Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Ketchum's mayoral candidates list grows

Political gadfly Garcia brings number to five

Express Staff Writer

Five candidates, including one new face and several familiar ones, will vie to be the mayor of Ketchum in November's city election.

Mickey Garcia was the final person to file his intention to run by the city's Friday afternoon deadline. He joins incumbent Mayor Ed Simon, City Council President Randy Hall, former council member Maurice Charlat and political newcomer Dan Stein as mayoral hopefuls.

Garcia, 62, is a 20-year resident of Ketchum known for being a watchdog of city government who regularly attends meetings of the City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission.

Garcia feels the position of mayor in Ketchum allows for too much power and citizens aren't given enough of a voice.

"If I were elected, I'd start some discussions that might lead to public hearings," Garcia said. He'd like to see a greater emphasis placed on public input, and he thinks the council can operate more democratically.

He believes the current City Council "creates unnecessary drama," the city budget is expanding at an alarming rate, and there are too many unwarranted city positions.

"The city of Ketchum refuses to stop hiring people," he said.

But perhaps Garcia's greatest concern is that Ketchum has lost its soul.

"I want to try to stop Ketchum from dying and it is dying," he said. "We've gone from a tourist economy to a second-home service economy. No one can afford to live here anymore but the very wealthy people."

He believes the trend will only get worse unless quick action is taken.

At the heart of the matter is affordable housing and land, both of which are key to Ketchum's survival, he said.

"Ketchum should have a land acquisition fund," Garcia said. "We should have had it for the last 15 years."

Finally, Garcia believes no single person can resurrect Ketchum and that everybody needs to work together.

"All I can do is work on it, and focus attention on it," he said. "And that's what I'm saying I'll do."

Stein, 31, works at Felix's Restaurant in Ketchum and is a multi-media artist. He has lived in Ketchum for three years.

"I'm not someone who wants to jump into the political ring for my own aspirations," he said Monday. "But I grew up in an activist environment. There are segments that aren't being represented. There's a sense of apathy. I rarely hear solutions or a willingness to get involved to create a solution."

His concerns involve development and what he describes as an unsustainable environment for small businesses.

"Growth isn't being thought out," he said. "There's no affordable housing ... and there's a flight south. I can help assist that, but at the end of the day, it's not about me. It's about everyone."

He said many of his friends and associates feel local government doesn't represent their interests, resulting in apathy.

One by one, he is engaging them to be a part of his campaign, and by extension, a part of the political process.

Stein said he lived in and was on the board of a cooperative housing network in college. That's a system he'd like the city of Ketchum to explore to address the affordable housing shortage.

Ketchum's downtown could be improved by achieving consistency, he said.

"There's a lack of continuity," he said. "You'll have housing in one area, then you'll have shopping, then on the other side, more housing. For shoppers and tourists it makes it difficult. It makes businesses hard to find."

A more pedestrian-friendly commercial core not only would help small business, but it would foster dialog among community members.

The local arts community could be better served by more attention as well, he added.

"It would be nice to see a more spirited effort in the community to show more local artists' work," he said, citing City Hall, the post office, the hospital and Louie's—a historic Congregational church—as possible venues.

Stein said he has no gripe against the current mayor.

"I think everyone in the city has done a great job with the resources they have," he said. "I applaud them. But we're at a juncture. If we don't get the community involved and create a grassroots (movement), we might go down an irreversible direction. Citizens need to come together."

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