Boise City Council, seat 4: TJ Thomson

October 6, 2013 

Name: TJ Thomson

Age: 39

Occupation: Boise City Council Member, January 2010-present; Certified internal auditor, Idaho Power Company, December 2006-present

Education: Institute of Internal Auditors, certified internal auditor; Indiana University, Master of Public Affairs in policy analysis, public administration; Boise State University, Bachelor of Political Science, minor in communication; U.S. Air Force veteran, Dyess AFB, Texas, avionics electrical systems certification, Lowry AFB, Colo. and basic military training, Lackland AFB, Texas.

Prior political experience: Boise City Council Member, January 2010-present; Boise State University (BSU) Student Body President, 1997-98.

Civic involvement: Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho (COMPASS), 2012-present; City of Boise Audit Committee, 2012-present; City of Boise Public Works Commission, 2010-present; City of Boise Board of Parks and Recreation, 2010-12; Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce Leadership Boise (2009 Graduate), Alumni Association, 2011-present; Boise Young Professionals, 2007-present; Neighborhood Watch Chair/Founder – Dawson Meadows Subdivision (West Boise), 2008-present; Boise City Police Department Volunteer, 2008-09; Suicide Prevention Action Network (SPAN) Idaho Board of Directors and SPAN USA Field Liaison, 2007-09; Boise Citizens’ Police Academy (Graduate), 2008; 4th Judicial District Bar Association Citizens’ Law Academy (Graduate), 2008; Human Rights Commissioner & MLK celebration volunteer – Rockville, MD, 2002-03; Student Body Senator for Graduate School of Public & Environmental Affairs, Indiana University, 2001-02; Student Body President and Student Senator for Associated Students of Boise State University (ASBSU), 1995-1999; Project Interchange Seminar participant, Israel, 1998.

Years living in Boise: 15

Family: My wife, Alisha, and I have been happily married for over 10 years. We are presently in the process of adopting a child from Ethiopia.

Website: www.TJ4Boise.com

Social media accounts: Facebook; @TJThomson; LinkedIn

Endorsements: Boise Mayor David Bieter, Boise City Council, Ada County Association of Realtors, Conservation Voters for Idaho, Boise Police Local 486, Boise Fire Local 149 and Building Contractors Association of Southwestern Idaho.

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

I am running for re-election because I want to continue making a positive difference in Boise and keep us moving forward — to build the strongest, most livable city possible for future generations to enjoy. Over the last four years, we have had tremendous success in strengthening our local economy during a difficult recession. Unemployment rates are going down while property values are on the rise. The Boise market is dramatically stronger — outpacing the national housing recovery. Commercial and residential permitting is up and positive economic development is moving forward. We have protected thousands of acres of open space in our foothills; added multiple parks and recreational opportunities; increased sidewalks and bike lanes; improved safety for pedestrians and cyclists; added bus routes; and strengthened public safety (crime rates are at historic lows). I will continue moving Boise forward, while also presenting new ideas for strengthening our livability and local economy.

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

1. A strong, diverse local economy: Protect and attract living wage jobs and spark new business growth and investment. Continued focus on small business start-ups and long-term economic opportunities. Provide businesses with the infrastructure they need to thrive, removing barriers that hinder success. Consider additional business incubators and an "Innovation District" in Boise

2. Protecting our quality of life and preserving open spaces: Lead the way on healthy initiatives, specifically addressing the child obesity epidemic — make Boise the healthiest city in America. Continue building a community that is attractive and livable, with ample parks and open space. Build strong neighborhoods with affordable, high-quality housing opportunities. Keep our water clean and improve our air quality.

3. A public transportation system for today and tomorrow: Continue to strengthen our bus system. Improved safety and access for bicyclists and pedestrians. Increase bike lanes. Support viable transportation alternatives for the future.

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

Boise is recovering from a difficult recession. Unemployment rates are dropping, property values are on the rise and the market is dramatically stronger — outpacing the national housing recovery, commercial and residential permitting is up and economic development has increased — including marquee additions to our beautiful downtown, such as Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Zions Bank (formerly the "hole in the ground") and JUMP. We have had tremendous success adding to Boise’s livability with parks, open space and historically low crime rates — all of which help to retain and attract business. We still have work to do. We must attract additional skilled employees to the Boise Valley, to fill our increasing construction needs, and continue efforts to diversify our economic and workforce base. Also, let’s consider additional business incubators and an "Innovation District" that incentivizes like-minded start-ups to work and grow together — an urban environment that fosters innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurship.

