Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Candidates tout ways to improve Ketchum

5 city residents face off in Pizza & Politics forum

Express Staff Writer

In the final weeks before voters go to the polls, Ketchum City Council candidates are working to convince the public that they have the best ideas to tackle challenges and move the city forward.

Voters will select two candidates on May 15 from a field of five: Michael David, Charles Friedman, Mickey Garcia, Julie Lynn and Jim Slanetz. All appeared at the Idaho Mountain Express Pizza & Politics forum Thursday, April 26, at City Hall.

Creating vitality and jobs, listening to the public and enhancing transparency were common themes throughout the night.

"My goal is to give a voice and power to residents and stakeholders of the community," David said. "By harnessing the talent, creativity and knowledge of our residents and business owners, we can ensure the economic vitality of our city."

He said the city should look for ways to increase support for existing businesses as well as recruit new ones to town.

"I want Ketchum to become a vibrant year-round community, with increased recreational and cultural opportunities to be enjoyed by visitors, [and] part-time and full-time residents," he said. "I want us to find ways to make Ketchum more affordable so more families and individuals can call Ketchum home."

David said he also wants to get more people involved in the public process, using technology as well as face-to-face interactions.

He said a top priority of his would be to increase transparency at the council level.

"I think that there's a lot of ... people that feel decisions are made before they have any input into what the decision is," he said.

Charles Friedman said he, like many people, started out in Ketchum working in the service industry, but later sought out different career options.

"I think one of the big challenges that we all face is figuring out how to make a living here and how to stay and how to purchase a home and how to make this a place a home that we can raise a family, have a living and, ultimately retire here," he said.

Friedman said he wants to increase involvement by all segments of the community, including second-home owners and local businesses. He said that to achieve that end, he wants government to be more transparent, which he noted as a top priority. He contended that the city should involve the community earlier in its decision-making.

Friedman said he'd also like to see Ketchum be more fun and more vibrant, attracting more visitors and getting them to stay longer, and getting more people to make this their permanent home.

Instead of offering a vision, Garcia said he would bring common sense and practicality to local government.

"There's too many visions going on," he said. "And everybody starts from their, quote, vision, and then we're all having visions. We need some practical stuff."

He said diversifying the economy is important, and reiterated his belief that development is a good thing for the economy.

"I've supported every hotel that's come—loudly," he said.

In reference to a supermarket that had been proposed for the Light Industrial zone, he said he would have supported it.

"Folks, I'm sorry, I'm pro development," he said. "It's the economy, stupid. If we don't have any development, we don't have any jobs."

He said he'd bring to the job an independent mind.

"I've got common sense," he said. "I'm not susceptible to propaganda from either side. I've got to see data to back up the decisions that are made."

Garcia said his first priority would be to get rid of corruption.

"If you elect me, my little part of the world and your little part of the world will be less corrupt," he said.

Julie Lynn said people have asked her if she's crazy for running.

"I'm actually really excited about the prospect of making Ketchum a more user-friendly town, for locals, visitors and especially our local businesses," she said. "I just think we need to do it in a very prudent way to get the biggest bang we can for our taxpayer bucks."

She said she listens well, is a leader and is experienced in public outreach.

People feel they're not involved, she said, and she could help them feel part of the public process.

"I think it's really important to engage the public," she said.

One way to do that, she said, is to have an open house during Gallery Walk, involving different city segments and initiatives on display in a festive setting.

"There's one thing this town knows how to do and that's throw a party," she said. "I think you could throw a party and have a lot of fun discussing these issues with the open house."

"I'm here to listen, and I would be fair," she added.

Slanetz cited his involvement in the community as a small-business owner, saying it would help him represent that important sector.

"I'm connected to the local businesses and ... the troubles and how hard it is to make it work here," he said.

"I'd like to see Ketchum be a much more vibrant, lively place," he added. "I'd also like to see it be sustainable, too, energy-wise."

He also advocated for a more open process in local government, with more opportunities for public input.

"It does seem like things come up really quickly," he said. "You don't have a chance to comment on it before they're decided on."

He said the city should be consistent, set paths and stick to them.

"I'll listen to everything, from both sides, make rational decisions ... and I'll be accessible to everybody," he said. "I'll follow through and do the best I can to try to make this a great place."

Rebecca Meany:

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