Meridian City Council candidates:
- Seat 1 - Michael Christianson (withdrew)
- Seat 1 - Donna Lusignan
- Seat 1 - Rudolf (Rudy) L. Patrick
- Seat 1 - Elizabeth "Liz" Strader
- Seat 3 - Brad Hoaglun (unopposed)
- Seat 5 - Denise Hanson-LaFever
- Seat 5 - Jeff Miller
- Seat 5 - Jessica Perreault
- Seat 5 - Joshua Valk
Seat 1 candidate: Liz Strader
- Age: 36
- Education: West Ada Schools, B.A. from the College of Idaho, Graduate Certificate in Commercial Real Estate at NYU.
- Website: LizLovesIdaho.com
- Bankruptcies or misdemeanor/felony convictions? No
Occupation and relevant work experience: I'm a Meridian mom and Idaho native, with over 12 years of experience as a businesswoman. My background includes working at the top of my field in commercial real estate and finance in New York, and that leadership experience is what I want to channel back to my community to help us get our growth managed better and help us realize our full potential.
Past political experience: I am a first-time politician, and I think that's a good thing. I'd like to bring some fresh energy to the job, but I've also been spending a lot of time meeting with our talented city staff and existing city council members so that this is a smooth transition if I am elected.
Endorsements: Meridian Firefighters Union, Genesis Milam (outgoing city council woman), Central Trades and Labor, Conservation Voters for Idaho.
Why are you running for this office? Our citizens need a stronger voice in local government with the amount of growth we are experiencing. I see a clear need to come and serve my community. I've had a very successful business career where I helped companies meet their goals in the commercial real estate and finance sectors, and now I want to channel that success and those skills into leadership for our community.
What are your top three priorities if elected? 1. Smart growth - we need to plan our growth and then follow our plan - that means sticking to our new comprehensive plan and avoiding "upzoning" properties unless there is a significant public benefit. Ensuring that we keep our other priorities as we grow and focusing on infill development downtown are important for avoiding sprawling development. 2. Long term sustainability - keeping our tradition as a full service but financially responsible city, where growth, impact fees, and development are expected to work for us in the long run. I also care a lot about preserving our open space and getting green space and pathways going while we grow, and when it makes sense to go with clean energy as a smart economic choice. 3. I would love to see more focus on creating family wage jobs here in Meridian and making Meridian a job center with solutions for more contiguous office space downtown and more focus on workforce development.
Why should voters select you over your opponents: I am interested in getting results to help us improve our growing pains and reach our potential – if you want someone who is results-oriented vote for me. I am not interested in general political statements and the empty promises that are typical for politics.
Do you approve of the way Meridian leaders have handled growth over the past 10 years? If so, please explain. If not, please explain what you would do differently as a city council member: I think it’s important to put their decision-making in context, because coming out of the Great Recession this growth was critical to our recovery. We should not stop growth, but some of the frustration with our growing pains is understandable. Going forward we need to be very pro-active on managing our development to maintain the level of service that our residents expect, keep our standards high, and collaborate with and support our county level departments where the real thorny challenges are (ACHD, West Ada schools).
Though Meridian doesn't manage roads or schools, how would issues of traffic congestion and school capacity influence your decision to approve or deny an annexation, rezone or comprehensive plan amendment? Citizens deserve advocates who will put pressure on our partners and legislators if we need changes and collaborate until we get better solutions. "It's not part of city council's job" isn't good enough for Meridian. If we plan our growth and follow our comprehensive plan, that will help with traffic and school planning. We also need to raise our standards for development during the implementation process, which will ensure that the projects happening are of high quality. Just to give one example - if we adjust our open space requirement for residential development, but keep it competitive with surrounding cities, it’s true that some projects that are marginally profitable will not happen.... But many high-quality projects that work for us in the long run will. I think the number one thing that our development community needs in terms of support from us, is consistency in decision making and a fair playing field - and they will do very well, with better outcomes for our community.
What is your stance on the city taking the allowable 3% property tax increase for the next budget year, and what aspects of Meridian’s budget would you prioritize? My thought process here is 1) big picture can we dig deeper to establish if new growth is truly paying for itself long-term? We need the county to do a lot of work on what it’s spending is going to look like because that’s where people will feel the pinch 2) specific to the city budget what areas of potential savings do we have, no different than any person’s personal budget, 3) are there things we are under-investing in and rainy day funds in case of a downturn? I support the city council’s move towards more of a priorities-based budgeting process. We are lucky that we have a very strong tax base, and a conservative philosophy to avoid debt keeps our levy rate low. I don’t intend to change that, I would like to keep this an efficient, full -service city. I am also not a fan of large projects for example stadiums, and giant libraries etc. that we may not have expertise in or can accomplish with more modest means (note our award-winning Meridian library system!), with the possible exception coming to mind of transit, because of the enormous public benefits down the line if it’s well-considered...
