MERIDIAN, Idaho — Election day is coming up on November 2 and several local races in the Treasure Valley will be on the ballot. In Meridian, six candidates are competing for three City Council seats.
Hunter Wolf is challenging current City Council member, Joe Borton for seat 2.
Adam L. Nelson is challenging the current City Council President, Treg A. Bernt for seat 4.
Mike Hon is challenging current City Council member, Luke Cavener for seat 6.
Five of the candidates participated in a candidate forum Tuesday and discussed affordable housing, traffic, parking and more.
Treg Bernt the current council president and candidate for seat four talked about the diverse housing options the city has added, "You've seen in the last little while you've seen townhomes spring up, you've seen multi-family housing, you've seen single-family dwellings attached and detached."
His opponent, Adam Nelson said he supports the mix of types of housing but has concerns, "That potentially that scenario could continue to increase without the adequate public safety and infrastructure and etc."
Current council member and candidate for seat six, Luke Cavener also discussed the diverse housing options the current council has added, but said he wants to explore things like tiny homes, "I think that we've done some really good things but I think there's options particularly in the code section that we could explore to better adapt to the growing and changing marketplace.
His opponent, Mike Hon says affordability is mostly up to the developers, but City Council might be able to affect affordability in certain ways, like through zoning, "Potentially city council being in control of some of that, they can upzone things for more affordable housing, if that's the right solution."
Current council member and candidate for seat two, Joe Borton was not asked about affordable housing during the forum. Idaho News 6 has reached out to him for his response to this question, but we have not yet heard back.
The other seat 2 candidate, Hunter Wolf did not participate in this forum or any previous forum.
During the forum, candidates were asked whether they think Meridian should use reserves to advance road projects to help with traffic issues.
Nelson was skeptical of whether this is possible.
"I think that you could probably take the projects that those reserve funds are earmarked for and maybe look at the traffic scenarios that are affected by them in that manner, but personally I don't think that that's something that can be done," he said.
Bernt responded to this saying it's an example of why experience matters because he said using reserves in this way can and has been done.
Bernt cited examples like a road-widening project on Lake Hazel Rd.
"Going forward I'm open to discussing different projects and what that looks like for our city. Transportation's an issue so we need to stay on top of it," he said.
He also noted that since the Ada County Highway District is in charge of roads, it's important for the city to have a collaborative relationship with them.
Caverner said he thinks using reserve funds for this purpose can be a good idea, "For the right projects at the right time if we have the right amount of reserves."
Hon said, "Should the city be involved in building a road or advancing the road? yeah, I mean if it makes sense, obviously. But from a budgeting perspective, how do you get to that point? Something's gotta give. You can't spend more than you've already budgeted or you have to reallocate the reserves."
Like Bernt, Borton cited examples of when this has been done, including the Locust Grove overpass.
"Years back the city advanced funds to get that built much quicker than it was otherwise scheduled," he said.
Another topic discussed in the forum was parking in downtown Meridian.
Hon said he doesn't think there's enough parking downtown,"Seems to me that if you're building all these apartments and you're going to have a community center with an amphitheater and maybe concerts, I don't think there's enough parking."
Caverner thinks there's room for improvement when it comes to parking.
"As being a responsive government, as we continue to see an influx of residential opportunities that we as a Council in working with our transportation partners and our urban renewal partners, to take a look at our parking standards and guidelines. I think that they're worthy or revision," he said.
Bernt said the amount of parking isn't the problem, "You may need to walk a block or so, but there's plenty of parking currently in downtown Meridian."
He added that what needs improvement is code enforcement.
Nelson said he and his family have gotten used to parking a few blocks away from their destination when they go downtown. He acknowledged that this is part of having a vibrant downtown, but he also has some questions.
"The question is going to be when is that parking garage going to happen and why has it not been something that has been expedited?" he said.
Borton also brought up the parking garage that's planned for downtown Meridian.
"There are focused and orchestrated plans to add additional parking which is going to include some parking garage components which is new to our downtown," he said.
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