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Listening Tour Wrap-Up: What I Heard From Residents

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By Mayor Tammy

Each year I invite groups of people into my home for my annual Listening Tour. It’s an opportunity to meet with residents and business owners, face-to-face in a quiet setting at my house. It allows me to host a discussion with those I either don’t know or don’t meet with regularly to get a pulse on the community from their perspective.

Throughout July, I held six Listening Tours grouped by region. This year’s Listening Tour fell on the heels of the City Survey results so we were able to follow up on some questions we had on the survey. Their responses, regarding what they love about Meridian and priorities they would like to see the City focus on in the near future, were very much in line with our survey results.

When it comes to what people love about Meridian, the responses were similar for each region. Residents have pride in our community and in their neighborhoods.  They touted safety, parks and recreational activities, the family-friendly atmosphere, the City’s clean and wholesome environment, the centralized location in the Treasure Valley, and a small town feel – amongst our growth - as top things they love about our city. Many also said we are blessed to have great schools.

The challenges they shared that need an area-wide focus were almost entirely the same for each region.  Transportation concerns landed at the top of the list.  Most agreed that the congestion on roads due to our central location that creates not just Meridian traffic but the Valley’s, most noteworthy Chinden Boulevard (US 20/26), should be made a top priority. In South Meridian, Victory Road was specifically mentioned. Depending on the region, north/south corridors were also mentioned – many said they would like to see Locust Grove widened, as well as a Linder Road overpass to increase the connectivity for north/south traffic.  Several recommended road construction operate 24/7 to complete work promptly.  A lack of connecting sidewalks was mentioned as a top priority for safety concerns.  There was a general acknowledgment that Meridian has a need for public transportation of some kind. When it comes to this aspect, we work closely with Valley Regional Transit (VRT) to address these issues. They were pleased to learn of the service for our seniors and disabled community an option through Harvest Transit – a program that is still fairly new and is growing in popularity! (www.harvestransit.com)

Another priority focus: Education. The groups mentioned they believe the teachers and staff are skilled but they are very concerned about overcrowding in the schools, especially the high schools.

Most expressed their affection of the wide-open fields surrounding Meridian, and are concerned that with the current growth rate, those will go away.  Reserving space for open space or farmland was desired but no consensus on how.  There was an agreement with those that had experience with Meridian’s Planning and Building Departments that staff members were easier to work with than surrounding cities, and overall all believed the City is transparent and communicates well with our citizens.  This is feedback I enjoy hearing because I want our citizens to feel very informed!

The discussions regarding Downtown Meridian created excitement.  Overall, the residents who attended our Listening Tour said they would like to see it be a unique destination, distinct from The Village at Meridian – which they had high praise!  They would prefer to see mom and pop businesses, to include higher end and family-friendly restaurants and retail shops.  Live music, more events, and open spaces that are kid and pet-friendly were desired.  And, most believed it was important to make downtown a place where people can live, work and play.  

I say it time and time again but it really is true: Your voice matters! My annual Listening Tour is among the most important projects we organize each year. Meeting face-to-face with residents and business owners and hearing about their experiences in Meridian, is invaluable and helps in guiding our priorities as we look to the future. 

listening tour photo 2017

Results Prove We Are On The Right Track

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By Mayor Tammy

We just received the results from our City Survey and to say I am pleased with the numbers is an understatement! I can’t tell you how proud I am of our City Staff – all of whom work diligently to provide the best service they can for our customers –you, the citizens of Meridian. We all take pride in working for you!

The last time we conducted this citizen survey was in 2014 and this year the numbers were even higher! There were 743 residents, randomly selected, who completed the survey which resulted in a margin of error plus or minus 3.6% at a 95% level of confidence. I want to thank everyone who took the time to fill out and return the survey; we appreciate hearing from you. Your voice matters! Ninety-three percent of residents surveyed indicated the City meets or exceeds expectations as a place to raise a family, and 92% rated Meridian as a good or excellent place to live. It is clear to me that it’s not just the national publications that rate us as a "Best City to Live in America", but more importantly, the people who call Meridian home.

