Sep 30 2007

A preservation society

Published by at 1:09 pm under Idaho

Preserve Eagle

Michael Huffaker, Saundra McDavid, Al Shoushtarian

Candidate slates are an underused political tactic in places, such as cities in the Northwest, where candidates officially run as nonpartisan. Many voters have trouble keeping straight which candidates stand where. Slates can help do that, if the issue the slate is presenting is clear enough. (It was, for example, in 1983 and 1985 Boise city elections, when a group advocating a specific planning and growth change and endorsing a slate of candidates took over every elective office at City Hall.)

In the ballooning city of Eagle (around 21,000 population now, ten times what it was only a generation ago), growth is the obvious issue on the table. City leaders in recent years have struggled with it, but in the end seem generally to have accommodated to the desires of developers, leading to some jaw-dropping results. If you’re in the area, travel sometime north of town on Highway 55 to the under-construction Avimore development, miles north of Eagle separated by mountains and open desert, but which Eagle is seeking to annex.

Not everyone in Eagle is in agreement. Three candidates – attorney Saundra McDavid running for mayor, and attorney Michael Huffaker and investor Al Shoushtarian running for the council – are campaigning under the banner of “Preserve Eagle.” We’ll be watching to see how well they do.

Here’s some of what they had to say to the Ada County Association of Realtors:

1. Why are you a candidate for this office?
We are seeking these positions in order to preserve Eagle. This is the Eagle of a few years ago, where home values were increasing, our schools were not over capacity, our traffic was not congested, there was plenty of water for everyone and we were assured of open space and a healthy community. We are not against growth in the Eagle area. We do believe that growth should be managed in a way that will preserve the quality of life in Eagle. All of us have been approached by members of the Eagle community and asked to run for these offices, as our vision is shared by a great many people.

2. In your opinion, what are the three most critical issues facing the City at the present time? Which is most important to you?
The three most critical issues facing Eagle are
– Infrastructure: whether our streets, schools, fire and police protection, libraries, water supply, sewage facility, etc. are sufficient to accommodate exponential growth;
– Budget: whether our finances are sufficient to accommodate a growing city, and
– Comprehensive Plan: We need consistent, reliable and predictable comprehensive planning. . . .

4. What do you think causes growth? How should growth be planned and paid for? Market conditions play a role in our growth. We experienced a surge of opportunistic development during the last two years and now are experiencing a market correction with an oversupply of homes on the market. Eagle’s comprehensive plan for the large tracts of undeveloped land to our west and north should be reviewed, and an emphasis put on quality, not quantity. We need to set our focus back on the Eagle heritage of open spaces and preserve the water, air and natural places that enhance our quality of life.

Growth can be planned by creating a well conceived, forward looking comprehensive plan and following it in our development decisions.

There’s a real question of whether you can preserve what’s already left the train station. But these three do seem to have a clear lode star. A fair amount of politics in the area (not to mention the area itself) could center on whether they’re in the majority or minority.

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