Does Meridian need more affordable housing options? What is the City Council's role in this issue, if any? I think it’s important that if we are building denser housing options they’re actually serving the mission of affordable and mixed income / middle income housing, and located in an area where we can manage them, closer to transit, for example in downtown Meridian or closer to the interstate. City Council has a role to approve development applications for affordable housing and encourage collaboration with the Idaho housing authority. One idea that I think is interesting would be to find a way to encourage mixed income housing using tax credits that can build apartments that cater to a variety of income levels in one location, not just low income but middle income as well.
Does Meridian need more public transit options? What is the City Council's role in this issue, if any? These transit options aren’t viable in a vacuum, I would like to see the Treasure Valley and VRT work together based on the projected population in our comprehensive plans in the next 10 years. All the options (new ACHD bypass, expansion of VRT (bus) and more expensive options like light rail (seems costly) and evaluating how new and emerging technologies might change the equation need to be on the table. I would be very excited to support the work being done by city council member Luke Cavener and to also join forces with Boise, our other neighbors and Ada County. We need to get aligned on what we want our transit to look like, and then I think we should make a specific collective request of our legislature. I’m in favor of increasing new modes of transportation, for it to work, it needs to be convenient and save peoples' time, and hopefully will have secondary benefits like making us more energy independent. At a minimum making the leap to improving our bus system with some express routes and ways to make it more convenient seems like a step we should explore locally.
Should the city put more resources toward services for homeless individuals and domestic violence victims? Why or why not? We do have vulnerable folks who need help in Meridian but I don’t think a homeless shelter is the best way to handle it. The reality is that our city is growing but still smaller without the same scope of challenges or the same resources Boise has. I think the better approach is to connect people with non-profit programs and services, to expand the supply of centrally located, more affordable lower and mixed-income housing, ideally by using tax credits from the Idaho Housing and Finance Association. Keeping people in permanent housing in the first place seems preferable to having folks on the streets or in temporary shelter.
Should the city put more resources toward services for homeless individuals and domestic violence victims? Why or why not: We have seen some intimate partner violence in Meridian, and in addition to highlighting nonprofit work I would be interested to work with the police department on recommendations. In the case of domestic violence, it is very much the opposite of what I wrote above, where keeping someone at home is not safe for obvious reasons. From what I read in the Idaho Press recently, in Meridian we do not have a domestic violence shelter and if that's the case City Council should gather our community leaders and help start one.
Seat 5 candidate: Jeffrey Miller
- Age: 48
- Education: Coeur d' Alene High, Idaho State University, University of Texas: B.B.A. concentration in Finance
- Website: Miller4meridian.com
- Bankruptcies or misdemeanor/felony convictions? No
Occupation and relevant work experience: I've dispensed hearing aids for over 15 years. I'm currently in the process of opening a hearing aid center. I've also owned a franchise where I asserted to gain knowledge from other stores ideas and turned around to implement the great ideas into my store. I started an advertising Co-op which I served as President and later as Treasurer. Upon initiating the Co-op for our region, sales increased dramatically for the franchises involved. I strongly believe utilizing what other cities do right can make Meridian an even better place to live.
Why are you running for this office? As a private citizen I'm gotten very discouraged in the direction the city is headed in certain respects. As I've said in my Facebook page, which you can follow @millerformeridian, our roads have become very congested. After talking to many of my fellow citizens this was almost a universal concern. I feel like someone has to step up, so I decided to, "be that someone" and to do something about it. Quite a few people in Meridian love the small town feeling. While this is important to maintain, our city is growing and will continue to grow due to its attractiveness, family friendly feel, excellent public schools, and superb parks. Growth for a city is a good thing as long as there's a healthy balance of its citizens needs in the process. The city is a wonderful place with many fantastic attributes, but we need to now focus on our roads.
What are your top three priorities if elected? My main priority is to influence policies that effect decisions made on our roads. Meridian has grown nicely but when it comes to our roads it's like a teenager wearing toddler clothing. It's time to upgrade and start planning ahead. The second issue is the increase in crime. I had the incredible opportunity to spend time with the Meridian Police Department for half a day. I have so much respect and admiration for the hard work they perform daily to protect and serve our beautiful city. I want to enable policies to increase the force and make sure they get the tools they need to protect and respond to citizens. The third priority is to infuse downtown Meridian with more community events and social gatherings akin to the Christmas parade and Community Block Party, to further foster relationships between businesses and our citizens.
