Friday, November 2, 2007

Sawtooth Board, WREP opine on candidates

Local groups get involved in city elections

Express Staff Writer

Jima Rice

For voters trying to figure out which candidates to cast votes for Nov. 6, two local special interest groups are offering additional information and opinions.

The Sawtooth Board of Realtors this year released an election scorecard for all candidates running for elected office in Bellevue, Hailey, Ketchum and Sun Valley. The scorecard is divided into six principles based on the board's strategic plan: enhancing the economy, increasing housing supply, improving air service, community infrastructure and transportation, preserving the environment and property rights.

To view the scorecard, log on to and click "2007 Election Scorecard."

The strategic plan is lengthy, but it indicates the board's interest in promoting the vitality of local communities through the ongoing pursuit of policy in the arenas of affordable housing, preservation of the environment, improved air service and economic vigor, among others.

"The Sawtooth Board of Realtors will be recognized as a leader by Blaine County and its incorporated cities and will positively influence public policy decisions related to real property ownership, including increasing the availability of affordable housing," the strategic plan reads.

Candidates received a score for each principle and did not receive an overall score. The scores were based on eight questions that were compiled by board Government Affairs Director Marisa Nelson. The board's government affairs committee did the scoring.

"They scored the candidates on the quality of their responses, their plan for addressing the issue and finally on their adherence to the strategic plan," Nelson said. "I think they're looking for someone who understands the issues, is able to do something with the issues."

And Nelson admitted the board's obvious bias in favor of property rights but pointed out that the scoring committee members were not aware of which candidates they were judging.

"We're also looking for candidates who are interested in ensuring fairness and reliability for property owners through regulatory systems that are clear, fair, efficient, predictable," Nelson said.

Scoring committee member and local Realtor Dick Fenton stopped short of referring to the scorecards as endorsements.

"We did not give candidates an overall score intentionally," he said. "We wanted to give our members and the public a choice instead of endorsing any one candidate. For some people, improving the economy may be more important than preserving property rights.

"Using the scorecard, a person can determine which issues are most important to them and then see which candidate got the highest scores in those categories."

Nelson said that, for those reasons, it was an effective form.

"I knew my committee wasn't going to be able to take the full step of endorsing people, and I thought it was important for us to become involved in politics in some way," she said. "I thought this was a good middle ground."

The Sawtooth Board of Realtors wasn't the only special-interest group to publicly weigh in on this year's elections. The nonprofit Wood River Economic Partnership noted that candidates discussed economic affairs to an extent not seen in recent years.

"WREP believes that much of this awareness stems from our work, and we're gratified," says a press release from the group.

The WREP board of directors based its opinions on candidate business forums and on answers to questionnaires.

"Our preferred candidates impressed us more on certain business criteria than their competitors," says the press release.

Those criteria were environmentally sound and sustainable economic development; open mind with broad, innovative, independent thinking needed to alter the status quo; a needed skill set; passion and energy to improve business; regional thinking and experience.

WREP Executive Director Jima Rice said her organization's list is composed not of "endorsements," but recommendations. They are:

· Bellevue City Council: Steve Fairbrother (experience, regional perspective, independent thinking) and Gene Ramsey (specific ideas to meet business needs, open mind, regional thinking).

· Hailey mayor: Rick Davis (specific ideas for business sustainability, regional thinking, experience).

· Hailey City Council: Fritz Haemmerle (independent and broad thinking, get-it-done attitude and open mind).

· Ketchum City Council: Larry Helzel (financial skill set, innovative and independent thinking, regional orientation, open mind), Deborah Burns (passion, innovative and independent thinking, small business owner, motivator).

· Sun Valley mayor: Jon Thorson (strong regional orientation, leadership, open mind, independent and broad thinking).

· Sun Valley City Council: Dave Chase (innovative and independent thinking, entrepreneur and technology skills, specific ideas for business sustainability), Joan Lamb (financial and P&Z skills, broad and independent thinking), Blair Boand (independent thinking, regional orientation, open mind, passion).

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