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The Growth Vote: Q&A with Meridian Council Seat 3 candidate

Boise Mayoral Election

The race for Meridian City Council Seat 3 is unopposed for 2019. Brad Hoaglun, the incumbent, opted to participate in the BoiseDev survey despite being unopposed.

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 Meridian is headed?

Brad Hoaglun: Having grown up in Meridian, moving here in 1970, I have seen significant change, most of it for the better. We are a full-service community with excellent work opportunities, a variety of housing options, many retail and restaurant choices, great parks as well as schools. This has created strong growth that requires a thoughtful, visionary approach to keeping Meridian a place where my kids and grandkids will want to continue to live. As long as we carefully balance the growth with quality development and adequate infrastructure, we are headed in the right direction.

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

Meridian from the air this summer. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

Brad Hoaglun: In talking to voters, growth and traffic are their biggest concerns. Many say they like what is occurring with the growth, but the increased traffic is what frustrates them the most. The strong growth in Meridian and surrounding areas has significantly increased traffic in our community. Handling the higher number of vehicles on our roads requires the city, Ada County Highway District (ACHD), and the Idaho Transportation Department to work closely to move that traffic more efficiently. Highway 20/26 (Chinden Blvd.) should have been expanded years ago, but lack of resources, or resources directed into other areas of the state, puts more out-of-area vehicles on our local roads that have been expanded as drivers attempt to circumvent the clogged state highway. A collaborative approach on traffic also requires the involvement of jurisdictions bordering Meridian with agreement on the location of traffic lights and access points. Resources for transportation infrastructure is currently inadequate to handle the long-term needs of our roads. Interestingly, one other issue brought up by people with kids in West Ada schools is the overcrowding that is happening due to growth. While not directly a city issue, it is important for the city council to consider growth impacts on our schools.

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

Brad Hoaglun: Having previously served on the city council from 2008 – 2013 I will have less of a learning curve when I start. I do know that Meridian will have a new comprehensive plan starting in 2020 and as a council member I want to protect the integrity of the comprehensive plan. It is our blueprint for growth in our community, developed with the involvement of citizens. Requests to change the comprehensive plan must be carefully considered with a view to the long-term impacts of any changes. Bringing certainty into the process is better for all citizens and businesses. Another priority is a careful review of our city budget. Where it is spent determines our priorities. We must adequately fund those city services most impacted by growth to meet the needs of our citizens. It is imperative that we continually look for efficient and effective ways to provide those services. My third priority is to ensure adequate pathways and sidewalks throughout Meridian. We need to have adequate sidewalks for our kids to walk to school as well as pathways to move about our city in an enjoyable manner. While ACHD does put in bike lanes on our roads, that is not an option for recreational bikers and families, as well as for walking, jogging, skateboarding and such.

Increasingly, Meridian 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?

Brad Hoaglun: Having already established relationships with some elected leaders in other jurisdictions, I look forward to building further relationships with others. From those relationships, we need to begin serious discussions on the coordination of development and infrastructure issues. It does happen to some degree with elected officials serving on the board of the Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho (COMPASS), but more needs to be done. As a council member, I recall discussions with the City of Nampa in looking for a corridor for a road farther south of the freeway where we could protect the needed land from major development and allow our respective road agencies the ability to plan for another east-west road. While we reached an agreement in principle of where it could possibly go, I don’t know if there was follow through by either entity in protecting that area since I didn’t run for re-election in 2013. That is an example of how we can work on a longer term vision with better communication with other locally elected officials in the valley to allow for improved growth in all of our communities.

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

Brad Hoaglun: During my nearly six years on the council we met regularly with ACHD to discuss the issues impacting Meridian. Overall, I thought they were responsive, although inadequate resources means they could not respond to all of our needs. While that relationship may have changed since my time on the council, we need to continue have a respectful dialogue and find ways to partner with them and ITD on solving our traffic infrastructure problems.

