idle-free campaign taking root

By Jim Stanford on September 28, 2011

Comments: 14 Comments

Peter Neal, Willie's brother, installs a sign on the Town Square.

One of the changes Willie Neal envisioned finally is going into effect.

Last week, Neal’s family and supporters put up the first few of 300 idle-free signs that will be installed around town in coming months.

The signs discourage motorists from leaving their engines running while parked, as per town resolution 10-19. The notices are part of a larger educational campaign that seeks to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions and improve air quality by reducing unnecessary idling.

The Willie Neal Environmental Awareness Fund, a nonprofit set up in memory of the late Nordic skiing standout and activist, raised $7,500 to pay for the signs and associated materials. The fund has been working with the Yellowstone-Teton Clean Energy Coalition and Town of Jackson.

“The end goal is changing the culture in which we live,” said Neal’s mother, Mary, who has worked tirelessly on the campaign.

The signs will be erected on public property. Business owners who wish to have them installed for free on their property can contact info@ytcleanenergy.org.

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Posted under Economy, Environment, Politics, Town Government

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tax revenue won’t be controlled by lodging industry

By Jim Stanford on January 6, 2011

Comments: 12 Comments

Don't rush to put up another hotel just yet.

The community scored a small victory Tuesday when Teton County commissioners stood firm and thwarted a plan to cede control over lodging tax revenues to the lodging and resort industry.

Commissioners Andy Schwartz, Hank Phibbs and Ben Ellis, as well as Town Councilors Greg Miles and Melissa Turley, deserve praise for maintaining maximum flexibility for the makeup of the board that will oversee the newly reinstated tax.

“Our responsibility is not to the lodging industry or the ski community but to the people who passed it,” Schwartz said, according to the News&Guide.

Mayor Mark Barron had pushed a proposal that he said “stacks the deck,” requiring four of the seven members of the tax board to come from the lodging and resort industry. He also called for designating a seat for someone from an arts or cultural entity.

Now, elected officials will have a freer hand in selecting board members.

The 2 percent tax on hotel rooms, passed by voters in November after a 16-year hiatus, is expected to generate about $3.5 million annually. The board will control how roughly $2.1 million is spent on travel and tourism promotion, with the rest going to local government and visitor services.

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Posted under County Government, Economy, Politics, Town Government

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council crumbles on idle ordinance

By Jim Stanford on June 29, 2010

Comments: 29 Comments

Orange Beach, Ala. Apparently, images like these are not enough to motivate people to shut off their vehicles when not driving, or the town council to regulate such behavior. Photo by Dave Martin, via AP.

In a stunning reversal, the Jackson Town Council voted 3-2 yesterday against a proposed ordinance that would have prohibited unnecessary idling of vehicles.

Mayor Mark Barron and councilors Mark Obringer and Bob Lenz killed the measure, after little to no discussion. Greg Miles and Melissa Turley voted in favor. The move comes after the council voted unanimously in March to draft an ordinance, amid overwhelming public comment in support.

Instead, the council opted yesterday to pursue a public awareness campaign aimed at reducing idling. The town will do so without the greatest educational tool, the ordinance itself, which would have provided a warning for first offense and subsequent fine.

Most discouraging was the lack of discussion. Barron, Obringer and Lenz gave no reasons for their decision, as clearly the matter had been decided in private. Consideration of the idle-free measure had been postponed at least two or three times, and few proponents were able to attend yesterday.

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Posted under Environment, Politics, Town Government

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vivacious vineyards yield political intrigue

By Jim Stanford on June 1, 2010

Comments: 2 Comments

Former Alliance director Franz couldn't put down the sword for long.

The Rotary Wine Fest takes some of the sting out of Cold Wet Days. Once a year the Rotarians let down their hair to raise money for scholarships, and Snow King Center was a hive Friday of furious socializing over carefully measured tastes of wine.

Oenophiles were abuzz not just over the vast selection of syrah and chardonnay but the last-minute frenzy of candidates registering to run for office. Within minutes the excited chatter turned from Leslie Petersen‘s campaign for governor to Colin Simpson‘s appearance at the rink to the real bombshell of the day: Franz Camenzind running for mayor.

The hirsute, ponytailed leader of the Alliance stepped down last year to make more time for hiking and wildlife watching, and kept his next move close to the vest.

Mayor Mark Barron faces his most serious challenge yet as he seeks a fifth term at the helm of town. Franz is a warrior who in his many years on the front line of every conservation battle commanded respect even from his foes.

Both men will have to answer tough questions during a campaign that likely will pit business interests against preservation. Where Barron will face criticism from older residents over the changing face of town, Camenzind will face skepticism from young people who worry whether they will have a future in Jackson.

The day’s developments unfolded against the backdrop of BP’s failure to plug the gushing oil geyser in the Gulf of Mexico, lying about its chance for success, and using hundreds of workers as props for the president’s visit to the coast, only to truck them out once the cameras were gone.

The pressure had been building in the riser of my head. It was time for a blowout, and as I turned toward the middle of the rink, I spied a target: Colin Simpson, Republican candidate to be the next governor of Wyoming.

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Posted under Democratic Party, Environment, Politics, Republican Party, Town Government, Wyoming

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idle-free ordinance advances

By Jim Stanford on March 15, 2010

Comments: 16 Comments

Breathing soon will get easier on cold winter days. (Photo by Bob King/AP)

Willie Neal would have been proud.

The Jackson Town Council voted unanimously today to move forward with an idle-free ordinance championed by the late nordic skiing standout.

After listening to impassioned public comment, councilors instructed staff to prepare a draft ordinance, which will face three readings before becoming law. At least 12 citizens spoke in favor, with no objections.

Details still must be worked out, but the ordinance generally would require motorists to shut off their vehicles when parked on public streets and parking lots. The measure would be accompanied by an educational and public outreach campaign. First offenders likely would get a warning.

The move would help reduce pollution and waste of fuel while improving air quality and public health, supporters said.

All five councilors agreed.

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