Garden City Council: Kathleen Simko

October 7, 2013 

Name: Kathleen Simko

Age: 57

Occupation: Retired, formerly president of Sage Community Resources

Education: BS in Business & Economics, Eastern Oregon Universit; MBA, Boise State University

Prior political experience: I have served since January 2010 as a member of the Garden City Council, after I was appointed to replace a resigning Garden City Council member. I was also elected and served a four-year term on the Ontario, Ore., City Council. I served as the attaché to the House Revenue & Taxation Committee during the 2013 Legislative session, which provided a very different perspective on state government and which I count as important, albeit a different kind of political experience.

Civic involvement: Rotary, locally and internationally, 1992-present (21 years); Idaho State Bar Professional Conduct Board 2004–present (8+ years); Public Transportation Advisory Council (PTAC) appointed by the ITD Board District III 2004–present (8-plus years) currently serving as PTAC State Chair; Boise Valley Economic Partnership (BVEP) Working Group Member 2010–present; Leadership Boise Class of 2007 (2005-2007) Class Co-Vice Chair 2006-2007; Leadership Boise Alumni Member 2011-present; National Association of Development Association Board Member 2006–2010; National Council for Continuing Education and Training Board Member 1994–2002; Malheur Federal Credit Union Board Member 1986-1990 (Chair 1988-1990). Extensive involvement with various community & charitable projects such as Rake up Boise, Paintfest, Race for the Cure, Climb to Conquer Cancer, etc. 2002–present.

Years living in Garden City: 11-plus

Family: Husband, Ben; daughter, Sara; two grandchildren, Sophia, 11, and Jack, 20 months.

Website: www.kathleensimko.com

Social media accounts: LinkedIn

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

I have the experience, education, passion and time to dedicate to Garden City Council. My role as a representative of the community residents and businesses is one I take very seriously. I have not missed a council meeting since being appointed and plan my personal life around my city commitment. I am very interested in conducting a community survey and listening to the input so I might learn what the priorities are of our citizens. I will continue to serve with integrity and commitment as the best representative of the people I can be.

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

1. Public Safety: Maintaining quality staff, training and resources for the Garden City Police Department is essential. I support utilization of grants, partnerships with other agencies and organizations and creative approaches to increase revenue and/or decrease costs without compromising public safety.

2. Livability: For a small community, we have quality of life amenities, like the Greenbelt, parks, library and a variety of essential services, all of which have been consistently provided through one of the most challenging economic periods in history — all without any significant tax increase.

3. Balance: A pro-business environment and diversified commerce and residential balance are components of a healthy city. I serve as the Garden City representative on the Boise Valley Economic Partnership (BVEP) working group, which meets monthly to work on business recruitment and retention strategies. I plan to continue in this role and expand focused efforts on economic development.

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

I believe that a strong, consistent and proactive approach to economic development is needed. The current comprehensive plan, developed in 2006, is in need of updating and something the council has planned for the coming year. There are a lot of objectives in the plan dealing with business and economic development, but many of these are very general in nature. The economic downturn presented challenges to city management that prevented some of the objectives from being accomplished, but I believe many are still viable and sound ideas that need further development and attention. Additionally, expanding the planning step a bit further to specifically address business recruitment, retention and expansion is needed as a separate document that is used and monitored. I would create a business development committee with the inclusion of the Garden City Chamber of Commerce, to be a part of the development and implementation of the plan.

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

My vision for Garden City is a place people want to go to and not just go through. It is a vibrant, safe, financially stable and diverse community where families, businesses and visitors enjoy the natural beauty and amenities, as well as those created through a focused effort on our strengths. If one thing could be changed, Garden City is in need of a "heart." Surrounded by two major state highways, lacking an identifiable core downtown, and with a history that is not always seen in a positive light, we struggle to find our unique niche. There is significant potential to create our heart, but it will require considerable thought, resources, hard work, political will and cooperation to achieve. I want to be a part of that vision and effort.

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

In the 2012 November General election, Garden City voter turnout was an impressive 81.22 percent. Sadly, in two of the past three city council elections, the results were significantly less: 19 percent in 2007 and only 4.4 percent in 2009. What concerns me is that it is really at the local level that citizens have the greatest opportunity to influence the outcome of an election. As I canvass Garden City neighborhoods during my campaign, I will also carry voter registration cards and encourage eligible voters to register. It is not only their right, it is a responsibility and I hope to create awareness of both as I visit my constituents.

6. What are the top two issues facing Garden City, and how should they be addressed?

Aging infrastructure: The council just closed out one urban renewal district (URA) and earlier this year, established a new URA. URA’s are significant tools that generate resources essential to addressing aging infrastructure issues. Additionally, the city recently conducted a water and sewer rate study that provides critical data needed to make policy decisions regarding water and sewer rates charged to residents and businesses.

Economic development: The council will be reviewing and updating the 2006 Comprehensive Plan in the coming year. I believe an added component of a separate economic development plan should be developed and an economic advisory committee appointed to oversee implementation and monitoring.

7. Last year, Garden City repealed a voter-approved initiative on uses of the nature path. Do you believe the will of the council should supersede the will of the people?

In November 2012, Garden City voters passed initiative A, allowing the city to "designate portions of the greenbelt as pedestrian only," effectively restricting bike use on the nature path. The voters also passed initiative B, which contained two separate parts. The first part, 10-3-3C, permitted all forms of non-motorized transportation on the greenbelt. The second part, 10-3-3D, prohibited any restriction being placed on non-motorized travel on the greenbelt, without a vote at the next general election. Whether or not this initiative was clearly understood by the voters remains debatable. However, the end result was that if a section of the Greenbelt was unsafe, for example due to spring runoff flooding, the city would be prohibited from restricting non-motorized use. When the liability of such a restriction is weighed, I believe the council had no other course of action but to repeal the initiative B.

8. What more can Garden City leaders do to make the city a place where people want to live, work and play?

My husband and I intentionally moved to Garden City and I know we are not alone. So, we are already a community that people desire to live, work and play. Additionally, there are numerous opportunities to create a more positive image of Garden City and capitalize on existing as well as potential assets. I believe this process is well underway and if in doubt, simply look at the utilization of the updated Garden City Library and plans for an outdoor pavilion being developed by the Library Foundation, the newly renovated 36th St. entry to the Waterfront District, the West Bridge project and the growth of wineries, breweries and art galleries and collectives. This is a reality and small window into so many possibilities that could be further developed into a vibrant community that is uniquely Garden City.

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