May 2018 Treasure Valley Voters Guide

Welcome to our Voter Guide for the May primaries, presented by the Idaho Statesman and the League of Women Voters of Idaho. Compare candidates' views on the issues side by side and create your own ballot, which you can then print or email.

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...Please note: The guide will display candidates from multiple parties in one group. At the polls, you will be asked to choose a Republican, Democratic or nonpartisan ballot. Idaho's Republican primary is closed, while the Democratic primary is open to voters affiliated with any party. There are no primaries this year for the Constitution or Libertarian parties. Candidates' responses have not been edited.

Ada Commissioner District 1

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  • Candidate picture

    Erik S. Berg

  • Candidate picture

    Diana Lachiondo

  • Candidate picture

    Jim Tibbs

Biographical Information

What education and experience do you have to prepare you to be a county commissioner?

What would you like to accomplish as a county commissioner?

What challenges does the Treasure Valley's current growth pose to your office? How will you solve those?

Both the federal and state governments have passed tax cuts in recent months. Amid the valley's growth, are you considering any sort of property tax relief for residents of your county?

Lawmakers this year passed new limitations on local building codes. What does this mean to your county going forward?

What is the most effective way to bolster public defense services in your county?

With an end to horse racing at the Idaho Expo, what is the best use of the large county complex in Garden City?

Age 28
Education Bachelors of Sciences in Economics from the University of Washington
Prior political experience Vice precinct captain for the Democratic party, Chair of Idaho Democratic Party Business Council
Civic involvement Board member of South East Neighborhood Association.
Years living in Idaho 8
Family Alex Welninski my fiance
My knowledge of economics prepares me for being county commissioner in two ways. First it allows me to understand the trade offs and feedback loops that are persistent throughout all of government. When one changes something, it can have cascading effects and it's important to understand what those effects are and how to mitigate them when they are negative. Secondly it gives me the understanding of greater economic trends and climates. This better allows me to tailor what we are doing in government to the best practices for the type of economic climate we are in. My knowledge from running a multi-million dollar distribution company allows me to understand the importance of looking everywhere to find not only where there might be waste or unnecessary spending, but also to look for opportunities, or where extra investment can have great returns. The business I'm in has very small margins so I understand how important it is to be careful with every dollar, as even a very small percentage change can ruin the finances of a distributor. I will take that same sort of financial care and discipline to the job of county commissioner.
The first thing I'd like to accomplish is making sure our county has better, more intelligent growth and development. It says right in the county code that private property rights of people must be protected from being unduly burdened by others. This has too often been forgotten. We need to have better and more intelligent development and growth that both helps our county grow, but protects the things about the county that make people want to live here in the first place.

Secondly we need to have a more accountable and responsible government. Due to errors in judgment by the current commissioners the county tax payer has had to fork over millions of dollars in legal settlements. This is unfair to taxpayers and a waste of their money. I will always make sure my decisions are well thought out, and have good legal standing in order to prevent such settlements from occurring. We need to be able to trust that our elected officials are going to make intelligent decisions and not costly mistakes.

Finally it is vitally important to make sure we have a county that works for everyone. No matter where you live in the county we need a government that represents and listens to you.
Growth is the most important issue facing the county right now. I will use a two part strategy to make sure that growth is intelligent. First we need to make sure that each and every development is carefully looked at, especially to make sure it does not unduly burden neighboring property owners. This part of the review cycle has often been glossed over or missed completely. Smart and well thought out growth requires a desire to listen to all parties, and make sure everyone feels heard such that regardless of outcome people know that their concerns were actually considered. I have worked with groups such as Save Dry Creek, Old Hill Road and Vanishing Boise to this effect.

