Friday, June 24, 2011

Ketchum initiative petition is under way

Advocates of a change of government are pushing for a November vote


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

Pat Meadowcroft, right, signs a petition Wednesday to put the council-manager form of government question on the November ballot. Anne Corrock, left, is spearheading the initiative. Photo by David N. Seelig

The Ketchum City Clerk's Office has approved the paperwork of an initiative petition seeking a change to a city council-city manager form of government. It is now up to supporters to obtain enough valid signatures to put the issue to voters.

Ketchum resident Anne Corrock, who is spearheading the initiative petition effort, received word from City Treasurer/Clerk Sandra Cady in a letter dated June 16.

Corrock and fellow advocates are hoping that a special election on Nov. 8—the same day as the general election—will decide what type of government Ketchum should have.

Corrock said a council/manager form of city government would be preferable because of the expansion of duties faced by elected officials.

"City manager and staff taking care of responsibilities will leave the elected officials the time they need to work on all of their responsibilities," she said.

Though Mayor Randy Hall was elected under the "strong-mayor" form of government, city officials have described Ketchum's government as a hybrid model, or combination of a strong-mayor form and council-manager form.

"Mayor Randy Hall has empowered City Administrator Gary Marks to perform most duties in a city manager-type government," states a news release issued by the city on June 13.

Council-manager supporters have until Aug. 15 to collect 213 signatures—20 percent of people who voted in the last general election—for the issue to be put before voters in November.

The deadline for the county clerk to "perfect," or verify, the petition is Aug. 30, but according to Ketchum code, the county clerk has 15 days to check that there is the required number of certified signatures. That pushes petition supporters' deadline up 15 days to allow for that part of the process.

Corrock is in the beginning stages of signature gathering.

"I've had plenty of people write to me and say, 'Sign me up' or 'I will volunteer to participate in the campaign,'" she said. "There's been lots of support."

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Corrock said she decided to put the initiative before voters this year so that the vote would occur during a general election in November because turnout is typically higher during general elections.

But what Corrock says would be good timing, some city officials describe as rushed.

"We want the public and majority of our citizens to understand what the issues are," Hall said in the news release. "Only then can they make an informed decision.

"Any decision to change government is more than just political—there are legal, financial and managerial ramifications. The issue needs to be fully vetted, especially in light of today's tough economic conditions."

The city is proceeding with the formation of a "form of government advisory committee" to look into the feasibility of three models of city government: the traditional mayor-council structure, a city manager form and the hybrid model.

"We do not oppose (Corrock's) right to conduct her petition campaign," said Ketchum Councilman Larry Helzel.

However, he said he takes issue with her pre-empting the work of the committee, which is eyeing a May 2012 election date.

"This on the advice of legal counsel," he added.

Council members have submitted names of potential committee members to Hall, who is expected to seek council confirmation of his appointments early next month.

In essence, changing the form of government would transfer governing powers from the mayor to a city manager.

Corrock, a former Ketchum planning and zoning commissioner, was involved in an effort to recall Hall in 2008.

She said that had she known about the council-manager form of government, she would have pursued a change in government instead of the recall.

"This is a long-term solution of mayors who maybe take on a greater responsibility than they're capable or educated to do, whoever they may be," she said.

Rebecca Meany: rmeany@mtexpress.com

The proposed resolution reads:

"That the City of Ketchum, Idaho, adopt the council-manager plan of government as provided by Idaho Code Section 50-801 et.seq.; that a special election be held whereby the proposition be submitted to the electors of the City of Ketchum asking said electors, "Shall the City of Ketchum, Idaho adopt the council-manager plan of government as set forth in sections 50-801 through 50-812, Idaho Code?"




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