Friday, May 15, 2009

Ketchum to ponder new governing model

Monday meeting to discuss city manager format

Express Staff Writer

The Ketchum City Council will discuss Monday the possibility of switching to a city manager form of government from the traditional mayor-run system that is currently in operation.

The idea was publicly floated in March by Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall. Hall praised current City Administrator Gary Marks for his professionalism during the first nine months of his tenure in office and indicated that the city could benefit from the transition with Marks at the helm.

"We are experiencing terrific leadership under Gary Marks, who is extremely qualified," Hall wrote in a news release on March 31. "In fact, with Gary's skill set, now might be the appropriate time to research a city manager form of government."

In the existing mayor-council form of government, administrators have their duties delegated to them by the mayor. With a city manager, the mayor would be part of the City Council, with mostly ceremonial duties, while the manager would take on the chief executive role formerly held by the mayor. With a city manager government, the mayor has the ability to vote on issues, as opposed to the current system, in which he can only vote in the case of a tie vote among council members.

Powers that would shift from the mayor to the manager would include the authorization to hire and fire city staff, as well as oversight of the day-to-day operations at City Hall.

According to the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), one of the greatest benefits of a manager form of city government is that it gives the operational aspects of governance to an independent paid professional, in a way removing the top position from personal politics.

The council, in this system, is responsible for hiring and firing the manager, and can focus on planning and developing public policy.

According to the ICMA, the city manager form of government, which was first instituted in the early 1900s, has become the most popular structure of local government in the United States, with 49 percent of cities and towns with populations over 2,500 using it in 2007.

Looking at the Web sites of other resort cities in the West shows that there are indeed quite a few that are run by a city manager, The list includes Jackson, Wyo., Telluride, Colo., and McCall, Idaho, which adopted that form of government in 1993.

In an interview last month, Hall said a potential negative impact from having a manager is that it could cause residents to be one step removed from having a direct effect on appointment of the city leader.

In order to institute this form of government in an Idaho city, the City Council must pass a resolution calling for a special election. The election could likewise be instigated by a petition by registered voters.

If such a resolution were passed, the election would have to be held within the following 60 days.

Former Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commissioner Anne Corrock, who has publicly supported a city manager form of government, said at a council meeting in April that a resolution for an election should be passed soon in order to give the public time to vote for new officials in November's elections.

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