The city of Ketchum is exploring a plan to hire a lobbyist who can advocate for the interests of Idaho resort cities at the state Legislature in Boise.

On Monday, City Council members directed City Administrator Jade Riley to continue to research the matter, with the possibility of hiring someone before the Legislature convenes in early January.

The directive came after Riley updated council members on the proposal, which was first introduced by Council President Courtney Hamilton last summer when the city was crafting its budget for the current fiscal year.

At the time, Hamilton said that the Legislature has not supported Ketchum’s interests and that she thinks “small resort towns are getting destroyed one bill at a time every winter when they go into session.”

For years, some resort city officials and their state representatives have criticized the Legislature for fighting top-down federal authority while often imposing state rule over the initiatives of local governments.

In the budget approval process, the City Council discussed whether to allocate some $20,000 to pay for a lobbyist at the Legislature. The council decided to leave open the possibility of paying for the position through a new fund composed mostly of money the city received as COVID-19 pandemic relief from the federal government.

Riley told council members Monday that development of the plan has been slowed some by the number of major issues and projects being handled by the city. Some other resort cities have expressed interest in the initiative, but their level of financial contribution remains in question, Riley said.

Other cities that could join Ketchum in the initiative are Victor and Driggs in southeastern Idaho, McCall and Donnelly in west-central Idaho, and Sandpoint in northern Idaho, Riley said.

Mayor Neil Bradshaw said the city of Sun Valley is supportive of the idea but has not made a financial commitment.

Of potential candidates for the position, one withdrew because of a conflict of interest, Riley said, and one is asking for a $30,000 retaining fee.

In general, council members agreed that they prefer to have a lobbyist representing Ketchum be part of a coalition of resort cities.

Councilman Jim Slanetz said the political impact of a lobbyist would be diminished if Ketchum had to “go it alone.”

Hamilton agreed.

“I don’t want to do this if it’s just Ketchum,” she said.

In the end, council members agreed that the city should further investigate whether other resort cities would join a coalition that could be launched this winter and further developed in future years. If other cities provide some level of financial contribution to signal a commitment, Ketchum leaders could decide to fund a disproportionate amount of the cost in the first year.

“It’s not so much the price—it’s the power of the coalition,” Councilwoman Amanda Breen said.

Some of the other cities have put the proposal on agendas for city leaders to consider this month, Riley said. He said he would deliver an update—and possibly a concrete plan to consider—to the council on Dec. 20 or their first meeting in January. 

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