Ketchum changes council elections
Candidates must file for specific seats
"It passes with three in favor, one absent and me
-Mayor Guy Coles
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
With little fanfare and almost no public
comment, the Ketchum City Council last week unanimously changed the way
the city conducts city council elections, requiring candidates to run for
specific council seats rather than for either of two available seats.
Councilman Maurice Charlat was absent at
the meeting on Tuesday of last week.
Previously, the two candidates who received
the most votes were elected to the two available seats.
The newly adopted method is the same way
elections are conducted in Hailey and Sun Valley. Numbers are assigned to
each of the four council seats, and candidates choose seats based on the
number assigned to them and, theoretically, to the incumbent they most
wish to challenge.
The council waived the three readings
commonly used to adopt or adjust ordinances, triggering concern from Mayor
Guy Coles, who said he would like to have waited to receive input from a
full council and from more of the public before adopting the changes.
"It passes with three in favor, one
absent and me objecting," the mayor said.
The mayor votes only to break a tie between
Councilman David Hutchinson, who
spearheaded the drive toward immediate action, said heís always thought
the newly adopted measures are the "fair way to do it."
"All weíre doing is bringing
ourselves into conformance with what most jurisdictions do in the
state," Hutchinson said. "Lets get it out of our hair."
In a subsequent interview, Hutchinson
pointed to three benefits from the newly adopted rules.
It will help candidates avoid running
against other candidates they support, allow voters to choose more
specifically who they support rather than casting a second ballot for
someone they donít know well, and help voters avoid unintended
consequences by casting a second vote for a person who could ultimately
defeat the person they most want to elect.
The new election regulations will require
winning candidates to garner greater than 50 percent of the votes cast for
a council seat. If no candidates receive more than half the total votes
cast, a runoff election will be held between the two candidates receiving
the highest number of votes.
Sun Valley Mayor David Wilson said he
thinks the numbered voting system creates a more issue-driven election.
Sun Valley adopted similar regulations in
"We felt it would then allow for an
issue-driven campaign for a particular seat versus a popularity contest
for the top two vote getters," Wilson said.
Some, however, donít support the system.
Sun Valley resident Milt Adam
unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the Sun Valley City Council in November
1999 against three other candidates. Only one candidate, Lud Renick, filed
for the other open seat.
Both seats were vacated by prior council
"Itís rather unfair," Adam said
in an interview. "You had to select a position you were going in for,
and, at the time, you didnít know who had signed up for which seat.
"I was out there campaigning, and Lud
Renick didnít have to. I just donít think democracy is served well in
that sort of situation."
Hutchinson acknowledged that in elections
for vacated seats, Ketchumís newly adopted system becomes less
"If they are vacated seats, itís
just luck of the draw," he said.
Revising the way the city conducts
elections has been on the cityís books for a long time, Hutchinson said.
In the fall of 1999, the city council
considered the matter, but decided not to vote on the issue because it was
too close to the November election, Hutchinson said.
Public comment, he said, was not prevalent
during the fall 1999 consideration of the matter.