James Freeman and Karie Caldwell face off for Idaho Falls council seat 4 race
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IDAHO FALLS — In the Idaho Falls city council seat 6 race, incumbent Jim Freeman is challenged by Karie Caldwell.
EastIdahoNews.com sent the same eight questions to each candidate. Their responses, listed below, were required to be 250 words or less.
Tell us about yourself — include information about your family, career, education, volunteer work and any prior experience in public office.
Freeman: I was born and raised in Idaho Falls and grew up in the numbered streets. I graduated from Idaho Falls High School and attended the University of Idaho. It was at this time that I met my wife Kareen and we have now been married for 38 years. We returned to Idaho Falls in the early 1980’s and started our family. We have raised two wonderful sons here, have two lovely daughters-in-law and four energetic grandsons. I love living in Idaho Falls and leading an active lifestyle, enjoying the many opportunities that exist here.
I was lucky enough to find my true calling when I joined the Idaho Falls Fire Department in 1986. For 26 years I served as a firefighter, paramedic and Captain where I enjoyed a rewarding and meaningful career helping others.Since retirement in 2012 I have stayed involved in civic service and volunteering in my free time. I was elected to City Council four years ago and have enjoyed continuing to serve my community in this new role.
Caldwell: My name is Karie Caldwell. I was born in Ogden, Utah and attended Ogden High School and Weber State University. My husband and I moved to Idaho Falls in 2007 with the intention to root ourselves and establish his business here. We have since built a thriving business and are grateful to be living and raising our kids in a strong Christian community with amazing people surrounding us. My husband and I have three wonderful sons ages 20, 16 and 10 years old. I have worked and served with the Bonneville County Republican Central Committee since 2014. In that time, I have been elected for two terms as Precinct Committee Officer for my precinct. I have also served on the Bonneville Republican Executive Committee in the capacity of State Committeewoman as well as Fourth Vice Chairman. I have helped organize some very popular and overwhelmingly successful fundraising events for the party. I was the one responsible for contracting and working with the staff of Candace Owens and Dinesh D’Souza to bring both of them here to speak at our events in Bonneville County.
Aside from working within the Republican party, much of my volunteer work over the past four years has been done successfully raising funds and supporting a thriving Hillcrest Football Booster Club. I am also serving on the committee to privately fund (zero taxpayer money!) the new Hillcrest football stadium. In addition, I have spent much of my adult life serving in my church within the organizations for children and youth.
What are your proudest accomplishments in your personal life or career?
Caldwell: Being a mother is my highest priority. My proudest accomplishment in life is the great young men I am fortunate enough to raise and the family my husband and I have built. I consider motherhood and raising good and honest human beings to be the most important role I play in contributing to a strong and healthy society. We are currently preparing to send our oldest son away from home for a few years to serve as a full-time missionary. We are proud that he is willing to give his life in the service of God and the people of Los Angeles.
Freeman My proudest accomplishment, hands down, is my family. It brings me so much pride to share in their accomplishments and see them succeed. My four grandsons are a constant joy and I’m very proud that the legacy of my family will continue through them.
In my professional life I’m most proud of the service I have been able to provide to my community as a firefighter/paramedic and City Council member. I was taught from a young age that it is honorable to serve others.
What are the greatest challenges facing your community?
Freeman: Growth is our biggest challenge in my opinion. As Idaho Falls grows we must anticipate and plan for the future. The need for capable leaders has always been important, but rapid growth has made leadership more important than ever.
I’m also very concerned with the Idaho Legislature’s passing of HB 389 that limits our ability to have growth pay for itself. Cities need the tools to ensure our levels of service are not cut due to rapid growth. This bill puts severe pressure on our Police, Fire and EMS services when we need them most.
Caldwell: I believe the greatest challenge facing our community today is an excessive amount of government overreach which impacts our families, jobs, businesses and daily lives. It is becoming so brazen and very clear to me that government entities seek to remove our personal liberty and individual choices. We do have a need for government, laws, and order within society. However, our government was never intended to rule our lives or remove from us our God-given free will. Government and elected leaders need to remain within the roles and bounds set forth by the Constitution of the United States.
How is your experience better suited to dealing with these unique challenges than your competitor?
Caldwell: It is clear that I am better suited to address the issue of government overreach within our community considering my opponent, Mr. Freeman, is one of the current city leaders who has imposed his will upon others. Despite overwhelming input opposing the decisions he has made in his position, he has moved forward with policies which don’t align with the values of the majority. For example, the community overwhelmingly opposed the public accommodations leg of the antidiscrimination ordinance in our city which has serious potential ramification to religious liberty. Mr. Freeman and the other council members had their minds made up regarding this issue and moved forward with no hesitation or public discussion. Under this ordinance, for example, grown men are now allowed to use public restrooms with our women and young girls. Business owners can also be forced to violate their deeply held convictions or face lawsuits which can leave a business in ruin. The case of Jack Phillips, the Colorado baker who declined to design and create a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding and was subsequently sued by LGBT activists, can now happen in Idaho Falls. Whereas the current mayor and city council side with government control on many issues within the city, I will always side with individual liberty and the least amount of government possible.
