Advisory vote on
Ketchum elections set for November
Express Staff Writer
voters will decide in November how they want their city to hold its
year-long debate, the Ketchum City Council voted unanimously Feb. 19 to
seek citizen advice on the cityís long-standing election controversy,
which pits an at-large voting system against a per-seat system.
decision means debate on the issue is not nearing conclusion, but rather
is only beginning.
think we may have to go to referendum on this, and I donít like running
government by referendum," Councilman Baird Gourlay said. "I
believe this is the right way to go."
Randy Hall, who adamantly opposed the concept of a referendum, had a
last-minute change of heart.
is a representative government, and I feel Iíve been elected to do a
job," he said before changing his mind. "I feel like their votes
in the voting booth have enabled me to make this decision right now."
Maurice Charlat and Mayor Ed Simon pushed earlier this year for an
advisory ballot on the issue, but, until last weekís meeting, were
denied an audience by their peers.
think this is a sacred issue," Charlat said. "The whole
mechanism of how we vote should not be treated lightly by a small
meantime, the council is considering an amendment to the new election
ordinance that would eliminate runoff elections in the future if the
designated seats system is maintained. A final vote on the amendment may
occur March 4.
election debate surfaced last winter when the city council, over
objections from former Mayor Guy Coles, unanimously voted to change the
cityís voting procedures to a per-seat system from an at-large system.
Councilman Charlat was absent from that meeting and later expressed
outrage with the councilís haste on the issue.
barrage of public objections to the change, officials held three public
hearings to better gauge public sentiment. It was nearly unanimous. The
citizens of Ketchum wanted the old, at-large system.
council was not swayed. Grounding arguments in the unfairness of so-called
bullet voting, where voters cast one rather than two votes in an at-large
format, the cityís leaders voted 3 to 1 to maintain the new, per-seat
system. Charlat and several dozen Ketchum citizens objected.
forward to November 2001:
November election was the first in which the city used the
designated-seats system. It was a success for some and a failure for
others, and the only clear conclusion to come out of it was that no one
wants to hold another runoff election.
Gourlay, who won in a December runoff election, said he enjoyed running in
the designated-seats system, which enabled a more specific, more
substantive debate than the at-large format would have.
other hand, candidate Rod Sievers received the second-highest number of
votes among city council candidates in November, second only to Chris
Potters who won the seat versus Seivers, but was not elected.
who got 496 votes, "got a huge number of votes, and heís sitting in
the audience," Charlat pointed out. "Thereís something wrong
at-large system, assuming the votes were the same, which may not be the
case, the result may have been different, Charlat said. Chris Potters and
Rod Sievers might have won the election.
for the November election for some also centered on the election
controversy. Mayor Ed Simon, who soundly beat his four competitors, said
he would work to overturn the designated-seats system. Simonís victory
shows that public opinion is in favor of the at large system, Sun Valley
resident Karen Reinheimer said.
outspoken critics of the new system also failed to be elected. Sievers and
one of Gourlayís two competitors, Anne Corrock, both said they would
work to overturn the designated-seats system. Though their races were
close, both ultimately were not elected.
than continue the debate in the cityís council chambers, it will be
turned over to the people of Ketchum.
have a great trust in the voters," Councilwoman Potters said. "I
feel both systems work well for everybody, but I donít have a problem
letting the voters decide."