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Join Us for an Informative Town Hall

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By Mayor Tammy

I always look forward to connecting with the community. That’s why Town Hall meetings top the list of activities I enjoy as Mayor. These quarterly meetings give me a chance to update citizens and connect face-to-face.

Ambrose School is hosting our next Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday, April 27. You are invited to join us as we discuss a variety of topics.

Our Police Department will be on hand to talk about crime prevention, including door-to-door solicitors. They will also have “Summer Safety” tips for your home and neighborhood as we head into the season.

We will also hear an update on North Meridian Developments from our Community Development Department.  In fact, when it comes to that area, I’ve received quite a few questions about the land at Linder and Chinden. As I write this, no applications have been filed with the City by any business, so I know just as much as you do. That being said, if there are any updates on this project, and any others, we will be sure to share those with you at the Town Hall.

Are you concerned with traffic on Chinden (aka State Highway 20/26)?! Our Highway 20/26 Task Force is off and running. The Town Hall meeting will be a great opportunity for us to discuss our goals and let you know how you can get involved!  I established the Task Force in an effort to bring needed transportation improvements to Highway 20/26 (Chinden Blvd). The goals for that corridor include; reducing congestion, improving safety and creating economic opportunity. The Task Force is focused on engaging community members, legislators and the Idaho Transportation Board to prioritize funding for additional travel lanes and widening intersections along this key east-west corridor. We believe that by investing in 20/26, ITD can relive the bottleneck in this area, make a connection to the Highway 16 extension that makes sense, and solve a problem that frustrates businesses and commuters alike. 

And finally, as you may or may not have seen, we are hoping to come to the table with Ada County Commissioners to find a fair solution to courthouse funding that does not involve the residents of our community paying twice for courts. I will discuss this issue in further detail and answer your questions at the Town Hall meeting.

Transparency is a big goal of ours, so we aim to make it as easy as possible for our community to engage. That’s why we will be live streaming the Town Hall meeting and a recording of the meeting will be posted to our website. You can find this information at www.meridiancity.org.

I look forward to seeing you on Wednesday, from 6:30pm – 8pm at Ambrose School! As you can see, we have a lot to discuss!

I Serve Meridian Citizens and We Shouldn’t Have to Pay Twice

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During my State of the City, and recently in our quarterly newsletter insert in the City of Meridian Utility Bills, I brought to the attention of our citizens, a 22-year-old court order that could potentially have an unfair impact on them and residents of Garden City. Meridian and Garden City are being held to a 1994 court order to build a courtroom in each of our cities. As you might imagine, there are a number of events that have transpired over the 22 years since this order was created. Many questions arise as a result as well - such as why wasn't it addressed then? Did the 1996 vote to consolidate courtroom facilities and the resulting 2002 opening of the Ada County Courthouse not satisfy the need? Since the Ada County residents paid for one building, why is the County coming back and asking our Meridian and Garden City citizens to pay for another building again? Is there a need that our two cities specifically are being directed to fix by adding additional court facilities?

The short answer is no. The resurfacing of the 1994 court order by the County is not about needing additional court facilities, it is about money. Let me explain.

The 1994 Court order wasn’t brought up as an unresolved issue during the 1996 vote to consolidate courtroom facilities. It wasn’t brought to anyone’s attention during the 2000 ground breaking or the 2002 opening of the consolidated Ada County Courthouse in Boise - to serve all of Ada Country. It wasn’t brought up when we, as Mayor and Council, asked the County if they wanted to consider a courtroom in City Hall during our planning phase in 2004. Interestingly, the Commissioners reasoning for not wanting a courtroom in Meridian at that time was to keep all courthouse activities in one place. This made sense both logistically and remained true to the voters’ decision in '96 to centralize courtrooms. There was no mention of the 1994 order until 2010 when Meridian and Garden City were sent a bill for using the courtrooms in the Ada County courthouse. Yes, a bill to use the Ada County Courthouse that ALL Ada County residents paid to build and pay to maintain. Were we surprised? Yes! We were even more surprised when the Ada County Commissioners sued our two cities for money for using the Courthouse and require a courthouse be built.

So the dialogue began. We knew the county couldn't charge us for facilities that are not located in our city, but we struggled with a number of questions. We sought to understand. 

First question - what was the problem we were trying to fix with this old order? The County told us they were 'just enforcing a court order' from 1994....in 2010? Their reasoning to bill us, and then to sue us: We hadn't built a courtroom so we should pay [to use the one our citizens helped pay to build]. We asked, with all that had transpired since 1994, didn't that change the validity and need of this order? The '96 vote of the people, the opening of the courthouse in 2002, the request from Meridian to have a courtroom in 2004? 

