Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Would change of government help business?

WREP advocates for current system; some businesses disagree


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

A valleywide business organization has come out in favor of Ketchum's current form of government, but that doesn't mean there's unanimity of opinion in the business community.

Ketchum voters will decide next month whether to keep the current "strong mayor" form of government or change to a "council-manager" form.

Wood River Economic Partnership, a nonprofit business advocacy and education group, says a change in government would not be in Ketchum's best interest.

"It just doesn't seem that the risk and the rewards are in balance with moving our form of government," WREP Executive Director Doug Brown said. "Financial-capital markets don't like instability, they don't like quick change, and the capital markets are needed by Ketchum to get our big hotel projects financed. To have the potential of the entire council being unseated is going in the opposite direction of stability in the eyes of financiers."

He also said the current system means decision-makers are more accountable. "In a council-manager system, a new city manager would be one step removed from the electorate," he said.

The issue was significant enough for the 100-member group to take a position on it, Brown said.

"WREP's mission is to identify issues and find out which are important to the business community, and then advocate on the issues we think are important," he said.

Although the group takes stands on certain issues, the board doesn't expect all members will agree with every position.

"In any organization, it's not ever unanimous," he said. "That's the case with all the issues."

Brown said this issue has stirred less controversy among members than other topics.

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One member of the business community who has not only spoken out against the current form of government but also launched the initiative petition that put the issue on the November ballot, is Anne Corrock, owner of Anne Corrock Hair Design.

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Corrock maintains that a council-manager form of city government is preferable because elected officials are facing a greater array of tasks, and their experience may not give them the qualifications needed to carry out their duties.

Jima Rice, of Rice Consulting and Jigsaw Business Weekly, said she's inclined to support the council-manager system.

"In our current system, the mayor is accountable for everything—an unrealistic role for the average citizen seeking office in a small but complex town," she said in an e-mail. "A manager is appealing because they've been trained to run a city and have a code of ethics. We might even get better candidates if people don't feel they have to know everything to run for office."

Richard "Rico" Albright, owner of Rico's Pizza and Pasta, said the council-manager form of government would be beneficial to the business community.

"A professional running a city as a business would do a far better job than someone who's not familiar with business and trying to run a city, specifically," he said. "If a city manager is a professional who has experience running a city as a business, they'd be able to do a far better job than someone ... learning as he goes."

Brown said WREP knows that a lot of people are upset with decisions with the council has made, "and we, too, are upset with various decisions."

"But we already have a system in place that allows us to pick new council members every two years," he said. "We think we should stick with that system."

Rebecca Meany: rmeany@mtexpress.com

Candidates' forums

- WREP is hosting a forum for Ketchum City Council candidates tonight. Questions will be business-focused. All candidates have been invited to participate, said Executive Director Doug Brown; approximately 10 had indicated as of Monday that they will participate.

The forum will take place from 5:30-7:30 p.m., Oct. 5, at the Wood River Community YMCA in Ketchum.

Due to limited seating, those interested in attending must RSVP to Brown to see if space is available: dougbrownsv@gmail.com.

- The Committee for Better Government has scheduled its own candidates' forum at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 12, at City Hall. The candidates will be asked about the council-manager form of government, which the organization supports. Audience members' questions will follow.




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