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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of October 22 - 28, 2003


Ketchum candidates debate budget, growth

‘Pizza and Politics’ event prompts
Charlat to exit council race

Express Staff Writer

Six Ketchum City Council candidates last week squared off in an earnest debate that eventually prompted one incumbent councilman to withdraw his name from the race.

Building contractor Greg Strong, incumbent Councilman Maurice Charlat, attorney Larry Young, retired U.S. Air Force veteran Mickey Garcia and incumbent Council President Randy Hall gathered in Ketchum City Hall Thursday, Oct. 16, to participate in the "Pizza and Politics" forum, conducted by the Idaho Mountain Express.

The sixth candidate in the field, retired Ketchum Parks and Recreation Department Director Terry Tracy, could not attend the event for personal reasons. Ruth Lieder, a former mayor of Sun Valley, represented Tracy at the event.

Despite his participation in the debate, Charlat on Monday, Oct. 20, announced that he was withdrawing his name from the list of six City Council candidates.

Charlat said his decision was rendered in part through feelings that the event was colored too heavily by an abundance of anger in the electorate. "There was not one encouraging word. Not one sentence from anyone," he said Monday during his public announcement. "There was a lot of anger."

At stake are the council seats of Charlat and Hall, which will both expire on Jan. 4, 2004. With Charlat out of the race, Ketchum voters on Nov. 4 will be asked to select two candidates to fill the seats for concurrent four-year terms commencing on Jan. 5, 2004.

Addressing some 50 residents of Ketchum and Blaine County, Strong said he believes his two years of experience on the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission has prepared him to be on the City Council.


Strong stresses strengths

Strong, 47, has been a Ketchum resident for much of the last 18 years. He served on the Ketchum Housing Commission from 1996 to 2001.

He noted that he would like to assist the city in reviewing numerous large projects that are expected to be presented to the city in the next four years, including developments targeted for the city’s Park and Ride lot and the Simplot lot on Second Avenue.

Strong said he believes the city’s budget deficit is a "manageable problem" but the city should consider canceling its healthcare packages for elected officials. "For me personally, you can cross me and my wife and my kids off the health insurance."


Tracy supports citizens

Sitting in for Tracy, Lieder read a prepared statement that outlined Tracy’s campaign platform.

Tracy, 63, is a 35-year Ketchum resident who was employed by the city from 1978 to 2003. She retired from the city Parks and Recreation Department last August.

"I am running for Ketchum City Council because I believe I can return to the residents of Ketchum their voice and their vote," Tracy noted.

Tracy’s statement was critical of the city’s management of its budget. "Major salary increases, health benefits and spending on non-budgeted items got us where we are today. I say ‘no way’ to new taxes or fee increases until the council proves they can manage a budget and be good stewards of our finances."

Tracy said she would work to promote affordable housing, plan for the future and protect areas zoned for single-family housing.


Young’s focus is on budget

Candidate Young said his primary focus as a City Council member would be to balance the city’s budget. He issued a plan to cut more than $500,000 from the city’s 2003-2004 budget, primarily through a hiring freeze, overhaul of the city’s health-insurance plan and elimination of some raises approved last month for city employees.

Young, 59, is an attorney who has lived in the Wood River Valley since 1970. He served as Ketchum’s mayor from January 1988 to January 1992. He also served twice on the Ketchum City Council, from January 1986 to January 1988 and from January 1992 to November 1992, when he was recalled by voters.

"As far as I’m aware, we always had a balanced budget," he said, adding that the city during his service reserved enough money to secure two city parks.

Young said he would not support raising city fees or taxes. He said he would seek to establish an approximately $300,000 per year surplus that could eventually be used as leverage to employ revenue bonds to purchase additional city property.


Garcia stresses management

Garcia, an 18-year Ketchum resident who served eight years with the U.S. Air Force and worked for approximately 10 years fighting wildfires, was critical of the current administration’s handling of city affairs.

Garcia, 60, said he is particularly disappointed in the city’s management of its budget. "I’m talking about spending more in total than you’re bringing in," he told the audience. "You guys need to throw the bums out and bring some people in who have some common sense."

To correct the budget shortfall, Garcia said the city should implement a hiring freeze, re-evaluate its salary structure and revamp its costly health-insurance plan.

Garcia said he is strongly in favor of affordable housing and is opposed to paid parking in the city. He added that he believes that subsidizing public transportation in the hope of maintaining "skinny highways" is a "mistake."


Hall addresses development

Incumbent Hall, 44, has been a resident of Ketchum for 25 years. He is a former restaurateur who currently works for the Ketchum Fire Department. He was appointed to sit on the City Council in May 1998 and was re-elected to a four-year term in November 1999.

Hall said he believes the upcoming council election is especially important because several large development projects could be proposed to the city in the near future. "I’m concerned about all of the development that could come," he said.

Hall said he would like to maintain Ketchum’s "sense of community," stating, "To me that’s the most important thing."

Hall added that he believes developers "must" reimburse the city for the adverse impacts of their projects.

Hall told the audience that he believes the city’s budget will eventually be brought out of deficit with a pending overhaul of the city’s healthcare policy.



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