local weather Click for Sun Valley, Idaho Forecast
 front page
 classifieds
 calendar
 last week
 recreation
 subscriptions
 express jobs
 about us
 advertising info

 sun valley guide
 real estate guide
 homefinder
 sv catalogs
 

 

 hemingway

Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
208.726.8065 Voice
208.726.2329 Fax

Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

Homefinder

Mountain Jobs

Formula Sports

Idaho Conservation League

Westridge

Windermere

Gary Carr...The Carr Man!

Edmark GM Superstore : Nampa, Idaho


For the week of November 14 - 20, 2001

  News

Supreme Court hears suit against chamber funding


By GREG MOORE
Express Staff Writer

A group of Ketchum residents suing to end city expenditures for tourism promotion encountered an obstacle during an Idaho Supreme Court hearing last week when Chief Justice Linda Copple Trout said they had suffered no distinct injuryóa condition set by previous cases for standing to bring a lawsuit.

Filed by six Ketchum citizens, the suit contends that the city is prohibited by the Idaho Constitution from fulfilling its $315,000 annual contract with the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber of Commerce for tourism promotion. The Constitution states that no city shall "make donation" to any "company or association."

However, before those issues can be decided, the plaintiffs must show that they have the legal right to bring them to court.

The case was dismissed in Fifth District Court in March 2000 on the grounds that the plaintiffs had no standing. Judge William Hart ruled that mere status as taxpayers was not enough to show a "distinct palpable injury."

An appeal of that decision was heard by the Supreme Court on Thursday in Twin Falls. A decision is not expected for several months, but Troutís assertion indicates that at least one justice will probably vote to uphold the dismissal.

Arguing for the plaintiffs, Hailey attorney E. Lee Schlender told the court that his clients had suffered financial loss because even though the chamberís fee is funded by Ketchumís local option tax, their property taxes are increased to pay for things the option tax money could be supporting if it were not going to the chamber.

"I donít see that as a unique or distinct injury," Trout replied.

Schlender contended that his clients make up part of an injured group.

"You have two distinct classes of people (in Ketchum), those in the tourist business and those who arenít" he said. "The reason for this law was to give relief to taxpayers of the city, not so people in the tourist business could get rich."

However, Trout contended that the only reasonably arguable injury was to those paying the option tax.

The option tax is a sales tax placed on items typically bought by tourists and is used primarily to fund the increased infrastructure required by the influx of visitors. However, a Ketchum ordinance allows the money to be used for city promotion as well.

Ketchum City Attorney Margaret Simms contended that the plaintiffs were asking for a new rule on standing to allow any taxpayer to bring a lawsuit. If that were to be granted, Simms said, "it would completely paralyze local government."

"It would be having courts making decisions on expenditures," she said.

In response, Justice Wayne Kidwell suggested the possibility of a "middle ground" on the subject.

"Why shouldnít a group, if a large group, have access to the courts to decide grievances?" he asked.

Simms said the state attorney generalís office has the power to intervene when the public trust is clearly violated.

In his closing remarks, Schlender asked the court not to "walk away" from ruling on the substantive issues of the caseówhether a local option tax is limited to funding infrastructure improvements and whether a city can subsidize private business. If the court does so, he said, "we really donít have judicial oversight as weíre supposed to have."

In interviews, plaintiffs Craven Young and Jake Jacoby said the suitís intent is not to reduce tourism but to make more money available for improvements to Ketchumís infrastructure, such as roads and bridges.

Young said the city of Ketchum had ignored requests by himself and others to put a referendum before voters on whether option tax money should be spent to fund the chamber of commerce.

"Thatís why itís festering still, because the city will not sit down with its own residents and have the issue aired out."

However, a referendum was approved by 87 percent of the voters in 1997 to extend the local option tax for 15 years and to allow part of its proceeds to be used for city promotion and visitor information.

Young contended that the recent election loss by appointed Mayor David Hutchinson and an earlier loss by Councilwoman Sue Noel were the result of voter dissatisfaction with business dominance of city politics.

 


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.