Change coming to Nampa City Council

Nine are vying for four contested seats on the expanded panel; taxes and the Idaho Center are key issues.

cmsewell@idahostatesman.comOctober 17, 2013 

Regardless of the outcomes, the Nampa council is guaranteed three new faces come January.

Residents of the city voted in May to grow their City Council from four seats to six. In November, they'll choose who will represent them in those two new positions.

Seats 1 and 3 on the council are also on the Nov. 5 ballot. Seat 3 incumbent Pam White would like to keep her spot, but Seat 1 incumbent Martin Thorne is not seeking another term, so a newcomer will take that position.

And eight of the nine candidates have one thing in common: They have never held political office.

The field vying to help lead the state's second-largest city — a part-time job paying $10,930 annually — is made up of a librarian, a police detective, a city engineer, an architect, a construction company owner, an attorney, a commercial appraiser, a consultant and a state corrections department manager.

While their backgrounds are varied, the candidates share similar views on what ails Nampa:

IDAHO CENTER

The city-owned, privately managed venue is a community asset. But to keep it afloat, Nampa taxpayers forked over almost $1.6 million last year.

Nearly all of the candidates identified solving the Idaho Center subsidy problem as one of their top priorities.

"Campaigning door to door made clear to me that Nampa voters are upset about paying $100,000 per month to subsidize the Idaho Center," said Bruce Skaug, 50, an attorney running for Seat 6. "By solving the Idaho Center financial bleed, we can have $1.2 million per year to put toward roadway maintenance."

Nampa architect and Seat 5 candidate Randy Haverfield, 58, said, "Subsidy of the Idaho Center at the rate of $1.5 million per year is unacceptable." He suggests selling the facility, which would put it on the tax roll, or replacing the current private management company with "a more aggressive management company to make the facility become self-supporting, and not a continual drain on the local taxpayers."

With the current management contract coming due in 2014, Paul Raymond, 62, a retired Nampa Public Works director and Seat 1 candidate, said the city has an opportunity to sell, lease or review the arrangement. "This would possibly bring to light better ways of operating the facility or finding others who can operate it better," he said.

College of Idaho librarian and Seat 5 candidate Lance McGrath, 43, wants to review not only the Idaho Center management contract, but all city contracts, to look for cost savings and ensure that city assets are being efficiently managed.

PROPERTY TAXES

Of the seven largest cities in Ada and Canyon counties, Nampa has the second-highest property tax rate. (Caldwell has the highest, with Boise No. 3 on the list. Eagle has the lowest.)

In order to lower its tax levy, Nampa needs to increase its tax base, which means it is in a bit of a pickle.

"In attracting businesses, high taxes are hard to overcome. So, businesses need to be invited to stay here and be able to freely expand. This will build our tax base," Raymond said.

To encourage economic development, White, the Seat 3 incumbent and a semi-retired consultant, wants to improve both city and state business incentives, "which will strengthen economic recovery to enable lowering the property tax levy rate."

Less government influence and control would mean more economic development, said Seat 6 candidate Darryl Speiser, 51, a commercial appraiser with the Canyon County Assessor's Office. "I do not believe the city should 'build it and they will come.' Instead, we should 'get out of the way so they will come.' Lower taxes and regulation will go a long way toward these ends," he said.

Seat 3 candidate KLynn Miller, 59, who owns Wes Miller Construction, agrees. "We need to lower taxes and get rid of unnecessary ordinances and regulations to make the city of Nampa business-friendly," she said.

Seat 1 candidate Victor Rodriguez, 62, a retired Nampa Police Department detective, proposes an economic development commission made up of successful business people to form a plan of how to bring businesses to the city. Rodriguez said he would also like to increase tourism to the area to help boost economic development.

Jeff Kirkman, 45, an Idaho Department of Correction program manager and Seat 6 candidate, said reducing the city's tax burden must be done responsibly. "Just saying that we need to lower taxes because we pay more than other cities in Idaho is, I think, irresponsible. We have obligations to the citizens of Nampa — for one, public safety. We must ensure critical services are not sacrificed," he said.

URBAN RENEWAL

Three candidates identified urban renewal as a hot-button issue.

Miller and Speiser are taking a hardline approach, wanting to do away with it completely.

"Urban renewal districts increase the tax burden for every taxpayer in the county. The levy rate must be increased to generate from the base value the funds needed to run the city, schools, highway and any other needs. To allow unneeded and wasteful urban renewal districts to continue to spend tax dollars without taxpayer votes is wrong," Miller said.

Speiser vows to cancel all urban renewal projects as soon as possible, if possible, and pledges to never pass another urban renewal district.

Kirkman takes a more pragmatic approach. "This is a complicated subject that evokes strong emotion from both sides. Urban development, if used appropriately and timely, can be a boon to economic development," he said. But he wants to ensure that any significant public debt be put to a vote by the citizens of Nampa.

THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

For almost all of the candidates, this is their first run for public office, which means the new experience of pounding the pavement and knocking on doors in search of votes.

"I am surprised that many people are 'right on' with the issues and have a good knowledge of taxes, urban renewal and city government," said Rodriguez.

McGrath has found inspiration on the campaign trail. "I am constantly impressed by the amazing talent possessed by Nampans and the dedication that Nampans have for our community. I am also heartbroken by the stories of struggle and need and encouraged by the tales of resilience and success that are told by Nampans," he said.

For Kirkman, the stereotypical negative campaign is proving untrue. "You hear so many things about contentious campaigns and how negative they can become, but not so with this campaign," he said.

Cynthia Sewell: 377-6428, Twitter: @CynthiaSewell

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