Ada County Highway District President Rebecca Arnold announced on the last day to file that she was challenging four-term Boise mayor Dave Bieter for the 2020 election. She also run for lieutenant governor last year and as a Fourth District judge in 2014.
Arnold argues that it is time for a mayor who can take a fresh look at Boise’s challenges, reducing the cost of government.
We sat down with Arnold to learn more about her campaign and what it could mean for business.
What led you to decide to run for mayor?
I am very concerned about the direction that the city has taken and the change of focus that the city has taken. I want to change the way we’re doing business in Boise. People are feeling shut out of the process. They’re feeling unheard; there’s a lack of transparency at City Hall. We have projects that seem to be fairly far down the road before the public has any idea they’re happening. The library project is a perfect example of that.
I want to change the way we’re doing business. I want to take meetings out to the public. There’s no reason we can’t have workshops, open houses and even city council meetings outside of downtown Boise, where it’s more convenient for citizens to participate. I think it’s important to involve our citizens early in the process with proposals and get their input early and often.
I’m also concerned that the current focus seems to be on chasing the next top 10 list and these grandiose projects instead of on making sure all our citizens, including those who are recently annexed, have services, such as fire stations. The city identified the need for a fire station in northwest Boise several years ago, and yet it remains unbuilt. The response times there are far too long, so we don’t have adequate coverage for our citizens and there’s no reason why it couldn’t have been built already, if we had the proper focus.
We have to ensure that we are spending taxpayer dollars wisely and appropriately for our citizens. Property taxes are much too high and spending is out of control. The only true way to reduce property taxes is to control and reduce spending. When you have a $50 million slush fund for a new library, that tells me that our citizens are being overtaxed and other needs are being ignored. Some of those funds could have and should have been used to build a new fire station in northwest Boise.
I want to ensure that our priorities are taking care of our citizens first.
What led you to run now rather than wait for an open seat?
The concern that these big vanity projects were going to go forward whether the citizens wanted them or not. And the time is now to put the brakes on those projects and focus on basic needs.
How’s it working out for you?
Response has been great from the citizens. People are very concerned that their tax dollars be used wisely; they’re very anxious to have somebody who’s fiscally responsible and conservative spending their dollars. They also seem to be receptive to having someone who is willing to remember that we’re here to serve the public and listen to the public and provide them with the services they want and need based on their own input.
What will be your priorities?
Reducing the property tax burden and reining in overspending. I intend to scrutinize the budget and identity and eliminate unnecessary expenses, positions and vanity projects. I want to reevaluate the downtown library project to determine if a remodel would be appropriate or, if not, hire a local architect who understands our community values and the needs of our community to design a project that doesn’t displace the Log Cabin Literary Center and doesn’t have a negative impact on the Anne Frank Memorial. Those are two important landmarks in downtown Boise, and they need to be preserved and enhanced rather than shoved out of the way.
I want to return the focus to basic services and put a halt to vanity projects such as the grandiose Taj Mahal library, the stadium that we don’t need to try to shoehorn into downtown Boise and the rail streetcar circulator that just won’t die. I want to restore transparency and the public’s faith in the governmental process by involving the public at the beginning of any proposal and frequently throughout the process in open meetings. I want to work with private industry to find solutions to affordable housing issues, and I want to improve the city’s relationship with ACHD, the Legislature, the [Idaho Transportation Department] and other jurisdictions to move forward in a positive direction.
What’s your plan for business?
I think private industry has to take the lead in affordable housing. So we have to make it easier for developments to move forward. We have to streamline the process, streamline the building permit process and have a more business-friendly environment. We can also use tax incentives for affordable housing so long as there is a mechanism in place to make sure that the housing is actually affordable once it’s built. The city tried that with a project downtown, but they forgot the enforcement piece.
How would you fund your plans?
I would fund them through cost savings by identifying wasteful spending in the current budget, eliminating that and shifting those funds. I’m a practicing attorney, a former CPA. I have a master’s in business administration and success in the business world, so I understand how to put a budget together and how to take a budget apart to eliminate wasteful spending and make sure tax dollars are being used appropriately without breaking the taxpayers’ wallets.