Friday, October 28, 2011

Some history on city administrator

I was the Ketchum city attorney in the 1970s when the decision was made to hire a city administrator, and I have continued to follow its issues and politics.

Back then, the mayor and City Council were looking for an efficient, cost-effective way to manage the city's day-to-day operations and finances. They decided to retain a traditional mayor, elected and directly answerable to the voters, to enforce the ordinances and policies of the City Council, and to hire a professional administrator. It was a very novel approach then in Idaho—an innovative Ketchum solution—which has been followed by numerous cities and counties throughout the state ever since.

This Ketchum solution works well because it is the best of both worlds: a mayor directly answerable to the voters combined with a professional day-to-day administrator. The city administrators drawn to the job over the years have been dedicated professionals of the highest caliber.

If the current form of government is tossed out for the council-manager form, it is the new city manager who will enforce the laws and policies of the City Council. That is a lot of power to bestow on a person not elected by and not answerable to the voters. It is a position of power exercised from behind closed doors subject to the pressures of the various council members who control this job and who have sometimes in the past become embroiled in petty politics.

The current system of directly electing a mayor is the best way for the people to hold the person who has so much power accountable for his/her actions. It is a fundamental principle of our democracy and one the citizens of Ketchum should not abandon.

I know there are people in town who do not support the current mayor or some of the councilmen, but the way to address those concerns is through the ballot box.

I encourage you to vote no on the council-manager issue.

Jim Phillips

Blaine County

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