For the week of December 30, 1998  thru January 5, 1999  

Best of Blaine in 1998

1998 was all good, even when it was bad.

Monica and Bill and Ken Starr and Henry Hyde made sure everyone will remember 1998.

While the Starr Chamber was detaching political fingernails one by one, the Wood River Valley found a lot of things to be happy about. Looking back, it was easy to see the best of the best, the best of the worst.

The list is best read with a bubble machine, confetti and noise makers all going at once.


Best new book: "Sun Valley: An Extraordinary History" by Wendolyn Spence Holland. It was seven years in the making, but will last for decades. It may also take that long to read it.

Best decision by a federal agency: U.S. Postal Service for its decisions to locate a new post office within downtown Ketchum instead of forcing more sprawl on the valley. Will wonders never cease?

Best local actors: David Blampied, Claudia McCain and Steve D’Smith who provided hours of laughs and a tear here and there.

Best new trails: All on Baldy, for mountain bikes and snowshoes.

Best stealth government: City of Sun Valley, which slipped an increase in the local-option tax onto the November ballot without catching the attention of businesses that will collect it.

Best show of local political courage: The Ketchum City Council’s approval of 14 units of affordable housing on Warm Springs Road that generated umpteen hearings, hours and hours of impassioned speeches and a failed petition to recall three council members.

Best example of runaway academia: Ketchum’s unreadable, unfathomable draft of a new comprehensive plan authored by a professor of planning.

Best of a bad idea: New outhouses at the trailheads at Oregon Gulch and Adams Gulch paid for with the detested forest fees.

Best stand-ins: Forest Service officials including Kurt Nelson, Paul Ries and Bill LeVere who for another year took all the heat for the forest fees Congress imposed. They should have been issued flak jackets. They needed them.

Best wake-up call: Six mile long traffic jam on State Highway 75 from Ketchum south on Oct. 14 at 4 p.m. Move over L.A.

Best town for kids: Hands down, it’s Hailey with its great new playground, and a new skate park on the drawing board.

Best tenacity: Wwrap, the group that compiled thousands of pages of written comments from residents about what they like and what they hate about the valley.

Best new event: Running of the Sheep in late October. It finally jelled this fall with a Sunday lamb dinner, and shearing, spinning and herding demonstrations. The bagpiper and Basque dancers were great too.

Best friend: The Ketchum Fire Department, which rescued a mixed breed dog after it fell down a mine shaft.

Best revival: Sawtooth National Recreation Area’s renewed efforts to acquire scenic easements on properties that could destroy the area if developed.

Best power trip: Crossing Ketchum‘s Main Street in the pedestrian crosswalk and stopping traffic by waving the huge orange flags provided by the city.

Best nostalgia: The Carlos Santana concert at Elkhorn.

Best disappearing act: Gas stations in Ketchum.

Best bet for a future local growth fight: Golf course and subdivision in the works for Quigley Canyon outside Hailey.

Best jokes: Monica and Bill, Bill and Monica, Monica and Bill.

Best irrational rationale: St. Luke’s insistence that its new hospital must glow in the dark to make it easy to find on the valley’s one and only highway. It must have been a miracle that anyone ever found the old hospital in Sun Valley.

Best ducking and weaving: Idaho Gov.-elect Dirk Kempthorne and his non-platform platform on salmon extinction.

Best tabloid writing: The TV shows and supermarket rags that reported that Hailey had been a ghost town before Bruce Willis and Demi Moore put businesses on Main Street. So where did all those people come from anyway?

Best rumor: The perennial rumor that Sun Valley was for sale.

Best individual effort: Turned in by the lone sockeye salmon that returned to the Stanley Basin, one of three in the last five years.

Best new ordinance: Blaine County’s hillside ordinance. It finally does what everyone incorrectly believed had already been done to protect the valley’s hillsides from scarring by development.

Best imitation of an island: Blaine County, where voters regularly favor candidates who get buried when the vote in the rest of Idaho comes in.

Best theme: The old Magic Lantern’s booking for its last night of operations: "The Last Picture Show."

Best ads for Sorels: All the people Ketchum forced to walk in the streets because the city refuses to complete its sidewalks

Best businesses: Any in the valley that survived past the bloom of a great idea and faced the economic music for more than three years.


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