As part of the survey our results were compared with other cities in the mountain region and the U.S. The City and our partners rated above the national average in 42 of the 46 areas that were compared, and significantly higher than the U.S. average (difference of 5% or more) in 39 areas, with 35 having a 10% difference or more.  Overall quality of City services provided, customer service from City employees, and overall value received for City taxes/fees were each at least 30% higher than the U.S. average.

We live in one of the safest cities in Idaho and 91% of those surveyed said they have an overall feeling of safety in Meridian. We have destinations such as The Village/Big Al's, Wahooz/Roaring Springs/Pinz, and amazing parks which I believe are second to none. It doesn’t surprise me to see the following services received “excellent” marks from those who completed the survey: place to live, raise a family, access to quality shopping and entertainment, library services, number of city parks, the quality/appearance/maintenance of city parks and athletic fields, overall feeling of safety, quality of local police protection, overall quality of the Fire Department, response to 911 emergencies, safety in city parks, and professionalism of employees responding to emergencies.

While we were thrilled to see the positive results, there remained other important takeaways such as those issues which our residents believe are the highest priorities that should receive emphasis from the City over the next three years: roads/ traffic/ transportation, education/ schools, and growth/development.  In addition, jobs and economic development also rated as a high priority issue in the survey. We are excited to see more jobs (10.1% increase last year alone) and companies choosing to call Meridian home! It will be important that City Council and I have a discussion about how we can continue to partner with the West Ada School District, and the Ada County Highway District regarding the first two areas, as well as other stakeholders to bring about solutions to all of these priority issues.

As I noted earlier, the last time the City surveyed the community was three years ago. Overall it is impressive that our survey results improved in 64 of 84 areas from the previous survey! A few City services that saw the highest jump in favorable remarks were in the areas of Communications, Programs for Youth, and Code Enforcement.

To view the complete results click on one of the documents (report provides comprehensive results, appendix shows results by area, presentation is a summary of the results). We will go over the survey in detail at our next Town Hall scheduled for Wednesday, July 26 at 6:30pm at Challenger School in Meridian.  I would love to see you there as we discuss these very intriguing results and other City updates with the community.

#MyMeridian Summer TOP 5

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By Mayor Tammy

I love summertime in Meridian! There is something for everyone! In fact, just this past Saturday I shopped for produce at the Meridian Youth Farmers Market, cooled off at the Kleiner Park splash pad with my grandkids, and watched the sunset from my patio on a gorgeous summer evening.  As I watched the sun go down, I thought of all of the amazing things we have to do, right here in our own backyard! So if you are looking for some summer fun in Meridian – here are five ideas to consider:

5. Youth Farmers Market

This year marks the second annual Meridian Youth Farmers Market! This event is a long-awaited addition as it’s something the community has wanted for years. In Meridian style, ours is unique because the majority of vendors are youth from across the valley. Bring the family downtown on Saturday mornings, support our local youth and shop the fresh produce, baked goods, crafts and more - everything must be local and personally made. (Now – Sept. 2, Saturdays from 9am-12pm, Meridian City Hall Plaza)

4. CableONE Movie Night

Can you believe this is the 11th year of CableONE Movie Night? I can remember when it first began and it has definitely grown to be a community favorite! Check out the schedule of movies at www.meridiancity.org/movienight and share your pictures on social media with the hashtag #MeridianMovieNight.  (Now – Aug. 25, Fridays at dusk, Settlers Park)

3. Concerts on Broadway

This event grows in popularity each year. Who doesn’t want to listen to some great concerts under the summer night’s sky?! And it’s free – thanks to our generous sponsors. Join us for Concerts on Broadway here in the Meridian City Hall Plaza! There will be food trucks at each event this year too. You can find more information at www.meridiancity.org/artsevents. (July 15, July 29, August 12, August 26, 6:30pm, Meridian City Hall Plaza)

2. Meridian Parks

There is plenty of fun to be had in our parks this summer. The splash pads at Kleiner and Settlers Parks are a great way to cool off and there’s fishing right here in town at both of these parks! Our parks play host to numerous events throughout the summer such as the Independence Day Festival at Storey Park, concerts, races, vendor shows and more. And don’t forget to check out Storey Bark Park – your dogs will love the amenities!

