Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Ketchum council race draws four

Candidates stress their achievements to forum audience

Express Staff Writer

Love of the city, longevity in the area and previous participation in civic affairs were attributes cited by Ketchum City Council hopefuls during a public question and answer session last week.

The 90-person-capacity room at Ketchum City Hall was filled and overflowing Thursday, Oct. 13, as the Idaho Mountain Express' annual Pizza and Politics forum got under way.

All the candidates have served in city government in some capacity: Baird Gourlay and Ron Parsons currently sit on the City Council, Anne Corrock is a Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission member and Nan Emerick was a Ketchum City Council member in the 1990s.

The four candidates for two City Council positions read opening statements, answered questions from the crowd and posed queries to each other in an effort to differentiate themselves from their opponents.

"I know the town, I know the neighbors, the kids and the problems," said Gourlay, a 25-year Ketchum resident. "I know planning and I understand the comp plan that guides us. It's my belief we need Ketchum to wake up. We're hibernating. We need to come together on the issues: city services, budget concerns, emergency services and balancing growth. The tightrope is drawn. We just need to walk it together."

Emerick came from Chicago 29 years ago and has participated in local affairs on many levels.

She said she doesn't shy away from mundane tasks that keep a city functioning, as evidenced by her work with the city Streets Department.

"Ketchum has a lot of issues that are real boring to talk about," she said. "The streets is one of them, but I feel I did a lot on that. I'd love this job because I love this town."

Parsons, who has lived in the area since the 1970s, said affordable housing is a necessary element to keep Ketchum's vibrancy.

"We must look at ways to encourage workforce housing," he said. "One of the most valuable resources in this town (is) the locals who live and work in Ketchum. I'm a consensus builder ... who looks at the big picture. We need to balance the needs of business and tourism. I think we're out of balance and in need of a tune-up. I'm full of confidence and I'm ready to go to work."

Anne Corrock said she is a 35-year resident of Ketchum, and added that her family has lived in the area for three generations. She cited achievements of previous decades' council members, including her father, Jack Corrock.

"(It's a) progressive and fiscally responsible government Ketchum should have," she said. "It can be done and I want to bring this type of leadership back."

All the candidates said the city of Ketchum should be actively involved in the debate on whether to relocate Friedman Memorial Airport.

"The whole valley needs to be a part of the conversation," Emerick said. "We don't have any legal teeth in the airport. I feel it's out of our hands. I want to see it stay."

Corrock said that although federal agencies will play a part in the airport's evolution or move, further public hearings and additional financial impact studies should be taken into consideration.

Gourlay said the departure of the airport could eliminate more than convenient air access.

"Any time you move a system of transportation you're in danger of losing a town," Gourlay said.

Parsons said he wants to see the airport stay in Blaine County.

"I'm not sure we've studied the economic impacts of moving it," he said. "The north valley is arguably the economic driver of the whole valley. We should explore every option."

The changing face of Ketchum drove the discussion to the benefits and drawbacks of second-home owners.

Corrock said she sees value in that segment of society, now and in the future.

"A lot of (these people) will retire here," she said. "A lot of these (second homes) will turn into first homes."

Parsons said the construction industry was benefiting from people's desire to live here part time, but there is danger in relying too much on that segment of the economy.

"The vast majority of construction is for second-home owners," Parsons said. "Although it provides some economic benefits ... if that particular part of the economy dries up ... we haven't done enough planning to ensure we have something to fall back on."

Based on her job as a real estate broker, Emerick said she knows home buyers are looking to be more involved in the community.

"I see them every day because of the secretarial service I own and I sell them real estate," Emerick said. "The ones I work with very much want to be involved. They love this valley."

Gourlay said getting second-home owners involved in civic associations or community affairs will help them become invested in the direction and health of the city.

"Second-home owners are a driving force in this city," Gourlay said. "They contribute a tremendous force not only to banks and title companies but to real estate. It is difficult to have absentee homeowners. Make it so they're involved in the community as much as possible."

One audience member asked if the candidates could distance themselves from personal squabbles and lawsuits that distracted the city's elected officials much of the last two years.

"I lived and breathed it," Gourlay said. "We were dysfunctional. We've settled our (differences) and we are a functioning government."

"My stint on the council has been about five months," Parsons said. "I don't know if the troubles were perceived or real. I think we work well together. In the past five month this council has been much more cohesive, and to be honest, I wouldn't have tolerated any less."

Corrock's solution to discord is to embrace diversity.

"Diversity is a good thing to have on a board ... and respect," she said. "In the future I would like to see a diverse group that will work together."

Emerick said she works well in a group. "I don't fight and I won't waste the city money. There is so much important work I feel certain I won't waste the city's time. I will forge ahead in what the city has to do."

The four candidates will face off in the city's election Tuesday, Nov. 8.

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