Secondly we need to re examine and revise the planning and zoning code. For example one can build an oil derrick without a permit, the same as a 200 sq ft tool shed according to the code. Things like this need to be fixed so that we can have a common sense code that we enforce fairly. There are also many issues that come up repeatedly for applications that we need to codify into our zoning code to build a fairer and more visible process for everyone in terms of what will be accepted, and what will not be.
I think it is important to always in government examine whether revenue is matching, exceeding, or falling short of the costs of services that are expected by citizens. However as our costs at the county increase, I don't see a tax cut being likely on the county level in the aggregate, although I would like to work on revenue neutral ways of making the tax burden fairer to those who are facing such increased burdens thanks to soaring property values. We are underfunding many of the obligations and or the obligations of the county will grow in cost over the foreseeable future. The public defender for example needs a huge influx of resources and personnel in order for them to provide the adequate time and attention to all of the cases they are being asked to handle. With changes in folks not being required to carry health insurance the indigent fund is almost guaranteed to cost the county more in the future as well. In order to cover these costs the total amount of taxes collected will have to increase in order for the budget to remain balanced.
Unfortunately what it will mean for Ada County is losing our ability to better tailor our codes to suit our county. However there are still many things we can do ordinance wise that we can utilize in order to better tailor our laws to our citizens. Through my review and changing of the county code to better match what the residents of Ada County expect from their government we can still make a good deal of progress towards creating a code that works better for everyone, even without being able to change the local building code. I would also push with the Idaho Association of Counties to have the legislature repeal this law and give back local government the ability to govern locally.
Unfortunately the public defender's office has been chronically underfunded and understaffed. While the people there have done incredible work for people with the resources they have, the simple fact of the matter is that they don't have enough resources and we as a county need to rectify that. The budget for the public defender's office grew at 2.3% year over year in the current budget, that is unacceptable. We're going to need to invest a lot of money into the public defenders office. Utilizing the final report from the Idaho Policy Institute along with consulting experts in the field I'd make sure we are meeting our constitutionally required duty to provide representation for those who can't afford it.
As with any land use decision all stakeholders must be involved especially with regards to the citizens of the county and Garden City. First I would make sure that everyone is on the same page that the current use of horseracing is not the right use, with the recent petition this might not be the case. If we all decide it’s best to move to other uses, I think a downtown development in Garden City as their mayor has suggested is a promising option. Aspects of that I'd push would be to utilize granular development to create a unique area for Garden City. This could include retail business locations that are affordable to rent or better yet own for businesses, as well as ones that have affordable residences above the retail business. All options should be looked at to make sure they fit with the current neighbors and do not unduly burden them, as well as how it fits with the nearby greenbelt and the rest of the Idaho Expo. The key to any option is working with all stakeholders to make sure county residents are getting a good return on their investment, and that Garden City is getting good and compatible use out of the area whatever comes out of it.
Age 37
Education B.A. International Studies, University of Washington
Prior political experience Precinct captain, District 19
Civic involvement Director of Community Partnerships for the City of Boise, United Way of Treasure Valley board member, Treasure Valley Education Partnership core team member, Neighbors United planning team, Energize Our Neighborhoods strategic leadership team, Regional Housing and Homelessness Roundtable leader, Boiseko Gazteak (Children’s Basque Dancing) teacher
Years living in Idaho Born and raised, moved away from 1998-2012 for university and work, returned to raise our children near family
Family Husband, Roger, and two sons, Henry and Julian
I was born and raised in Ada County and then earned a degree in International Studies from the University of Washington. I am currently employed as the Director of Community Partnerships for the City of Boise, where I work every day on tough issues like housing affordability, opioid addiction, and services for our veterans, kids, and elderly neighbors. Alongside key stakeholders, I’ve been honored to lead initiatives such as New Path Housing and the Boise Pre-K Project. Currently I’m working with multiple partners to address permanent housing for our veterans. As a fourth-generation Idahoan, my investment in this community runs deep. I want to keep Ada County a great place to live, and know that our county government must urgently work harder to improve and protect our quality of life. In my professional life and community service, I’ve learned that - with cooperation and hard work - we can overcome our toughest challenges, and I will be a tireless servant in Ada County government.
My top priorities as Ada County Commissioner will be 1) charting the course for smart, sustainable growth that preserves our quality of life and open spaces, 2) saving money in the long run by investing in proactive and innovative solutions to tough problems, and 3) working with local leaders and community members to address our valley’s opioid crisis.

Put simply: I don’t plan on being a seat filler. I believe in ethical, transparent, and effective government that truly guides the way for a better community. I have a track record of proactive, focused, and determined problem-solving, and I know how to bring regional leaders to the table to tackle our toughest challenges. I will continue that work if elected County Commissioner.
Ada County is currently one of the fastest growing geographic areas in the country. And, regardless of their political affiliation, Ada County residents have serious concerns about our current rate of growth. Without focused planning now, unbridled development will erode our quality of life, compromise our open spaces, and ultimately cost taxpayers additional money to provide services. To keep our community connected, thriving, and livable, our commissioners should be leading on a valley-wide comprehensive plan for smart, sustainable growth.

Ten years ago, a regional growth plan was partially developed and, sadly, never came to fruition. I’m ready to take up that cause, and I plan to make this the central issue of my campaign.
I’m sensitive to keeping property taxes reasonable, especially for our seniors on fixed incomes, and home affordability is one of my top priorities. I’m also eager to eliminate wasteful spending in the county government. I have a track record of finding and implementing cost-effective solutions that save taxpayer dollars and improve quality of life for Ada County residents.
Building codes are in place to protect the health and safety of residents. Unfortunately, the Idaho Legislature’s recent actions restrict the ability of local officials to tailor building codes to their communities, or even to meet widely accepted standards. This takes power out of the hands of knowledgeable professionals and has the potential to adversely affect local insurance rates.