1. Experience Downtown Meridian

And finally, I encourage you to experience Downtown Meridian this summer. Learn about our community’s history by following our Historical Walking Tour – you can even download the app on your smart phone! Or check out the changes in downtown. We’ve welcomed several new businesses and there’s always family fun available at the Meridian Library’s unBOUND. They have a lot of great summer programs – check it out at www.mymld.org.

Of course aside from my top five there’s fall fun ahead too, with Meridian Art Week (Sept. 11-16) that will now culminate with the rescheduled Gene Kleiner Meridian Symphony concert at Kleiner Park on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 6pm. Also, Kleiner Park LIVE an outdoor concert series kicks off in August and runs through October, and the Meridian Community Block Party, Sept. 9.  Plus, our Parks and Recreation Department has put together a Summer Activity Guide that is full of fun ideas and activities for people of all ages!

You can always check out more events online on our website – www.meridiancity.org. We look forward to seeing your pictures and videos on social media from your summer fun in our community with the hashtags #MeridianSummer and #MyMeridian.

Meridian Summer

Downtown Summer Kickoff With Two Great Events!

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By Mayor Tammy

This weekend will be our Downtown Meridian Summer Kickoff – with two popular events on the calendar – Dairy Days and the start of the 2nd Annual Meridian Youth Farmers Market season in the Meridian City Hall Outdoor Plaza.

This year’s market is even bigger than the inaugural year! The market opens on Saturday, June 24 and runs every Saturday until September 2 (9am-12pm). With nearly 20 booths every week (and some weeks, nearly 30 booths) there will be plenty of fresh produce, baked good, arts and crafts, entertainment and food for the whole family. It’s a great way to shop local and support area youth as most vendors are youth! New this season: Cooking demonstrations that will take place most Saturdays at 10am. 

We are proud to partner with Epique Events and the Meridian Development Corporation for the Meridian Youth Farmers Market. Epique Events runs the weekly event and there is still room for vendors throughout the summer, so if you’re interested you can learn more at www.meridiancity.org/youthfarmersmarket.

The Meridian Youth Farmers Market will also have a float in the Dairy Days Parade which will be held on Friday, June 23 at 6:45pm. Thousands are expected to head to Downtown Meridian for the parade that will begin on Main Street at the Meridian Speedway, run north to East Fairview, then south on 2 ½ Street.  Get there early and find a place to enjoy this annual event.  And for those who generally drive through downtown be aware of the traffic impacts which go into place starting at 5pm. Visit our website for more details.

This year marks the 88th year of the Meridian Dairy Days (June 22-25) and the days are packed with entertainment for the whole family. Brown’s Carnival opens at 4pm on Thursday, June 22, along with the Pancake Feed that same day at 4pm, benefiting the Meridian Food Bank and the Meridian Injured Police Officers Fund. Friday, Saturday and Sunday including the parade, as I mentioned, along with live entertainment and a fireworks show at the Meridian Speedway on Friday at 10:30pm.

For a second consecutive year the Meridian Arts Commission has teamed up with the Dairy Board to host the Dairy Days Art Show. It will take place on Saturday, June 24 at 9am in Storey Park and will feature more than 20 local artists, art activities for kids, artist demonstrations and performances by local musicians and dance groups.

Finally, the Meridian Lion’s Club PRCA Rodeo adds to the fun-filled, weekend festivities. There are two opportunities to attend: Saturday, June 24 at 5pm and Sunday, June 25 at 2pm. The rodeo is located at Cherry Lane and McDermott.

I’m looking forward to this weekend as we celebrate traditions in Downtown Meridian, old and new - giving residents even more options for activities in our great community!

