Friday, November 11, 2011

Ketchum reflects on election

City moves forward with mayor, council intact

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall speaks Wednesday about the election. He said the council-manager initiative was “a big distraction” but he was heartened by the number of people willing to serve in public office. Photo by David N. Seelig

Idaho will remain a state with only three cities using the council-manager form of government following Ketchum voters' rejection Tuesday of a switch from the current strong-mayor form.

The measure failed on a vote of 440 for the change and 582 against it—about 43 percent in favor and 57 percent against.

Voter turnout was high, at more than 50 percent. Going into Election Day Ketchum had 2,032 registered voters. Approximately 100 either registered or re-registered with a different address at the polls Tuesday. A total of 1,034 ballots from the city's four precincts were counted, according to Blaine County Election Clerk Amy Rivkin.

Because the council-manager initiative failed, the vote on council seats is void, per Idaho statute. That means all current council members keep their seats. Council seats held by Curtis Kemp and Larry Helzel will be put to vote in May.

It also means Mayor Randy Hall will keep his seat, as well as the powers vested in it under the strong-mayor form of government.

"I feel somewhat vindicated," he said Wednesday.

Hall said the results also signify public approval of the way the current administration is governing.

"We received a mandate last night that this government is doing good things," he said. "I also understand it's not perfect. I'm not perfect. But we work really hard at reaching out to the community and asking them to help share their values and their vision for Ketchum's future. I think that came out very strongly last night. They believe this government is working."

Four of five current elected officials would have held on to their seats had the initiative passed. Councilman Larry Helzel would have been replaced by Jim Slanetz.

Helzel declined Wednesday to comment on the election.

Advocates for change, however, left their mark with their vote totals.

"It tells me the community is still somewhat conflicted," Hall said.

That sense of conflict stems from opposing notions of what the city is and should be, he said.

"When I first was elected mayor six years ago, we were at a crossroads," he said. "We were getting further and further from our roots of tourism and outdoor recreational lifestyles."

The debate about what is best for Ketchum isn't likely to go away anytime soon, however.

"I understand there are still people who have a legitimate argument over what Ketchum is to look like in the future," he said.

Advocates rest their case

The change-of-government question had been bandied about for at least six years, with proponents saying it could bring a measure of stability and increased professionalism to Ketchum's government.

The issue was revived a couple of years ago when City Administrator Gary Marks was hired. Marks has experience in both forms of government, so city leaders tapped into his knowledge to explore both options.

The City Council this summer debated placing the issue before voters, possibly in May.

Ketchum resident Anne Corrock and her advocacy group, the Ketchum Committee for Better Government, forced the issue onto the November ballot by gathering the required number of signatures on an initiative petition.

Corrock said Wednesday that she and her fellow proponents are proud of their efforts, work that served to educate Ketchum voters.

"While we are disappointed that the council-manager form of government was not adopted by the voters, we are very encouraged by the turnout, especially from the 'young' vote," she said in an e-mail. "I hope they will stay involved and go to the council meetings with their ideas and concerns. The elected officials need them."


What would have been

Had the council-manager initiative passed, four of the five elected officials who fill the four City Council seats and the mayor's seat would have been retained in office. Here's the tally for candidates, which ended up having no bearing because the measure failed:

Nina Jonas: 706 votes

Baird Gourlay: 585

Jim Slanetz: 427

Randy Hall: 421

Curtis Kemp: 420

Bob Kesting: 388

Chip Bailey: 379

Larry Helzel: 364

Phyllis Shafran: 322

Mickey Garcia: 263

Neil Morrow: 250

Bill Marshall: 44

Bill White: 37

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