Robert Ehlert: Meridian council candidates share views at forum

rehlert@idahostatesman.comOctober 27, 2013 

To drive the streets of Meridian these days is to see the yard-sign impact of having 17 candidates running for four City Council seats as the Nov. 5 election approaches.

Another manifestation of the political interest is to attend a candidate forum, such as the one last Wednesday at Mountain View High School, home of the Mavericks.

Sixteen of the 17 were there — a number of political mavericks among them — and they had to go before the 200 members in the audience in shifts, like a hockey team.

First up were the two Seat 2 candidates vying for a four-year term, Joe Borton and Patrick Malloy, and five Seat 5 candidates hoping to win a two-year term: Jeff Hoseley, Michael Long, Genesis Milam, Ty Palmer and Drew Wahlin.

If sincerity and praising life in Meridian were grounds for electing someone, this group would have a race down to the wire. But the questions posed by dutiful students and members of the audience did not produce much substance on the issues of growth, attracting a YMCA to Meridian or staying out of multimillion-dollar lawsuits such as the one Meridian faced recently.

Amid a mostly friendly discussion, Seat 2 candidate Malloy tried to distance himself from Borton by calling him “part of the system.” That was odd since the Meridian lovefest had been unable to find much of anything wrong with the systems in the city. By the end of the hour, I felt that the people who made a connection with the audience were Borton for Seat 2 and Milam for Seat 5 — the lone woman in the race.

Seat 5 candidate Palmer may have turned off some voters by splashing “Republican” on his yard signs (“this is a Republican city”). However, the 25-year-old son of Rep. Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, scored points by referencing his wife, Brenda, who is due to give birth to twins any day, advancing the goal of overtaking Nampa as Idaho’s second-largest city.

The second shift pitted Seat 4 four-year-term incumbent Keith Bird against Russell Joki and Matthew Townsend, who mentioned that government was all about “preserving liberty” as a part of every other response. Also at the table were Seat 6 four-year-term candidates Luke Cavener, David Moberly, Curtis Munson, Shaun Wardle, Stephen Warren and Steven Yearsley.

Though Joki tried to erode Bird’s incumbency and decades of service to the city, I am not sure it resonated when he said Bird had “his bite of the apple” and should let someone else try. Wardle, running for Seat 6, has experience serving on the council previously (he left in 2007). Voters may warm to the experience of Yearsley, a civil engineer, who has worked with planning and zoning bodies. But Yearsley’s answers to questions seemed less fluid and articulate than others. Moberly and Warren made a case for business backgrounds and their abilities to transfer that to helping the city with growth and regulatory matters.

Becky McKinstry, a long-time Meridian resident and a community member of the Statesman Editorial Board, is partial to Borton, an attorney running for Seat 2; Bird and his dedication to the city for Seat 4; the fresh face and community involvement of Milam for Seat 5; and the engineering experience of Yearsley for Seat 6.

I don’t have her tenure in the community, but I will say that Bird impressed me the most among the 16. Since the council is expanding from four to six members, a veteran such as Bird has the frame of reference and common sense to help the others navigate the job. In my book, experience counts for plenty in city government.

If you need more information on the candidates, I advise you to contact them and supplement that by perusing our Voter Guide at IdahoStatesman.com/election.

OF NOTE:

The deadline for submitting Letters to the Editor about candidates running in the Nov. 5 municipal elections and the Boise bond proposals will be Tuesday, Oct. 29.

Sunday Insight on Nov. 3 will be dominated by our Voter Guide.

Robert Ehlert is the Statesman’s editorial page editor. Contact him at 377-6437, or on Twitter @IDS_HelloIdaho.

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