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The Growth Vote: Q&A with Boise City Council Seat 5 candidates

Boise Mayoral Election

The race for Boise City Council Seat 5 features three candidates. Elaine Clegg, Brady Fuller and Debbie Lombard-Bloom all hope to win over voters.

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

What do you think of where Boise is headed?

Elaine Clegg: Boise is growing and people fear change. The high growth portends a future much like other high growth cities in the west if we don’t pull together as a region to use our land and water supply more wisely and protect what we all love about this place. Boise has risen to the challenge before by working together, pushing for solutions and embracing the future. When I was first elected the city faced capital needs of over $100 million to catch up with growth. Plans had been made for all kinds of facilities yet nothing had been built. Over my fifteen years the city has completed nearly everything on that list; 15 parks, six fire stations built or rebuilt, four branch libraries, three community centers, thousands of acres of open space, miles of trails, Allumbaugh House and City Hall West by doing them in small bites every year. It has brought us a high quality of life and ensured that all residents have access to services. It only happened because of strong partnerships with residents, businesses, nonprofits and more. When I think of where Boise is headed I think of that — together we can face whatever challenges arise and that’s where most Boiseans I know want to head.

Brady Fuller: Born at St. Luke’s in downtown Boise, I have had the good fortune of watching our city grow, evolve, and transform over the years. Right now, in 2019, our city is in such a unique place. We have the opportunity to look at cities all across our country — places like Seattle, Portland, or Denver — which have experienced similar growth, and learn from those cities’ tactics for what works and what does not work. While Boise and these other cities are not the same, unprecedented growth is. Boise needs to take proactive steps to plan and prepare our community for the future. We cannot afford to only think about today and tomorrow. We must think decades into the future if we want to preserve the things that make Boise so great, namely the quality of life and the backyard that we all share and enjoy. When we talk about the future of this city, it isn’t some far off idea. It is my life, your life and our childrens’ lives. And I am hopeful.

Debbie Lombard-Bloom: My biggest concern is how we are financing large civic project and infrastructure. We have always been a community of public participation in the process of paying for our cities large scale projects by voting and or extensive outreach. Boise seems to have an agenda that they feel is the right direction regardless of the citizen’s concerns. As a voting public, we overwhelmingly open our pocketbooks for safety, schools, and open spaces. These are the iconic symbols of our community. My biggest concern is how we are financing large civic project and infrastructure. We have always been a community of public participation in the process of paying for our cities large scale projects by voting and or extensive outreach. Boise seems to have an agenda that they feel is the right direction regardless of the citizen’s concerns. As a voting public, we overwhelmingly open our pocketbooks for safety, schools, and open spaces. These are the iconic symbols of our community.

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

Ann Morrison Park Boise
Boise as seen from Crescent Rim. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev file

Elaine Clegg: Housing and transportation are at either end of the having the opportunity of an affordable high quality of life. Our limited transportation choices and skyrocketing housing prices make it difficult to find a place to live where the cost of housing plus transportation don’t overwhelm the household budget. Building more housing while protecting the quality of life of existing residents and offering convenient attractive transit services citywide with extended hours and days are the path to a solution.

Brady Fuller: After knocking on hundreds of doors and talking with thousands of people, the most-pressing issue, without a doubt, is growth. People all across our city are feeling it. It doesn’t matter if you live in Harris Ranch, the North End, West Boise, or on South Cole Road. Housing prices have skyrocketed, our roads are congested, and we are at risk of losing the open spaces and quality of life that make Boise so great. I recently spoke to a young couple who saw their rent go up $400 a month while their wages stayed the same. I also spoke to a 94 year-old Vietnam vet who has lived in his North End home for 47 years and is now afraid of losing it because he can’t afford the property taxes on his fixed-income. Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that these stories are far too common. If we are going to make Boise the most livable city in America, we also need to ensure we are making it the most sustainable city in America. I will be the first to admit that I do not have all the right answers. That said, I’m ready to collaborate with and support the incredible non-profits, government organizations and private businesses who are already working on solving the problems of growth in our community. I’m ready to work alongside my fellow city council members to find new solutions to create affordable housing, ease traffic congestion and protect our open spaces.

