yet, there’s still time! Early voting opened on September 18 and the general election is on November 3. If you plan to mail your ballot, please make sure to do so by October 20.
ShelterJH is a membership organization created by Jackson’s middle-class and working-class workers. We are especially focused on solutions for our neighbors living with the most housing insecurity. As a 501(c)4 nonprofit instead of the typical 501(c)3, we can endorse, oppose, and support candidates – and help get and hold them accountable once they take office. Please join our movement and be ready to vote by November 3!