Friday, October 19, 2007

Candidate:Tourism key to economic health

Curtis Kemp has vision of more hotels, better infrastructure

Express Staff Writer

Third in a series of profiles on candidates for Ketchum City Council.

Curtis Kemp

Age: 64

Experience: Architect, Ketchum P&Z, 38-year resident.

Why running: "Architects tend to be good problem solvers through their ability to see the big picture. I think Ketchum needs that perspective, and I'm tired of leaving it up to someone else."


There's only one issue in the upcoming Ketchum City Council election, and that issue is the local economy, said Curtis Kemp, a 38-year Ketchum resident and candidate for Ketchum City Council.

Kemp, a member of the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission, is one of eight candidates who have filed for two open seats on the City Council. The election will be Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Ketchum's well-being depends on a thriving tourism industry, Kemp said, and "all other issues—affordable housing, transportation, etceteras—fall into line behind tourism."

Kemp said the area's other businesses, like construction, manufacturing, high tech, real estate and financial industries depend on the town's attractiveness, and that attractiveness "is directly dependent on a flourishing tourism industry."

"Every business in this town owes its success, or indeed its failure, either directly or indirectly to tourism," Kemp said.

And that is why Kemp said he will work tirelessly to attract and retain a first-class hotel.

"I'm very much in favor of doing whatever we can to get a hotel, or hotels, developed here," he said. "I am in favor of granting hotel projects some additional height. Without being specific, I think one needs to view each project individually."

Further, Kemp said the city must continue to work to improve its infrastructure with a solid eye toward making the town more enjoyable for visitors.

"If we do so, Ketchum will increasingly become a more wonderful place in which to live and work and play," he said.

In order to attract hotel developers, Kemp said the city needs to clarify the meaning of its hotel ordinances so developers are confident they are working within the city's guidelines.

"One of the problems any investor faces, no matter what they're investing in, is uncertainty," Kemp said. "We have to eliminate the uncertainty from these huge projects that are in the tens of millions of dollars. To put the kind of money into that planning that is necessary requires not just a high degree of certainty, but I think absolute certainty as to what they can expect."

That is an area where Ketchum has a "great deal" of improvement to do.

"There's enough complexity to go around without making the ordinance complex," he said.

Some aspects of the status quo in Ketchum are working, too, Kemp said.

"I'm not terribly dissatisfied with, for example, the Fourth Street improvement project," he said. "To the extent that we can make our town a more pleasant experience for our visitors, then it's going to be a more wonderful place for those of us who live here."

But such projects should be done with an eye toward fiscal responsibility, and that is an area where Kemp said the recently created urban renewal agency and community development corporation can help.

Also related to spending, Kemp said he is thoroughly impressed with Ketchum City Administrator Ron LeBlanc.

"There's some indication that he may be moving on, and I think that's terrible for us," he said. "We're going to have a hard time replacing Ron LeBlanc. The funding of these things is so enormously complex. There are little small areas where certain moneys come in that are earmarked for certain things.

"I can't solve those problems. There is a unique ability in the city manager's job description to deal with that stuff. What I would hope is that when the city manager needs assistance in organizing these things that's where I can help as a city councilman."

Kemp further said his experience on the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission has provided him with an insight into the workings of the city, but still only one facet of those workings.

"But it's an interesting part because it's what everybody sees," he said.

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