Debbie Lombard-Bloom: With the increase in property values from the commerce of the real estate market in the United States citizens are feeling the pressure of increased expenses in the form of their property tax bill. While we are trying to navigate this market-driven increase in home values we need to be mindful of the burden that an appropriately scaled city budget has on the residents and try to reduce that expense by being diligent in our budgeting.

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

Elaine Clegg: In the next four years I will give my best efforts to these priorities: BOISE’S DIVERSE ECONOMY NEEDS JOBS + HOUSING For over a decade, I’ve been working to diversify and strengthen our economy by increasing jobs and wages for all Boiseans, such as the expansion of our industrial infrastructure near the airport. Hand in hand with jobs is a place to live and I am committed to increasing support for housing for our workforce which I’ll pursue through Boise’s “Grow Our Housing” initiative – a partnership to increase our housing supply and provide support for those making a workforce wage so residents have access to housing they can afford to live in comfortably. CONNECTING BOISE Boiseans need quality transit services to succeed in the 21st century. I will continue to ask the legislature for the right to vote to fund those. In the meantime, I will continue my successful initiative for steady growth in transit funding and improving existing services. I support safe, easy-to-use bicycle and pedestrian connections within all neighborhoods. And of course we need to continue to invest in maintaining and better connecting the existing roadway system to mitigate congestion. BUILDING STRONGER SAFER NEIGHBORHOODS Neighborhoods are the heart of Boise – it’s where my heart has always been. People connect with each other, with city services and with housing opportunities at the neighborhood level. Deficiencies in parks, libraries, fire and police infrastructure when I was first elected have been answered with the development of over 15 park sites, four branch libraries, six fire stations built/rebuilt, three community centers and a police and fire administration building. That work is not complete, next on my list are more amenities in parks, growing the Energize our Neighborhoods program, expanding housing choices, and continued capital improvements.

Brady Fuller: I truly believe that progress requires passing the torch. Democracies move forward by allowing new perspectives, new voices, and most importantly, new ears. If elected, I will push to have term limits for both mayor and city council. In 1994, Idaho voters approved term limits and affirmed their decision in the three elections after that, and our state legislatures vetoed this decision. Boiseans are ready for responsible power. If the elected officials of Idaho won’t listen to the people than the elected officials of Boise, who represent the most progressive city in the state, should do their part and listen to the will of the people. In addition, I have had the privilege of meeting with the movers and shakers of Boise over the last 9 months. This includes elected officials, business owners, and directors of nonprofits. I want to ensure them that they all have the support of the city in their efforts to make Boise a better place. It’s true, as a 26-year-old candidate, I don’t have years of experience. I do, however, have a willingness to learn from those that are doing the good work in our community already. I want to build a space for nonprofits to come together and collaborate on ways to work together and move forward together. When they move forward together, we all move forward. In addition, we have a lot of bad blood and differences to set aside. We must build stronger relationships with ACHD. We must build stronger relationships with our neighboring cities. This can’t be a situation where Boise tells the other cities what to do. It needs to be about equal voices at the table on how we can all move forward together.

Debbie Lombard-Bloom: To take a close look at the budget and find areas we can save in each department. Once we have those savings we need to look at properly funding our safety services for all the residents of the 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?

Elaine Clegg: Regional cooperation remains one of my priorities and my nomination as next years’ COMPASS Board chair offers an opportunity to lead on that issue. My service on many regional, as well as statewide and national boards, offers access to the latest best practices. I can utilize that knowledge and experience with my relationships and leadership positions across the many jurisdictions. I’ll call on my network of transportation and smart growth experts to ensure I will that proven solutions are being considered. I will use my proven skills at bringing the right people to the table and facilitating the conversation in working to find a solution that everyone agrees with. Only then can we implement those agreements.