Freeman: I’m confident that my 26 years with the Idaho Falls Fire Department, my volunteer work on various city committees/associations over the years and my four years on City Council have given me the tools to lead us into the future. As an involved and lifelong resident of the City I have an intimate understanding of what we do well and what we need to work on.
How will you best represent the views of your constituents – even those with differing political views?
Freeman: As an engaged member of this city I get input from a plethora of sources. I feel it is
important is to listen to ALL points of view, leaving any personal bias aside. I will make decisions with as much information as is available and with the interests of the residents in mind.
One of the best things about city government is that it is non-partisan. This means we can ignore the state and national rhetoric surrounding party, and make decisions based on policy and not politics. I often say there is no Republican or Democratic way to fill a pothole.
Caldwell: I will best represent my constituents, even those with opposing political views, by not deviating from the oath I will take as a representative of the city to abide by the Constitution of the United States. I can confidently promise the residents of Idaho Falls that, regardless of party or political views, the sacred document of the Constitution will be my guide in all decisions made on behalf of the city. Whereas the City Council is responsible for spending as well as policymaking, I also vow to be a good steward over your hard-earned, and frankly, overextended tax money. I am a bargain shopper by nature and dedicated to finding the best price on everything in my personal life. I will continue to do so with the public funds in which I will take part in overseeing. Our Mayor and City Council have egregiously overpaid for goods and services time and again at our expense. I will never vote to approve anything which has not been properly “shopped” or bid on.
What are your views regarding the role of the media in covering your city?
Caldwell: I do believe the media plays a vital role in society. Citizens have a right to know what is happening within the government at all levels and how their elected officials are representing them. Transparency in government is of the utmost importance. However, as we know, the media has become very biased throughout the majority of the country. I would like to see the media and reporters everywhere simply report on the facts of a situation without attempting to sway the reader in one direction or another. With that being said, I will always be available to the media to give thorough information regarding my votes, my actions, and my decisions within my role on the City Council.
How can you best work with local reporters to ensure coverage of the issues? I look at the media as our partners. We want the media to help us inform the public about their city. This is one of the reasons we have hired Public Information Officers to interact with and accommodate the media.
I have always tried to accommodate the media by returning their calls and appearing for events when requested and will continue to foster relationships with our media partners.
What measures, if any, do you believe your city should implement amid continued COVID-19 concerns?
Freeman: As we have progressed through the last 19 months the City has relied heavily on Eastern Idaho Public Health’s recommendations. I believe these local health experts are more directly responsive to our local situation. The City has been open for business throughout the pandemic, while taking recommended precautions, with as little disruption as possible. The garbage got picked up, the power stayed on, we have clean water to drink and the services of the City have continued uninterrupted. We have tried to balance citizen’s needs while taking the necessary safeguards to keep them and our employees safe and the City operating in a responsible manner. I think we should continue to subscribe to this plan. It’s likely that Covid-19 will be with us for a very long time, and we will need to continue to be cautious while operating efficiently.
Caldwell: Simply put, this should not be the focus of the Mayor or City Council. Covid recommendations come from the Health Department and should be left in their hands. City leadership should stay in their lane and not involve themselves with things which are not within their purview. I do not support mandates and trust that the citizens of our community are wise enough to make the best decisions for their own health and the health of those around them. Unlike our current Mayor and City Council, I believe it is wrong to assert authority and control over the people. I disagree with using threats of citations and misdemeanors if citizens gather with friends in groups of ten or more like they imposed upon us last year. I will never support restricting the movement of individuals or requiring medical devices/masks to be used in order to live and work within our city.
If you received a multimillion dollar grant to use for the city in any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?
Caldwell: My first thought is that I would never apply for a grant to begin with. We would do well to remember that government “grant” money is OUR taxpayer money. It doesn’t magically appear. Taking grant money to fund anything impacts our national debt and perpetuates the problem. We have dug a deep hole for our posterity from which I don’t see a way out until we all decide to sacrifice “wants” and focus primarily on “needs”. I do not agree with spending just to spend. If there’s no need to spend excess money, we should save for future needs, just as we would do in our own households.
Jim Freeman and the Council have repeatedly maxed out the yearly 3% allowable budget increase, which means they continually push heavier tax burdens upon citizens. It’s especially appalling considering this past year and a half with the COVID-19 pandemic. People lost their sources of income, were unable to pay bills, and businesses were forced to close. Still, Mr. Freeman and the City Council have chosen to take the full tax increase plus a 1% foregone tax, for a total of at least 4% this year. This doesn’t take into account growth money. All of this goes to the bottom line of our burdensome property taxes. City spending is what is contributing to our property tax burden which is the root of our tax problem. I could never, in good conscience, do that to so many of my neighbors who are currently struggling.
Freeman: I think my first priority would be to fully fund a public transit system in Idaho Falls. There is a large portion of our population that would benefit from the ability to move about the city without owning a vehicle. This system would give the option for people to choose not to drive and would reduce the number of vehicles on our roads, leading to less traffic congestion. Public transit would also offer the added benefit of being an environmentally responsible thing for the city to do.