I.F. mayoral candidates: Why you should vote for me
EastIdahoNews.com asked Idaho Falls incumbent Mayor Rebecca Casper and councilwoman Barbara Ehardt to write an editorial on why residents should vote for them.
Here is what each candidate said.
MAYOR REBECCA CASPER
I am running to serve as your mayor once again simply because I am not finished with the work I set out to accomplish four years ago. We all know this community is a wonderful place to live and work and raise families. When you vote on Tuesday, I hope you would consider the following:
Idaho Falls is better off today then it was 4 years ago:
• Since 2013 our unemployment rate has been cut nearly in half from 4.5% to 2.3%.
• Businesses find Idaho Falls to be an attractive location. While there is no precise methodology for tracking individual businesses that locate within the city, even casual count of ribbon cuttings and grand openings reveals that over 40 have come to or expanded in Idaho Falls since the spring of this year. More are on the way.
• Commercial and residential construction is hitting new heights. Last year we set a new record of $94 million in building permits. This year won’t be far off that mark. That is where the real economic growth is measured—not in population numbers.
• Idaho Falls is more competitive. Because of Idaho Falls Power’s low utility rates and reasonable property taxes, for the average homeowner it is cheaper to live in Idaho Falls than Rexburg, Rigby, Ammon, Blackfoot or Pocatello. Many development fees are lower than the surrounding region as well.
Four years ago I made a series of promises and I have delivered on each of them:
• Promise: Explore turning EITC into a community college. I raised the issue in 2013 and worked on for three years. In 2016, with Ammon Mayor Dana Kirkham and County Commissioner David Radford, we put together an all-citizen study panel to examine the issue and analyze the finances. The highly favorable panel report led to the vote last May in which 71% of county residents (and 74% of those in the City of Idaho Falls) voted to create the College of Eastern Idaho we have today.
• Promise: Economic development would be central to my role as Mayor. I helped form the regional economic development organization (REDI) and added an in-house economic development coordinator for the city. I have worked aggressively to bring the Small Modular Reactor project to our region as well as advocated on behalf of the INL, the NRF and the Idaho Clean-up project—all of which bring vital jobs to the area to keep the local economy humming.
• Promise: Create citizen review panels to scrutinize City Departments. Done. This is owing to the help of so many local residents who were willing to step up and serve. These committee insights were powerful and useful. The reports are posted on the city’s website.
• Promise: Capitalize on the strengths of the Idaho National Laboratory to ensure its mission is strong and secure. I serve actively on the LINE Commission to secure Idaho’s nuclear future and have pushed aggressively for the Small Modular Reactor technology. The Naval Reactors program has the new $1.65 billion naval facility under construction and the INL has the rapidly growing cybersecurity program. We have two new INL buildings coming soon to University Blvd to support key INL programs. The Idaho Clean-up project has achieved many milestones and I have been vocal about snaring that success. Each year we have hosted the Intermountain Energy Summit to discuss key policy issues in the energy arena. Idaho Falls supports every aspect of our DOE and DOD missions and I have made sure our federal leaders know it.
• Promise: Full development of our cultural and recreational attractions. Our Greenbelt and Riverwalk now extend to Sunnyside and beyond and much has been or will be refreshed. Our network of biking and walking path across the city is expanding in real and measurable ways. We now have an expanded Saturday farmers’ market. Heritage Park on the Snake River near Sunnyside will begin construction this coming year. We have the bold new city entrance on Broadway and the Wayfinding signs to help tourists find their way to our amenities, so they can enjoy their time and spend their money here in our city. Downtown has new restaurants, shops, businesses and, most important, more residences.
Finally, Idaho Falls is nearly always at the front of the pack in so many other areas as our city continues to be a regional leader in public safety, healthcare, the arts, retail, energy innovation, scientific research, affordable education, and more.
Our city is on an upward path. Can we do better? Sure. But, we do it by working together to address issues thoughtfully and with broad public discussion.
I ask for your vote on December 5th.
COUNCILWOMAN BARBARA EHARDT
WHY VOTE FOR BARBARA
These last four years I have worked tirelessly on your behalf. The only person I have ever answered to is you! I value my personal integrity; the person I am on Sunday is the same person I am every day of the week. I have stood by the very principles and promises on which I first ran. The person that I portrayed myself as four years ago is the same person that I am today. You can count on me – I am consistent.