Second question - does the county want to decentralize the courts against the decision of the voters in 1996? Would this be in the best interest of the taxpayers? We have yet to talk to a county official or judge who believes it would be in the best interest of the citizens to decentralize. The county’s answer was that the '94 court order said we needed to build one.

Third question - is there a need for two more facilities? Is the Ada County Courthouse not sufficient for courtroom needs? What is the problem we are trying to solve? Even today, if you walk down the hall at the Courthouse at any given day between 3pm and 5pm, there will always be at least one if not more, completely empty courtroom, and Ada County has placed other, non-court related, operation services at the Courthouse – so court space is not an issue in the present day.

Fourth question - Meridian and Garden City asked if the courts weren't paying for themselves. Our belief was the taxpayers were already paying their share but court fees hadn't changed since the 1970s. We offered to join the county in proposing legislation that out-of-date court fees be brought up-to-date. Meridian and Garden City began work on this. We talked with our legislative officials and received the support of the Association of Idaho Cities on this legislation. Ada County was not at the table however, and the effort couldn't move forward without the county support. The cities also offered to undergo steps for the transfer of court fees that cities can receive if there is a courtroom in their city; because the fee currently goes to the state. Our offer was to petition that it be assigned to the county and that was put on hold.

I, personally, have not been opposed to supplying a courtroom - as demonstrated by our request in 2004. I have felt we could offer our citizens greater access to services they might need. However, I learned this comes at a huge cost to our taxpayers. The cost of decentralizing our courts has ripple effects and inefficiencies to our judges and the County Clerk's Office. Depending on what, ultimately, the courts decide and if we need to provide courtroom space, it could also potentially impact the County Prosecutor, the Public Defender, and the Sheriff's Office. Bottom line, this makes no 'cost' sense and would be very inefficient.

Meridian's population is 20% of Ada County's total number of residents but only 17% of the caseload volume. Of Meridian's caseload volume, however, just short of 60% of the cases are NOT Meridian residents. Meridian's court load would require use of a courtroom for 1-2 days a week. Does this justify building a courtroom? We don't think so. Courtroom facilities were addressed two decades ago and fulfilled in 2002 with one centralized location. 

This isn’t about numbers. This is about money and it’s not right to ask just a few targeted communities to pay more when this is a countywide issue. We are all taxpayers to the county, regardless of what city or unincorporated area we live in and those taxes should fund our court facilities. My job is to represent Meridian and serve the taxpayers in the City; I take this very seriously. We shouldn’t have to pay twice, and certainly no more than any other Ada County citizen. This belief is shared by our City Council and by elected officials of all the cities in Ada County.  

We had hoped the County Commissioners would agree that the 1994 order - and all the events that have happened since - doesn't make sense 22 years later. We have asked the Ada County Commissioners to stand with us to ask the courts to revoke this old order. We have suggested that if the courts and the county believe that there is a current issue - today, in 2016 - that a new order be issued.  We can then begin the process the Supreme Court required and hold a public discussion on whether a facility or facilities are needed and how it should move forward.

 

We work with the county on a number of important and critical issues. We have sought to come to the table multiple times, most recently on KTVB’s Viewpoint, but the County Commissioners have refused. We need to discuss what makes sense today. We are elected to lead. We should also be expected to come to the table and publicly have a conversation about how we, as two cities and one county can move forward. Can we do that? I am willing.

County Commissioners Contact: bocc1@adaweb.net or 208-287-7000

Do The Right on April 8

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By Mayor Tammy

On Friday, April 8, you’re invited to join us for Do The Right Day! Last year the City of Meridian, with the help of many partners, launched Do The Right – one day to start a movement of compassion by encouraging residents to do something kind for the person to their right - neighbors, family members, coworkers, or classmates. With bullying and other negativity so prevalent in today’s culture, we began a mission to encourage people to put a smile on the face of someone else with a nice note, comment, gift, or act of service.  The success of the inaugural event was amazing with an overwhelming response from the community.  We distributed 7,500 #DoTheRight stickers and social media was packed with pictures from all over Meridian – even reaching other communities in the state and as far away as Texas!

The City was moved to do something to spur a movement of compassion and kindness after discussing bullying and teen suicide with our Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council.  It is something that definitely affects teens in our community and adults as well. That’s why we wanted to make this an annual event for our city, because you never know how one act of kindness can change someone’s life. We live in a giving and compassionate community and we want to keep it that way. This world is full of criticism and negativity and it’s time to focus on the positive!

This year’s Do The Right Day will be even bigger! We have so many community members on board to ensure it is a success. The West Ada School District is getting schools involved. The District plans to distribute 'post it' notes, so students can write kind messages to one another. I will also read a proclamation at Mountain View High School, proclaiming April 8, Do The Right Day in Meridian.

