East Idaho Elects: Tom Hally faces challenger Stephanie Lucas in Idaho Falls council race
Published at | Updated at
IDAHO FALLS — City elections are getting underway throughout eastern Idaho, and there is one major election in Idaho Falls.
Four-term Idaho Falls City Councilman Tom Hally is up for re-election. His opponent is Stephanie Lucas. This is her first time running for public office.
Two other City Council seats are up for election, but this is the only contested race. Michelle Ziel-Dingman and John Radford currently hold those positions. Both are seeking re-election.
City elections will be held Nov. 5.
Hally is seeking re-election to the City Council because he feels his involvement in multiple development projects over the last four years makes him an ideal candidate to help spur future growth.
He represents the city on the Idaho Falls Redevelopment Agency and says the growth in the Snake River Redevelopment District in downtown Idaho Falls is one of his proudest achievements.
“To see the increased value of that district be over $150 million and still growing is a major accomplishment,” Hally tells EastIdahoNews.com. “We added Memorial Drive and downtown to that district, which included improvements to Memorial Drive, the Bonneville Hotel and the savings center property that was developed by the Oppenheimer group.”
He also cites the completion of the 17th and Hitt Road intersection as another major accomplishment, along with the reconstruction of the access point near Target.
Inclusion, connectivity and growth is the focus of Hally’s campaign and, if re-elected, he plans on maintaining growth propelled by the Mountain America Event Center project in Snake River Landing.
“Even though that’s not a city project, (everyone living) in the community will benefit from the events that will be attracted to that facility. That contributes to growth,” Hally says.
Hally also serves as the City Council liaison with the Idaho Falls Police Department. One of his goals is getting a new police station built. He is also in favor of future growth in the Snake River Landing and Jackson Hole Junction developments.
Electric rates would have increased this year were it not for all the growth, he says, and the city’s connectivity to the INL and the development of a small modular reactor in Idaho Falls will pave the way for even more.
Hally, who was first elected in 2004, serves as the council president.
He was born and raised in Idaho. His four children are all graduates of Idaho Falls High School. His late wife Deanne was a well-known watercolorist in the community. Hally is a Rotary member and serves on boards that support opportunities for people with disabilities.
“The City Council has a responsibility to establish policy, and my years of experience will help me in that area of establishing policy for the city,” Hally says.
Visit Hally’s Facebook page to learn more about his campaign.
As a 20-year resident of Idaho Falls, Lucas is running for City Council because she is concerned about property tax rates and feels the city is spending taxpayer money on things that aren’t necessary.
“Property taxes go up 3 percent every year. I don’t think that’s necessary. Idaho Falls grows at a steady rate of 1.5 percent per year. This does not create an emergency that means taxes have to go up 3 percent every year,” Lucas says.
She points to the city’s recent installation of new signage at various attractions around town and fines associated with incorrect placement of leaves and vehicles as unnecessary expenses.
“These (types of projects) make me suspicious (that the city is manufacturing ways to raise funds). It’s annoying, and it seems poorly executed,” Lucas says.
Lucas is also concerned about the amount of money spent on big projects, like the new event center or the proposal to build a new police station.
“Putting up a huge auditorium is not going to be a big game-changer,” she said. “You’re not asking if future generations can pay for this. You (the city) just want to see the big auditorium up because it will bring money here. Stop chasing prosperity. Prosperity will find us. You need to make incremental changes for people and businesses that already live here.”
Lucas recently got a masters degree from Idaho State University and has training in geographical information systems, which means she’s looked at a lot of maps.
Lucas says she is qualified to provide “unique solutions to common city problems,” such as the city’s decision to widen the bike lanes on South Boulevard and eliminate the center turn lane and other similar projects,
“I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing the history of cities, city maps, and the way things are presented. I can look at any map, figure out what’s going on and find a solution,” says Lucas.
Lucas says there are ways to promote growth without increasing taxes or “obsessing about the next big project.” If elected, she plans to focus on city finances and budget transparency. She says she will find “common sense” solutions and will always stand by her word.
“I’ve noticed in local politics the last several years, there’s a propensity for candidates who are asked a legitimate question (to say) ‘How can you say that?! That’s just so negative!'” Lucas says. “Someone can be as offended as they want. I don’t back down, and I will keep coming after you until I get the right answer.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article said Tom Hally was first elected in 2015. That is incorrect and has been fixed in the article above. EastIdahoNews.com apologies for the error.