Name: Terry Benson
Employment: Business owner since 1983. Currently: Gem State Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning Idaho Recovery Specialists
Prior Political Experience: I have been attending Meridian City Council meetings since January 2013.
Civic Involvement: Racing for Smiles, Meridian Speedway Historical Society
Years living in Meridian: 20
Family: Wife, two daughters, several grandchildren and one great grandchild
1. What makes you a better choice than the other candidates?
I believe in the city of Meridian and have since I moved here 20 years ago. I am honest hardworking and do whats right when nobody is looking. I am here to make a stand for the little guy who nobody wants to listen to. I have been that guy and now I want to be the guy that represents everybody out there who thinks they dont have a voice to be heard.
2. If elected, what are your top priorities? How will you accomplish them?
First of all, public safety has to be number one. Fire and police. I will get involved with these departments and see what the strategic plan is, where they are headed and what they need to accomplish their specific strategic goals. Police are close to being in line with the national standards. Crime in Meridian is down. I think that is wonderful. However it doesnt mean we stay status quo. We need to continue staying with the national standards, hire more officers and build substations to accommodate the folks out in the far borders of our district. The substations will give the officers a place to do reports, have lunch and take breaks in the areas they are responsible for during their shift.
As far as the fire department goes, we need to continue to hire personnel to staff a station in the southwest. We need a second station on the south side of the freeway. The practical place would be near the Ten Mile/Overland intersection. This would give quick access to the freeway, to the north and handle incidents within response times southwest of our city. I will work hard to getting Meridian Fire Station No. 6 up and running.
3. What is the one thing your city should do to encourage economic development and create jobs?
I think the city managers have done a great job in managing growth and making Meridian a place to work, live and play. However, this city markets itself. We are in the heart of the Boise valley. We have five cities that border us. We have three freeway accesses, with Ten Mile being the newest. I am excited to watch the growth in that area. I know our city has people employed to bring growth in, but the simple thing is, our location, citizens, city services and out dedication to public safety, sells itself.
4. How do you envision your city 10 to 20 years from now?
I am going to say that we will be the second largest city in the state of Idaho. I dont think we will see the growth we saw in the 90s, but it will be close. As we continue to annex properties outside our city boundaries and move forward with developing them, I want to be a part of that. I would like to see a public swimming pool northwest of town. An ice skating rink would be nice. We need to continue to support our police and fire, parks and recreation and our city services. Lets face it, without water and sewer we are going nowhere. All these areas must have strong leadership as we move forward. I would like to maintain our small towns feel, with the amenities of a larger city. I believe that we can find that balance.
5. Are you concerned about public apathy and involvement in civic matters? How would you get people more involved?
I am very concerned about citizen involvement. We have approximately 35,000 registered voters and we only see between 3,500 to 5,000 people come out and vote. I understand we have families and we are a relatively young community, but we need to get out and vote. As a matter of fact I would like to challenge the young people to get out and vote this November and make it one of the largest voting crowds ever. Work it into you drive to work, or lunch hour. I know young families with kids become a shuttle bus to activities after school, then dinner and baths. So if you can make the time to vote before or during your workday, we can have a new voters record.
6. Meridian is poised to become the state's second largest city. How do you embrace growth and expansion and still maintain your small town family values?
We must manage our growth. Keep developing the mixed-use areas. Continue to increase our green space. Support the Meridian Speedway and Meridian Bowling Lanes. Most of all, maintain police and fire so we can have the safety we have come to know. Our citizens moving in here are good hard working people, I dont see that changing.
7. What are the top two issues facing Meridian, and how should they be addresses?
One issue is the Meridian school system. I understand they have their administrative people, but when I see two high schools making their kids sit on the floors, dont have enough books or desks, that bothers me. You have several Meridian high schools busting at the seams and Meridian High is a little over half full. This should encourage our current city leaders to pressure the school board into making some boundary changes. This situation reflects on our community.
Second issue is going to be growth. We are going to grow in leaps and bounds. Every time that happens we have different challenges. I would like to visit with the core group of city leaders in the mid 90s. I am sure they could offer some positive feedback to assist us in managing the growth to come.
8. If tax revenues take an upswing in the next few years, which part of city government do you think needs the most infusion in cash, and why?
Well, thats where balance comes in. We need to move forward with all city services as a whole to maintain what we believe is the best place to live on earth. However, police and fire training and equipment are always improving and changing. It is very important to give our guys on the streets the best equipment and training not only to keep themselves safe, but to protect our citizens. I have been advised on how much a fire truck costs, or what it costs to buy and train a police dog. These are all tools needed for a firefight and or a gunfight that help protect all of us. I am positive growth is on the way. We are going to protect our police and fire personnel so they can protect our citizens.
9. If more budget tightening is needed, where would you look first for cuts? Why?
Well, thats a tough question. As I have followed the city of Meridian politics for several years, we have not really slowed down. The city builds a new building almost every year. There are always job openings in the website. It appears to me that the Meridian Finance Department has done a wonderful job of forecasting the downturn in revenues. I would ask that we continue to do just that. We all know we have a big growth spurt coming on, how long it will last, we dont know. However, if we can continue to be fiscally accountable to our citizens, we will not have to make any cuts to any of our departments.