PLEASE NOTE: Meridian City Hall is a stop for the #WhereAreTheDairyDaysCows contest, along with other Downtown Meridian businesses June 18 - June 24. Find the hidden cow at any of the 9 participating locations and have your passport marked by the business (you can pick up a passport in the Mayor's Office at City Hall or other participating businesses). Submit your completed passport and you could win prizes!!  

meridian dairy days cow

Public Hearing Noticing Expanded to NextDoor for Pilot Program

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 By Mayor Tammy

Over the past several months we’ve had a few citizens raise concerns about the noticing process for public hearings. Whether they felt they should have been notified but weren’t, or they received notice but didn’t understand the information in the notice, or they felt the notice didn’t have enough information - we rolled up our sleeves and reviewed the current processes to see what more we could do. After fully vetting our process, we identified several areas we could improve on and/or pilot. First, we will implement some changes on the notice we mail to residents.  We also found one more key area where we can reach community members – online – via the social media tool called NextDoor.

Here’s some background: Public hearings are required by Idaho State Code on land use applications. Idaho Code requires the City to publish notice of hearings in an official newspaper (ours is the Meridian Press) and issue notice to all political subdivisions providing services within the City (ACHD, West Ada School District, irrigation districts, etc.). We do this. Knowing that more is needed than what Idaho Code calls for, the City also sends notice of the hearing via mail to property owners within 300 feet of the project (or 1,000 feet if the application is for a heavy industrial use or wireless communication facility).  In addition to these noticing requirements, the City requires an applicant to post a large sign(s) on the property that is the subject of the application with the date and time of the hearing, at least 10 days before the hearing. An applicant must also hold a neighborhood meeting and mail notice of the meeting to property owners within 300 feet of the project prior to an application being submitted.

After hearing the concerns, we’ve decided to go further and have launched a 6 month pilot project for noticing land use applications on NextDoor. Now, if your neighborhood is within a square mile of the project being proposed or if someone from your neighborhood received a postcard in the mail, you will see a notification of the project on NextDoor.  This notification will show up as a post and include a link to the application on our website.  This will allow immediate access to the information. While we hope this will create a more informed and engaged public, any comments that people have on the project will need to be sent to the City Clerk via mail, email or given as testimony at the Public Hearing so this can all be part of the public record.

If you aren’t on NextDoor and are interested in what might be proposed in your area, I encourage you to sign up! It is a social media platform for neighborhoods. Currently there are over 17,000 households on NextDoor in Meridian so it is one of the top ways for our City to reach the most residents online (www.nextdoor.com).  We know that in many communities this is where the conversation about development is already occurring; hopefully this will add to that discussion. 

One of our goals in the City’s Strategic Plan is to increase engagement and participation with citizens in the planning, operations, and decision making processes of the City. Posting these notices on NextDoor is a great addition and step in that direction - and is also in direct response to feedback we received from our citizens. We are always listening and looking for ways to improve our outreach and communication with residents – something that in this tech age is ever-evolving.  

I look forward to hearing your feedback on this pilot project.

Memorial Day Time Capsule

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By Mayor Tammy

The public is invited to attend the annual Memorial Day Tribute at the Rock of Honor Memorial in Kleiner Park on Monday, May 29, 2017 at 11am. New this year will be the burial of a time capsule, including community and military memorabilia. I am honored to have been asked to include the letter below for residents to read when it is opened in 2042 – in twenty five years…a lot can happen in that time! Aside from predicting our population at that time to be 175,000, I share the vision I see for our community based on work we’re doing today.

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It is with great pleasure that I write this letter to share with our Meridian residents in 2042 – I hope that I am here to read this letter to you in person. The time capsule from which you get this letter was put together in 2017, following a Memorial Day celebration at the Rock of Honor. We gather at the Rock of Honor twice a year to officially honor those from Meridian who have given the ultimate sacrifice in protecting and defending the freedoms that we enjoy each and every day. It is to those, who serve and have served, that I dedicate this letter as it is because of their service that we can continue to express our thoughts and I have the opportunity to write these words.

The Meridian of 2004, the year I first became mayor, was much different than the Meridian of 2017. In the span of just 13 short years Meridian grew from a small suburb to a bustling, destination community. Through our growth, however, we have not lost sight of our priorities of strong schools, beautiful parks, and outstanding public services of police, fire, water and sewer. It is my hope that these priorities are still thriving in the Meridian of 2042 just as they do today.

