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For the week of May 10 through May 16, 2000

Democratic forum

Commissioner candidates discuss growth, transportation issues

Express Staff Writer

During the Blaine County Democratic forum held last week in Hailey, the four candidates for county commissioner hammered hard on some predictable themes—growth, transportation, McHanville, open space—and touched on a hodgepodge of unlikely topics, such as the promotion of beaver populations to repair cattle-and-sheep-damaged meadows.

Ketchum-based lawyer Andy Parnes organized the forum as an opportunity for candidates to communicate their platform ideas to voters and for voters to ask candidates questions.

About 30 people gathered Thursday at the Blaine County Senior Center in Hailey to participate in the event. Beginning at 7 p.m., north county challengers Sally Donart and Sarah Michael, south county challenger Rob Peck and south county incumbent Dennis Wright gave their opening remarks, followed by an extensive question and answer session.

First elected in 1996, Wright, said he and the two other commissioners currently in office—Mary Ann Mix and Leonard Harlig—have formed an "honest" and "parallel" bond with each other that should be maintained by his reelection.

Wright said he and the other commissioners have focused on solving land-use problems, and that should continue.

"We believe very strongly in protecting open space and agriculture, while making development provide a good product," Wright said. "I think the future is going to hold a lot more of the same."

Sally Donart, 73, is a Ketchum-based psychotherapist who has had a long history of involvement with the Democratic Party, even though she has never been elected to public office. Most recently, she has been the Democratic Party precinct captain in Blaine County.

Donart said any decisions she makes as a commissioner would be guided by a strong sense of "stewardship," a word, she said, Webster’s Dictionary defines as "the responsibility to manage life and property with proper regard to the rights of others."

Like other candidates, Donart said she was most concerned about growth, highway, McHanville and open space issues.

Concerning transportation, Donart said, "I would like to work toward finding a combination of highway utilization plus incentives and rewards for both employers and south county employees to initiate volunteer car pooling and/or van services."

Rob Peck, a 48-year-old Carey farmer, appealed to voters with his status as a native of the county.

"I didn’t come here," he said. "I was born here."

As a farmer and parent to 10 children (five of his own, and five of his dead brother’s) Peck said he harbors a deep sense of "fiscal responsibility," adding, however, "I’m tight, but I’m not a tightwad."

Bringing a not-often-seen perspective to the open-space issue, Peck said farmers in the south county resist developing their land, but economic pressures often make it necessary. Therefore, Peck said, he wants to protect farmers’ property rights.

"I don’t want to see subdivisions, and neither do they," Peck said. "And yet, there are economic concerns that are reality."

Sarah Michael, 53, is the president of the Nordic and Backcountry Skiers Alliance of Idaho. She has spent much of her life in both the Wood River Valley and in California, where she has been a consultant to the Legislature’s transportation committee and has managed state transportation and energy programs.

Michael said she plans to focus on growth issues if elected commissioner, focusing in particular on implementing transferable development rights (TDRs), which are designed to protect open space.

"My biggest concern is that growth is fragmenting us," she said, "not pulling us together. If we work together, we can solve problems."


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