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Q&A with Boise City Council Seat 3 candidates

Boise Mayoral Election

The race for Boise City Council Seat 3 features two candidates. Jimmy Hallyburton and Meredith Stead hope to replace Scot Ludwig, who decided not to seek reelection.

As the filing deadline for the 2019 municipal races in Boise and Meridian closed, BoiseDev sent each of the candidates a set of 12 questions about the direction of each city.

From the most-pressing issue to their views on growth – to a description of their city in a single emoji, the answers are enlightening and informative.

Answers are not edited, with the exception of some minor capitalization and a few punctuation issues. We did not fix spelling or word use.

Election day is November 5th.

Read candidate Q&As

Boise: Mayor | Council 1 | Council 3 | Council 5
Meridian: Mayor | Council 1 | Council 3 | Council 5

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What do you think of where Boise is headed?

Boise Whitewater Park
Ryan Richard of Bend, OR helps tune the new wave shaper at the Boise Whitewater Park this summer. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

Jimmy Hallyburton: I think that Boise is headed into a period of limitless potential for positive change. Right now is a time to identify and celebrate the aspects of Boise we love the most and want to continue. Those things we need to hold sacred and make hard decisions to preserve. And right now is a time to examine what we can do better, where we’ve failed, and what hardships might be around the corner. Those things we need acknowledge and make hard decisions to correct. If we make those hard decisions, we have the ability to establish the lasting identities that will define Boise for generations to come. While we’re making those hard decisions we must also realize the unparalleled opportunity and responsibility to ensure that future is one that truly serves everyone. If we can do those things, I think Boise is headed toward a very bright future.

Meredith Stead: I am excited by the new opportunities developing in Boise and it’s imperative that, in an effort to preserve our quality of life, we diligently plan for the growth that we’re seeing.

What is the most-pressing issue facing Boise right now?

Jimmy Hallyburton: I believe building/maintaining affordable and accessible neighborhoods is the most pressing issue in Boise. Healthy neighborhoods, where people of all income levels can work, play, eat, and shop close to where they live are central to our future. Through updated zoning and building codes, that reflect the comprehensive plan laid out in Blueprint Boise, we can leverage the growth we’re experiencing to strengthen the identities of our neighborhoods across the valley while reducing single occupancy car trips. Development of our cherished foothills and suburban sprawl must come to an end, and that means we need to embrace greater density, multifamily mixed-income housing, and rentals in areas closer to job centers. As a community, we must come together in welcoming and valuing the diversity of income and housing in all of our neighborhoods, and we must ensure new growth includes amenities that are within walking and biking distance in an effort to reduce congestion.

Meredith Stead: Growth is the most pressing issue. Many of our most pressing issues are a byproduct of growth and will continue to develop into problems without smart planning. A few of our mounting issues are accessible and affordable housing options, infrastructure demands, and transportation concerns. Each of these will become more difficult to address as growth continues with slow or in-action.

If elected, what will be your first priorities in the job?

Jimmy Hallyburton: My first priority will be to improve the way the City of Boise engages with its community members. When I launched my campaign in February and became the first candidate to “File for Treasurer,” I recognized the need to engage with more voices throughout Boise. After nine months of campaigning I see a significant and under-utilized opportunity to better educate, activate, and empower a diverse cross-section of our community to take on the biggest obstacles we face, including growth, affordable housing, transportation, and climate change. I believe the city can start by expanding its Energize Our Neighborhoods program to provide additional community-building resources to Neighborhood Associations. I also believe city officials can serve the community more effectively by being actively engaged in the city’s various advisory committees and Neighborhood Associations. As a Council Member I will personally commit to attending at least 12 Neighborhood Associations meetings each year and helping to build a plan and toolkit for building inclusive Neighborhood Association engagement.

Meredith Stead: My first priority when elected is to work towards a city development/zoning code that supports Blueprint Boise, our comprehensive plan. Currently, decisions at the Planning and Zoning commission level are made based on city code but that code doesn’t always support our comprehensive plan, forcing decisions that aren’t always best for the long term vision of our city.

