Friday, November 30, 2007

Candidates run to the finish

Haemmerle, Marvel to compete in Hailey runoff election Tuesday

Express Staff Writer

Stefanie Marvel Fritz Haemmerle

One month after a municipal election too tight to produce a winner, Hailey voters will again take to the polls to decide who will fill City Council seat No. 4.

The runoff election, at Hailey City Hall on Tuesday, Dec. 4, will pit Fritz Haemmerle against Stefanie Marvel. They were the two candidates who received the most votes in the Nov. 6 city election.

Haemmerle fell just 18 votes shy of the 632 required to take the council seat, which will be vacated by City Council President Rick Davis in January when he takes over as mayor.

Winning 494 of the total 1,262 ballots cast, Marvel remained in the running, as the third candidate, Geoff Moore, received 154 votes—not enough to stay in the race, but sufficient to keep any one candidate from gaining the majority required by law.

Both Marvel and Haemmerle would bring plenty of government experience to the position.

Marvel, who works as a textile artist, is the current chair of the city's Planning and Zoning Commission, on which she has served since 2004, and spent nine years prior to that as the president of the library board.

Before starting his law practice in 1999, Haemmerle served as Blaine County prosecuting attorney from 1991 to 1995, and then as a special master on the State Water Court for the following four years.

In addition to public office history, the two candidates have numerous other similarities when it comes to their stances on hot-button issues facing Hailey.

Speaking at Hailey's Pizza and Politics forum in October during the run-up to the original election, the pair were in agreement in their responses to many questions from the public, supporting the increase of recreational amenities, affordable housing, water conservation and moving the airport. They both expressed wariness toward consolidation of services throughout the southern Wood River Valley, predominantly of the Hailey, Bellevue and Wood River fire departments.

With Bellevue currently involved in discussions for a contract for services with the other two fire departments, that topic has gained attention from south valley residents looking for greater cost efficiency. While city officials and staff continue to deliberate the potential benefits of such an agreement, both Marvel and Haemmerle said that it would be a priority only if it was in the best interests of Hailey's residents.

During interviews in October, Marvel and Haemmerle appeared hesitant about the county-proposed transfer-of-development-rights program program, with the former saying she doesn't want a developer or any other outside entity determining Hailey's density, and the latter wary because the program has yet to be tested. The controversial proposal is intended to focus density in and around cities while preserving open space.

However, the differences between the candidates are as numerous as the similarities.

Haemmerle, an 18-year Hailey resident who was born in Sun Valley and raised in Ketchum, has repeatedly emphasized his goal, if he is elected, would be to ensure that Hailey doesn't lose its residential neighborhood atmosphere.

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"The north valley is not a shining example of what Hailey should become," Haemmerle said during a recent interview, pointing to the fact that Ketchum's expanding downtown core has resulted in homes being replaced by vacant businesses. "We can't define the business core too broadly and should fight to keep Hailey a place for homes, hopefully for folks who live here year round."

For Haemmerle, that includes preserving structures with historical merit, such as homes in Old Hailey or the city's rodeo grounds. He said that regardless of any financial benefits that could come from redevelopment, the rodeo grounds are a symbol of the town's Western heritage and should be protected.

Marvel also expressed concerns about Hailey's downtown, emphasizing a need for transportation infrastructure improvements, including widening sidewalks and pedestrian access.

In an interview this week, Marvel reiterated her commitment to making Hailey as environmentally friendly as possible, as evidenced by the Planning and Zoning Commission's recent approval of adding an environmental section to the city's comprehensive plan.

"It is important at this point in time to do our best to keep moving forward," Marvel said.

Speaking about growth, another major issue facing Hailey, Marvel said that city officials need to ensure that the level of public services—such as police, fire, water and sewer—is maintained through impact fees from new developments.

Haemmerle took a slightly different tack when discussing these fees, stating in October that they must not be so high as to impede business development or add to another problem faced by more cities than just Hailey.

"Affordability. The cost of living is increasing exponentially," Haemmerle said. "This is a problem throughout the entire valley and the answer is a complex one."

Haemmerle added that he would like to see fees used to provide residents with affordable recreational amenities, including parks and trail systems.

While many challenges await the successful candidate, Marvel and Haemmerle both face an important one on Tuesday: getting residents to the poles during the lull between Thanksgiving and the winter holidays.

For her part, Marvel said she has been calling people to remind them to vote, while Haemmerle said it will be a relief come election day.

"I think it's a disadvantage for the two of us," he said of the potential for a decline in voters at the runoff election. "But I'm thankful that it's here and will finally be decided."

Voting information

Location: Hailey City Hall

Date: Tuesday, Dec. 4

Time: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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