Why should voters select you over your opponents? While I've researched my opponents, I've never met them. I'm looking forward to meeting them and hearing from them. There are a total of four candidates, of which none have ever been elected to a public office. A vote for me is a vote for Meridian's best interests.
Do you approve of the way Meridian leaders have handled growth over the past 10 years? If so, please explain. If not, please explain what you would do differently as a city council member: The leaders of Meridian have handled growth well. I have spoken with many citizens and the beauty and appreciation of our parks is a testament to decisions made by prior leadership. An area of opportunity is to correct the half hazard decisions that have been made on urban planning, specific to our road and infrastructure maintenance. Roads need to be widened to accommodate the increase in traffic. I've witnessed first-hand the effect zipper lanes have on our citizens. The left lanes become crowded, whereas the right lane has a car or two. When the light turns green the right has to merge over, yet the cars on the left rarely want to let them merge. If the car on the right pulls into the left lane, often you'll see dramatic responses on both ends: horns blaring, blazen weaving, brake slamming; behaviors that escalate to accidents. This is only going to get a lot worse as our population increases. As a member of City Council I will be mindful of the impact our decisions will have on traffic before items are voted on. I encourage people to like my Facebook page @millerformeridian.
Though Meridian doesn't manage roads or schools, how would issues of traffic congestion and school capacity influence your decision to approve or deny an annexation, rezone or comprehensive plan amendment? This is the number one reason why I'm running for City Council. Meridian is growing and will continue to grow. Growth is good! We need smart growth. If one of the above is called upon I would need information on that area of how schools and traffic would be affected. Every action has a reaction. If the current schools can't support the change then I would be hard pressed to support it.
What is your stance on the city taking the allowable 3% property tax increase for the next budget year, and what aspects of Meridian’s budget would you prioritize? I would try to avoid raising property tax as much as possible. Our city is growing and with growth comes added needs. I would have to sit down and go through the budget. Similar to when I ran my franchise, there are many expenses that need to be reviewed and assessed. In the franchise there were fixed costs: rent, COG, taxes, etc. The variable costs were flexible: advertising, employee wages, hours for employees, etc. We would advertise heavily right before Black Friday and add additional staff to support it. We chose not to advertise heavily during January as that was a very slow retail month. I would review and assess the budget in a similar manner for the city of Meridian.
Does Meridian need more affordable housing options? What is the City Council's role in this issue, if any? In some parts of the country our medium homes would be classified as affordable housing. Being a business owner I believe the market needs to dictate housing. Obviously if people are moving into an area you need more housing to be built to accommodate the growth. My role on City Council is to make sure when said housing gets approved the infrastructure will be able to support it.
Does Meridian need more public transit options? What is the City Council's role in this issue, if any? When I hear public transit I think of buses, trains, and light rails, etc. While it's a nice idea, we are a city of subdivisions. I don't see public transit working for Meridian, we don't currently have capacity on the roads for public buses. We have a lot of folks that love their trucks (like me)! Considering public transportation for Meridian brings to mind the Simpsons episode where the town folks were all excited for the new monorail. They fast- forward and only a few people are riding it and the city is in debt from its expense. Often times cities prioritize extravagant projects over solving the real problems. I don't support more public transit options for Meridian at this stage of growth. That being said, I would like to see if it's possible to set aside land for the future, should the need arise.
Should the city put more resources toward services for homeless individuals and domestic violence victims? Why or why not? I haven't been updated or exposed to the homeless situation in Meridian. I know some cities in this country have a huge problem with it. Some have failed miserably at servicing this population in their communities. I can think of several cities in California where tents line the streets. Cities like Columbus, OH is dealing with homelessness well, but you don't hear about that as much. As with my other answers, if it's a problem in Meridian then we need to find out what other cities have done to successfully manage it and follow their lead. We all have different experiences in life and sharing them is such a great and important thing to do. I would encourage you to like my Facebook page and share your thoughts @millerformeridian I also want to thank the Idaho Press in publishing these questions and letting the public get to know all the candidates.
Seat 5 candidate: Jessica Perreault
- Age: 41
- Education: Bachelor of Science in Political Science, Idaho State University
- Website: www.JessicaForMeridian.net
- Bankruptcies or misdemeanor/felony convictions? No
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Occupation and relevant work experience: I am currently an Associate Broker with Equity Northwest Real Estate in downtown Meridian. I have 16 years of local real estate experience in Private Lending and Asset Management, Long-Term Escrow, Title, and Residential Sales.
