by Mayor Tammy
Each year I invite groups of people into my home for my annual Listening Tour. It’s an opportunity to meet with residents and business owners, face-to-face in a quiet setting at my house. It allows me to host a discussion with those I either don’t know or don’t meet with regularly to get a pulse on the community from their perspective.
Throughout July, I held six Listening Tours grouped by region. This year’s Listening Tour fell on the heels of the City Survey results so we were able to follow up on some questions we had on the survey. Their responses, regarding what they love about Meridian and priorities they would like to see the City focus on in the near future, were very much in line with our survey results.
When it comes to what people love about Meridian, the responses were similar for each region. Residents have pride in our community and in their neighborhoods. They touted safety, parks and recreational activities, the family-friendly atmosphere, the City’s clean and wholesome environment, the centralized location in the Treasure Valley, and a small town feel – amongst our growth - as top things they love about our city. Many also said we are blessed to have great schools.
The challenges they shared that need an area-wide focus were almost entirely the same for each region. Transportation concerns landed at the top of the list. Most agreed that the congestion on roads due to our central location that creates not just Meridian traffic but the Valley’s, most noteworthy Chinden Boulevard (US 20/26), should be made a top priority. In South Meridian, Victory Road was specifically mentioned. Depending on the region, north/south corridors were also mentioned – many said they would like to see Locust Grove widened, as well as a Linder Road overpass to increase the connectivity for north/south traffic. Several recommended road construction operate 24/7 to complete work promptly. A lack of connecting sidewalks was mentioned as a top priority for safety concerns. There was a general acknowledgment that Meridian has a need for public transportation of some kind. When it comes to this aspect, we work closely with Valley Regional Transit (VRT) to address these issues. They were pleased to learn of the service for our seniors and disabled community an option through Harvest Transit – a program that is still fairly new and is growing in popularity! (www.harvestransit.com)
Another priority focus: Education. The groups mentioned they believe the teachers and staff are skilled but they are very concerned about overcrowding in the schools, especially the high schools.
Most expressed their affection of the wide-open fields surrounding Meridian, and are concerned that with the current growth rate, those will go away. Reserving space for open space or farmland was desired but no consensus on how. There was an agreement with those that had experience with Meridian’s Planning and Building Departments that staff members were easier to work with than surrounding cities, and overall all believed the City is transparent and communicates well with our citizens. This is feedback I enjoy hearing because I want our citizens to feel very informed!
The discussions regarding Downtown Meridian created excitement. Overall, the residents who attended our Listening Tour said they would like to see it be a unique destination, distinct from The Village at Meridian – which they had high praise! They would prefer to see mom and pop businesses, to include higher end and family-friendly restaurants and retail shops. Live music, more events, and open spaces that are kid and pet-friendly were desired. And, most believed it was important to make downtown a place where people can live, work and play.
I say it time and time again but it really is true: Your voice matters! My annual Listening Tour is among the most important projects we organize each year. Meeting face-to-face with residents and business owners and hearing about their experiences in Meridian, is invaluable and helps in guiding our priorities as we look to the future.
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