Brady Fuller: This is something I talk about with voters every single day. Commuters heading East to West know exactly how connected we are as a valley. If we truly want to move forward, we must look at ourselves as the Treasure Valley. When I was a child, there were fields and farmland between the cities, giving them some separation. I remember playing soccer where the Village now stands. It was a different time. Today, it’s hard to tell where the line ends and begins between each city, and I know in the coming decades that will change even more. We need to create a comprehensive plan to continue to improve the relationships among the cities and counties and then we need to hold one another accountable to follow the plan. That is why I support creating a commission, consisting of elected officials and citizens from each city in the valley, that works to interconnect the different cities’ plans, vision and future with one another as well as with Ada and Canyon County. Our valley has tried this in the past and unfortunately, it has failed. It most recently failed in 2007, when they developed a plan and then failed to follow through with it. I believe that we can build new relationships between new leaders that encourage the fresh start our valley so desperately wants and needs.

Debbie Lombard-Bloom: We need to understand first what the other jurisdictions priorities are and how they go about setting those priorities. Each entity has a distinct mission or character, and we need to be mindful of those differences and find common ground that we can collaborate on to share in the planning that may have crossover benefits. We can work with ACHD, CCDC, and the City, for example, to implement connectivity corridors for alternative transportation within the downtown core using Urban Renewal Funding.

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

Old Boise
In one of the most unique government arrangements in Idaho, the Ada County Highway District controls most of the streets and roads countywide, instead of cities. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

Elaine Clegg: I have been a city council member who has worked productively with ACHD to achieve mutual objectives. One example is Whitewater Boulevard. Where ACHD envisioned an efficient 5-lane arterial, the city envisioned a beautiful boulevard street worthy of a new regional park front entrance and connecting the neighborhood to the park rather than acting as a barrier. I think we reached both goals and even the ACHD Commission Chair praised my efforts at collaboration as making the difference at the ribbon cutting. Too often though, the city and ACHD have not been able to bridge those competing visions. I would like to work to find a more collaborative approach such as the one used on Whitewater Boulevard to find common ground. I would also ask the commission to honor the vision of the cities they serve with a more innovative embrace of new transportation engineering solutions. Finally, Boise needs an ACHD willing to be a full partner on transit infrastructure, Our citizens are asking for 21st century mobility solutions, and don’t want to get stuck with 20th century roadway projects.

Brady Fuller: I think that it’s no secret that the relationship between Boise and ACHD is fragmented. Boise needs leaders who are willing to listen to one another, learn from one another, and most importantly, work with one another to ensure we are doing what we were voted in to do, serve the greater good. As it stands, Boise is in control of land use and ACHD is in control of the roads. We cannot waste another day fighting for power when we should be building stronger relationships with the intention of bettering our infrastructure.

Debbie Lombard-Bloom: I am a fallible person, and when told repeatedly that I am failing or that someone would be able to do a better job, I’m not usually my best self. We need to stop the public blame and focus on the great things that each entity is bringing to the table. The staff at ACHD, in fact, works very well with each of the Cities in the Valley to work on getting priority projects done for each municipality. The different cities have unique demographics and modes of travel and ACHD is mindful of those differences and tries to accommodate the preferences of those jurisdictions in their planning for both personal and commercial travel. It is a consolidated system that allows for more projects to be completed without the redundancy of each city’s process

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

Elaine Clegg: Two words – smart growth. Smart growth focuses on integrating land use and transportation by building a mix of housing and mix of uses within walking and biking distance of each other with high levels of connecting roads and pathways and centered on community activity centers with retail and other services. This development is sustainable, using green building practices, green stormwater, clean energy. Activity centers are connected by high quality transit and a roadway system with good route choices. It includes protecting agricultural land and using it productively to grow food for the region. And it includes protecting open spaces and recreational opportunities nearby.

Brady Fuller: My philosophy is that when cities grow, they either sprawl out or get dense. As a millennial, I understand that people want to live, work and play in the same space — that means we need to focus on responsible density. This is not to say that Boise should become a city of skyscrapers, but rather that we need to think sustainably about our buildings and infrastructure in terms of space. That means we can’t build another single-story Trader Joes or Panera Bread in the heart of downtown. We must take advantage of the space we have before it is gone, leaving the development to only further amplify in our neighborhoods. For every apartment building built in the suburbs, all we are doing is adding that many more cars onto our already congested roads. Instead, we need to encourage housing options that are affordable and in places where public transportation is easily accessible. The reality is that if we want people to use public transportation it has to be more convenient, if not the same convenience, as driving their car. By acting proactively to build smarter, we will start to ease the concerns of housing and traffic while responsibly building a sustainable city.