Increasingly, Boise is part of the fabric of a larger metro area. As a city council member, what will you do to foster collaboration with other jurisdictions?

Jimmy Hallyburton: Many of the growing pains Boise is experiencing, like traffic congestion, are the result of uncoordinated development practices and lack of a comprehensive growth plan with neighboring communities. I believe there is an opportunity for the City of Boise, and other communities in the larger metro area, to use Ada County and COMPASS as conveners to develop a larger collaborative and comprehensive plan for growth and transportation for the Treasure Valley. This plan needs to address unsustainable suburban sprawl, zoning issues that make it difficult for people to live close to work, and ways to reduce the use of single occupancy car trips.

Meredith Stead: Regional planning is essential. In my day job for Boise Valley Economic Partnership, I have had the opportunity to foster relationships with some of our neighboring municipal leadership. There are many projects facing the city today that could benefit from a regional perspective and excellent regional relationships. It would be great to see a better partnership develop between the regional city leadership. Some of the growth issues that Boise has been facing are now spilling into the neighboring cities. Now is the time for city leadership to collaborate towards valley-wide solutions. Many of these challenges can’t be solved by the City of Boise alone but change and collaboration should be led by the leadership in Boise.

What do you think of Boise’s relationship with the Ada County Highway District? What would you like to see change, if anything?

Jimmy Hallyburton: I believe the City of Boise’s relationship with ACHD is currently toxic, I believe it is extremely unfortunate that the City of Boise does not have ownership or management of its own streets, and I believe the City of Boise has to do better in strengthening that relationship until another solution is found. During my 12 years as the Boise Bicycle Project’s Executive Director, I’ve often disagreed with recommendations made by ACHD Staff and decisions made by ACHD Commissioners, but I’ve always maintained a working relationship with everyone at the department. 4 of the 5 current ACHD Commissioners have volunteered and BBP’s Holiday Kids Bike Giveaway, and Director Bruce Wong has appointed me to multiple ACHD task forces. While I sometimes don’t get the outcomes I’m hoping for, I know my efforts have pushed ACHD to create streets that are more walkable, bikeable, and in some cases life-saving. I hope to continue to strengthen these relationships as a Boise City Council member, and I hope to bring neighborhood associations into ACHD discussions to continue the fight for safer, calmer streets in our neighborhoods.

Meredith Stead: Impact fee zones could be re-established to put money back into the area it is generated rather than growing the larger network to accommodate suburban growth and perpetuating urban sprawl. ACHD should be helping Boise achieve its vision not maintaining the status quo. There are many different interests and agencies involved when evaluating strategic direction and in the planning of our city and region. The only option for effective and efficient growth and development is to collaborate, work together, and accept each other’s authority. Diverse perspectives, interests, and buy-in often takes more work and time but ultimately leads to a more productive and long-lasting outcome. It’s imperative that the City of Boise mend relationships and open productive lines of communication with ACHD so that we can work together towards enhancing our future.

When it comes to transportation and urban planning, what is your philosophy?

Traffic on 9th St. and Front St. in Downtown Boise. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

Jimmy Hallyburton: The Treasure Valley really has two options: we can continue down a path of congestion, poor air quality, and higher commuting costs; or we can work together to make walking, biking, and public transportation options as convenient as driving. I believe we can address some transportation issues by working closely with Neighborhood Associations and ACHD to calm traffic and build walkable, bikeable streets, and I have a proven history of working effectively with both of these groups to increase those efforts. We have an opportunity to take transformative steps in developing our existing canal-access roads into an extensive system of safe and convenient walking and biking paths. I am currently working with members of CVI, the Idaho Sierra Club, and ICL on this effort. Public transportation must become a top priority. I believe the lack of state funding can be partially addressed by the creation of innovative public, private, and nonprofit partnerships and ordinances around major developments. I am part of a group called The Plan Of Boise that is actively working on these local efforts while examining statewide local option tax strategies. I am also working with VRT to create an Ambassador Program to increase existing public transportation use.

