Friday, October 21, 2005

Burke says jobs and families are critical to Hailey's future

Councilwoman running unopposed for fourth term

Express Staff Writer

Despite the many challenges facing Hailey, incumbent City Councilwoman Martha Burke is optimistic about the future of the city she's called home for 31 years.

Burke is running unopposed for re-election to a fourth consecutive term on the Hailey City Council.

Although she admits being excited by the prospect of another term in office, Burke says that having a challenger can often be a good thing.

"It's a healthier debate," Burke said.

Recalling the last election when she faced Pete Cramer for the seat she currently holds, Burke said the race was a positive, issue-oriented one.

"That was nerve-wracking and fun," she said.

Burke highlights specific issues related to growth, economic prosperity, public safety and housing as being particularly important to her.

Insuring a positive future for Hailey means providing good jobs through good businesses for the city's residents, she said.

"I think we need to see more Marketrons, more Power Engineers," Burke said, referring to two of the city's largest private employers.

Although she admits they're definitely vital, Burke said retail businesses alone cannot properly support Hailey's job needs.

Today, many of Hailey's youths who have left the city for college don't have the option of coming back to good jobs that utilize the skills they've attained. That needs to be changed, Burke said.

"Who wouldn't want to work and live here?" she asked.

Good economic diversity benefits Hailey retail businesses, like LL Greens Hardware, and helps keep the downtown area alive, Burke said.

"You have people to buy the stuff," she said.

Despite its close proximity to the Sun Valley Resort, Hailey is still a real community populated by real people with real needs, Burke said.

"Hailey's real, it's not a resort," she said.

Burke said instituting a local option tax might help Hailey solve some of its budgetary needs.

"I just think it's a dream come true if we can get it," she said.

Another possibility to raise money for the city would be to institute a development impact fee so new growth pays for itself, Burke said.

Employees of Hailey businesses who live outside the city have little or no investment in the city and its future, she said. "They don't volunteer in schools, they don't do anything."

Fixing the problem will require addressing the affordable housing need, she said, adding that every resident will have to pitch in to properly address it.

"I think if you want to be here you need to contribute," Burke said. "If you develop here you need to contribute."

Ensuring the public's safety—especially that of Hailey's children—is another priority of Burke's.

"It's kids being able to ride their bikes," Burke explained.

"And how do we address it?" she asked. "Little bit by little bit."

Asked how she envisions Hailey's future, Burke said she sees two possible scenarios: one positive, one negative.

Her greatest fear is a Hailey where the gap between rich and poor is wide.

"A working class and no middle class," Burke said.

Put another way, that would mean a Hailey with far more second homes standing empty for much of the year than single-family homes, she said.

"That means kids wouldn't live here."

Failing to address the needs of the entire Hailey community would create such a scenario, she said, "or we figure out the affordable housing solutions."

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