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The Growth Vote: Q&A with Meridian Council Seat 1 candidates

Boise Mayoral Election

The race for Meridian’s City Council Seat 1 includes four candidates. Michael Christianson, Donna Lusignan, Rudolf “Rudy” Patrick and Elizabeth “Liz” Strader all hope to convince voters their the top choice for the seat. Currently, Ty Palmer holds the post, but decided not to run for reelection.

Donna Lusignan did not respond to the survey despite multiple attempts to reach her at the email listed on her filing. Update: After this story was published, Christianson dropped out of the race. We are not removing his answers from the survey, however.

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 Meridian is headed?

Michael Christianson: Our growth is great and exciting but it has to be smart and calculated. Addressing the issues as they come up after the fact rather than doing serious strategic planning for future development seems to be an issue. We spend to much time build commercial and residential areas and then trying to fix the traffic issues they present.

Rudolf Patrick: Like it!

Elizabeth “Liz” Strader: Meridian is an amazing place to live and work, but right now we are feeling the pain of explosive growth. Meridian and the entire Treasure Valley are at a major crossroads. If we do not better coordinate our growth with our neighbors and implement thoughtful policies you can just imagine how things will be in 10 years. I want to help us build a bright future by: 1) continuing our tradition as a fiscally responsible full service city where our kids can grow up well, 2) Meridian becoming more of a destination for employers and job growth, 3) showing leadership within the region on transportation, impact areas, and sustainability, and 4) more focus on infill development and creating a destination downtown, better balancing greenfield development with our other priorities.

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

Michael Christianson: Infrastructure. unsustainable rapid growth. lack of strong business development and partnerships.

Rudolf Patrick: Balancing Grown with community.

Elizabeth “Liz” Strader: Our citizens need a stronger voice in local government with the amount of growth we are experiencing.

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

Michael Christianson: Working with ACHD to develop a better growth plan with regards to the traffic flows in and around the Meridian area.

Rudolf Patrick: Be part of a council that is responsive to its people.

Elizabeth “Liz” Strader: We need to plan our growth and then follow our plan. I want implement some “quick wins” on Smart Growth in the near-term: 1) complete the comprehensive plan… and stick to it unless there is a significant public benefit 2) the public and City Council need sufficient time to review complete development applications from when they are submitted to a public hearing 3) limit our area of impact to put essential services in place first and in coordination with our surrounding cities 4) we need to listen more… and find ways to come to people instead of expecting them to always come to us. I’d love to see town hall meetings where we go out from City Hall into our neighborhoods to hear directly from the residents. Longer-term priorities for me are expanding the mission of community development to include workforce development and solving the need for office space for premier employers downtown, the continued focus on green spaces, open spaces, and pathways as we grow, ensuring that impact fees for commercial development are keeping up with taxes on residents, and these and even more ideas for meridian are listed on my website: www.LizLovesIdaho.com/platform.

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?

Village at Meridian
The Village at Meridian. Photo: Don Day/BoiseDev file

Michael Christianson: Plan & develop smart ways to foster and enhance the quality of life for all our residents in the Treasure Valley. Dual and collaborative community events. Strong small business development. Youth programs are another way to foster growth between the different communities. I would like to establish more events and programs that focus on activities for kids as well as events for non profit organizations.

Rudolf Patrick: Foster communication with other municipalities and coordination of services if practical.

Elizabeth “Liz” Strader: I think that regional coordination needs to happen more frequently, currently each city is basically fighting for territory with its neighbors and we have a lot of pain points occurring at a county level – we need to change that dynamic. I am encouraged by the opportunity we will have with a new Ada County Commissioner and fresh leaders we might get after this election.

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

Michael Christianson: I have no knowledge of the current relationship with ACHD and the city of Meridian however at this stage its imperative that we work in unison with them to alleviate the growing issues as it relates to our traffic patterns and current road conditions. They need our support as well as Meridian needing theirs.

Rudolf Patrick: Meridian needs to make sure that their needs are adequately served by ACHD to meet demands of today and the future.

