Two-term incumbent Jim Hansen faces a challenger for his seat on the Ada County Highway District.
Kara Veit, a former ACHD employee and marketing professional, threw her hat in the ring to run against Hansen to represent the Boise Bench and the rest of the city south and east of downtown. Both candidates are hoping to increase public transit in Boise, but have different approaches for how to make it a reality.
Hansen, first elected to the commission in 2012, advocated for public transit infrastructure in recent years. He argued for ACHD to use more of its funding toward public transit, but there are varying interpretations of what Idaho state code allows the agency to fund.
The way Hansen reads the law says the agency should be able to have access to more funds for public transit, but this put him at odds with other members of the commission who say the agency legally is only allowed to spend the vast majority of its money on roads and sidewalks.
“I don’t know why they resisted that,” he said, about other commissioners. “It’s about moving people not about moving cars so people can move around freely in an urban area. We’re an urban area, we can’t pretend we’re not.”
Veit also wants public transportation funding, but she said Hansen’s repeated clashes with other commissioners, like Commissioner Rebecca Arnold, do not serve a productive purpose.
“(Hansen) has good ideas, but I just think he’s isolated himself and he’s been unable to build consensus and I think that’s been a roadblock on the commission and being able to get some of these community projects forwarded because of a personality conflict,” Veit said. “I think I have the ability to really talk to the commissioners and bring consensus.”
Veit said she would use her experience doing marketing and building consensus around public infrastructure projects on the commission. She worked as ACHD’s Business and Community Relations Manager for a little over a year, which entailed communicating with residents and businesses impacted by construction projects. Veit also did similar outreach work on public projects for private firm RBCI, which included Main Street Station in downtown Boise for Valley Regional Transit and several Idaho Transportation Department projects.
She was let go from her position with ACHD in Nov. 2017. Veit said it was due to a “personnel issue,” and not her performance. She would not comment further on the issue because “it would make the highway district look bad,” but Veit said she is now on good terms with the agency and they are “supportive” of her. A performance review from ACHD provided by Veit showed good marks.
ACHD spokeswoman Natalie Shaver would not comment on Veit’s employment with the agency because it is a personnel issue, but she said the agency does not endorse candidates.
Hansen served in the legislature as a Democrat for three terms from 1988 through 1994. After he left the legislature, he launched the progressive, multi-issue nonprofit United Vision for Idaho. He currently works as a coach for leaders of organizations “working to make the world a better place,” according to his LinkedIn page.
Both candidates would like to raise more revenue for projects, but from different places.
Hansen fully supported ACHD’s move this year to increase impact fees paid to the highway district by developers by 9% after years of keeping them at the same rate. However, he said the district should be going to the legislature to ask for changes in the statute to allow ACHD to spend the impact fees on different things and in more focused areas.
He said large downtown developers would prefer their impact fees be spent on transportation infrastructure or other improvements near their project in the urban core, instead of widening roads in the suburban fringe of southwest Boise.
“The problem isn’t in the amount, the problem lies in where those fees are being spent,” he said. “Most developers don’t care, but some of them really do because they want better infrastructure, especially those developing in the urban areas.”
Veit supports ACHD going to the voters asking for a vehicle fee increase to fund road projects. The agency went for a similar effort in November 2018, but it was turned down. She argues the first effort did not have a cohesive marketing campaign, which did not adequately explain the reason why heavy trucks would not be included in the fee increase if it was passed due to rules set by the state.
“(Voters) were like ‘yeah I’m for increases, but it excludes the vehicles who put the most stress on the pavement,” she said. “It turns out, and even I didn’t know this, that it was set by the legislature. That message was not communicated.”