Tea Party forum: reducing spending

Tax Day protest, 2009.

Given the Tea Party’s national reputation, I was a little leery of tonight’s Jackson Hole Tea Party forum at The Virginian. And sure enough, the applause was noticeably tepid when I was introduced.

But I gave it a shot, anyway. Candidates were given five minutes to talk about themselves. I listed my experience as a journalist, asking hard questions in news stories and learning to think in terms of the public interest. I also talked about working on the Snake River for 13 seasons, learning a lot about running a small business and a tight ship from the Barker and Ewing families.

Because the Tea Party is concerned about spending, I emphasized that we need a more conservative approach. Too often, that word becomes disassociated from its root, “conserve,” which is a big part of my life.

One area where we need to take a hard look at reining in spending, I told the audience, is law enforcement. The town and county spend a combined $8 million per year on the sheriff’s office and town police. In a small, rural community where national park rangers, national forest rangers, state game wardens and state highway patrol troopers also help enforce the laws, it makes no sense to spend so much money on two sets of local cops.

Our state representatives have tried to work on consolidating town and county government, but have run into resistance from lawmakers elsewhere in the state. We have budgetary authority to consolidate the town police with the sheriff’s office, as our community has done with planning, parks and rec and other agencies. I would give the town and county law enforcement budget close scrutiny and advocate for more budgetary consolidation where it makes sense.

Jake Nichols wrote in Planet JH Weekly:

Steve Harrington and Jim Stanford predictably played up their strengths. Harrington made sure to mention his previous stint on the Council, as well as his work with the Fair Board and long tenure in the Fire Department. Stanford said that in covering Jackson and its issues as a journalist, he is well qualified to now step in with the fresh voice of an outsider, and the savvy of someone who has also seen the belly of the beast.

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