Friday, December 6, 2013

Meridian's Volunteers are some of Idaho's Brightest

Meridian is an amazing community made up of a variety of talented individuals, many who use their talents to benefit our community in a number of ways. Often referred to as “silent leaders,” these individuals are the faces you see countless times in our community at a variety of projects and events, serving not for recognition, but rather to make their home a better place. It is rare that these people are recognized for their services, so when they are it is certainly cause for celebration. Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and First Lady Lori Otter presented their 11th Annual Governor’s Brightest Star Awards at the Egyptian Theater on November 13th. The annual awards ceremony hosted by Serve Idaho had over 500 in attendance in an effort to honors Idaho volunteers who selflessly provide outstanding public service within their communities. Individuals and groups throughout Idaho were recognized for their volunteer efforts, in categories which included corporation, small business, organization, school, student, senior and individual. Several dedicated Meridian volunteers shined brightly in this awards program. Among those honored from Meridian were Pastor Mark Thornton of Capital Christian Center; Mary Pridmore of Be Kind Idaho; Spencer Martin, a Meridian Police & Fire volunteer; nine-year-old Angelyn Wade; Scentsy; Creative Balloons of Idaho; and the Meridian Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council. Pastor Thornton, Creative Balloons, and Scentsy were honored on stage as top-three winners in their respective categories, and the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council took home one of the afternoon’s top volunteer awards –“First Lady’s Choice” winner. This dynamic group of students in grades 9 -12 is dedicated to serving their community. Through events, volunteerism, and advocacy, MYAC is working to tackle issues impacting our youth and adults alike such as texting while driving, bullying, and serving those in need. Governor Otter said he appreciated the opportunity to give some well-deserved credit to the folks who make a real difference in our communities, and in our lives, and I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I encourage and challenge each of you to emulate these local volunteers by becoming more involved in Meridian. Find your passion and use it to make a difference in our community. Congratulations to all the individuals, organizations, and businesses honored as Idaho’s Brightest Stars. You set a shining example for us all!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Meridian Takes Action Against E-Cigarettes

Recently, the Meridian City Council voted unanimously to bring consistency to our no smoking policy in City parks and public facilities, such as Meridian City Hall, to include e-cigarettes. There has been much debate among public health officials regarding e-cigarette use; the City of Meridian felt that smoking cigarettes – of any type – should be treated the same. In case you’re unfamiliar with e-cigarettes, they look very similar to a normal cigarette, cigar, or pipe. However, the product is divided into three sections – a cartridge containing a liquid nicotine solution, an atomizer which is attached to the cartridge and creates vapor, and a slim tube-shaped piece which holds the battery and LED light that comes on during inhalation. Instead of smoke from burning tobacco, e-cigarette users breathe in water vapor with nicotine and flavorings, which enters their blood stream through the lungs. Currently, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not exercised the same oversight on e-cigarettes as it does on the traditional cigarette market. Last month, 40 U.S. state attorney generals, including Idaho’s Lawrence Wasden, wrote to the FDA urging immediate regulation of the sale and advertising of e-cigarettes. The FDA is set to decide if they’ll place restrictions on e-cigarettes in the coming weeks. According to public health officials, a growing number of people – including an alarming number of young adults and teens – are regularly using or experimenting with e-cigarettes. In fact, Meridian Police officers working in our middle and high schools say the use of “e-cigs” has skyrocketed among local students, even though it is illegal to sell them to children in Idaho. Over the past several years, both the Mayor’s Anti-Drug Coalition and the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council have worked hard to discourage our community’s youth from smoking. We are concerned this trendy new device might reverse the progress we’ve made in reducing the use of cigarettes particularly among our youth. We felt it was important to have a consistent policy and message regarding our no smoking policy. By having healthy places for everyone to enjoy and limiting smoking to parking lots, we can help ensure that smoking is not the example we set for our community’s children.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Meridian Split Corridor Project Nears Completion

We are inching closer to the completion date of the Meridian Split Corridor Project. That means every day we are getting closer to having a quicker and more efficient way to travel to our downtown and through to the rest of the community. While the final product will be a great addition to Meridian’s roadways, the road construction from which we all will benefit has made it difficult for many of our downtown businesses.