Meredith Stead: Land use and transportation are intertwined. We can’t address one without considering the second. The more people have the opportunity to live near where they work, shop, and attend school, the less pressure we put on our roads, mitigating congestion and long commute times. Adding density to areas with existing infrastructure and avoiding urban sprawl will help to prevent more issues. Consistent with the City’s Transportation Action Plan, we need to continue to invest in all transportation options including pedestrian and bicycle connectivity, valley-wide mass transit, and a solid road system. Developing to reduce vehicle trips and distance is beneficial for our existing infrastructure and environment. Create mixed use and multifamily developments support this philosophy, allowing community gathering places to developing in every neighborhood.

What opportunities and challenges are most pressing when it comes to growth?

Jimmy Hallyburton: There is a huge opportunity with the growth we’re experiencing right now to reinforce and strengthen the unique identities we cherish about Boise. Some of this can be done through community events and celebrations (Energize Our Neighborhoods), initiatives (Cultural Ambassador and Boise Kind, etc.), and increased access to open/public space throughout Boise (multi use paths along canal access roads, neighborhood parks). The biggest challenge with the growth we are experiencing right now is that we have a comprehensive plan, Blueprint Boise, that lacks code, zoning, and ordinances to give it teeth. Without these tools, we often lack authority to stop poor unsustainable development.

Meredith Stead: Housing accessibility, adequate infrastructure, and quality of life. Housing affordability/availability: We have a supply problem and also an income problem. Housing costs have increased more than 15% in the last couple of years, as compared to the national index, and rental costs have increased more than 50%, according to the Cost of Living Index. We have many more people searching for housing than is available, which is driving prices and the increase in wages is not keeping up with the pace of housing cost increases. Infrastructure investment/improvement: The City has an obligation to keep up with the infrastructure to support the development we’re seeing, including transit, emergency services access, parks, and utilities. The City needs to be investing in these amenities or working with developers to make development fiscally sustainable. Continuing to invest in all transportation options but specifically mass transit and bicycle and pedestrian connectivity and safe routes will also better our air quality. Currently, our city’s comprehensive plan is not reflected by our city development code. By addressing that inconsistency, we’re able to develop the city using a smart growth mindset that better reflects the long term vision for our city. Protecting natural resources and quality of life: One of the primary contributors to Boise’s amazing quality of life is the access to open space and the quality of our natural resources. We need to protect that diligently: the clean water of the Boise River, our drinking water quality, preserved open space in the foothills and in parks in every neighborhood, and clean air quality. I grew up watching the Oakland hills burn, in large part due to overdevelopment. Denver has seen so much congestion that a day trip to the nearby mountains is now unrealistic and Portland’s Willamette River is often too polluted for recreation. I have witnessed the metro areas around us lose their quality of life due to lack of urban planning and foresight to accommodate growing populations through infrastructure development. Boise is at a crucial turning point, where we have the opportunity to invest in the policy and infrastructure to preserve these precious resources, or lose them from lack of action.

What concrete steps can the city council take to help address the cost of living and housing?

Jimmy Hallyburton: The City of Boise’s Grow Our Housing Plan shows a need for at least 1000 new housing units each year for the next 20 years. It is extremely important that we prioritize this increase in housing inventory, while also ensuring it is implemented in an inclusive and sustainable way. I believe it needs to start by prioritizing height, density, and infill around the downtown area and other job centers, while working hard to eliminate further development into the foothills and suburban sprawl that lead to increases in transportation costs. The City needs to continue to explore ordinances that regulate rental application fees while creating new incentives for lands lords and property managers to maintain affordable rental rates. While the city is limited by Idaho state law in mandating affordable housing, it must explore private/public/nonprofit partnerships (similar to New Path) to ensure housing is available for working class families. New building code and zoning must be established around new housing developments to ensure people have the ability to work, eat, shop and play close to where they live, further decreasing the overall cost of living for Boise families.

