November 2018 Treasure Valley Voters Guide

Welcome to our Voter Guide for the November general election, 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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Canyon Commissioner District 1

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    Leslie Van Beek

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?

What is the best solution for addressing crowding at the Canyon County Jail? How will you accomplish it?

If elected, will you support investing county resources in Housing First or similar initiatives to prevent homelessness? Why or why not?

Age 56
Education Bachelor of Science in Health Minor in Biology Currently enrolled in a graduate program focusing on Conflict Management and Negotiation Certified Facilitative Mediator
Prior political experience None
Civic involvement Franklin Ditch Company Land use development
Years living in Idaho 55
Family Married to Dale Van Beek for 21 years. We have 5 children: Davis, Kramer, Wil, Harrison and Annie
Facebook Leslie Van Beek for Canyon County Commissioner
I am a native Idahoan born and raised in the Treasure Valley. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Health from Boise State University with a minor in Biology. In February 2018, I completed a Basic Mediation Course and earned certification as a Facilitative Mediator and have plans to continue work at the graduate level in Conflict Management and Negotiation. I bring a love for learning to this position and a desire to build positive, interactive relationships within the County. I have been working diligently to prepare for my role as Commissioner. I have met with hundreds of citizens, as well as local business leaders, city and county officials, land use development experts, law enforcement personnel and other key people in the community to understand the many facets of this key position. My background includes time spent in the banking and credit industries. My husband and I are small business owners accustomed to operating on a budget and we have raised a successful family. My background coupled with critical thinking skills, educational objectives and long-range planning will be some of the tools I bring to the District 1 seat.
During my first term, I hope to partner with the prosecuting attorney's office, law enforcement and budget advisors to develop a long-range plan which meets the need for public safety and garners citizen approval. Of equal importance will be to manage growth by studying areas of impact, working with city officials and county development services to create viable, healthy communities for citizens to live, work, and play. I will also be carefully evaluating the budget. Elected officials are public servants charged with stewardship of taxpayer dollars. During the 2018 budget season, I presented an alternative budget built using taxes generated by new construction. The alternative budget did not increase existing property taxes, use foregone taxes or cut services. Although the alternative budget was not adopted, I will continue to push for property tax relief, look for ways to cut unnecessary spending and manage the budget by encouraging efficiencies at the county level.
Growth in the Treasure Valley poses several challenges including a changing landscape, property rights, the sale versus preservation of agricultural land, the need for infrastructure for new businesses as well as the need for a wide range of quality housing. By myself, I cannot solve these issues. By partnering with leaders and key people in city and county government as well as business and community leaders, we can establish the right equilibrium that, coupled with defined long-term master plans, will help the Treasure Valley navigate through these changing times. I have good and established working relationships with planning and zoning as well as endorsements from farmers, builders, real estate and business professionals, youth groups, community service clubs, elected officials, educators and religious leaders. In addition, my husband and I have been actively involved in agriculture for more than 20 years and own 80 acres of farm ground. By listening to concerns, studying growth in the Treasure Valley and being committed to making well-informed decisions for the future, we will manage growth and manage it well.
Elected officials who make budget requests or approve the budget should always look for ways to provide property tax relief. County commissioners approve the budget. This requires a thorough knowledge of expenditure requests and revenue sources. I will research and understand these components of the budget. I will manage the county budget like I do my own: responsibly and in the black. I understand that money in the budget belongs to citizens and taxpayers. Currently, Canyon County has some of the highest property taxes in the state and has experienced drastic increases in the past 3 years. As our economic base grows, I will consider the needs of tax payers first and limit county spending. Sometimes, assessed values change and have a dramatic impact on individual taxpayers. I will work with the assessor’s office to reduce those impacts. I will compare actual spending to budget requests and understand budget line items. By making sound economic development decisions, we will achieve the right mix of residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural assessed values to create a strong tax base that allows everyone to pay their fair share of taxes for the services they receive.
While there is an implication that lawmakers made it more difficult for residential and commercial construction projects, the only significant impact regarding building codes concerned tiny homes. Building codes for tiny homes were relaxed making it easier for manufacturers to put them on the market. According to the Development Services director, codes are designed to standardize the industry and improve building practices. Additionally, not all codes are implemented at the local level but are targeted where applicable. I would need more information as to what this question is specifically referencing as it relates to current legislation and then given the opportunity to talk with the building codes experts further to assess the impact to the county.
There have been several recent changes to the Public Defender’s office which the Chief Public Defender says have been very effective in bolstering services. These changes include hiring additional attorneys and support staff, bringing public defense “in house” and mirroring the private sector’s attorney/client relationship whereby a client is represented by the same attorney from start to finish. Additionally, the public defender works closely with support groups and agencies in providing rehabilitative and treatment programs to clients with mental health and substance abuse problems. When elected, I will continue to listen and monitor the needs of this department, provide support to help find funding sources for indigent defense services to meet the State’s compliance regulations, as well as help build healthier families which are foundational to strong communities. This is a well-managed department in the county concerned with providing quality services to the community within the allocated budget.
The best solution will require a collaborative effort between the Commission, the sheriff and budget advisors. Only then can a determination be made regarding a jail configuration that provides greatest officer safety at the lowest operating cost. Engaging the help of Student Resource Officer’s (SRO’s), utilizing the expertise of the prosecuting attorney and public defender’s office and supporting programs with proven track records may help to reduce the number of new or repeat offenders in the system. Over time, with collaborative efforts, my goal is to reduce the number of beds needed at the county jail. This does not mean I will not support necessary facilities that ensure public safety. It does mean I am deeply concerned about our families, our children, the mental health crisis and the effects of addiction on our community. I am working with others who share the same desire for a whole community so that we are not necessarily known for the biggest jail, but we are identified as a proactive Commission concerned with dealing with the underlying crisis. We need developed, sustainable, long-range plans that meet the needs of law enforcement and citizens in the county.
The greatest success in preventing homelessness will not be to expand government programs or to take from the “haves” and give to the “have-nots”. It will be to provide people with necessary tools that lead to pathways of self-sustainability. The County has programs for the indigent and those in crisis with demonstrated need. Housing alternatives are available to those trying to change generational cycles of abuse or dysfunction. These programs are effective, and they require a willing participation from those benefiting so that repeated cycles of dependency can be broken. “Without self-sufficiency, no developing village can ever hope to break the cycle of poverty. Many charities and organizations perpetuate this cycle by focusing only on treating the symptoms of poverty, completely ignoring the root causes.” –Brittany Hunter. I will work, as District 1 Commissioner, to provide a safe community where people can work, provide for their families and improve their standard of living. This may not necessarily mean allocating funds to Housing First as I am interested in addressing root causes of poverty and homelessness, not perpetuating them.