Political experience: I am currently the Chairperson of the Meridian Planning and Zoning Commission. In the past, I have interned in Washington DC for a Senate committee office and volunteered in local Senate offices and campaigns. I’m also a graduate of the Idaho Women in Leadership Public Service Program and have been a member of the Boise Regional Realtors Public Policy Committee for 5 years.
Endorsements: Boise Regional Realtors, Meridian Firefighters Local 4627, Building Contractors Association of Southwest Idaho, City Council President Joe Borton, City Council Members Treg Bernt and Genesis Milam, Former City Councilman Brad Hoaglun, CEO of Idaho Women in Leadership Debbie Field, Brighton Corp, Norm Brown w/ Mark Bottles RE, Schultz Consulting, Lisa Holland Economic Development Director for Kuna, Diane Bevan Director of the SBA Women’s Business Center, and Josh Evarts w/ The Vault.
Why are you running for this office? The first and most fundamental reason is that I love the Meridian community and continue to be impressed with the quality of character displayed in our residents. We are at a crossroads in Meridian and the Treasure Valley regarding growth, infrastructure, and transportation. We need experienced leaders now more than ever. I am currently the Chairperson of the Planning and Zoning Commission, an Associate Real Estate Broker and have a BS in Political Science, all of which give me the experience needed to guide Meridian into the future.
What are your top three priorities if elected?
1 – Meet with elected officials and staff from ACHD, ITD, West Ada School District, Fire, Police and the surrounding cities, as well as the Meridian Downtown Business Association, Meridian Chamber, BVEP and Compass to consistently and persistently increase our collaboration in problem-solving our valley-wide concerns. Many conversations, meetings, and conferences are already happening, but there is not yet a clear framework regarding what roles each of the departments and organizations can and will play.
2 – To pursue improvements to the public hearing process for land use applications. I have already been in conversation with current City Council members about ways to make concerns presented at neighborhood meetings accessible to the Council, about ways to increase public participation in the hearing process and communicate more clearly and directly with the public.
3 – I have a passion to see Meridian further develop its downtown core to create a vibrant place to work, live, and recreate. I have already met with many business owners and will be pursuing ways to bring downtown residential and commercial services closer together to improve livability and transportation.
Why should voters select you over your opponents? That’s a great question! I am the only candidate for Seat 5 who has served with the City. As a Planning and Zoning Commissioner, I am familiar with the City’s current opportunities and challenges regarding growth, transportation, and infrastructure, which means that I can hit the ground running as a City Council Member. I’m also a local business owner and understand the challenges of small business in a growing city.
Do you approve of the way Meridian leaders have handled growth over the past 10 years? If so, please explain. If not, please explain what you would do differently as a city council member: Yes and No. Growth decisions are tough for a city that has influence, but not control, over its roads and schools. The City has done an excellent job in giving Meridian its own unique identity, bringing in some amazing recreational and business opportunities, and trying to keep pace with residential demand and housing options. However, I believe I can play a role in improving the decision-making process by advocating for more details from ACHD, West Ada Schools, the police and fire departments to make better decisions on each individual development application. See more details below.
Though Meridian doesn't manage roads or schools, how would issues of traffic congestion and school capacity influence your decision to approve or deny an annexation, rezone or comprehensive plan amendment? Much of the information received from ACHD and the school district is general or outdated. Often times, traffic reports reviewed and approved by ACHD have 3-4 year old traffic counts. Given the pace of growth and development, I don’t believe we should be using data any more than 2 years old. The reports received from the school district are too general. It typically only includes student counts and not information about what the schools are doing with additional students above capacity, any plans to add temporary or permanent classroom space, or plans move students to another location. If the City can not acquire more specific information for each land use application, its only choice is to deny applications by private citizens regarding private property.
What is your stance on the city taking the allowable 3% property tax increase for the next budget year, and what aspects of Meridian’s budget would you prioritize? With our current pace of growth, I believe it is critical that the City take the additional tax increases where necessary. While this equally affects all residents, me included, it also will benefit all residents, allowing the city to keep pace with additional first responder services, safety concerns, code enforcement, and parks/pathways. Overall, the City decreased its budget this year by $10 million.
Does Meridian need more affordable housing options? What is the City Council's role in this issue, if any? Yes, we do need more affordable housing options. As a real estate broker, I am intimately aware of the lack of housing for all income levels. The City should continue to consider pursuing a variety of options; however, we need to take a closer look at the locations of the denser developments. The new Comprehensive plan will help address some of these concerns, but it will not solve the issues entirely. As mentioned above, I believe that more specific information from ACHD and West Ada School district will allow City Council to make better decisions about how dense developments positively or negatively affect our residents.