In an effort to help these downtown business during this project we have been organizing monthly cash mobs and only have two left! Our next on is on August 29 and we will focus on our furnishings and antiques businesses at the south end - and throw in something tasty as well. These businesses include: St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store, Loyal to One Thrift, Vintage Home D├ęcor, the Idaho Youth Ranch and Little Kitchen Pastries. I would encourage everyone to come out this Thursday and show your support for these local businesses!

When construction is over, you will notice a few changes in downtown. Our community development department has been working with downtown businesses to help this important part of our community, currently focused on your dining experience - I am so excited to share their ideas with you. During specific weekends in September, the city is going to transform parking spots into mini patios creating outdoor dining spaces for restaurants. The spaces are officially called parklets and they can be found in major cities across the country, just type parklet into Google and you’ll be amazed by what you see.

We are working with a couple downtown restaurants to test the parklet idea and see how it works in downtown Meridian. The idea is to try this out and get your feedback before permanent change is considered. We hope this new idea will attract visitors to Meridian and will give a refreshing new look to this heart of our community. We are still working to finalize all the details but keep a close eye on our website for upcoming dates and locations. We can’t wait to see these demonstration projects pop up. If you haven’t been downtown for a while, much is changing. I encourage you to come downtown on Thursday, August 29 and show your support to these businesses. If we each support a little it can make a real difference.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Congratulations to the Meridian Police Department!

Earlier last winter during my State of the City Address, I shared that Meridian continues to be one of the safest cities in Idaho. We’ve seen system improvements in almost every aspect of our law enforcement program and police response times have improved in every category. Better staffing coverage and crime tracking certainly contributed, as has the ongoing work of our Impact Team. These efforts have resulted in significant decreases in crimes against society, drug offenses, and crimes of opportunity. In a nutshell, the hard work of our men and women at the Meridian Police Department (MPD) is paying off for each and every one of us in the community.

Recently, the MPD achieved a milestone as they received accreditation from the Idaho Chiefs of Police Association (ICOPA). Meridian Police Chief Jeff Lavey accepted the accreditation plaque during a brief ceremony held during last week’s Meridian City Council meeting. The plaque was presented on behalf of the ICOPA by retired Blackfoot Police Chief David Moore, a long-time accreditation evaluator who called the MPD one of the “best run ships” he’s seen in his many years of law enforcement and serving as an evaluator.

Becoming an accredited police department - long considered an essential component of establishing professional excellence in other professional fields - is a relatively new concept for law enforcement agencies. Set to the same professional tone as accreditation programs required for universities and hospitals, the law enforcement accreditation program through ICOPA is recognized as a means of maintaining the highest standards of professionalism.

Attaining accredited status demonstrates to the community that the MPD is fully committed to maintaining the highest standards of professional law enforcement service. This has been an intensive three-year process during which the policies, procedures, practices, and facilities of the MPD were carefully scrutinized, measured, and evaluated by experts in the field. Areas evaluated included administration, internal affairs, operations, training, investigations, patrol, personnel, traffic, use of force, and other areas of policing.

Congratulations to all the men and women of the MPD on this accomplishment, but a special credit to Chief Lavey whose leadership and professionalism sets the expectations of our entire department. Join me in thanking them for their service and celebrating this accomplishment.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Soak up the Last Days of Summer

As summer gradually begins to wind down and students begin to contemplate their return to the classroom, there are still plenty of ways families can enjoy the final weeks of summer and sunshine in Meridian.

If you haven’t already, come join us for CableONE Movie Night. Every Friday night through the end of August, free outdoor movies will be shown at dusk at Settlers Park. Grab the entire family, some blankets, food and come out and enjoy this great Meridian tradition on our 30-foot inflatable screen.

While you and your family still have a few days off together, go out and spend some time exploring Meridian’s parks. You could play tennis, soccer, horseshoes or bocce ball or maybe you’d rather cool off at our splash pad or try your hand at fishing in one or our ponds. With 20 unique parks in our community there is a nearly endless combination of amenities, activities and unique atmospheres for everyone to enjoy.

In addition to CableOne Movie Night and enjoying our tremendous parks, I invite you to join us on August 2nd at the Speedway Dairy Barn for the 34th Annual Meridian Firefighter’s Association Salmon BBQ. This is truly one of my favorite events of the year as our firefighters serve up some delicious salmon! All proceeds go to the Meridian Firefighters Association and the Meridian Burn Out Fund, which provides emergency assistance to families and individuals who are impacted by fire and other disasters. This is certainly a cause worth our time and support.