Ben’s Bells, also known as 'Be Kind Idaho' will be spreading the word at the Village at Meridian. Kathy Chambers with State Farm has stepped in with a gracious donation to help us purchase special #DoTheRight stickers, Dutch Bros. will be handing out those stickers at locations across the community, and The Village at Meridian will have sidewalk chalk for kind messages and a surprise event just after 6pm for families.

It has been heartwarming to see so many jump on board again this year to make this day of compassion happen – it’s obvious our citizens are eager to make being kind, a priority.

I’m looking forward to participating in Do The Right and I am hopeful that all of you will join me!  You can take part by doing an act of kindness for the person to your right – it may be a cup of coffee for your coworker, a nice note for your classmate or even offering a helping hand to your neighbor - just let them know they matter.

For more information about the event, visit our website,www.meridiancity.org.  Thanks for being a part of this movement and please share your experience on Friday, April 8, on social media with the hashtag #DoTheRight. Let this be the first day, and every day thereafter, of kindness to others!

Medical School in Meridian is a WIN All Around

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By Mayor Tammy

The City of Meridian and the Idaho State University (ISU) Meridian campus are focused on expanding the health science and technology corridor, The CORE, as well as bringing family wage jobs closer to where people live. The announcement of Idaho’s first medical school, the proposed Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine (ICOM), is one that meets these goals and would be a huge addition for our community and the State of Idaho. This development is proof that investments made at ISU in Meridian have been critical in creating more employment, as well as research and grant opportunities. ISU’s new Anatomy and Physiology Lab and BioSkills Learning Center was a great draw to this new College and will be a tremendous compliment to their mission.  

ICOM is expected to have an approximate $79.5 million economic impact during the development period with approximately 350 new jobs created as a result of the construction and planning. Once opened, ICOM is expected to employ 90 full-time employees with an average wage of more than $88,000 annually. The state revenue to be generated by the college is projected at $18.4 million.

The proposed ICOM at Idaho State University will bring a long desired medical education college to Idaho. The school would be a freestanding, privately funded, separately licensed and independently operated entity located on the ISU Health Science Center campus in Meridian. This means taxpayers won’t fund the building or ongoing operations for the state’s first medical program. It also means medical students can collaborate with and share amenities at ISU. 

I was excited that ICOM announced that it will give Idaho students preference if they meet academic requirements! There are many great and academically talented young people in Idaho who want to be physicians. It is incredibly competitive for Idahoans to get into medical school. Unfortunately, many of the folks who do get accepted into medical school have to leave Idaho. For example, there are currently 171 Idaho residents that had to leave the state to attend osteopathic medical schools elsewhere.

ICOM also aims to keep tuition less than the national median for private osteopathic medical schools - creating an affordable medical education option in Idaho. In addition, ICOM was able to utilize Idaho’s Tax Reimbursement Incentive, which qualifies them for $3.85 million over ten years. Most importantly, they plan to invest 100 percent of this reimbursement directly back into our students through scholarships. By having ICOM here in Meridian and Idaho, we hope to keep a larger number of graduates in our state. This is truly a public-private collaboration that benefits everyone – in particular, our children!  It’s wonderful to know that our students dreaming of a future in medicine, can now realize that dream right here at home.  

The Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine is a ‘trifecta’. It creates high-paying jobs; it implements smart public-private partnerships that benefit our community; and it helps to address the dire need in Idaho and the Intermountain West for physicians, particularly in rural areas. I’m very proud to support this endeavor for Meridian, for our region, and for Idaho.

Meridian Teens Make Difference at the State Level

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 By Mayor Tammy

 

It’s no secret that the youth of our community hold a special place in my heart. We are always looking for more ways to engage our younger generation, especially when it comes to the process of government. That’s why I was beaming with pride as students from our Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council (MYAC) stood before the State Senate Transportation Committee this month to present a bill on seatbelt requirements for youth that they have spent the past few years putting together.

 

Automobile accidents are commonly cited as the number one killer of teens in Idaho which is why this topic has become a focus of MYAC. They have lost peers like Meridian teenagers Bobby Rogers and Tiffany Walters, who were killed in a car crash on Table Rock in Boise and were not wearing seatbelts. Through extensive research, members of MYAC have found that seatbelts reduce serious crash-related injuries and deaths by half. Wearing your seat belt is the law; however, enforcement of this law is secondary. This means you can’t be pulled over for only the reason of not wearing a seatbelt. Our MYAC leaders and other teens across the state believe their peers need greater accountability when it comes to wearing seatbelts, through a primary enforcement law.

 

They also firmly believe that when you first start driving this is when your habits are formed; if we can encourage new drivers to use their seat belts now, then they are likely to continue to do so later.  In addition, on average, states that switch to primary seatbelt enforcement laws experience an increase in belt use of about 10 percent and a savings of approximately $11 million.

