By on July 2, 2013


70313propsIt’s 10 o’clock. Do you know where your children are?   DISS

If the long arm of government feels like Plastic Man with his incredibly stretchy arms after reaching into school vending machines to extract the Twix and Milky Ways, well, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Local school administrators hell-bent on entering the Digital Age are hot on an idea to electronically track our kids as they get on and off buses. It sounds like the first phase toward eventual GPS transmitters sewn into the backpacks of all students so TCSD#1 can keep tabs on all their pupils in real-time. Why stop there? What about chip implantation?

Computer software designed by an ominous-sounding company called “Zonar” would require students to wear a radio-frequency identification card at all times so that a Big Brother database could tally their ingress/egress from school buses.

Wait, what? Have students gone missing? Are parents expressing an interest in knowing their child’s whereabouts at any given time after they drop them off at school? This sounds like a solution in search of a problem.

The school board has come up with some doozies before – breathalyzer wands, year-round schooling, banning dogs from a pathway they don’t own, etc. – but this plan makes it sound like the trustees have too much time on their hands. The school district needs to worry about how they’re going to pay to pave the sports complex parking lot before they venture off on some cockamamie scheme to electronically monitor their students. Paroled felons have more rights than a Jackson fourth-grader.

Kate Mead, normally the voice of reason, doesn’t seem to be against it. Trustee Paul D’Amours, a lawyer by trade who has fretted previously about treading on Constitutional rights, told the Daily, “there are a lot of good things that can come from this.”

Wake me up when this is America, again.

 Prickly Cactus pushing the right buttons   PROPS

So far, everything Cactus Communications has come up with has felt right and worked better. The ad agency in charge of boosting tourism during the valley’s off-peak months has had a measurable impact thus far in spending the county’s lodging tax moolah. Cactus has utilized social media like a 12-year-old, as promised, and their campaigns are spiffy and nifty (or whatever the kids say today).

Their Colorado-targeted “How was practice today?” mobile guerilla marketing billboards were more in your face than Jackson Hole’s knee-deep powder. Now the idea is to court the intermediate skier who may be put off by our gnarly, double-diamond reputation.

Next winter’s slogan – “There’s more to winter than skiing” – will focus on less-than-uber skiers with something called a “black and blue” pitch. The campaign will feature zoomed-out photographs of groomed runs and shallower slopes, rather than snorkeled powder hounds shooting impossible couloirs.

Cactus receives close scrutiny from the Travel and Tourism Board, who make sure the agency stays on point. So kudos to all involved, it’s working.

 Local officials vow to get tough on VRBNo-nos   PROPS

Finally, town and county officials say they are going to get tough on illegally operating short-term rentals in town. They scheduled a joint meeting Monday to talk about how to attack the problem.

Unless permitted to do so by zoning, absentee homeowners who are renting out their property for less than 30 days at a time are in violation of city and county code. Neither the town nor county has had the manpower to enforce the ordinance, so scofflaws operate brazenly by advertising on the Internet under various Vacation Rental By Owner-type sites and often hiring local property management companies to facilitate the lucrative enterprise.

There are a few problems with the arrangement. It’s not fair to neighbors who actually live here and don’t care to see the neighborhood treated like a Motel 6 swimming pool. It’s not fair to hotels, motels, and other lodging facilities that play by the rules and contribute sales and lodging tax to the town and county. And finally, it removes precious rental units from the inventory so year-round worker bees are forced to commute from 45 minutes away.

We first railed on this in the Jan. 18, 2012 Props and Disses column, after which the town and county did nothing. We later followed it with a feature story pointing out the worst offenders. Not much happened after that, either. Now that the News&Guide finally got in the game (see last week’s NaG front-page story), perhaps a sufficient fire has been lit under councilors and commissioners.

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