These are just some of the great things taking place in our community as we close out the summer and head into fall. To learn more about the events taking place in our community, be sure to check out our This Week in Meridian videos or the community calendar on our website at www.meridiancity.org. Liking us on Facebook is also an excellent way to stay in touch and see all of the fun things to do in our community this fall.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

New Development Coming to North Meridian

Whew, these days it appears that new construction is around every corner in Meridian. From ‘The Village at Meridian’ to Scentsy’s corporate campus, to new homes and expanded roadways built throughout our community, the landscape of our beloved City is ever changing.

Meridian has changed from a dairy community, 'back in the day’, to a thriving full-service economic center. You can still see the strong roots to our past - just drive down Eagle Road. On one side of the roadway you see lush farmland but just yards away there is a construction site with new commercial buildings going up. Often I have residents ask me what is the new building going up ‘here’ or being built over ‘there’. In most cases the projects were approved years before construction began.

As construction activity continues to pick up in our community, we want to make everyone understands how the development process works from the beginning to the end. We will discuss this subject in detail at this week’s Town Hall Meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, July 24th, at 6:30 p.m. at the Challenger School located at 2020 West Everest Lane in north Meridian.

The development process can be confusing for those who are not familiar with it. But understanding this process gives you the ability to get involved and comment and influence the look and feel of Meridian. It is especially important for homeowners to take notice of the “Public Hearing Notice” signs on property which helps notify the community that change could be coming in the future. By understanding the process you’ll know how to find out about any large construction projects in your area and how and when you can get involved.

In addition to learning about the development process, we also wanted to let you know about projects planned in the northwest section of Meridian. Projects include the Wal-Mart moving forward on the corner of McMillan and Ten Mile Roads, the future Latter Day Saint Temple, the 50 acre Aldape Park along the Boise River in Meridian, residential subdivisions and so much more. Along with development, there are also transportation improvements that are coming to the area which will be highlighted. This Town Hall Meeting will be a great opportunity for residents to ask questions about what is coming to our community and how to be ‘in the know’ on future projects.

This is an exciting time in Meridian as the landscape continues to change. I urge you to come out this Wednesday for an opportunity to learn about the process of change and how to become involved in it.

Monday, July 8, 2013

It's Your Money - Get Involved with the City's Budget Process

There is a famous proverb that reads, "It takes a village to raise a family." The same holds true in local government - it takes an entire community to make Meridian the wonderful, unique place we all love to call home. Whether you realize it or not, you are so important to everything our City does. Our citizens’ engagement and input has helped shape us into the vibrant community we are today.

The City is focused on our citizens and our service to you. We work hard to make sure you live in a safe community where police and firefighters are just a call away, a community where you are never far from wonderful parks, open space and pathways, and a City with a thriving economy. While our City Council members are elected to make the decisions which impact us all, the City wants - and needs - your input when it has important decisions to make.

An important part of what we do to provide services is done through our extensive budget process. We begin preparation in February where Finance and I, along with the specific City Council liaison, where we scrutinize each department's budget line by line, looking at budget performance, under/over variances, asset maintenance and replacement, how programs are meeting strategic goals and associated ROI. Budget enhancements are then considered relating to needs versus wants and to the City's five year capital improvement plan. Our Senior Management Team then presents their respective budget which is then discussed and the budget balanced. The 'Mayors Budget' is then given to the City Council several weeks prior to the budget workshops for their review and eventual adoption.

This week, each department director will go before the City Council to present their budgets and proposed enhancements for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts on October 1, 2013. These budget workshops, held on July 9 and 10, are the community’s first chance to hear where money may be allocated and what projects the City wants to fund. With this information City Council will be setting the budget for the 2014 fiscal year, a process that will be finalized during the August 20th meeting where public testimony will be taken.

We firmly believe it is important that the public is involved in the budget process. At the end of the day, this is your money! The budget helps guide the projects the City will deliver over the coming year. If you can’t attend these meetings, we will stream them live and post the video on our website at meridiancity.org/videos. If you have any questions or want more details about the budget process and how to get involved please call my office at 489-0529.

The financial decisions the City Council makes will impact our community, and most importantly, you. That is why I am asking you to get involved in this process. Public dollars make up our City budget and we would appreciate your involvement.