At forum, Ketchum mayoral candidates make one last pitch

Four candidates for Ketchum mayor made a near-final pitch to voters Tuesday night, discussing their positions on subjects ranging from environmental health to the city’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a debate at the Argyros Performing Arts Center hosted by the Argyros and The Community Library, mayoral candidates David Barovetto, Perry Boyle, Spencer Cordovano and incumbent Neil Bradshaw talked about their visions for the city and what its priorities should be for the next four years. Ketchum voters will decide which candidate takes the helm in the Tuesday, Nov. 2, election.

During opening statements, Boyle, 58, a former financier and hedge-fund manager who serves as chairman of a non-governmental organization, started by addressing what he called “disturbing things” said about him.

On Oct. 20, in a paid advertisement he purchased in the Idaho Mountain Express, Boyle responded to a mailer circulated in town that he said included “libelous and defamatory statements” about him. In his published response, Boyle referenced his former employment at SAC Capital Advisors, the predecessor to hedge fund Point72 Asset Management, which he eventually ran for several years. SAC Capital pleaded guilty to insider trading in 2013 and was fined $1.8 billion by the government. Boyle was not charged for or implicated in any wrongdoing.

On Tuesday, Boyle stated that he had an unblemished record in his lengthy hedge-fund career, has advised on investment ethics and has served as a mentor to dozens in the industry.

“My reputation in the business world is stellar,” he said, adding that he is disappointed “that cancel culture has hit Ketchum.”

Quickly, Boyle moved on to his campaign, stating that he wants to limit the influences of outside forces on the city, provide workforce housing and change how the city government is operated.

Cordovano, 33, the owner and operator of a video production company, told the audience that he believes it’s time for a change at City Hall.

“It’s time to let the youth lead Ketchum,” he said.

Cordovano said he is “the guy who has Ketchum’s back” and feels the struggles of its citizens.

Barovetto, 80, who has worked as an architect in the Wood River Valley for 50 years, said his skill set—of conceiving and managing projects—applies to city leadership.

“It’s a job of architecture,” he said.

In his opening statement, Bradshaw, 55, a businessman and adviser who has served on the governing boards of several nonprofit organizations, listed his examples of how he has worked to make Ketchum “vibrant, connected, sustainable and safe” in his first term.

Bradshaw said he has made headway on providing affordable housing, has brought the city a new city hall and fire station, and has improved infrastructure, including the replacement of the old Ketchum Springs water lines that were leaking large quantities of potable water—and money.

“Sustainability really matters,” he said.

In discussing the composition and demographics of the Ketchum community, Bradshaw said he believes the economy is built on tourism, but the community is the “heart and soul of Ketchum.” He said he wants to build connections and wants the city to be welcoming to its LatinX residents and workers.

“It’s not an ivory tower at City Hall,” Bradshaw said.

Cordovano said he is connected to the people of Ketchum and wants to be a mentor to others.

“I have my finger on the pulse of this community,” he said.

In addressing the LatinX population, Cordovano spoke at length in fluent Spanish.

Boyle said the community has skewed older but now has new residents moving to town, just as many of the existing residents did.

“Our county needs to work together to keep it paradise,” he said.

Boyle also offered words for the LatinX community in Spanish, noting that he has spent considerable time in South America, where his family owns a small vineyard property.

“We should be listening to them,” he said.

Barovetto talked about the establishment of Sun Valley Resort in the 1930s and its eventual sale to developer Bill Janss.

“Our family began then,” he said.

Barovetto—who also spoke in fluent Spanish at one point to address the LatinX population—said he believes Sun Valley is the head of the community, Ketchum is the heart, Hailey is the soul and the southern Wood River Valley is the strength.

Responding to a question about how Ketchum’s well-being is linked to the environment, Barovetto said protecting the environment is “important to all of us,” but stressed that he believes the city also needs to protect its attitude.

“It’s all about the attitude,” he said.

Bradshaw said tourism is the cornerstone of the economy, but Ketchum’s well-being is also linked to a healthy environment and sustainable practices. He said the city has saved water, started a move toward hybrid police vehicles, built a fire station using LEED environmental practices and implemented other protocols at City Hall to reduce environmental impacts.

“It’s all about actions,” he said.

Boyle said the environment is the area’s main attraction and should be protected through a variety of measures, including requiring environmental building practices, pursuing water conservation, investing in public transportation and using a portion of taxpayer funds raised to support commercial air service for carbon-offset payments.

Noting that he has a degree in environmental science, Cordovano said he supports initiatives such as promoting native landscaping that is less impactful on the environment and controlled burns of targeted lands.

“Ketchum’s well-being is 100% tied to the outdoors,” he said.

Candidates debate housing, COVID-19

Midway through the debate, moderator Jenny Emery-Davidson asked the candidates what they think is the relationship between Ketchum and other municipalities in the Wood River Valley.

Boyle said leaders should cooperate on trying to increase housing density near the St. Luke’s hospital, on transportation and bringing in new, non-tourism businesses that diversify the economy.

“We’re all connected,” Boyle said.

Bradshaw said he had made progress on valley-wide issues, including ongoing support for the Mountain Rides transportation system and cooperation on the Air Service Board that oversees support for commercial flights.

Cordovano said municipalities need to work together to promote construction of accessory-dwelling units for housing, cooperate on air service and police services, and to ensure Mountain Rides serves the workforce.

Barovetto said the Wood River Valley is unique and needs cooperation to preserve its culture.

“We are the skiing culture, the hospitality culture,” he said.

In discussing how they would change the city’s zoning codes to procure affordable housing, Cordovano said the city could encourage development of accessory-dwelling units and promote development options with increased density in the light-industrial area.

Boyle said he would work to limit short-term rentals, promote ADUs and ensure the codes apply the same rules and standards to all applicants.

Bradshaw said the city is updating developer fees applied toward community housing. It can also ensure the codes target density in certain areas and that rules for lot sizes and lot consolidation serve the city’s goals. He said the city already has “liberal” provisions for ADUs.

Barovetto told the audience that he has a plan for a hillside “mega-structure” that would meet the city’s housing needs for 25 years. The massive complex he envisions would have a diverse mix of housing, shopping and amenities for transportation.

In addressing a question about the mayor’s responsibility in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, Boyle said he believes the city should promote vaccination against the virus, stating that people would then not need to wear masks. He said he is vaccinated.

Barovetto said he is vaccinated but has concerns about giving COVID-19 vaccines to children ages 5-11—as is soon likely—and does not support mandates.

Cordovano said the mayor should listen to experts and constituents. He is vaccinated “to be a good neighbor” and believes it is “a small ask” to wear a mask, he said.

Bradshaw said he has tried to “depoliticize” the COVID-19 debates and “find a path” for the city, noting that he believes the city not only has obligations to maintain the physical health and economic health of the community, but also its mental health. The mayor should give the City Council options to decide on, he said.

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