The following are my notes regarding some of the issues facing Ada County regarding transportation. These were discussed on the 18th of October at the Boise Chamber of Commerce Forum.
For the first time in nine years, the Commission voted to support increasing the property tax portion of the budget by 3% annually to fund projects. If elected, would you continue to support increased funding from property tax, why or why not? (1 min.)
First off, this is the 2nd time that the Commission took the 3% increase. In hindsight, it should have been done more often considering the inability we have to keep up with the growth. As long as we are so far behind the curve AND as long as the Legislature keeps tying our hands regarding funding sources AND so long as we continue to have burgeoning growth and unmet infrastructure mitigations, YES! Each such increase has raised the annual property tax by as little as $5 per home.
During the last 2 years I have been aggressively pursuing the illegally registered vehicles that should be registered here in Ada County and aren’t. There are at least 15,000 of them and have cost ACHD nearly $5,000,000 in unpaid and uncollected registration fees. Beginning this coming year, with the arrangement that I have made with ITD, we will collect nearly $500,000 per year more than we are now. How many other commissioners do you know who have gone out and increased revenues without increasing YOUR taxes?
ACHD’s Commuteride program provides alternatives to a commuter’s traditional commute by offering carpooling, vanpooling and encouraging other forms of smart transportation. What else can ACHD do to support alternative modes of transportation? (1 min.)
ACHD can continue to support the buildout of the State Street Corridor. Even though, according to an article I read last week, Boise is considered the 21st best place to bicycle in the USA we can do better in making the bicycle facilities safer. I think the closer folks live to downtown areas the better bike and transit facilities they should have. The further out they live the more we have to concentrate on congestion management, safe routes to school, economic development and other areas that impact the ability of folks to get from point A to point B. ACHD is fully behind the Rail with Trail corridor, something I brought to the attention of the Commission 2 years ago and the implementation of which would take many hundreds if not thousands of vehicles off the roads over time. Only the railroad stands in the way of this happening.
What are ways ACHD can better collaborate with the Idaho Transportation Department, COMPASS, Valley Regional Transit, and municipalities on projects impacting ACHD roads? (1 min.)
We can only hope that the “Great State of Ada” attitude disappears entirely from the ITD Board. We hope that ITD backs our opinion that the remaining GARVEE funds have only one home, the Highway 16 corridor. We can continue to collaborate on returning the illegally registered vehicles to the Ada County fold as it were. We collaborate really well with most municipalities. I love working with the cities of Meridian and Kuna to solve congestion problems along the Overland Rd Corridor. Both cities now consider this an important priority.
My attitude that municipalities should have more say in what happens on their roads has made a huge difference in the relationship ACHD has with the City of Boise and helps continue great relationships already in place. In case you don’t know what that is, I’ll clarify. If a project is legal, safe, is built at or above acceptable levels of construction quality and if no one is messing with the bid process then every city should have more of a say on what happens on their roads. The City of Boise will be the first to tell you that attitude has made a difference in their relationship with ACHD.
In light of the Cloverdale Bridge Overpass closure in 2018 and the flooding in 2017, what do you feel ACHD’s role should be in emergency situations? (1 min.)
ACHD is a model of responsiveness to emergency situations. Anyone not in agreement with that statement hasn’t been around here very long. During the flooding of 2017 ACHD was considered the Gold Standard in managing that emergency. I have been a member of the Ada County Emergency Management governing board for 2 years and have been incredibly proud of the measures taken by ACHD and Ada County in working through that emergency. Through almost immediate collaboration with ITD the Cloverdale corridor, including the bridge, will be open on June 17th next year with at least 2 lanes in operation.
One of the Chamber transportation priorities is to improve the one-mile arterial grid system. Do you feel like the improvements are happening fast enough to keep up with the growth in Ada County, why or why not? (1 min.)
No, they aren’t happening fast enough, this due primarily to fiscal constraints. Even if we had the money, all contractors are so busy we would have to schedule sometimes far out in the future. HOWEVER, the State Street corridor will be the experiment that, with proper partnerships, attitudes and collaboration, will be the “proof of concept” for that solution working well or poorly in this valley. I hope that you are all aware that the Commission is now working better together towards this goal as well.
Why do you want to serve on this Commission? (1 min. 30sec.)
Trust me, I don’t think of serving on the Commission as my life’s work or purpose. HOWEVER, since concerned citizens asked me if I had interest in this role and after reflection I thought yes, that I could contribute to the community by serving. I think there have been light years of progress made in the areas of collaboration, citizen outreach on projects, marketing Commuterride and our budget process, better accountability and usage of the small sums of money in our budget that, when added together as in the case of the Syringa Development mitigations, decided on and funded while I was President of the Commission, ACHD has done better than in years previous. During that time I oversaw some $6.5M dollars for those mitigations that would otherwise been spent elsewhere. No taxes were raised and no projects jeopardized, either. There is more to do. I wish to continue the education outreach that I began earlier this year to neighborhoods, elected and others concerning the limits of ACHD authority in LOS matters and expand it to matters of Land Use Planning. Too often there are still major questions as to who can do what in the approval processes and this is just plain crazy. It causes delays, upsets folks to the max, and is totally unnecessary.
I want to continue to involve ACHD in economic development. The move that Paul and I made to change 5th and 6th to 2 way traffic was a big driver in $130 MILLION in new projects coming to Boise. Even though the project has been shelved for now due to budget constraints, just having the foresight to allow that helped spur the confidence of investors coming to Boise. I want to continue that in all Ada County cities.
Even though Kuna is still in dire need of an overpass at the railroad, I am working hard together with the Economic Development Director of Kuna and the Dept of Commerce on to bring to reality an economic development zone, a light industrial area that won’t require an overpass to succeed. By this coming to reality the 6,000 motorists that head north to areas outside of Kuna for employment will diminish greatly and cause traffic congestion to also diminish without building new roads.
We cannot build our way out of congestion and into the kind of traffic we had 30 years ago. We can, however, if we work together, make it possible for folks to work, shop and recreate closer to home, thus reducing congestion measurably. That is a continuing goal I have as a Commissioner.
Thanks for this opportunity.