In addition, should Ada County experience a large flood, wildfire, or other natural disaster, failing to adhere to accepted international building codes will affect Ada County’s ability to recoup losses through FEMA.
Ada County has a highly professional and high-functioning public defense department; however, there are always areas for improvement. Ada County Commissioners should keep a mindful eye on county caseloads and place an emphasis on appropriate training for attorneys and staff. Given the increasing complexity of our community’s issues, it is important that public defenders and their investigators have access to training to fulfill their vital constitutional obligations.
When the Idaho legislature prohibited instant horse racing, it spelled the end of horse racing at Les Bois. Idaho horse racing advocates are currently working on a petition drive to bring horse racing back to Expo Idaho, and I support that effort. However, should it fail, it is time to bring Garden City leaders and other interested parties to the table to jointly and creatively re-envision how the complex is used in the future. Garden City residents and leaders deserve the opportunity to have a voice in the plans for the heart of their city, and I'm eager to work with stakeholders moving forward.
Age 71
Education 1970-B.A., Criminology from Boise State University 1997-Northwestern University Traffic Institute
Prior political experience 2005-2006- Appointed Chairman of the Board for Idaho Department of Correction by Governor Kempthorne, 2006- Appointed Idaho's first "Drug Czar" by Governor Rische, 2006-2010-Boise City Council, 2013-Present- Ada County Commissioner, 2013 to present- Precinct Committeeman for precinct 1706.
Civic involvement BSU Advisory Board for the School of Public Service, EMS Advisory Board, Past member of the Region 4 Behavior Health Board, Bogus Basin Ski Association-Board of Director for 9 years, Past member of the Ada County Human Rights Task Force, Crime Stoppers Board of Directors, Idaho Criminal Justice Commission, COMPASS Board of Directors, VRT Board of Directors
Years living in Idaho 65 years
Family Wife- Sally Son and daughter in law- Sam and Erin Son and daughter in law-Maili and Ryan Grandchildren- Henry and Harper
Website http://None
Facebook None
Twitter @None
Other social media None
I am currently serving as the Ada County Commissioner for District 1. My past professional life prepared me very well to be a commissioner. I served 34 years with the Boise Police Department, retiring as Chief in 2004. Additionally, I served as a Boise City Council Member 2006-20110, Chairman of the Idaho Board of Correction, Idaho's first "Drug Czar", and state coordinator for the Rural Law Enforcement Methamphetamine Initiative.
My desire is to continue working towards establishing the highest standards in: Public Safety and Public Service with Honesty and Integrity, Fiscal Responsibility, Open and Transparent Government, Public Participation...Treating Ada County Citizens As Partners, Not Outsiders, Logical Decision Making Based on a Common Sense Approach to Problem Solving, Leadership Focusing on Effective Communication, Collaborative Effort and a Cooperative Spirit.

This is a very challenging time for county government. Almost everything county government does is required by the Idaho Constitution and/or State Law. Ensuring the mandated programs/services are adequately funded is a very real challenge where there is a growing population in a very dynamic environment. Ada County government is being stressed to the limit in order to comply with the mandates. The county is growing rapidly; residential and commercial development is off the chart. The county needs to continue marking smart decisions that comply with the law and managed growth philosophy. Ada County needs to continue working with the development and community stakeholders in a collaborative manner to ensure the excellent quality of life is not compromised. Ada County is in the final stage of drafting a Master Facilities Plan. This plan will help the current and future decision makers address growth issues and how it relates to county infrastructure...facilities and personnel.
At the present time, Ada County is not considering any sort of tax relief. As a reminder, almost every service and program provided by county government is mandated by the State of Idaho. Counties do not have the flexibility to cut or reduce funding of those mandated programs/services. Let me provide a description of the revenue source for Ada County: 49% from taxes, 25% from fees for service, 13% from intra-governmental, 1% from licenses/permits, and 9% from the fund balance. Now, let me describe the allocations of Ada County: 41% for public safety, 17% for judicial services, 21% for general government, 12% for sanitation, 4% for recreation. As you can see, almost every tax dollar is used, and used wisely, to fund the mandated programs/services. However, if the State of Idaho addressed the expansion of Medicade in a manner that relieved the county of the responsibility to fund the Indigent Program, that might be an opportunity to reduce or eliminate the levy for that program...a savings to the taxpayer.

The short answer is we need to wait and see. The bulk of construction occurs in incorporated Ada County and is regulated by city government. Ada County has it's own building codes and they are based on the law and best practices. The fact of the matter is, it will impact builders/contractors more. The role of government is to ensure the laws, ordinances and policies are followed and to offer guidance and assistance to help contractors achieve their goals.
Ada County has an excellent Public Defender program. The Ada County public defender is working cooperatively with the Idaho Public Defense Commission. Ada County has applied for and received grant funding from the Commission for the past two years. This has allowed for some positive changes in the PD office and includes additional attorneys, support staff and remodeling of the PD offices. Additionally, the grant funding has allowed for even more training for the attorneys and staff. The Board of Ada County Commissioners have been told by the Commission Regional Director that Ada County public defense program is in excellent shape.
If horse racing were to leave the Expo Idaho facility, new opportunities for use could become available. The Board of County Commissioners, the Director of Expo Idaho and the Fair Board have had preliminary discussions about what would happen if horse racing went away. At the present time, there seems to be strong support to maintain the site for public use, possibly some limited commercial development and expansion or modification of the current fair grounds footprint. Whatever happens in the future, the decisions should reflect the best and most appropriate use for Ada County citizens.