Misguided house cleaning
Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon is cleaning
For the second time in two years, he has
refused to re-appoint a veteran commissioner to the city planning and zoning
commission. Peter Gray had served on the P&Z for five years, a period in which
the city’s comprehensive plan and zoning ordinances were totally overhauled.
Gray was willing to serve another term, but Simon rejected the offer.
Last winter, Simon refused to reappoint
architect Susan Scovell, who also had served five years and helped guide the
city through the contentious debates that surrounded the new ordinances.
Scovell and Gray were both appointed by
Simon’s predecessor in office.
Simon says his refusal to reappoint
experienced commissioners is nothing more than a term limits policy—no more than
two terms—on P&Z commissioners. The policy is short-sighted.
Ketchum has lost more institutional memory
and experience in the last two years than in the 20 years that preceded it. The
city lost its long-time administrator, fire chief and police chief to
retirement. Its chief planner, who had overseen the critical ordinance rewrites,
moved to another state.
This left a big knowledge gap in City
Hall. While official documents are good blueprints, there’s no substitute for
experience, especially now as the new ordinances are coming into play.
P&Z appointments in small towns like
Ketchum aren’t political plums. Commission seats come with little compensation,
long hours and plenty of pressure. Consequently, finding residents willing and
able to serve usually isn’t easy.
Throwing out veteran planners and
replacing them with novices is like throwing out the encyclopedias, replacing
them with paperback novels and claiming, "They’re still books, right?"
The mayor should end this misguided policy
before it deprives the city of what experience it has left.