Debbie Lombard-Bloom: The quickest thing we can do to change transportation is to offer a fare-free bus system. A pilot program in May of 2018 provided free bus service for the month increasing ridership by 17%. If we could improve our ridership by 17% with an extra investment of 1 million dollars over what we currently invest as a city via property taxes or with corporate sponsorship it would go a long way in reducing congestion and air pollution while building a culture of bus ridership to show intent for future investments in a larger system.

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

Elaine Clegg: Growth and quality of life can go hand in hand only by implementing good land use and transportation planning. We’re at a crossroads. We can avoid “big city” problems by 1) offering real transportation choices – such as good transit system, 2) investing in our neighborhoods by maintaining attributes, like parks, and services that contribute to our high quality of life, and 3) growing both our jobs and housing. Boise is attractive to employers and their employees in part because of our wonderful open space and vibrant downtown, we must protect those. My knowledge and experience, especially in transportation, land use and growth issues will be a valuable asset in helping guide the city toward solutions in this time of high growth. I have worked as a collaborator, and will always ensure that all of the voices, including everyone from the neighborhoods to the development community are in the room and at the table so that together we can find the solutions to protect Boise’s quality of life while we provide much needed housing and services for our residents. My work on smart growth issues, on researching how to do infill right and offering planning assistance to communities around the state gives me the most experience and knowledge to help guide us down the right path toward keeping Boise a vibrant, healthy, livable community with a vital economy, even in this time of high growth.

Brady Fuller: Our most pressing challenges are providing affordable housing and better transportation options, protecting our open spaces, and pushing for more early education opportunities to ease the financial burden on working families. We must take bold action to address our housing criss. Part of that includes protecting renters. As our city becomes more attractive to those near and far, we have no option but to ensure access to affordable housing. We need to work with local organizations and developers to encourage more urban and affordable housing options in corridors where public transportation is easily accessible. Public transit ridership will go up if we put more housing along our major streets. In addition, we must build a stronger relationship with the ACHD to ensure our roads are ready for the future. We must take bold action to protect our open spaces. Boise is a great place not only because of the people who call it home but also because of the backyard that we share and enjoy. There are few things that define and enrich our community more than our open spaces, clean waters, and wildlife habitats, and we must do everything in our power to maintain them and their greatness. We must take bold action to protect working families. Working families should never have to choose between putting food on the table and having a safe, affordable, high-quality early learning environment for their children. The numbers prove that investments in early learning programs for all of Boise’s children will save taxpayers money and have far-reaching social impacts.

Debbie Lombard-Bloom: We need to listen to all of the stakeholders impacted by this growth both residents and developers. I feel confused by some of the decisions coming from the city and the direction we take in one instance compared to what seems like a similar instance with a vastly different decision. All entities are feeling the effects of where the growth is going to occur and the unknown on how it is to be built and funded. I don’t feel like they are listening fully to either side and they are set on a preconceived bias of how they would like the growth to look like instead of letting it evolve with an intense discussion of concerned parties.

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

Ash and River Apartments
Ash + River Apartments in Boise along the Pioneer Pathway on Ash Street. The apartments feature deed-restricted workforce housing rate units. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

Elaine Clegg: I am committed to expanding our housing supply with housing that is affordable for the workforce. Recent research shows that the Treasure Valley is 10,000 housing units behind as a region. Catching up is a must if we want our citizens to have the real opportunity this country promises. This won’t happen with government owned housing, though there is a role for government. The city can and should extend city incentives for affordable and workforce housing. I will continue to build on the partnerships that have developed supportive housing for our homeless citizens, such as New Path and Valor Pointe, and support for projects such as Adare Manor. I will work to get more of those projects built. Innovation and new ideas will be needed. For instance, Boise’s “Grow Our Housing” initiative includes creating a housing focused Land Trust to help those most at risk of losing a place to live. And as a Board member of the Boise City Ada County Housing Authority I have been advocating for a more active role in providing new affordable housing. On the other hand, the private sector has always driven housing choices in this country. In addition to supporting our most vulnerable citizens, it is imperative that we work together to determine where and how to build more housing and more housing choice through the private sector. This housing needs to evolve to include more than a one size fits all single family product and must be well designed to protect existing neighbors. I have already worked to allow Accessory Dwelling Units and expand opportunities to build small scale attached housing. Help me work on making those opportunities easier to plan and build by reforming our zoning to allow more housing in the right places so all Boiseans have an opportunity at a good quality of life.