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

I envision a strong, vibrant city with thousands of acres of open space protected for future generations to enjoy; continued protection of our clean water; ample parks and green space spread throughout the city; a safe, robust transportation system that changes to meet future demands; interconnected trails and bike lanes; mixed-use development working in concert with our Comprehensive Plan (Blueprint Boise); a safe city with crime rates that continue to decline and remain historically low — even as we grow; a city that integrates sustainability into every decision — to ensure we leave our environment in the same or better condition as we inherited; the healthiest city in America, where child obesity rates are down and active lifestyles are the norm; and a thriving, diversified local economy with ample living wage jobs and opportunity for all. We are headed in the right direction and must keep moving forward to achieve this vision.

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

I have witnessed an outpouring of public involvement over the last four years. Our community cares deeply about its city and is involved regularly in local decisions impacting their lives. At times, public hearings have standing room only. I receive extensive communication on a regular basis from the public through multiple mediums — including social media, phone, mail and email. I make myself extremely accessible to our citizens, take calls at all times of the day/night and maintain a visible presence on social media, allowing direct and open interaction. I was recently recognized by the public and Fusion Magazine as “Mr. Social Media” for my extensive efforts to be accessible. Any increase in public involvement is a good thing for our city. We must continue to increase civic involvement, improve our website to be more user-friendly and ensure adequate information is available to the public on every issue we are addressing.

6. Do you support either or both bonds for open space, public safety and parks? Why?

These investments help us maintain our city’s safety and add to our livability. Access to open spaces, like the Boise Foothills and neighborhood parks, has added millions to our city’s economy, improved citizen health and strengthened neighborhood property values. This ensures our consistent trend as good stewards of Boise’s clean water, open spaces and natural areas. Some fire stations are no longer ideally situated or out-dated and in need of repair. Boise has grown, but our fire stations have not kept pace, hampering the ability of fire fighters to quickly and effectively respond to emergencies consistently across the city. By protecting clean water and critical natural areas like the Boise Foothills and improving parks, fire and emergency response services, we’ll create a legacy and a vibrant and sustainable future that increases our property values, creates jobs and makes Boise an even better place to live, work, and raise a family.

7. Should the city upgrade its shooting range, leave it as is or do something else entirely? Why?

The shooting range has been utilized by law enforcement personnel since 1960 and city owned since 2008. If the range were sold by the city, per Idaho Code it would likely remain a shooting range, but become privately owned — providing less opportunity for the city to ensure a safe environment. Moving the range to an alternate location would be extremely costly to taxpayers. Boise Police will be working with citizens over the next year to address citizen concerns, prior to proceeding voluntarily to the Planning & Zoning Commission for a conditional use permit. I believe this time will be beneficial to assuring the concerns of our citizens are met. While there has never been an accident at the range, it is imperative that all precautions are taken to ensure a safe environment. Other site improvements will assist with noise reductions and aesthetic improvements for trail users in the area.

8. Should Boise raise Downtown metered parking rates? How much? Why?

I opposed raising downtown parking rates and extending collection times. We are presently upgrading to "smart meters" in the downtown area, which will assist greatly in the collection of information, allow the use of credit cards, and someday, the use of smart phone technology to monitor or add time to your meter. I believe we must first collect and analyze data from the new meters, over an extensive period of time, to help us better understand if (and specifically, where) on-street parking turnover rates are a concern for existing businesses in the downtown area — and address it specifically in identified areas, to assist local business. Let’s ensure adequate access to alternate modes of transportation in our downtown core — including safe bike lanes and sidewalks – reducing pressure on street parking. A vibrant, pedestrian friendly city with ample parking garage space that is heavily utilized as an affordable alternative to on-street parking.

9. If elected, what would you do to change the public transportation system in Boise? My priority is to continue strengthening our bus system by adding additional routes to make it more accessible and convenient. We must continue adding bike lanes throughout Boise that are interconnected and safe to use. Ensuring safe, attractive, and well-lit streets and pathways promotes biking and walking, as a driving alternative. Infrastructure improvements, such as crosswalks, curb cuts, wide shoulders, dedicated bus routes and landscaping also improve use and safety for citizens. Land use policies that promote mixes of housing, retail, business, parks and green space reduce travel time and congestion. "Complete Streets" design strategies reduce injuries, encourage walking and bicycling, and improve health and well-being. Thinking about future needs, I support local option authority for municipalities — a system that allows citizens to support dedicated funding for alternative transportation projects and improvements. This would allow us to invest in viable alternatives to meet future demands, such as rapid-bus or rail.

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