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Talk About Driggs - Acts II & III

In Act I: Where we are today I laid out the challenges Driggs faces in the immediate future, which if ignored, could risk the character, quality of life, or even health and safety in our community.  Though the list may seem overwhelming, we are well equipped to manage these.

Act II: Managing Today's Challenges

Planning ahead:  Growth and tourism are inevitable in a desirable community like ours, not something we need to fear.  Visitors and new residents inject capital into our community, sharing the costs of maintaining and improving infrastructure, and providing a reliable paycheck for many business owners and employees.  Growth can be embraced and managed on our terms through good planning.

Fortunately, Driggs is well-positioned to manage this growth.  Following months of input from the community, and hard work by the city staff and volunteers, Driggs completed its Comprehensive Plan update in 2020.  The Plan provides a framework and vision for our community for 10 years and beyond.  Similarly, updates to our Transportation Plan, our Water & Sewer Facility Plans, and our Airport Master Plan have also been completed, providing guidance for managing the infrastructure this growth demands.  

Executing our plans:  Plans alone won't fix the challenges we face.  We need money to execute them, and the discipline to stay true to them.  Recognizing this, we have already begun seeking outside funding to leverage our ratepayers’ contribution.  Using other funding sources in this way helps us keep our utility rates affordable.  Strong relationships with our federal congressional delegation and US agencies, developed over time, help us gain access to these grants and low-interest loans.  We are also monitoring the President’s Infrastructure Bill making its way through Congress now, which may help with these infrastructure costs.

Housing for the future:  Housing is another area that has been affected by our recent red-hot growth.  Rising housing insecurity has disproportionately hurt our workers and by extension our businesses with the conversion of long-term housing to short-term rentals.  Recognizing these risks years ago, Driggs led in the reinstatement of the countywide Housing Authority, providing leadership and staff support.  Additionally, the City has contributed to actual housing projects, the first of which will break ground shortly.  Driggs continues to lead in working with developers and stakeholders in a variety of projects here in town, a summary of which can be found on the  Driggs housing website.  We will continue to partner with our Housing Authority, and encourage the private development of housing to meet the needs of local workers and employers.  

Involvement at the state level:  We cannot talk about growth or housing concerns without acknowledging the impact of state legislation on fast-growing communities like ours.  Recent state laws restricting the ability of cities to properly regulate short-term rentals, and forcing the costs of new growth onto the backs of existing taxpayers illustrate the importance of staying informed and engaging with our state government.  This is an area where everyone’s voice matters to combat foolish politics.  How can you help?  Sign up for our newsletter to receive periodic updates of issues we see at the state and local levels.  We’ll help keep you informed so you can engage with your elected officials at all levels.

Strong and consistent leadership:  Following through on our plans is essential.  We cannot lose sight of the critical improvements, distracted by shiny objects.  Patching potholes and replacing pipes may not be as exciting as park improvements or events, but it is equally important.  City elected officials must maintain the course, planning and executing for the long-term.

As we fund the maintenance and growth of our city systems, it is important to remember that we must also sock away reserves for future work as well. Continued planning and responsible fiscal management are essential to ensure Driggs’ success for decades to come.

As painful as the hot economy may feel right now, we all benefit from this growth.  Let’s use the heat to cook up something good, instead of letting it burn us.  Your city staff works hard every day to manage these challenges for you.  As Mayor, I have tremendous confidence that we can manage the growth we are experiencing now and into the future.

Act III: Stabilizing the boom/bust cycle
for the long haul

Act II reviewed the ways in which we are solving the challenges we face today and in the next few years.  Longer-term we can work to reduce the historical boom/bust cycle of this valley.  Since its settlement by Europeans, the Teton Valley economy has been buffeted by economic cycles.  Reliance on a few economic engines means that when those industries encounter the inevitable slowdowns, the entire community suffers.

In 2012 a countywide committee identified a strategy for our future (now present) economy to help reduce these cycles.  This Economic Development Strategy was adopted by all three cities and the county and forms the backbone of our economic development efforts.  In essence, we recognize that we don’t want to be dependent upon tourism alone for our economic success, as our neighbor to the east is.  Rather, we’ll nurture a broad variety of home-grown businesses, developing a broader economic base, in which tourism would simply be one piece of a larger puzzle.  Of course, tourism is, and will continue to be a cornerstone of our economy, but our focus on other things besides tourism has helped a number of our businesses and farms grow into successful enterprises, employing more people, and shipping products worldwide.  

The long-term success of Driggs will depend on steady and responsible leadership from your elected officials.  This fall, you have the opportunity to choose these officials for another cycle.  Three city council seats and the mayor’s seat are all up for election this November.  I encourage you to get to know the candidates or become one yourself.  (Filing for city positions is open from now until 5 pm on September 3rd.)  Inform yourself on the issues, and how your elected officials impact the daily operations of the City.  Who you select will set the stage for years to come, and determine the City’s ability to manage the challenges we face.

I believe that the City of Driggs is well poised to manage the challenges it faces.  We have an excellent staff and great resources in our planning documents.  So remember, even though it feels like this scalding hot economy is burning us, all those tourists on our streets and visitors flying in are leaving money behind which supports many businesses and employees.  Next time we feel overwhelmed by them, remember that they are here appreciating what we get to enjoy every day.  Their vacation is our regular Tuesday.  That makes us the lucky ones!

Have I missed something you are aware of?  I’m always happy to hear from anyone in the community.  Please click the link below to email me directly.
Email Mayor Johnson
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