Name: Stephen Warren
Occupation: Owner of six Papa John's pizza restaurants in the Treasure Valley
Education: Arizona State University
Prior political experience: None
Civic involvement: None provided
Years living in your city: 8
Family: Gorgeous wife of 11 years, Tara, one daughter, 15, two sons, 11 and 8
1. What makes you a better choice for voters than your opponent(s)?
I am a business owner, not self-employed, but a business owner employing over 100 people. I handle the budgets, profit-and-loss statements, payroll and daily operations of the restaurants. I have full accountability for the success or failure of my restaurants. I have grown this business from three failing restaurants to six successful restaurants. I have the experience necessary to make responsible financial decisions for our city. Some of my opponents claim they will eliminate burdensome regulations and/or taxes yet dont even know what that is because they have never owned a business. I am one of the 50 percent of Meridian households with kids under 18, so I live what other Meridian families live every day. I live in south Meridian, a location with no current representation on the city council. Many of the families in south Meridian dont feel heard, I want to fix that.
2. If elected, what are your top three priorities? How will you accomplish them? Please provide specifics.
Build a self-sustained economy, one where Meridian does not rely on one or two huge employers, but instead relies on hundreds of small- and medium-sized businesses. I want to keep Meridian safe and keep our parks and recreation moving in the right direction. Through partnerships with small businesses, nonprofits and city agencies with the same goals in mind we can keep youth engaged, citizens employed and criminals held accountable. We do not have a culture of allowing criminal behaviors to go unchallenged, and will not let it happen now.
3. What is the one thing your city should start doing to encourage economic development and create jobs?
I believe currently many jobs are already out there. Many companies are having a hard time hiring enough people to fill all their positions. I believe that many of the unemployed have just given up. Because they are de moralized and de motivated due to constant rejection they just stopped trying. We should find a way to partner with those businesses currently hiring, the Department of Labor, and the news media to let people know there are lots of jobs out there waiting to be filled. It's no longer doom and gloom in Meridian. This alone could start an economic cycle that progresses on its own. There is no easy fix through government. I believe long term our education system needs to raise the bar on education, allow teachers to be innovative with techniques and then share what works. I also believe technology needs to become more used in the classroom, to prepare our children for the reality of their future. We need to continue to not over regulate small business, not charge impact fees above the minimum necessary, and not give any business or developer, big or small, any advantage over another.
4. How do you envision your city 10 to 20 years from now? How should it change?
Meridian could very well double in size in the next 10 to 20 years. It is important that we first insure our police department is adequately staffed and trained at all levels of this growth, as safety is number one. Meridian is great because of a culture that was created years ago; I believe the only thing that can take that away is our government by refusing to listen, or not addressing serious concerns. By growing without planning properly, by taking away family-friendly amenities, or by chasing away business because of over regulation or taxation. I will not let that happen.
5. Are you concerned about public apathy and involvement in civic matters? How would you get more people involved?
I am not concerned about public apathy. This election is a prime example of why I am not concerned 17 total candidates wanting to get involved more. I believe many people dont know how to get involved with the crazy work and play schedules many Meridian families have. We can continue to educate potential volunteers at city events such as the recent community block party. I dont think its about the community unwilling getting involved in civic matters. I think its about educating the public on how.
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?
Planning and culture. Never give up our low tolerance for criminal behavior, continue to develop parks and expand recreation services using partnerships with private business and parks and recreation department.
7. What are the top two issues facing Meridian, and how should they be addressed?
1. Economy. I have had stores in many cities in Idaho and Washington. I know what regulations and taxes can cripple a business or even discourage a potential new business from coming in. In Spokane I experienced excessive taxation through city and state levels. Excessive permitting fees, licensing fees, impact fees, workers comp and unemployment rates and even city sales tax. I know what can break a business because I have experienced it and will insure we make decisions with the best interests of the public and businesses in mind. Making Meridian business-friendly in addition to family-friendly will do a lot to continue to mend our fragile economy.
2. Growth. It has to be managed. We cannot just rezone anything blindly. We must insure every development is in the best interest of Meridian, but do this quickly and efficiently to insure everything meets with a plan for continued growth yet doesnt slow down private progress and job growth.
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?
I dont think any need additional operating expenses. I would rather lower taxes and give the money back to those who have earned it.
9. If more budget tightening is needed, where would you look first for cuts? Why?
Other than emergency services I would encourage a blanket cut to all services. On another note I do not believe the city should ever increase budget by more then the current inflation rate we are experiencing, with adjustments made only to account for new development.