During my six years as an Ada County Commissioner, my colleagues and I compiled a number of achievements on behalf of our 400,000-plus constituents. For example, we:
• Left $81 million (yes, EIGHTY-ONE MILLION DOLLARS!) in county property taxpayers’ pockets. That is the cumulative effect of not taking the allowable three percent property tax increase each year during my second term, and leaving the foregone (uncollected) taxes in the pockets of taxpayers, to whom those dollars belong. Unfortunately, since I left office in January of 2013, this savings to taxpayers has been deliberately and rapidly eroded. During my four-year term, the tax portion of the Ada County budget increased a grand total of 3.66 percent, just enough to account for new construction. In just the three short years since I have been off the Board, the tax portion of the Ada County budget has increased a whopping 23.66 percent!
• Accepted the Idaho Business Review’s Health Care Heroes Award as a “Health Care Innovator” in 2011, on behalf of all of the Community Health Screening partnership’s participants. I had proposed engaging ISU health science students to provide medical care to people in the community who were uninsured or otherwise unable to afford medical care. The county partnered with Idaho State University – Meridian and several other public and private sector organizations, who brought the idea to fruition. These health screenings save money for taxpayers, ISU health sciences students gain hands-on experience, and valuable Emergency Room space at local hospitals is preserved for true emergencies.
• Brought the previously privatized, for-profit, Misdemeanor Probation program under the management of then-Sheriff Gary Raney and his professional law enforcement team.
• Provided ongoing funding for the Executive Director of the Family Advocacy Center. This more secure funding safeguards the county justice center’s ability to offer much-needed services to victims of physical abuse and violence, including rape, all in one location.
• Installed security cameras in jail classrooms. These cameras are monitored at all times by on-duty jail deputies. The need for cameras in the classrooms became apparent to me during one of our Board’s quarterly inspections of the Ada County jail, when I noticed a young female instructor alone in a classroom with several male inmates. At that time, outside supervision only occurred when someone walked down the hall and looked through the classroom windows.
• Supported the Hazard Mitigation Planning efforts in the county. I chaired the Hazard Mitigation Plan Committee, comprised of 21 local taxing districts (cities, school, fire, water, etc.) throughout the county. Thanks to a top-notch staff and outside consultant, coupled with diligent work by committee members, the mitigation plan document was approved its first time through FEMA’s review process. This document can now be used by local government agencies to apply for grant funding to implement hazard mitigation measures and ensure the community is prepared for disasters ranging from a major earthquake, to a blizzard, to a massive foothills fire.
• Reduced unincorporated Ada County’s trash costs by $750,000, by putting the trash hauling contract out to bid for a second time.
• Reduced Ada County courthouse parking rates to the first hour free and only $1 per hour after that. Previously, these rates were $2.50 an hour with just ten free minutes.
• Installed a traffic signal and crosswalk in front of the courthouse, in partnership with the Ada County Highway District and Idaho Transportation Department, in an effort to reduce the number of pedestrians “playing chicken” in the heavy traffic.
• Advocated holding down admission prices to the Western Idaho Fair and were generally successful. Families should at least have the opportunity to enjoy the fair experience – access to 4-H and FFA exhibits, animals, artwork, etc. without straining the family budget.
• Drew attention to the concerns of local residents and landowners in the Kuna area who were rightfully concerned about the proposed Gateway West Transmission Line project. My colleagues, Fred Tilman, Rick Yzaguirre and I hosted a Town Hall Meeting, in Kuna, regarding the project. Prior to that meeting, these concerns were largely being ignored by the Bureau of Land Management.
• Purchased foothills land known as the Red Hawk Estates subdivision in a foreclosure auction, for $240,000, which is a fraction of the property’s value. The subdivision was never built and the developer, who owed the county money, had gone bankrupt. It was my hope the county would auction off a few subdivision lots to recoup the purchase cost and the more than $10,000 still owed the county by the developer, while the rest of the property was preserved for open space and trails. This piece of property is a vital link from the Ridge-to-Rivers trails to those at Avimor and is of significant value to foothills recreation enthusiasts.
These are only a few of the positive accomplishments of the Board of Ada County Commissioners during my tenure in office. We worked well together to hold down property taxes, while still fulfilling all of our Constitutional and statutory responsibilities. Holding down taxes continues to be a worthy goal, along with ensuring the completion of the county’s new Dispatch Center and Jail Security System.
I am very proud of the work we accomplished over the years and would be honored to once again serve as an Ada County commissioner to represent the best interests of all of the residents of our amazing community.