Name: Michael V. Long
Occupation: Public Works infrastructure operator, City of Boise
Education: Bachelor of science in Social Science, Boise State
Prior political experience: None (unless you include spirited discussions with friends)
Civic involvement: Challenger Little League coach, church bus driver, Meridian Masonic Lodge
Years living in Meridian: 2
Family: Married, one child
1. What makes you a better choice for voters than your opponent(s)?
I am running a non-competitive campaign in which I dont compare myself to other candidates, don't solicit or accept donations and don't spend large sums on advertisements, mailings, signs or robo-calls. I am building relationships though personal interactions and social media activity to better understand the will of my friends and neighbors in Meridian and making a commitment to serve them in the capacity of City Councilman.
2. If elected, what are your top three priorities? How will you accomplish them? Please provide specifics.
1. Make sure the taxes and fees collected by the City of Meridian are managed prudently and spent only on services for which they were collected and only for things appropriate for the city. I will reject any proposal to spend on projects that dont have a direct relationship to services that the city should be providing and I will not approve lavish superfluities.
2. Make sure the people of Meridian have access to their city government regardless of their position or status in the community. I will make sure the smallest voice is taken seriously in discussions of city business. My intention, if elected, is to leave the door open and be available to the people of Meridian and to regularly report the content and context of every interaction I have in my duties as a councilman.
3. Work toward the controlled and intelligent development of Meridian within its current limits and discourage poor quality development in the name of increased revenues or status. I want to increase the minimum standards for building codes to ensure high quality development, decrease the maximum density of new developments to maintain the high quality of life we enjoy and allow for flexibility in the regulations to allow new construction, renovation and developers to integrate rapidly improving technology.
3. What is the one thing your city should start doing to encourage economic development and create jobs?
Meridian is already starting to market itself as the second largest city in Idaho and that is fine. I am encouraged to see the addition of some large retail developments as well as the commercial development filling in along the Pine Street corridor. I think that the current efforts at refreshing the downtown area and the growth in undeveloped areas within the city limits are going to position Meridian well for the future. In terms of future economies, I would like to encourage the growth of manufacturing durable goods by continuing to build infrastructure that can support the needs of industrial residents.
4. How do you envision your city 10 to 20 years from now? How should it change?
Meridian is going to be big geographically and demographically. For many years we have been a bedroom community where people working in Boise could find affordable housing and somewhat less traffic and noise. That is going to change as Meridian continues to grow to fill in the space between Eagle, Boise, Kuna and Nampa. We will be dealing with new challenges that come from a more broadly dispersed population and a less homogenous one. It will be important to remain vigilant against the creeping influence of the complexities of a more urban lifestyle that could quietly erode the small town personality that Meridian enjoys now. Public services will necessarily be expanded and with that will come a more burdensome bureaucracy that will not be as easily navigated as it is now. The effects of this growth can be mitigated however, if the people of Meridian insist that their citys governors control the pace of the development that is inevitable and demand higher quality building and infrastructure.
5. Are you concerned about public apathy and involvement in civic matters? How would you get more people involved?
I dont believe the public is apathetic or uninvolved. I believe the public is busier than it ever has been in the past and that peoples priorities dont necessarily revolve around being involved in the minutia of city government. The people of Meridian are working all day, raising their families and trying to maintain a quality of life that doesnt include going to every council meeting, every school board meeting or every community activity. They do value those things though. I think that the people of Meridian involve themselves in civic matters by electing people that they trust to make the best decisions possible for their city and when that doesnt happen, they respond by electing someone else at the next go-round. I would certainly like to see meetings on weekends, when people arent exhausted from a full day of life and I would like to see city offices open at more convenient times, times that do not require the people to take time from their jobs or families to visit.
6. Meridian is poised to become the city's second largest city. How do you embrace growth and expansion and still maintain your small-town, family-oriented values?
Meridian will need to be very careful about what it builds and how it builds it. Grossly over-dense development leads to problems Meridian hasnt had to deal with in the past. We have traditionally been an agricultural town and a quiet family oriented town and the current path of the city is going to change that drastically. We will soon have paved over the last farm and the large parks will soon be the only place without traffic and noise that children will be able to play. Meridian is at an important point in its development where it still has the opportunity to hold fast to its personality and quality of life. Quality development should always trump quantity regardless of the tax revenues or perceived prestige that come from growth. Public spaces and open areas that encourage humanity and discourage crime, pollution, anonymity and isolation should be kept intact. We have enough strip malls and giant retailers. We have enough mass-produced housing developments. We have enough pavement. We need to keep the neighbors and friends we love and we need to attract more people who share the values and lifestyle that have made Meridian what it is.
7. What are the top two issues facing Meridian, and how should they be addressed?
Meridian is experiencing an unsustainable rate of growth that has required significant investments in infrastructure and expansion of services that will need to be funded in perpetuity going forward. We are relying on continued growth and expansion to sustain the funding while at the same time increasing property taxes on existing residents. The reputation of Meridian as a small town with a quiet lifestyle and a low crime rate is being exploited to fuel the same growth that will destroy that reputation. The concerns of residents south of I-84 with representation and inclusion in city planning, the debacle of the new City Hall and the huge road construction projects that are being made in reaction to the incredible increases in traffic are the warning signs that Meridian will soon be no more special than any other overdeveloped city in the valley.
8. If tax revenues take an upswing in the next few years, which part of city government do you think most needs an infusion of cash, and why? If more budget tightening is needed, where would you look first for cuts? Why?
The most important future to consider is the pessimistic one where money becomes tight and services are threatened by a declining economy. It is most important for the city to remain solvent by filling its storehouses with resources when times are good that will be available when times are not good. The temptation to spend lavishly or to grow the government is one that can be the downfall of Meridian and its reputation. This does not mean that the city should be stingy with its resources or that it should marginalize its utility to the community but, the city government should not seek to expand or build for the sake of expanding and building, it should build what is needed when it is needed and make sure that its size and reach never become so great that a shift in the economic winds will cause it to waiver or falter.