Does Meridian need more public transit options? What is the City Council's role in this issue, if any? Yes, the City does need more options, specifically from city to city. Currently, many of the options that the city funds are within the City itself rather than between the City and other communities, except for the budget line items for ACHD Commuterride and the VRT bus system. I have been in discussion with the current Council about how they have already pursued a variety of options to increase and improve public transit without yet funding a large-scale project like light rail. However, these proposals are subject to approval by Valley Regional Transit and ACHD as the administrators of public transit services.
Should the city put more resources toward services for homeless individuals and domestic violence victims? Why or why not? I believe the City should work in collaboration with the private organizations that are already familiar with the specific needs of the community and are daily serving homeless individuals and domestic violence victims. I would be in support of increasing City resources to these organizations, so long as there is an accountability structure in place for how City funds are managed.
Seat 5 candidate: Dr. Joshua Valk
- Age: 38
- DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY (PHD) (HIGHER EDUCATION ADMINISTRATION). University of Phoenix, Tempe, AZ – Degree Conferred May, 2017
- Dissertation Title: “Fulfilling Employer Needs by Incorporating Liberal Arts Content into Technical Program Curricula: A Case Study”
- Dissertation Committee: Shelly Kresyman, EdD (Chair); Lilia Santiague, PhD; Mark Johnson, EdD
- MASTER OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION (MBA). Texas A&M University – Commerce, Commerce, TX – Degree Conferred May, 2014
- MASTER OF SCIENCE (MSPSY) (PSYCHOLOGY). University of Phoenix, Tempe, AZ – Degree Conferred February, 2012
- BACHELOR OF SCIENCE (BS) (PSYCHOLOGY). University of Phoenix, Tempe, AZ – Degree Conferred August, 2010
- BACHELOR OF SCIENCE (BS) (MATHEMATICS). Indiana University – East, Richmond, IN – Anticipated Graduation Date June, 2021
- Chancellor’s List – Spring, 2018
- Chancellor’s List – Fall, 2017
- ASSOCIATE OF ARTS (AA) (HISTORY). College of Western Idaho, Boise, ID – Anticipated Graduation Date December, 2020
- ASSOCIATE OF ARTS (AA) (POLITICAL SCIENCE). College of Western Idaho, Boise, ID – Anticipated Graduation Date May, 2021
- DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY (PHD) (HIGHER EDUCATION ADMINISTRATION). University of Phoenix, Tempe, AZ – Degree Conferred May, 2017
- Website: Facebook: ValkForMeridian
- Bankruptcies or misdemeanor/felony convictions? No
Occupation and relevant work experience:
o Associate Dean of Business and General Education – Stevens-Henager College
o Adjunct Professor of Business and Psychology – College of Western Idaho
o Owner, President, and CEO – Select Academics
Past political experience: None
Why are you running for this office? I lived in Spring, TX when it grew at this rate. I worry that we are growing to fast. We need to make sure our police, fire, infrastructure, and education can support this growth and keep us safe.
What are your top three priorities if elected? Help build the police force; help build our fire departments; work with ACHD and West Ada for education and infrastructure collaborations.
Why should voters select you over your opponents? I am a political outsider without any stake in existing relationships. I am new with fresh prospectives, and I have seen the good and bad of growing cities in several states.
Do you approve of the way Meridian leaders have handled growth over the past 10 years? If so, please explain. If not, please explain what you would do differently as a city council member: Yes, but I think infrastructure should have been planned for 20 years in the future and not repeatedly redesigned.
Though Meridian doesn't manage roads or schools, how would issues of traffic congestion and school capacity influence your decision to approve or deny an annexation, rezone or comprehensive plan amendment? Traffic congestion and overcrowded schools are terrible for the city. We need smaller class sizes, less traffic, and streamlined services.
What is your stance on the city taking the allowable 3% property tax increase for the next budget year, and what aspects of Meridian’s budget would you prioritize? Only if we invest in police, fire, and infrastructure.
Does Meridian need more affordable housing options? What is the City Council's role in this issue, if any? No.
Does Meridian need more public transit options? What is the City Council's role in this issue, if any? No.
Should the city put more resources toward services for homeless individuals and domestic violence victims? Why or why not? Yes, and drug awareness programs. So we can save lives.
Editor's note: The Idaho Press invited candidates in contested races to complete a survey over email. We ran all of the responses we received.