Name: Jeffrey A. Jeff Souza
Occupation: Owner/Registered Principal of Riverside Associates Financial Group. RAFG is an independent affiliate of Raymond James Financial Services (member FINRA/SIPC)
Education: Bachelor of Science with emphasis in Organizational Leadership, Montana State University, Billings (Magna Cum Laude). Hold series 7, 9, 10, 31, and 63 Securities Licenses, Accredited Asset Management Specialist designation
Prior political experience: 8 years (two terms) as Garden City Councilmember; served as Council President in 2008, 2009 and 2013; Garden City Urban Renewal Agency vice-chairman, 2008-present
Civic involvement: Garden City Councilmember, 2006-present; Garden City Urban Renewal Agency Commissioner, 2008-present; Capital City Kiwanis Club, 2003-present; St. Marks School Foundation VP and Finance Chair, 2005-Present; Garden City Chamber of Commerce, charter member
Years living in Garden City: 14
Family: Married to wife, Kate, for 15 years; two daughters, Claire, 13, and Gabrielle, 11
1. What makes you a better choice for voters than your opponent(s)?
When I first ran for the council in 2005 as a relatively young, unknown candidate, I pledged that I would emphasize four areas: proper redevelopment in the city; support for local community policing; more citizen access to elected officials; and strengthening of the citys fiscal resources. I have kept those pledges in the past and will do so in the future as Garden City continues to evolve as a vibrant and vigorous residential and business community.
During my tenure on the council, the city has revised its development codes to better reflect its Comprehensive Plan; has balanced its budget each year and built a strong financial reserve; has continued to see decreases in its crime rate; and has growing business opportunities, particularly in the arts, winery and brewery community.
I remain gainfully employed outside of elected office, have served continuously in my elected position for 8 years, and own a business located within the city.
2. If elected, what are your top three priorities? How will you accomplish them? Please provide specifics.
If re-elected, I will continue to focus my efforts in the areas mentioned in Question 1. The city is in a very sound financial position now, but it is critical that we continue to operate from a position of strength. The strong fiscal condition of the city was a huge factor in obtaining Federal and State grants for the West Bridge project. We need to continue to focus on our development codes and comprehensive plan as the city gets closer to its build out capacity. We must remember that what gets built today may very well remain for the next 50 years. And, finally, reducing crime rates in the older part of the city is critical to unlocking its true value. No one benefits more than our law-abiding citizens in those areas of town as we strive to eradicate various criminal elements.
3. What is the one thing your city should start doing to encourage economic development and create jobs?
Im not sure that local government, or any government for that matter, creates jobs. On the other hand, poor public policy can inhibit business development and employment opportunities within an area. I believe that we should continue to be a business-friendly community. One example of this is our burgeoning craft beer and boutique wineries that have burst onto the scene over the past few years. The city has been acutely aware of their presence from the outset, and has made considerable effort to help and promote their businesses. I am happy to report that one of the breweries, Crooked Fence, recently opened a new brew pub-style restaurant in a long vacant space in the city.
4. How do you envision your city 10 to 20 years from now? How should it change?
Within 20 years, I believe that Garden City will be fully built out that is very little open space or large, undeveloped parcels within our boundaries. Given its proximity to the population center of the Treasure Valley, Glenwood Street could take on more of a look of an urban boulevard, with landscaped medians to improve traffic flow and safety while establishing a more positive identity for the city. The older part of the city will have several higher density housing projects that leverage our proximity to downtown Boise and major thoroughfares. Chinden Boulevard and State Street will be even more critical corridors as the residential build out of communities to the west resumes.
5. Are you concerned about public apathy and involvement in civic matters? How would you get more people involved?
I am very concerned about public apathy, and said just that in my closing remarks as we concluded our last budget meeting for the upcoming fiscal year. We had as little comment and input for the upcoming budget as any year that I have served on the Council. I believe that the best way to get people more involved is if various homeowners associations invite a member of the council (or two), and/or the mayor to their meetings. In this type of a little more informal setting, I am always encouraged by the quantity and quality of comments and suggestions that we receive from our residents.
6. What are the top two issues facing Garden City, and how should they be addressed?
In the near term, employee health benefit costs related to the rollout of the Affordable Care Act are a major concern for me. We have more than 50 employees, so we are not exempt. On the other hand, we have less than 100, so we will be pooled for insurance purposes. We have been able to hold the line in this area of the budget over the past few years, but some of this is beyond our control.
Because we are land-locked, and cannot expand through annexation, it is critical that we encourage the right types of development and re-development to strengthen our tax base, while keeping an ever watchful eye on our current budget(s) as well as longer-term planning. Opportunities that may present themselves in the future include parts of the Ada County Fairgrounds, the ACHD maintenance yard, or the ITD yard along the east side of Marigold Street.
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?
To be clear, there were two initiatives on the November 2012 ballot, A and B. These initiatives were placed on the ballot with less than 100 signatures by an advocacy group in response to their decisive defeat in district court. Their arguments and grievances with the city were also rejected by the Idaho Land Board of Commissioners as well as the Attorney Generals office. A failed by a fairly wide margin. B passed by a narrow margin. With this outcome, the initiatives were actually in conflict with one another. Initiative B was poorly written and confusing. (The Statesman said just that in an editorial prior to the election.) It was my decision to move the city forward and focus on the completion of the West Bridge.
8. What more can Garden City leaders do to make the city a place where people want to live, work and play?
The city and its Urban Renewal Agency have accomplished much during my eight years on the council to make Garden City a better place to live, work, and play. Among other things, we have: completed more than two miles of Greenbelt paths on the south side of the river, installed the East pedestrian bridge connecting to Boise (with the West Bridge just around the corner), improved streetscapes at several locations, and completed more than $6.8 million of public facilities projects that have dramatically improved our water and sewer capabilities. I pledge to continue to focus in many of these same areas in working to improve quality of life.