What we looked for: Hailey voters are lucky to be choosing among four excellent City Council candidates. Ketchum has three articulate candidates for two seats.
The races for the Hailey City Council boiled down to experience vs. inexperience. We looked for candidates in both cities who favor higher housing densities downtown to stop the loss of young workers and families, but who are pragmatic about it.
Hailey City Council: Seat 3, Jeffrey L. Engelhardt—This incumbent was appointed to the council a year ago. He had served on the Planning and Zoning Commission and supported development of more small, workforce housing units. With his long history and private business activities in the Wood River Valley, he understands the economic challenges of living and surviving here, whether one is young or old. He’s pragmatic and brings private-sector experience to the table, yet balances public needs and wants.
Hailey City Council: Seat 4, Pat Cooley—If elected, this will be this incumbent’s third term. His long service and experience with fire department consolidation issues and the Airport Authority recommend him. He has supported smaller, high-density housing units of about 300 square feet, but no smaller. This affable councilman has championed recreation programs for kids and new parks. He is skilled in striking compromises between strict city preservationists and those who know the city must change to meet people’s needs.
Ketchum City Council, Michael David—This incumbent’s institutional memory recommends him for this seat, along with his call for the city to come up with a parking plan. His style is to fall in the middle of most issues. Even so, he supported a controversial development of high-density housing with no on-site parking and supported a budget with objectionable cuts to Mountain Rides service and the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance instead of cuts to city staff, including firefighters. Within the field of candidates, however, he deserves the nod from voters.
Ketchum City Council, Jen Smith—The city needs a strong voice for housing, and she’s it. Formerly the city’s parks and recreation director, she is now the executive director of a local nonprofit and lives in a community-housing unit. She objected to budget cuts to marketing and Mountain Rides. She makes a good case that the city can find the money if it cuts fluff that includes a $54,000 outside contract for artwork and stops adding staff. Smith seems to be a candidate with spine, something the city desperately needs.
Ketchum Fire Station Bond: Vote “No” unless the city of Ketchum suddenly reaches a tardy parking and facility expansion agreement with the YMCA. It’s foolish to risk leaving the matter to the courts and to fix one city need while harming another. The city should revisit a bond after an agreement is struck, considered in public by the mayor and City Council and after the public is well-informed of its provisions. To date, this hasn’t happened.