When faced with making the difficult decision to either run for my seat again or to step up and run for mayor, three key factors continued to cry for the need for change. These were: 1) the absolute need for transparency; 2) controlling and prioritizing our spending or “wants verses needs”; 3) and real leadership for both our employees and this city. The sub points listed at the end of this article illustrate what is not happening under our current mayor. Under my administration, all of this will change.
An interesting observation from the mayor’s recent mailers and ads is that she takes credit for all successes that have occurred in Idaho Falls, even if she wasn’t responsible for them. On top of this, she fails to acknowledge others in these successes, including the city council. This is not teamwork. But on the flip side, rather than take a stand on many issues when directly asked, she is quick to say that it is the council’s decision, thus absolving herself of any commitment or stance that may be controversial. This is not leadership.
During East Idaho News’ mayoral runoff debate on November 20th, we were asked about religion and the role it plays in government. Our answers were completely opposite one from another. I have written and spoken on this much through the last four years. I believe in our constitutional First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. This is a community that has always valued Faith, Family and Freedom. I am no different. I will absolutely support our God-given, constitutional rights to keep religion in the public square.
What too many people fail to realize is that our First Amendment right to freedom of speech is directly linked to our freedom of religion. If you remove from the public square the rights to discuss, practice and live your religion, you have also systematically limited your own freedom of speech. The mayor and I see religion and the role it plays very differently. I believe in protecting these freedoms and I believe that this city should be a standard bearer for how religion and government can co-exist.
We need to remember that if we will not fight to preserve our freedoms at the local level then it is foolish to think that we will be able to preserve them at a national level. If everything that we do is dictated by political correctness, then we will never have control over our lives, our principles, or our freedoms.
This election, though long and difficult, has provided you with an option for mayor as we are diametrically opposed on most of the important issues facing this campaign. To have a choice is a good thing. As I always say, you are never so close to the government as you are when it’s local. It’s at the local level where all of us can make the biggest difference.
It has been my great honor to serve the community in which I was born and raised as a member of your Idaho Falls City Council for the last four years. I have been humbled to serve in this capacity. I love this city and I love our people. Idaho Falls has given me so much and I hope to continue to be able to give back. Thank you for caring enough about our community to get involved.
Barbara Ehardt –
The mayor’s office must be transparent.
• As mayor, I will allow for a free flow of information and ideas to take place.
• As mayor, I will NOT stifle or control conversations among council members.
• As mayor, I will absolutely create more engagement from the council rather than present predetermined outcomes to the council.
• As mayor, I will guard against inefficiency, waste, and corruption by promoting the free exchange of information with everyone. We need open government – with employees, officials and citizens free to talk about how our city is run.
• As mayor, I really will have an open-door policy for our citizens. Much like my college experience where I posted my office hours for students, I will do the same for our citizens so that they can drop in and actually speak with me – the mayor.
Budget, Taxes & Spending
• As mayor, I will use my leadership to reverse our last four budget cycles that have brought us the largest budget increases in years.
• As mayor, I will eliminate wasteful spending such as signs & monuments and the rebranding of our city that wasn’t needed, wasn’t wanted and has cost us over $1.2 million. I will prioritize.
• Since I first announced, another example of wasteful spending was the purchase of the 4H property at a cost to the city of over $700,000 when we could have traded for our 911 Dispatch Center. I had worked with Commissioner Bryon Reed to craft this trade and create a WIN / WIN situation that would have been a creative means for the city to acquire property without paying for it.
• As mayor, I will help us to become proactive rather than reactive to the many needs of our city. Along with the council, we will develop a plan to begin systematically addressing the city’s most important needs.
• As mayor, I will work to make Idaho Falls a business-friendly city. Small businesses are the lifeblood of our community. First and foremost, we need to work to retain the businesses we have.
Leadership – for our city as well as city employees
• As mayor, I will provide the direction that our city needs. I will be here, in Idaho Falls – as opposed to Washington D.C. or Boise – working to solve our city’s problems. The leader of Idaho Falls needs to be in Idaho Falls taking care of the business of Idaho Falls.
• As mayor, I will provide leadership that is 180º opposite of the current leadership. I believe in being inclusive and in delegating as opposed to being exclusive and controlling.
• As mayor, I believe in empowering people. If someone has a vested interest, are listened to and valued for that which they are doing, they will be more engaged and perform at a higher level.
• As mayor, I would not have allowed our police department to flounder in turmoil & chaos for over a year with an ongoing lawsuit. Real leadership would have stepped in and worked tirelessly until the problem was solved. As the city administrator, this was the mayor’s responsibility.
• As mayor, I will uphold our traditions. We will again have Christmas lights on the large trees along the “Greenbelt!”