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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of November 6 - 12, 2002

Opinion Columns

Snow to the rescue

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

Ketchum’s mayor and city council should be thankful that snow intervened to cancel last week’s planned five-hour closing of Main Street for the filming a Jeep TV commercial, which producers hurriedly filmed a few days later in snowless Twin Falls.

Vowing to take the heat from any public backlash, Mayor Ed Simon obviously saw flaws in his and the council’s judgment to rent the town’s main drag.

For starters, what rhymes with Jeep and describes the mayor and city council’s price for interrupting life an entire morning to accommodate Jeep’s TV film company, Plum Productions?


That was the mayor and city council’s first error—snapping up the film company’s $3,000 offer to close Main Street, which, incidentally, is also a segment of State Highway 75.

The second error was agreeing to close Main Street on a weekday during prime 7 a.m. to noon hours, perhaps easily seduced by visions of the film company sprinkling a promised $25,000 around town for lodging, eats, and what-not.

However, a localite whose company rents outdoor public facilities all over the nation for taping network TV shows was aghast the city hadn’t demanded at least five figures for use of the main drag, and was mystified by the mayor and council’s willingness to close Main Street on a weekday instead of a Saturday or Sunday morning when the main drag is nearly deserted.

Ketchum Police Chief Cal Nevland told me perhaps 10,000 vehicles would’ve been re-routed around the closed four-block stretch had the filming taken place.

Commuters’ nerves would’ve been frayed. Trucks would’ve filled side streets. Parents taking kids to school would’ve lurched uncertainly here and there. Inter-city travelers would’ve found a surprise waiting at Ketchum’s city limits.

This sort of leap-before-looking has plagued this mayor’s first year in office. There was the impetuous, botched hiring of an assistant police chief that led to the city coughing up $65,000 to settle a threatened lawsuit. The mayor also considered firing city attorney Margaret Simms without so much as cause, but backed off. The council pressured him to abandon plans for a ballot question involving a possible change in the city’s election mechanism for more study.

Ketchum stood to gain very little from the Jeep film work.

The filming is known in the trade as "running footage"—inserts for regional TV commercials and dealership videos along with footage from other sites. Downtown Ketchum would’ve been seen only for a few seconds. The film company acknowledged only locals would know where it was filmed.

So, this deal would have added up to (a) no special marketing benefits for Ketchum, while (b) inconveniencing thousands of drivers and businesses for five hours in exchange for (c) a token $3,000 to cover city expenses and (d) vague estimates of $25,000 pumped into the area economy.

Closing Main Street for film of autos isn’t like closing it for Trailing the Sheep or Wagon Days, events that attract thousands of sightseers who genuinely help the economy and provide national publicity.

If the city council fancies getting into the business of renting public facilities for TV commercials, it should hire a pro in the field who can negotiate real money and insist on using locations and times with zero to minimal impact on city life.



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