By on September 10, 2014

The fall of the Hole?

DISSTongueJackson Hole, Wyoming – It’s chilling to make the comparisons. lists eight reasons for the decline of the Roman Empire. Jackson Hole has most of them covered. Invasion by barbarian tribes? Check. (Crime is up, heroin is here). Economic troubles and Rome’s over-dependence on slave labor? Check. Loss of traditional values? Check. Government corruption? Hmm.

As Shangri-La crumbles from within, county and city officials aren’t so much the frog that can’t detect a rise in water temperature until a death boil is reached, but the view from their ivory towers is too lofty a perch to allow for any serf sympathy.

State economist Wenlin Liu’s revelation last week was shocking. Simply shocking. Forty-three percent of county homes sit vacant while a worker couch surfs and camps. Third- and fourth-homeowners would rather rent out an occasional week here and there for $15,000 than take $2,000 a month from a Ford mechanic and his family. Hospitality and retail jobs pay peanuts but are readily available to any dreg of society with no community ties. It’s the “haves” and the “have nots.” A separation of church mouse and stately.

Rome wasn't built in a day, but in fell in one.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but in fell in one. Photo:

It’s something we all know to be true in our heart of hearts, and now here are the stats to back it up. The walls are beginning to crumble. Shops, restaurants and office space sit vacant. Town and county leaders have watched more than a few businesses bail on a suffocating planning process for less green pastures. Breweries and bike shops – once Jackson Hole staple businesses – have relocated to Teton and Star valleys.

Next it will be upscale campgrounds with RPTs and liquor licenses, indoor ice skating rinks, welding shops, construction companies, horse boarding and riding arenas, wireless communication providers with cell towers, and anyone else looking to make a go of a concept we used to call free enterprise.

Nothing about Jackson Hole is sustainable, no matter what we like to tell ourselves. We throw out more than we consume. In fact, we pay undesirables to get rid of our garbage for us. Sure we preserve open space for our wildlife – 35 acres at a time, provided the animals can hop gated community fences to lick melting snow from our heated driveways.

The Comp Plan can’t save us. Long, Drawn-out Rigamorole (LDRs) won’t save us. An Affordable Housing Task Force? Nice try. Greed has gutted this valley. It still looks good on the outside, according to TripAdvisor and sales tax projections, but structural damage is causing slow but steady erosion.

Chopping down the hangin’ tree 

DISSTongueAbolish the death penalty? Wait, is this still Wyoming?

Rep. Keith Gingery proposes to go out with a fizzle as his term in the House winds down. As chair of the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, Gingery has been trying to come up with a B Plan for when the state has to juice a felon on death row and there is no killing cocktail available.

Inventory and distribution of the recipe needed to – well, as Roberta Flack put it in her 1973 No. 1 hit “Killing me Softly” – off someone gently has become increasingly hard to find. The “justice juice” is just not something you will find at Also, as highlighted in more than one recent execution, the stuff doesn’t work so well. It’s probably one reason why jihadists prefer the scimitar.

Lawmakers have considered a few backup plans, like a gas chamber (we would have to build one), or hanging (we’re still trying to shed our cowboy image in Wyoming), or a firing squad (executions would have to be postponed for the entirety of elk hunting season).

It’s hard to argue Gingery’s solution to simply get rid of the death penalty because methods of destruction are becoming increasingly harder to find or stomach. It might play well in Teton County but don’t expect a warm reception from the good ol’ boys in Crook. But it’s true, that polls show Americans are against capital punishment and for getting softer on crime. Unless they live in Texas or own a Ted Nugent concert T-shirt. “Old Sparky” has fallen out of fashion in favor of a La-Z-Boy life sentence. Which often means paroled in five years.

But on behalf of violent murder crime victims and true Republicans everywhere, this columnist declares sponsoring this bill would be an exercise in futility. It deserves to die in committee… by lethal interjection.

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