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

Brad Hoaglun: When the Ten Mile interchange was under construction Meridian’s planning department and city council worked on plans for that area to incorporate businesses, housing, retail, and services. This was going to be a major area of growth with the new interchange and the goal was to apply good planning to a major transportation hub area. This was the first time this approached had been tried in Meridian and while that particular Ten Mile plan won’t work in every location, we must consider how we can create the best plan possible to fit the transportation for that area. Another example is using ITD’s State Tax Anticipation Revenue (STARs) program for development. When The Village at Meridian was being planned, Eagle Road needed major upgrades. The developer’s agreed to fund the expansion with the money spent being reimbursed over time by a portion of the sales taxes collected. Finding the tools to expand the transportation infrastructure for a proposed project is also part of the planning process.

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

Brad Hoaglun: Meridian’s location in the center of the Treasure Valley provides numerous opportunities for us, and attracts the interests and eventual locating by entities like United Heritage Insurance and the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine, just to name two. The challenge is that we are centrally located and traffic is going through Meridian in greater numbers. Opportunities for growing businesses that are already here and to attract high-paying employers exist, as evidenced by the recent Money Magazine’s listing of Meridian at number nine of Best Places to Live. Utilizing that attention, as well as all the other lists that Meridian, Boise, Nampa and Caldwell appear on, requires us to be diligent in attracting the best to our community. But the challenge is to be able to have a long-term vision of how we are prepared to grow, and we must act with the long term in mind. In 2009, during the economic downturn we had a developer offer us 77 acres of land in south Meridian at an outstanding price. Now, we were pinching pennies during that time, but at the price offered, and knowing we needed a regional park in south Meridian someday, we scraped the money together. At the time, I thought it would be at least 20 years before a park would be developed out there, but it was a great deal for our taxpayers. Little did I know at the time that in 10 years the first phase of now Discovery Park would open. I use that to illustrate it is difficult to know how fast change will come, but we have to have that long view in mind to best position our city for the future. Locations of fire stations, parks, wells, sewer lines, and of course, roads and schools, requires a depth of planning with a dose of uncertainty.

Meridian’s location in the center of the Treasure Valley has made it into a destination for retail, like the new Albertsons Market Street, which opened this summer. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev

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

Brad Hoaglun: I am acutely aware how risings costs are impacting people in Meridian based on my family. My parents live in Meridian, and being retired and on fixed income, rising property taxes are a major impact. My son and daughter-in-law, with our twin 5-year-old granddaughters and 2 year-old grandson are on the other side of the spectrum as they look for their first home to buy. As a young family establishing themselves in their careers, it is difficult to find a starter home in Meridian at a price they can afford. We can’t let the American Dream of home ownership be out of reach for people in Meridian, nor price senior citizens out of their homes due to rising values with corresponding property taxes. We need to have all different types of housing for people in Meridian. We should have everything available from estate-type properties, to middle class homes, starter homes, and apartment/condo homes. I want Meridian to continue to be multi-generational that allows families at whatever stage they are in life to live in the same community. I have talked to one or two who advocate stopping all growth in Meridian. Not only is that difficult to do under land use planning laws, I point out that by limiting supply it will increase prices, making it harder on seniors and young people to live in our community. Attracting quality jobs to our community along with exploring alternative approaches to ensure home ownership is not out of reach for working families is something I am open to exploring.

What do you think of Meridian’s plans to redevelop the downtown area?

Brad Hoaglun: In 2018, I served on the Old City Hall RFP committee to develop and evaluate requests for proposals (RFP) to redevelop the former Meridian City Hall site. It was exciting to see the proposals brought forward to revitalize our downtown that incorporated residential, services and retail components. In my opinion, the development selected will kick start the revitalization of our downtown, and plans are beginning to move forward on other areas of the downtown core for development. I am optimistic that Meridian’s downtown will become an area of pride for our community.

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

Brad Hoaglun: It was a privilege to serve on the Meridian City Council in the past, and I would be honored to serve once again. This is the community I grew up in, raised my family, and have family that lives here. Like every other candidate running for council or for mayor, we all have a vision for this community, and it centers around making Meridian better. We may disagree on the particulars of some of the plans, but I don’t doubt the sincerity of anyone running or currently serving. At the local level, we are engaged in the community, know the same people, and want our community to thrive. We ought to be able to disagree without being disagreeable, and approach all people with respect, even if we disagree. The mandate to “love your neighbor” sounds great, but is often difficult to apply. At the end of each controversy, I want to make sure people knew that they were heard, even if the decision did not go the way they wanted.

Describe Meridian in one emoji.

Brad Hoaglun: 👍

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