Wednesday, October 19, 2005

SV candidates discuss council's performance

Five residents vying for two council seats

Express Staff Writer

In the upcoming city election Tuesday, Nov. 8, Sun Valley voters will cast their votes for City Council candidates in an open-seat format.

All five council candidates—Ann Agnew, Kevin Laird, Nils Ribi, Milt Adam and Dan Pincetich—will run against each other, competing for two "open" seats, rather than two "designated" seats, as in several previous elections. The candidates who receive the most votes will gain the seats up for consideration, those of incumbents Agnew and Laird.

The at-large format is designed in part to invite debate among all candidates about the actions of the current council, including the voting records of incumbents. The Express this week asked the candidates to comment on those records.

"I don't think I will be doing anything differently. I will be trying to do more," said Adam, a political activist who is making his third attempt to gain a City Council seat.

Over the past year, the current council laid the groundwork for changes to affordable housing and zoning regulations.

"The commitment was to put in place all of the guidelines to maintain the open spaces that we have," Agnew said. "We put in place the Hillside Ordinance and the Night Sky Ordinance for the quality of life. For the last two years the activity has been the comprehensive plan and working with (Sun Valley Resort) to prepare to implement their (master) plan."

Ribi, chairman of the Sun Valley Planning and Zoning Commission, said, "With the city facing its greatest opportunity in years, that is the Sun Valley Co. major expansion, the citizens deserve a new face on the City Council. They are not served by boycotts, abstentions or filibusters. They are served by a leader who has the political will and the energy to work openly with the community to plan for the future."

The City Council recently voted to approve the city's 2005 Comprehensive Plan Update. With a 3-1 council vote—Agnew in favor and Laird against—the city's guiding land-use document was approved.

"I think it still needed more public hearing process," Laird said. "We had residents in Bitterroot who brought in 20 or so signatures who felt they weren't getting their questions answered. It would not have hurt to have a few more public hearings. I think it warranted more public input."

Overall, Adam supports the approval of the comprehensive plan, although he said, "There are things I wanted included that weren't. If elected, I would try to put those in. I would like to see more hiking and biking paths."

Ribi offered his own views.

"The 1994 comp plan had a lot of very good ideas, and previous councils did not have the political will to implement those ideas. We cannot afford to take that chance again with the newly updated comp plan," he said.

Pincetich, a former Sun Valley city administrator, believes his professional experience is pertinent to the comprehensive plan. "I think that I can decrease the use of consultants because of my experience," he said.

For the incumbents, experience rests in the record.

Last spring, the City Council instituted a set of workforce housing ordinances that requires nearly all new developments, including single-family homes, to provide a degree of workforce housing.

Council members Agnew and Laird voted in favor of the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance, which mandates workforce housing as a matter of public policy.

In a vote for the second component of the policy, a "Linkage Ordinance" that requires workforce housing for nearly all new residential and non-residential developments, Agnew voted in favor, while Laird abstained from voting.

"I felt that the one ordinance needed more work," Laird said. "I suggested tying the fees to a referendum vote on a citywide type of bond, so we would know what the general populous was feeling."

In September, Laird and Councilman Lud Renick staged a boycott of the third reading of an ordinance that proposed salary increases for Sun Valley's elected officials. The proposal died after Laird and Renick did not show up for the meeting. Agnew did attend the third reading of the ordinance.

"It was kind of last minute anyway," Laird said. "If it had been brought in a more timely manner it could have been discussed. It should have been brought up during the budget hearings, not when there was a deadline to run it through. I still stand that we don't need a salary increase."

The candidates will discuss the issues further at the Idaho Mountain Express Pizza and Politics forum tonight at Sun Valley City Hall.

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