Meridian City Council, seat 4: Russell Joki

October 6, 2013 

Name: Russell “Russ” Joki

Age: 68

Occupation: Hi, neighbor. I’m a retired educator with 45 years in K-12 and higher education. During those years, I taught and coached at the high school level, became a business manager and superintendent, then professor of educational leadership at the University of Idaho. I own a small business, Kiva Partners, a management consulting group. I stay involved with education as adjunct graduate faculty at Northwest Nazarene University.

Education: Hi, neighbor. I urge young people to go on and complete a degree or professional certificate. Education was the key to my successful career. I started with a community college degree, an Associate Degree from North Idaho College. I completed my Bachelor of Science from the University of Idaho with dual majors in English and history. In order to become a school administrator, I completed a Master of Education from Whitworth College and a Doctor of Education from the University of Idaho. I have completed public policy study at Harvard University, Columbia University, St. George’s Medical School and Oxford University, Oxford England.

Prior political experience: Hi, neighbor. My political experience has been both elected and appointed. I was elected to the City Council in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. I have participated in or provided leadership for politically appointed regional business roundtables, intergovernmental groups, Idaho governor advisory councils. I have presented at state and regional public policy conferences.

Civic involvement: Hi, neighbor. For the past two years, I have dedicated my volunteer time to working for increased funding for k-12 education and the elimination of fees being charged by local school districts. I am the plaintiff in the Joki v State lawsuit that calls for the Idaho Legislature to meet its Idaho Constitution duty to provide a uniform, thorough, and free public education system. To that end, I have presented at meetings, been interviewed by the media, and written about the importance of k-12 public education. I have volunteered in schools and supported PAL recreation programs.

Years living in Meridian: 11

Family: Wife, Kathleen, daughter and son.

Website: Enough Is Enough Idaho at http://enoughisenoughidaho.com

Social media accounts: Facebook

1. What makes you a better choice for voters than your opponent(s)?

Hi, neighbor. I believe I am a better choice for three reasons.

Experience: I have 45 years of leadership experience. I have been a business manager, superintendent and a city councilman. During those 45 years, I have overseen multi-million dollar budgets, and participated with numerous state, regional, and national leadership organizations. I understand how Meridian should work for its citizens and keep its focus on Meridian’s core values.

Vision: I support core values that have made Meridian a great place to live. My vision for Meridian focuses on “Quality of Life” values: 1) rural city atmosphere, 2) top-notch schools, 3) managed development, and 4) community recreation. I will make core values the focus of all city decisions.

New ideas: It’s time for new ideas at city hall. I will bring new thinking and proposals to council meetings at a time when Meridian is choosing growth over core values.

2. If elected, what are your top three priorities? How will you accomplish them? Please provide specifics.

Hi, neighbor. I have three core value priorities: 1) Leadership accountability, 2) managed growth, and 3) protecting school overcrowding.

Leadership Accountability: My 45 years in leadership will benefit Meridian. Our budget is $80 million. Police/fire consumes almost 70 percent and millions in legal fees for city hall. We value citizen involvement in seven other areas, but not in public safety. Specific example: I support a Public Safety Commission and smarter executive session decisions.

Managed Growth: The City Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 2002. It calls for developing another 27,000 acres, doubling Meridian’s population. We need to slow down growth. Specific example: I support revising the Comprehensive Plan and related city ordinances.

Protecting school overcrowding: This is one of Meridian’s core values. The city’s role is clearly stated in Meridian’s Comprehensive Plan, but not in our schools. Specific example: I support a close partnership with developers to manage growth and protect schools from overcrowding.

3. What is the one thing your city should start doing to encourage economic development and create jobs?

Hi, neighbor. The Meridian Development Corporation (MDC) is the key. MDC has vast legal authority to build streets, acquire land, invest and loan. MDC already has a successful list of economic development projects.

One thing MDC should do is expand its role through leadership outreach and engagement with all businesses. The “spirit” of MDC is not limited to “Destination Downtown”. The city needs to replicate and export the MDC concept throughout Meridian. I believe MDC has been the engine that encourages economic development and jobs and should self-evaluate how it can do more.

The MDC spirit could have a special incentive for youth — internships with public and private businesses/agencies that help build job readiness.

4. How do you envision your city 10 to 20 years from now? How should it change?

Hi, neighbor. The right question to ask is the second question — “How should it change?” It should be “managed change” slowly permitting development while protecting Meridian’s core values — 1) a rural city atmosphere, 2) top-notch schools, 3) managed development, and 4) community recreation.

