Friday, September 19, 2008

Supporters rally around Hall

Recall opponents praise mayor’s achievements

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall receives a hand from supporters during a "town meeting" organized by opponents to the effort to put his recall on the November ballot. Photo by David N. Seelig

A week before a petition to recall Randy Hall is due at City Hall, the Ketchum mayor and a number of his supporters held a public meeting to discuss his achievements to date and refute the claims of opponents.

Organized by attorney Miles Stanislaw, who recently founded the group Citizens for Successful Government to oppose the recall effort, the "town meeting" on Wednesday night attracted nearly 100 people, representing both sides of the issue.

Held at the Wood River Community YMCA, the audience included a number of local business owners and politically involved residents, as well as the author of the petition, former Planning and Zoning Commissioner Anne Corrock.

"This recall is divisive and distracting," Stanislaw said during his introduction. "With the group assembled here tonight, we could instead be working on how to improve our city."

Stanislaw said Hall has indeed been working in this direction since elected to lead the city in 2005, as evidenced by the creation of the Urban Renewal Agency and the Ketchum Development Corp. and by attracting hotel developers.

Speakers supporting Hall included real estate agent John Sofro, Planning and Zoning Commission Co-Chairperson Deborah Burns, Wood River Economic Partnership Executive Director Doug Brown, City Council President Baird Gourlay, 48 Straight co-founders Kipp Nelson and Steve Brown, Warm Springs resident Jeff Mintz and bartender and ski instructor Jan Hagewald.

Nelson and Steve Brown both explained how the support they received from Hall and his administration made it not only possible to get their event, then known as the Ski Tour, off the ground at short notice, but also made it successful enough to bring it back the following year.

"When we started the Ski Tour, we were very late to the game," said Steve Brown, who has since opened a new restaurant, Glow, in downtown Ketchum. "We asked the city to do an awful lot and it couldn't have been down without strong leadership from the mayor."

A number of the speakers noted that with the current upheavals in the national economy, coupled with the fire that claimed Whiskey Jacques', the situation in Ketchum is difficult enough without political unrest.

"We find ourselves divided when we need unity the most," Ketchum real estate agent and developer John Sofro said. "It's a beautiful September night and our city is empty and the storefronts are dark. The question is not whether to grow, but how to grow."

This sentiment was echoed by Hagewald, who, at age 29, has been the youngest resident to speak out on the issue for either side.

"This recall is a slap in the face to hard-working young individuals trying to make it here," Hagewald said. "I'm tired of seeing opposition to a government that is on the right track. Please don't let the politics of the past squander the vibrancy and youth of the future."

Hall responded to questions on a flyer sent to Ketchum voters criticizing actions that have taken place since Hall took over. He said expenditures of the city's in-lieu housing fees have gone toward land purchase, addressed his personal finances and noted that the city hired a Boise-based law firm to expand areas of expertise, especially in regard to land use.

However, Corrock said she was dismayed with the meeting, as it did not incorporate any questions from the audience.

"We still have questions for Randy," Corrock said the following day, seated once again in front of the Ketchum post office soliciting signatures for the petition. "It wasn't the community meeting we were led to believe it would be."

Lee Chubb, another recall supporter in the audience, said there were a lot of issues that went unaddressed.

"I don't think the arguments in the petition are nuanced enough—it's become very emotional and that's clouded some real issues," Chubb said. "I've watched the rush toward growth, which has been done without the necessary due diligence to make sure the growth was wise."

Chubb said the addition of three hotels could harm the city's economy by bringing in only low-paying jobs while leading to even more inflation in the housing market.

During the meeting Hall said attracting new development to the city is crucial to getting Ketchum back on its feet in difficult times.

"My job is to open doors and ask how can (a developer) help us and enhance our quality of life—it's not to make decisions on how high or how much," Hall said. "What good is vision without action?"

To get the recall on the November ballot, Corrock will need to collect signatures from 418 registered Ketchum voters by Sept. 24. Though she doesn't have an exact tally—the petitions are being circulated by a dozen volunteers—Corrock estimated they had collected about 300 signatures by the end of August.

For the recall to be successful in November, there will need to be not only a majority in favor, but also at least as many votes in favor as were cast for Hall when he was elected in 2005. That means at least 503 votes for the recall will be needed.

State law does not specify any grounds needed for a recall.

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