Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Form of government question expected to appear on November ballot

Ketchum residents can expect to vote in November on what type of government is best for the city.

Advocates circulating an initiative petition proposing a council-manager form of government submitted the required number of signatures to the Ketchum City Clerk's office on Tuesday.

The clerk's office sent the petitions to the Blaine County Election Office, which is tasked with validating the signatures. They will then be sent back to the city.

If the signatures are deemed valid, Ketchum voters will be asked on Nov. 8, "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?"

Supporters of the change in government were hoping for a vote on the issue in November, when turnout is typically higher. The next Election Day is in May.

In addition to the proposition to adopt or reject the council-manager system, voters will be asked to choose five council members who will serve if the measure passes.

Because the form of government issue won't be decided until that day, citizens also will be asked to vote on the two council seats that are up for election under the current system. If the council-manager plan is approved, votes on those two council seats would be invalidated.

Ketchum's current elected officials were voted in under a "strong mayor" form of government, in which the mayor is the city's chief administrative officer. In the council-manager system, the city's chief administrative officer is a city manager.

Ketchum resident Anne Corrock led the initiative petition drive.

"The early submission of the initiative petition will ... provide voters, both for and against the proposal, with additional time to have a fair open debate and dialogue about the benefits and detriments of both forms of government," she said in a news release.

Ketchum Council President Larry Helzel said a November vote doesn't allow time for public education or a smooth transition of government.

"It's going to be highly disruptive and highly destabilizing," he said. "I'm concerned that all the very important issues have not been explained to the general public as well as petition signers."

If the measure fails, the council will move forward with plans to put the issue to voters again in May, Helzel said, "because we promised to do so."

Rebecca Meany:

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