Elizabeth “Liz” Strader: I am concerned the focus in the past has been on moving people through Meridian, but not pro-active enough on our connecting roads to work. We still have a lot of areas where there aren’t safe pedestrian routes to schools and recreation, for example the new South Meridian YMCA routes from school is one issue I’ve mentioned specifically to our city planning staff. I also want to see us continue to use these amazing canals we have to create pathways.

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

Michael Christianson: Growth is necessary but it is imperative that its strategic, well thought out and pre-planned. Looking at areas and developing the infrastructure before its necessary are my key elements when it comes to our continued growth in the area.

Rudolf Patrick: Meridian needs to make sure that their needs are adequately served by ACHD to meet demands of today and the future.

Elizabeth “Liz” Strader: We need to make downtown Meridian the focus of mixed-use infill development, where it becomes a job center, a pedestrian-friendly retail environment with a strong sense of place, and a location for multifamily housing where we can actually coordinate regional transportation and an influx of new residents. I am concerned about sprawling development patterns that are not going to work for us in the long term.

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

Michael Christianson: Funding is always an issue. I believe there is great opportunity to work with new and existing businesses and to bring in new corporations to help alleviate some of our infrastructure issues. Developing a cooperative relationship with businesses in the area is important. Education is also important as we need to focus on not overcrowding our schools, taking care of our educators and students and provide a competitive learning environment that will help us improve our school system.

Rudolf Patrick: Trying to keep the excellent community flavor that we have will growing to meet the need of those coming. Budgets will have to be sustainable when growth slows and things change.

Elizabeth “Liz” Strader: The dynamics in our national economy that are sending people to Meridian and the Treasure Valley are not changing – we have folks in coastal areas that are priced out of their old housing markets, looking for a welcoming place. It takes courage to move, I think it’s important that we focus our energy on implementing thoughtful policies and not blame our new neighbors for moving here. I am also interested in exploring different approaches to help protect existing and older residents from tax increases.

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

Michael Christianson: We need to look at property tax assessments and other ways to fund projects and not just rely on the taxes of property owners. The current climb of property tax assessments is out of control and hurts the ability for hard working people to afford the opportunity to own a home. We need to look at ways to rebuild some of our crumbling neighborhoods and I believe this can be done with cooperative working relationships with large and small businesses. Lets look at ways to target some federal funding to help housing development and home ownership.

Rudolf Patrick: While cost of living here is high when compared to parts of rural Idaho, it remains pretty favorable when compared to other western cities of similar size. We need continued job growth to provide a means to earn that keeps pace with the costs.

Elizabeth “Liz” Strader: I think we need to encourage the development of multifamily housing in downtown Meridian to increase the supply of housing especially for folks that are looking for more affordable choices. I also think that besides the cost of housing, there is another side to the equation where we need to create and bring in family-wage jobs to Idaho and our city. The workforce development side of this, and becoming a destination for employers and small businesses is an area I’d like to see more focus.

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

Michael Christianson: I’m in favor of revitalization, everywhere, however not before addressing the major traffic flow concerns throughout the area and in many of our suburban neighborhoods.

Rudolf Patrick: It’s hard to lose the historic but continued renewal of downtown is essential to keep pace with the area’s other growth.

Elizabeth “Liz” Strader: I think the efforts so far have helped, and there are several exciting potential projects coming but we have a lot farther to go. I would like us to be very forward thinking and ambitious about putting resources into downtown.

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

Michael Christianson: Idaho has a unique, special way of life. I want to help preserve what we have and strengthen our core values. It’s what makes this area the best place to live and one of the fastest growing states in the U.S..

Rudolf Patrick: It’s hard to lose the historic but continued renewal of downtown is essential to keep pace with the area’s other growth.

Elizabeth “Liz” Strader: I am a first-time politician. All of the existing members of City Council and the Mayor have been incredibly helpful, hands-on about guiding newcomers, and are very genuine and caring people. One thing that is a little different about my campaign, is that I am not accepting financial contributions from individual real estate builders. That is a personal choice I’ve made for my campaign, I want to make sure I can be as independent as possible when deciding on land use issues for the future of our city.

Describe Meridian in one emoji.

Michael Christianson: 👍

Rudolf Patrick: 🏡

Elizabeth “Liz” Strader: ❤️

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