We have long focused on and held to our vision to be Idaho’s premier city to live, work and raise a family - and believe in 2042 we will be the premier community in the entire West.  Our vision for Meridian is a city with a vibrant and diverse business environment providing for living wage jobs; our strategic growth will ensure orderly development and a balance of resources; we will be a flexible and responsive government while safeguarding our health and safety; and that we will have plenty of opportunities to enjoy the arts, culture and recreation. I am optimistic by the time this letter is read that Meridian will have achieved such status as the premier community in the West.

In the spirit of a time capsule, I would like to make some additional specific predictions of what your Meridian looks like versus the one I live in today.

Meridian’s population will be 175,000 and we will have a housing/employment balance of 55/45; Our Health Science and Technology District will be the finest health care center in the Pacific Northwest; The City will be surrounded on all sides (by Nampa, Star, Eagle, Boise, and Kuna); however, the visitor or citizen will know when they arrive, as we will have attractive gateways providing that sense of arrival; Employment centers will be distributed throughout the City offering jobs closer to where people live; and connected through transportation corridors, providing synergistic value and mobility to interconnect; Meridian will continue to host the finest educational experience in the state through our partners – West Ada School District, Idaho State University, Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine, College of Western Idaho-Meridian campus, and private institutions offering degrees ranging from vocational-technical to Law degrees.

To my fellow Meridian residents of the future, I applaud you and thank you. We have laid the groundwork, but it is you who will have carried our torch forward by now. When this time capsule is opened, I hope you can appreciate the heritage of our community and that you now will be looking to the future and planning for continued bright days ahead, just as we have done.

#GowenStrong – Important for our Community, Families and Economy

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 By Mayor Tammy

I support #GowenStrong and I am urging our community to join me. The Citizen Airmen and women of the 124th Fighter Wing of the Idaho Air National Guard at Gowen Field are being considered as an Air National Guard base location for the F-35. As one of five finalists, Gowen Field is a smart decision as a preferred location - for the military, our economy, and our neighbors, friends, and family who serve in the Idaho National Guard.

If selected, the Idaho Air National Guard could expect to see approximately 18 to 24 F-35s that would replace the same number of A-10s currently stationed at Gowen Field. If selected, aircraft would begin to arrive in Boise in 2021/2022.

This is critical in keeping Gowen Field relevant and energized. We support this because we have guard members who depend on Gowen Field in our community. As well, the City has employees who are guard members. These are citizen-airmen and women with full-time jobs and families in our communities. Gowen Field’s location allows them to train before and after the full time work throughout the month and on weekends. This ensures they meet requirements and are able to proficiently perform their duties in order to deploy at a moment’s notice.

You may not realize the economic impact of Gowen Field as well. The Idaho National Guard is Idaho’s fourth largest employer at 5,255 employees – behind only St. Luke’s, Walmart, and Micron – and the 1,300 full and part time airmen in the Idaho Air National Guard are a significant component of the overall Guard operation. The Idaho Air National Guard is responsible for over 2,800 direct, indirect, and induced employees across the state - representing over $136 million annual total labor income (direct, indirect, induced) and over $155 million annual total economic impact (direct, indirect, induced).

If Gowen Field is selected for the F-35 mission, it will bring even more civilian jobs and opportunities to our state. According to the Utah Defense Alliance, it didn’t take long after Ogden was selected as a base for Lockheed Martin to open up shop nearby. This kind of potential economic impact would be huge for the Valley and will last for decades.

I stand along with my fellow Mayors in the area, and before you, in demonstrating my public support because it is imperative in the selection criteria to see strong support of our base! If you would like to show your support, you can write a letter to one of our local newspapers, contact our congressional delegation, or sign up to show your support.  You can learn more about all of these options by visiting gowenstrong.com.

The time is now to show we are #GowenStrong. Join me in not only supporting a critical piece of our economy, but also the families in our communities.  I support them and am honored to be part of our nation’s effort in pursing freedoms.

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