In the next 10 to 20 years, I envision Meridian as a Quality of Life community that has retained its friendly, “Hi, Neighbor” character.

Specifically: Our schools would be top-notch, without crowding. Historic Downtown would be a vibrant center of small businesses and celebrations of Meridian’s rural story. Meridian Village will be a fully developed regional center destination. Our community parks will have increased with three new additions similar to Settlers/Heroes/Bear Creek, with one of them dedicated to Meridian’s agricultural heritage. New residential developments would include greenbelts linking them to other city pathways. Recreation would have grown to include more youth and adult indoor activities reflecting citizen interests.

5. Are you concerned about public apathy and involvement in civic matters? How would you get more people involved?

Hi, neighbor. This is a reason why I am a candidate. I believe in civic duty and couldn’t stay on the sideline as our city goes in the wrong direction — rapid growth that overcrowds our schools and compromises core values.

There are two basic approaches to engaging citizens.

Passive engagement could include interest surveys, voter registration, media hosted/covered city neighborhood forums — taking city government to the citizens instead of the isolation of city hall. Communicate with citizens, using every opportunity to do, from city business mailings to email messaging.

Active events need to focus on citizenship learning. With the Meridian School District and others, such as Idaho State University, we should increase youth involvement and education about local issues if we expect them to participate as citizens. And, we must listen to them and learn about barriers inhibiting youth involvement. The city could host Youth Government events and offer civic internships.

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?

Hi, neighbor. We cannot do both. I want to live in a city that is "first" in core values. I am not interested in being “second”, regardless of the category and especially in terms of growth. I have heard our mayor talk about becoming “second” as if it’s a point of pride, a goal to be reached. I don’t think being “second” has any trophy value for Meridian.

Our city government must have as its top priorities protecting our core values: 1) rural city atmosphere, 2) top-notch schools, 3) managed development, and 4) community recreation must be our top priority.

This is the only agenda, and it is my agenda, that will maintain our small-town, family-oriented values.

7. What are the top two issues facing Meridian, and how should they be addressed?

Hi, neighbor. The top two issues are managed growth and quality schools. They go hand-in-hand. Together, they support Meridian’s other core values — a rural city atmosphere and community recreation.

If Meridian becomes a typical suburban sprawl, it will lose its reputation for quality life. We will become just another “bedroom community” without a “Hi, Neighbor!” character.

Managed growth: The City Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 2002. It calls for developing another 27,000 acres, doubling Meridian’s population. We need to slow down growth. How I think it should be addressed: I support revising the Comprehensive Plan and related city ordinances.

Quality schools: This is one of Meridian’s core values. The city’s role is clearly stated in Meridian’s Comprehensive Plan, but not in our schools. How I think it should be addressed: I support a close partnership with developers to manage growth and protect schools from overcrowding.

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?

Hi, neighbor. I don’t know what “an infusion of cash” means. Is it federal money, with strings attached? Grant money with a dedicated purpose? Money generated by increasing taxes? Money from revised impact fee ordinances?

Without definition, it’s impossible to discuss how it should be used.

Whatever the amount, I would not make promises of support without council deliberations and citizen input. This might mean “parking” the cash in a reserve for a while. Citizen participation doesn’t happen overnight and takes time. My 45 years in public policy leadership has taught me that good decisions are not made in haste. Good decisions require facts and the work of many minds.

My response to “an infusion of cash” would be to study the city’s needs, learn from the citizens, and use Meridian’s core values: 1) rural city atmosphere, 2) top-notch schools, 3) managed development, and 4) community recreation—as a guide.

9. If more budget tightening is needed, where would you look first for cuts? Why?

Hi, neighbor. My first response is to listen. Listen to citizens. Listen to city council and staff. My 45 years of public policy experience would guide my thinking and discussions as I listen.

Looking at our $80 million budget, it doesn’t take rocket science to make a few observations — most of it, like any public agency, goes to personnel. The “discretionary accounts,” by comparison, are relatively small.

It’s only common sense to consider the following: 1) employee attrition — can we save by not replacing employees who retire or leave service? 2) employee training — can we delay training costs? 3) employee overtime — can we save by reducing overtime? 4) employee recruitment — can we save by not filling new positions? 5) equipment rotation — can we save by not replacing equipment? 6) efficiencies — can we save through efficiencies in utilities and new partnerships?

Listening and discussing these common sense starting points always produce results.

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