 

For the last three years MYAC has led seatbelt advocacy campaigns and education programs to raise awareness for seatbelt usage and the benefits of wearing seatbelts throughout Idaho. Currently MYAC has helped increase support of this cause with numerous agencies including: St. Luke’s; Buckle Up For Bobby; Idaho State Police; Meridian, Boise, Nampa, Caldwell, Middleton, Glenn’s Ferry, and countless other youth organizations as well as individuals throughout the state.  

 

This year Senator Chuck Winder stepped up in support of MYAC to sponsor the bill, S 1312, which would be a three year pilot program, moving seatbelt enforcement laws from secondary to primary status for persons under the age of 18. The first year of the program would be focused on education efforts.  Years two and three would result in an infraction for persons 17 and under if they are not wearing their seatbelt.  This approach is similar to what is required for wearing helmets on motorcycles, as those 17 and under are required to wear helmets in Idaho.

 

The Senate Transportation Committee listened to the testimony and approved it, so it is now awaiting action by the full Senate.  I believe this bill is the right thing for our youth and our State. Regardless of what action takes place in the Senate or the House this session, MYAC continues to impress and make a difference in this community and across the state.  If you believe in what they are doing and you want to make a difference, I encourage you to pick up the phone, write an email, or fax in a letter to your legislators so they know you support this common sense approach to keeping our kids safe.             

Go Red This Week!

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 By Mayor Tammy

 Heart disease and stroke cause one in three deaths among women each year, killing approximately one woman every 80 seconds.  Fortunately, we can change these statistics, because 80 percent of cardiac and stroke events could be prevented with education and action.  

That’s why for the second year the City of Meridian will participate in Go Red for Women Week, Feb. 1st – 5th. On Monday, the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council (MYAC) will be at Dutch Bros on Linder and Franklin Roads, participating in Hands-Only CPR training. Last year the group trained over one thousand people in one day – the most for any site in the Treasure Valley during Community CPR Day.

On Friday, we’re encouraging all City employees to wear red as part of National Wear Red Day and we will be promoting the Heart Walk in May. The City will once again be participating this year, with a goal to raise $3,750. I’m hopeful we can achieve this. I challenge you to bring this to your business or employer and participate in the Heart Walk too!  

Encouraging heart health through education and activities is important to us year round. Here are other ways we are working to be part of the change we want to see:

Our MYAC has helped organize the Red Out event at Red Robin which encourages healthy menu options and Dance Your Heart Out which is a dance competition and education event hosted by MYAC. Combined, both events raised over $2,000 for the American Heart Association.  MYAC has also partnered with the AHA/ASA and youth lobbyers for Youth Lobby Day and were able to secure the passage of Hands-Only CPR as a graduation requirement.  

 In addition, I regularly participate in Walk to School Day and in 2015 launched Mayor Tammy’s Walking Club to encourage healthy and active habits for our younger generation. Twelve elementary schools participated and 6,900 students walked a combined 83,161 miles. It was a huge success and something I definitely look forward to again this spring! 

 I hope you’ll join me in celebrating Go Red for Women Week – you don’t have to be a woman to participate! I encourage you to extend your support and activities beyond the Go Red week! Who knows whose life will be saved because of your involvement? It might even be yours. I hope to see you at one of our events encouraging heart health or education!

In 2015, Mayor Tammy was recognized for her work in promoting heart health and education. The American Heart and Stroke Associations named her Youth Advocate of the Year.

You’re Invited to my State of the City Address

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 It’s that time of year again – I’m busy preparing for my annual State of the City address.

The theme for this year is Building Meridian Together because it takes everyone working with one another to build a strong community. And it is a strong one; recognized nationally as the number one place to live in America! I’ve known this all along and now the nation does too; however, we should never stop trying to be even better.

In 2015, we added more events, amenities and infrastructure to our City. We started a movement of compassion with our “Do The Right” campaign and held a preview event for a Youth Farmers Market. We also added amenities like the Storey Bark Park and the Public Safety Training Center; and 2015 marked the end of construction on the Meridian Interchange – something this community was eager to see completed!

That’s just a sampling of highlights from 2015; I’ll discuss much more in my address.  I will also be talking about what’s to come in 2016 - from working on our strategic plan to some of the challenges we will be addressing in transportation, schools, and more.

 I invite you to join me at this year’s State of the City address to celebrate our accomplishments and find out where our City is headed this year. The event is Wednesday, February 3 at 3:59pm at Meridian Middle School. It is free to attend the address and $10 for the Taste of Meridian, a reception following my speech.  

This year the Taste of Meridian will feature the following local restaurants; Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, Grant’s Neighborhood Grill, Lucky Fins, Noodles & Company, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Papa John’s, Sa-Wad-Dee, The Counter, and one of our newer establishments, Wingstop.  

I look forward to seeing you at the State of the City address and Taste of Meridian! 

To learn more or to purchase tickets, visit meridiancity.org/soc2016.