Tax tussle: Councilman challenges SPET critics to step out from behind the ads and debate
JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Town councilman Jim Stanford said he is fed up with false and misleading information swaying voters against the specific purpose excise tax (SPET). With less than two weeks to go before the May 2 SPET vote, Stanford has challenged Justin Adams, financier of prominent ads criticizing the tax, to a public debate.
Adams, a Kelly resident, is a principal behind the group Keep Wyoming Wild and a board member of Save Historic Jackson Hole. Both entities have been running advertisements attacking the tax projects and local government.
“Mr. Adams is trying to starve local government of funding necessary to provide services, in a misguided attempt to stop growth,” Stanford said ahead of the scheduled showdown. “Let’s have a friendly discussion, rather than firing back and forth with ads.”
Adams countered, “My basic message is that enough is enough, we cannot develop our way out of development problems, and many of the SPET items are growth enhancers.”
In his latest ad, Adams lists a slew of projects recently approved by the town or county that he says promote “aggressive development,” including the new Hog Island elementary school, a 168-unit Hidden Hollow neighborhood in north Jackson, and a 99-room hotel on Center Street. He calls SPET a “Trojan Horse” and “Growth Enhancer.”
Stanford said there is a disconnect between these developments and SPET, a popular source of source of project-specific funding in the community. Several ballot items, including $6.8 million for firehouses, and $15 million for a new public works maintenance shop, are needed to replace or renovate outdated facilities already straining to meet community needs, Stanford maintained.
“If you’re upset with growth, that doesn’t mean you cut funding for snowplowing and emergency responders,” Stanford said.
Stanford admits he’s not sure if Adams will show. Initially, he accepted the invitation but now may have a scheduling conflict. Stanford stressed the invite was a friendly one. The two have traded shots last fall over a proposed general sales tax increase but Stanford hopes the discussion will be a relaxed and informal one.
“After the discussion, I look forward to sharing a beer with Justin and talking about hunting,” he said.
Bob Culver of the Jackson Hole Tea Party was also invited to participate. The Tea Party has been critical of local government’s taxing and spending policies. The event will be moderated by a panel of veteran journalists. It is scheduled for Wednesday, April 26, 7 pm at the Elks Lodge. Admission is free. Beverages will be available for purchase.