Brady Fuller: Cities all across the United States are experiencing affordability housing crises, and Boise is no exception. Boise, like most other cities, must come at this with new approaches from different angles. We have to start somewhere. New voices, like Council Member Lisa Sanchez, are what provide a new perspective and ultimately encourage a new approach to solving our problems. For example, her proposal for a rental application fee ordinance is just one part of addressing this crisis. We must also be proactive in keeping people in their homes. We must build stronger relationships with organizations, like Jesse Tree and Interfaith Sanctuary, who work tirelessly to do exactly that. We need more protections for renters and we need to work with the state to ensure our fixed-income community members are not being priced out of their homes because of property tax increases. Another part of the equation is development. We need to make sure our comprehensive plan and city code are up-to-date so that we are building new units in places that make the most sense. We need to work alongside the other cities in our valley to make sure we are responsibly catching up and keeping up with the demand.

Debbie Lombard-Bloom: I don’t know that the philosophy of build more units solves the problem of affordable housing or entices more real estate speculation, thus increasing the current value of our housing market. While we are trying to sort this market-driven increase out we can be extra mindful in scrutinizing the budget as if we were in a recession to pass on some relief to our residents on their property tax bill. I would also work to look at the circuit breaker program to raise awareness and perhaps increase the amount of relief this program offers. Employees at Lowe’s were able to use this tool to help reduce their taxes, but if people are unaware of the benefits, they will miss this opportunity.

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

Elaine Clegg: Its an audacious goal, but one that can be achieved with a combination of hard work and a committed citizenry. The city will do its part on our own facilities, such as learning from the net zero building at the twenty mile south farm. And we’ll find ways to support citizens such as the energy bag program and the composting program. We must introduce more renewable distributed energy into the mix and conserve more such as with our partnership with Idaho Power to complete home energy audits. Lower emission solutions to transportation will be necessary. This will be a process where it will be imperative to stay abreast of and take advantage of new ideas as they arise. I think Boise is up to the task.

Brady Fuller: As a millennial, transitioning to 100% sustainable energy isn’t a question. We must do it. I would love to switch over today, but I understand there is a cost associated with moving to clean energy. I believe that 2035 is a realistic goal and I already look forward to beating it.

Debbie Lombard-Bloom: Without lofty goals, we don’t end up further down a path. I think when the question is worded properly it is always everyone’s goal to move to sustainable energy and a clean environment. Without the focus of a deadline we lose precious time in applying our resources to innovate and find those solutions.

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

Elaine Clegg: Boise is a friendly place where people have historically worked together to find common solutions. The pressure of high growth has created real change and fear of more change. Even in the face of that I see a firm commitment to this place and to protecting our high quality of life. I watch every day as our everyday heroes work miracles to serve the most vulnerable in our community. I see a passion to serve that is invigorating. We need that energy and passion. We need to keep working together, that is the only way we will all succeed instead of having winners and losers. It is how I have always approached my service on the city council and that is how I will continue to serve.

Brady Fuller: Part of progress is passing the torch on city council and allowing the next generation of new leaders to step in and continue the work that has already been done. While the issues are the same, the perspectives are new, and that makes a difference. Bad blood and old differences are what cripple our progress as a city, county, valley, and community. Bringing in new fresh voices gives us the opportunity to have real collaboration as we move into this next chapter, and that’s exactly what we plan to do.

Debbie Lombard-Bloom: As a voting adult, I don’t think we have had an election for city officials that has had more people engaged than this election. When you have this many people that are willing to step up and serve their community because they feel the direction the city is going isn’t in line with the citizens, you need to pause and wonder why. We have had some of the last election cycles uncontested, and this cycle has more than 17 candidates, that is reason to take note.

Describe Boise in one emoji.

Elaine Clegg: 🌄

Brady Fuller: 🕶️

Debbie Lombard-Bloom: 🏞️

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