Meredith Stead: We need to continue to develop smart growth solutions, including multi-family housing options. It would be my preference not to allow exclusively-single family subdivisions but rather new developments offering an array of housing options, from single family, condos and townhomes, to multi-family. By adding infill and density where our infrastructure is prepared to support it, we will add supply to the market, which will eventually catch the demand. Although state laws prohibit solutions like inclusionary zoning, it would be great to see a city process to reward developers that are building a diverse array of housing options. That reward can be executed through the ease of the administrative process for those who are building the types of developments that the city wants more of and appropriately includes the neighborhood residents in the process of development. We can’t require builders to invest in diverse housing options but we can reward those that are doing it correctly. Additionally, it’s important that ordinances like the short-term rental owner-occupancy stay in place. By removing this, we would face the threat of destroying neighborhoods by allowing investors to create neighborhoods of only short-term rentals.

What do you think of Boise’s goal to use 100% sustainable energy by 2035?

Boise has the largest geothermal energy system in the world. Photo via City of Boise

Jimmy Hallyburton: Climate Change is the number one issue facing every community worldwide, and we know its disastrous effects will disproportionately affect our most vulnerable community members in Boise and beyond first. In early 2019 I advocated, testified, and brought new voices to the table to support the City of Boise’s adoption of their Clean Energy by 2035 plan. During that public hearing it was the voice of community members that pushed the city from 2040 to 2035, and influenced City Council Members to include measures to ensure the clean energy goal would not affect energy affordability for our lower income communities. While 2035 was set as an aggressive but achievable goal, I think Boise must continue to explore opportunities to leverage growth, technology, and public/private partnerships in an effort to reach that goal sooner. If elected I would recommend the formation of a Climate Advisory Committee to explore and push initiatives at city and neighborhood levels to reach these goals. I would work with conservation groups to create short and long term plans that included things like Green Vehicle Selection Standards to electrify the City of Boise’s fleet at scale, programs that finance energy efficiency and renewable energy access to low-income community members, and energy benchmarking for commercial facilities including multi-family housing rentals. I would work with nonprofits to leverage grant funding for solar projects similar to one the Boise Bicycle Project is currently installing.

Meredith Stead: The goal is the right thing to do, and even more quickly if budgets permit. Additionally, I would like to see new development in the city utilize electric instead of gas power. When interior infrastructure like water heaters and furnaces burn methane, they add to our diminishing air quality and inversions. In bad weather, compiled with vehicle exhausts, we create a toxic environment for our citizens. The city can lead this effort by example and implementing a city-wide commitment to city owned development being all-electric. Additionally, we can add this effort to the Boise Green Building Code. Furthermore, we need to expand the use of Boise’s unique geothermal grid. New development within the downtown core should be encouraged to utilize the geothermal system.

What do you think of the state of local politics? What, if anything, would you like to see change?

Jimmy Hallyburton: I believe change has to begin at a local level and there is an enormous opportunity to empower our Neighborhood Associations with tools to better engage with decision making and community building. I would like to see the City of Boise expand its Energize Our Neighborhood program and provide new resources to address issues of equity and representation at a neighborhood level. I would like to see a combination of dedicated staff and City Council Members involved with neighborhood associations to help educate, activate, and empower community members to get involved with large scale city-wide initiatives.

Meredith Stead: With the growth that Boise is seeing, it would be interesting to see a different model for city council elections. Maybe instead of arbitrarily choosing a seat to run for, we all run one race and the top three candidates are placed on council. Another model to consider might be the geographical district model. I would like to see further diversity on council and place the best candidates into the seats.

Describe Boise in one emoji.

Jimmy Hallyburton: I don’t use a lot of emojis, so I’ll sub for a 1 word description instead. Equipped.

Meredith Stead: 🌳

Don Day - BoiseDev editor
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at [email protected].

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