Wednesday, September 7, 2005

What's wrong with Ketchum City Hall?

Ketchum may ask taxpayers to pay more taxes to build a new City Hall.

It's clear why the city wants it. City Hall is aging and in poor repair. The city needs more room for fire and emergency equipment because residential structures are multiplying.

Yet, it's astonishing that among all of the city's pressing needs, leaders have put a multi-million-dollar City Hall above all else. It means Ketchum's leaders don't have a clue what business the city is in.

Tourism is the reason the city exists at all—not second homes, construction or retirees. Without the visitors who come here every year, the city would be just another place to stop for gas.

Ketchum's leaders have fiddled while Rome burns. They have neglected all kinds of basic infrastructure that makes tourism work. They regularly find money to budget for skateparks or lavish employee benefits. But basics? Forget it.

Needs that have languished without funding include affordable housing, parking, snow storage, sidewalks and lighting, public restrooms, and expansion of the KART bus system downvalley to serve working commuters and city businesses.

The city's can't-do attitude has sent working residents packing in the face of escalating property values and taxes. It has allowed downtown parking to be clogged by vehicles owned by all-day workers and allowed winter snow-storage areas to disappear without replacement.

It has left walkers and cyclists in combat with SUVs when getting around town. It has reduced visitors to begging for humanitarian assistance when nature calls.

It's ironic that one of the city's arguments for a new City Hall is the need for access by the disabled. Yet, the city is full of narrow sidewalks blocked by power poles, trees and high curbs—landmines for the people with disabilities.

Recently, Ketchum's elected leaders turned to active destruction of critical projects and infrastructure. They killed two hotel projects—even though they knew the area had lost hundreds of rooms in recent years. They destroyed the city's highly visible Main Street Visitors Center—with no plan to replace it.

Now, Ketchum Mayor Ed Simon wants the city to contemplate "moving" the Ore Wagon Museum and closing Fifth Street to make way for a new City Hall. Of course, no solid plan has come with the proposal.

As the city detailed its plans for a new City Hall, Williams Market announced it would close at the end of September. The business had been operated as a grocery since 1925.

It's doubtful the mayor and City Council will see any connection between their policies and the closure.

That's what's wrong with City Hall.

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