by Mayor Tammy
As we usher in 2019, I want to take a moment to let you know that we are listening! I recently held a series of Listening Tours at my home. The goal of the tours is not only to meet new people, but to hear concerns and/or highlights about Meridian from different stakeholders representing different areas across Meridian. The 25 residents who participated, included local business owners, PTA/PTO presidents, neighborhood representatives, district chairs for political parties, and leaders of service groups.
I began each discussion by asking participants what they love about Meridian. Their answers were diverse, but the common theme was all about people – family, community, and activities that bring them together. The seasoned residents said they still love the small-town feel and touted that Meridian really is a perfect place to live. Those newer residents mentioned the cleanliness, friendliness and how our great parks were important to them.
When I asked those in attendance what issues they would like to discuss, their answers were in line with the results of the last City Survey: Roads/Traffic/Transportation, Education/Schools, and Growth/Development.
The feedback we heard, further illustrates how important it is that we continue to have a good working relationship with transportation agencies that oversee our city roads (Ada County Highway District - ACHD) and state highways that surround us on every side (Idaho Transportation Department - ITD). Several participants mentioned they would like to see additional expressways to move traffic south of Interstate-84 or a highway that would circle around the Treasure Valley. These discussions are important when I advocate for road improvements with the elected commissioners of ACHD and state elected representatives/senators as well as the ITD Board. It shows our citizens’ priorities that are top of mind.
The continued feedback I received in regards to education included concerns about overcrowding in classrooms and frustration over lack of state funding both for operations and new buildings. This reinforces the challenge we face as a community regarding facilities, and why I firmly believe the state legislature needs to find a funding solution, rather than placing the burden on property owners. I know those at the West Ada School District are looking at solutions and I will continue to work with them to try and find more appropriate ways to help the state take responsibility for funding our education system. Growth should pay its proportional share. Still, one thing remains consistent – our schools are fantastic despite these issues. Those at my Listening Tours agreed, saying students are getting a great education in our community and most say the school system was one of the reasons they chose to call Meridian home.
Growth and development was no doubt a topic we covered. The majority were concerned about the number of apartments being built in areas they feel are already dealing with traffic congestion and overcrowded schools. The discussion about density versus sprawl and greater loss of farm land was split and felt the public could benefit from more education on this. There was a consensus that many don’t know about or understand that growth impact fees are assessed for every area the state code allows cities to collect on - parks, police, fire, water, sewer, and roads - but it is collected on a building permit basis. Participants were also interested to learn what development pays for, not the taxpayers. They would like to see solutions to the problems before additional housing is developed. We did however hear from others who talked about the positive results of growth, as it has brought more clients to their business, as well as new retail and restaurant opportunities. Overall, the consensus was not to stop growth, but to manage it wisely and purposefully so everyone benefits from it - and I agree!
One thing I appreciated with the groups I spoke with is their understanding that citizen involvement is the key when it comes to working with the City and mapping out future growth. This is why keeping people engaged in our Comprehensive Planning process is so important. At times they even offered some great ideas for solutions!
I want to publicly thank those who took time out of their day to join me in these Listening Tour conversations. It’s so important to me that I meet with citizens and listen to their valuable input. It’s what makes Meridian one of the best places to live in the country!
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