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For the week of July 26 through August 1, 2000

Public comment indicates support for chamber funding

"We’re here to be the front desk of the community. It’s our job to provide the best possible services to our visitors."

-Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber of Commerce executive director Carol Waller.

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum residents and business owners by a decisive margin Thursday told the Ketchum City Council they favor continued city funding for the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber of Commerce’s marketing and visitor information services.

The council heard public testimony from about 15 locals at a budget hearing at noon after chamber of commerce executive director Carol Waller gave a brief synopsis of the chamber’s past and proposed budget.

The chamber’s 2000-2001 request to Ketchum is for $331,000, in addition to $31,000 for in-kind office rent. The cash allocation, if granted, would be a 5 percent increase over the 1999/2000 fiscal year’s $315,000 contract with the city.

The city contracts with the chamber, using local option tax collections for visitor information and marketing services.

The council did not discuss or vote on the issue at the meeting.

In a letter discussing the city’s 2001-2001 budget, however, Mayor Guy Coles called the increase request "reasonable."

"I think it is important to continue to contract with the chamber for visitor information and marketing services at a level that makes a significant contribution to our tourist-based economy," the mayor wrote.

Waller agreed.

"This is a reinvestment in the (local) economy," Waller said of the city’s contribution. "We’re here to be the front desk of the community. It’s our job to provide the best possible services to our visitors."

Waller said that for every $1 Ketchum gives the chamber, $6 are in local option tax collections.

Those who objected to the city’s and chamber’s contract for services admitted that the chamber does an effective job of marketing the Sun Valley area, but that’s precisely one of the reasons they said they object to the funding. The area is already saturated with tourists, they said. Also, the money could be better spent elsewhere in the city’s budget, they said.

Ketchum resident Jake Jacoby, calling himself the director of a newly established Ketchum Chamber of Commerce, said there is no need to spend taxpayer money on attracting tourists.

In a subsequent interview, Jacoby said he is the only person working with the Ketchum Chamber of Commerce. He said he registered with the Secretary of State and paid a $20 fee to formally establish the Ketchum Chamber of Commerce. The organization does not yet have a mission statement, he said.

Of future plans for his fledgling company, Jacoby said he doesn’t have any. Nor has he accomplished anything so far, he said.

But his convictions against the city spending taxpayer money for visitor information and marketing with the Sun Valley/Ketchum chamber remain.

"There is no way to keep tourists away from this area. They will come, whether or not there is a Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber of Commerce," he wrote in a letter to the city council. "The Great Wall of China could not keep them out. Therefore, it is a waste of money to fund the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber of Commerce to attract tourists who are already going to come to the area."

Jacoby admitted he was responsible for flyers that appeared around town last week depicting "a Y2K play" titled, "Rape" at city hall on Thursday.

"Rape/Real Life, Real People," the flyer began. "An unbelievable story about how the mayor and the city council of a small Idaho town raped the citizens of their own town and slept with the members of the business community, the mayor and city council of the neighboring town and the largest employer in the area (the Sun Valley Co.)."

Some of those who testified at the Thursday meeting were offended by the flyers.

"We don’t need this in our town," Ketchum resident Dennis Lallman said.

Gallery Oscar owner Don DeVore said, "rape is an inflammatory thing. I don’t know who is responsible for this, but I don’t have time for it."

Both Lallman and DeVore are in favor of the proposed contract for services with the Sun Valley/Ketchum chamber.

Ketchum resident Mary Jane Conger, on the other hand, asked the council: "When is enough enough?"

There are other items the city would be wiser to fund, she said, like parking and growth related issues.

Ever vocal Ketchum resident Mickey Garcia had an answer to Conger’s question.

"Enough will be enough when the population starts declining," he said.

"It’s quite selfish of the people who come here and say they want to shut down the economy—and that’s what they’re doing."

Ketchum city administrator Jim Jaquet said the council will consider the issue again at a yet-to-be-scheduled August meeting.


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