A Ketchum man has initiated a recall petition against Mayor Neil Bradshaw, alleging inadequacies in handling the pandemic, a series of granted waivers for large developments in Ketchum and a failure to act in the best interest of city residents.
Biche Rudigoz, 39, told the Mountain Express the recall petition is not against Bradshaw personally, but rather a move to bring back control to Ketchum residents, whom he says have been “ignored and bulldozed” over the last two years of Bradshaw’s term in office.
Bradshaw was elected in 2017, beating out incumbent Mayor Nina Jonas with more than 63 percent of the vote. In a candidate video recorded by the Mountain Express, Bradshaw touted a platform predicated on increasing public participation and transparency with the public on city-led projects—including a new city hall and a fire station—spuring affordable housing and creating a sustainable local economy.
But according to Rudigoz, Bradshaw has stifled the voices of residents and made decisions that haven’t benefitted the city.
“He’s doing what he wants, when he wants,” Rudigoz said.
Specifically, Rudigoz outlined a number of misgivings about the mayor’s actions before community input, including conversations with PEG Development prior to the public proposal of a hotel project on the southwest corner of River Street and state Highway 75.
According to emails obtained by the Mountain Express, Bradshaw wrote a letter of support for PEG Development in November 2019, roughly three months before the property was formally purchased by the development company to build what was originally proposed as a five-story boutique hotel.
In the letter, Bradshaw wrote that the project is a “good fit” for the city.
“We will endeavor to make this project a success,” he wrote at the time.
The project, though, was initially slated to be nearly double the allotted 35-foot maximum height for a building in the city’s tourist zone. Developers asked for waivers from the Planning and Zoning Commission to allow for the height difference, arguing that the actual project would not look 72 feet tall due to the sharp drop in terrain from River Street to Trail Creek. Those waivers were granted in January.
Ultimately, though, the project stalled in April after the city failed to properly give public notice to residents in the surrounding area. The project is now scheduled to return to the P&Z next month to start the project application process over again.
“We’re not NIMBY, we do want development, but it needs to be done in a classy way,” Rudigoz said. In his view, the communication between the developer and the mayor, along with the decision to grant the waivers, showed “a lack of leadership and a lack of understanding” for what the community wants, Rudigoz told the Express.
“He’s not being a leader. He’s being very hard to work with,” he said.
Bradshaw, in response to the petition, said he welcomes the public discourse.
“I’m delighted with what we’re achieving so far—building a fire station, constructing walkability improvements, purchasing a new city hall and pursuing affordable housing—all during the uncertain times created by a pandemic,” Bradshaw said in an email to the Mountain Express on Wednesday.
“If voters are not in agreement with the direction myself and the council are taking, they have every right to follow the legal process to voice their displeasure. I welcome this conversation with city residents.”
In the recall petition, which was formally submitted to the city last Friday, Rudigoz states that the waivers result in “the complete loss of Ketchum’s small-town character.” The petition also gives three other points for a recall: the mayor’s “inadequate efforts” to protect the “health, safety and welfare of citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic, including, but not limited to, proclaiming that City Hall is not a ‘public place’ for purpose of requiring the wearing of masks”; the recent closure of a portion of Fourth Street to vehicle traffic without consulting business owners or the public; and the mayor’s failing to work “cooperatively with the public and the Ketchum City Council.”
Rudigoz will be required to collect 508 valid signatures in order to get the recall vote on the November election ballot. In order to sign the petition, a person must be a resident of Ketchum and eligible to vote in the city’s mayoral election.