A message from county commissioner candidate Christian Beckwith:
JACKSON, Wyo. — COVID-19. Economic uncertainty. Sky-high housing costs and skyrocketing property taxes. Traffic jams in October. All against a constant drumbeat of build, build, build.
This is the greatest opportunity of our lives.
I’m running for Teton County Commission to defend the opening words of the 2012 Comprehensive Plan: to “preserve and protect the area’s ecosystem in order to ensure a healthy environment, community and economy for current and future generations.”
I am not alone in my desire to protect it. Nearly 600 survey respondents indicated that, across party lines, regardless of how long people have lived in Teton County, protecting the ecosystem remains our number one priority.
Our community is wise. We know our ecosystem is the foundation of our economy, our community character and our quality of life.
That’s why we created The Comp Plan. It is our collective understanding of what we know to be true: the health of our community can be no better than the health of the environment in which we reside.
The Comp Plan required deep community engagement over the course of multiple years to develop. It took community members and elected officials who were courageous enough to say no to powerful special interests. It created tension between growth and protection, between the profits of private industry and the reason those profits exist in the first place.
And as a result, we have a place worth fighting for. By choosing long-term goals over short-term gains, we created a singular community, one that understands what is required to live in balance with our natural surroundings. The Comp Plan is our articulation of that understanding.
Yet today, our elected officials continue to make concessions to the Comp Plan’s vision. As a result, it continues to be undercut by special interests. Its spirit has been so compromised by our unwillingness or inability to protect it that we have contaminated our water, fragmented our habitat, snarled our traffic and exacerbated the need for more housing.
And that was BC—Before COVID.
Now, unable to travel overseas, tourists have descended on Teton County in unprecedented numbers, stressing our natural resources and our infrastructure capacities even more.
Wildfires, stronger storms, urban lockdowns and remote workplaces are creating a population surge as second-home owners and COVID refugees make Teton County their full-time residence.
College students who can afford to do so now call Jackson Hole their campus, a hint of the remote higher educational system of the future that may only increase the stress on our limited housing supply.
We need a plan. And it must go beyond the reach, and the power, of the Comp Plan.
Today, more than at any juncture in our community’s history, we’re at a tipping point. This summer put an exclamation mark on the dangers of accommodating the never-ending demand for all things Teton County: we’re overtouristed, overdeveloped and overwhelmed.
The Comp Plan is our vision for a sustainable future. With the right leadership, we can enforce it and manage our growth responsibly so that short-term solutions don’t adversely impact our long-term interests.
And now, in the midst of the greatest crisis of our lives, is the time to do so.
Past pandemics have ushered in seismic social change. The Black Plague created the conditions for the rise of the Renaissance. The Spanish Flu gave us the foundations of our social welfare net and our modern health care system.
How will we respond to our generation’s pandemic? Will we harness it to build the community of our dreams? Or will we let it reduce us to a place no longer worthy of the mantle “The Crucible of Conservation?”
Trust me with your vote, and I will be the Comp Plan’s champion. We’re always going to grow, but I will work with developers to provide a transparent understanding of what is and is not permitted, which will increase their efficiency, effectiveness and profits without adversely impacting our collective wellbeing. I will help delineate expectations, which will lower risks for all stakeholders. Most important, I will defend our community’s number one priority: the protection of our golden goose.
The reason we have a place worth fighting for is the direct result of past generations who were so inspired by the singular nature of this place that they rose to the occasion to protect it. Doing so was never easy, but again and again, they rallied to defend the foundation of everything we now take for granted.
In this election cycle, we have the opportunity to elect candidates courageous enough to do the same.
If the long term sustainability of our ecosystem and community matters to you, please vote for Christian Beckwith for Teton County Commission on November 3. You may learn more about his candidacy and positions at www.christianbeckwith.com.