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Boise Mayoral Candidate Conversations 2019: Rebecca Arnold

Courtesy Rebecca Arnold

Rebecca Arnold is no stranger to the public eye. She's currently the president of the Ada County Highway District Commission and spent nearly a dozen years on the board of the Idaho Association of Highway Districts. But now, she has her eye on Boise City Hall.

Arnold spoke about her candidacy with Morning Edition host George Prentice.  

"I think the key in this election will be voter turnout in West Boise, Northwest Boise and Southwest Boise."

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: Municipal elections are non-partisan. That said, how would you best describe your politics to a stranger?

REBECCA ARNOLD: I am a fiscal conservative. So I guess that puts me in the Republican category. I'm more moderate on social issues, but I am definitely fiscally very conservative.

PRENTICE: Can you tell us, be as specific as possible, what was the tipping point for you when you decided to run for mayor?

ARNOLD: I kept watching to see who had filed to run for mayor. I was very concerned about a number of issues that have taken place over the last couple of years and the final tipping point was I did not see a strong non-Bieter candidate on the ballot and I had hoped to see one because I think it's time for a change. I think Mr. Bieter has forgotten who he works for. I think citizens have kind of been left in the dust on a lot of decisions, so I wanted to see someone other than Dave Bieter. Lauren McClean is a nice person, but she has followed his agenda to the letter since she's been on the council. So I don't see the two of them as being any different if Lauren became mayor. It would just be a continuation of what we've seen under the Bieter administration.

PRENTICE: Were you expecting someone that goes in a different direction as the mayor to announce a candidacy? Did you know any people in particular who were considering running?

ARNOLD: I knew that there was a group of folks who wanted to put forth a slate of candidates for mayor and council as well. But I didn't see anything come to fruition there. So I decided if it was gonna happen, it was gonna have to be me.

PRENTICE: So that was pretty close to the filing date. Yes?

ARNOLD: It was.

PRENTICE: And running for office is not cheap. So you have not had the benefit of for a lengthy period of fundraising?

ARNOLD: That's true. I'm fortunate enough that I can self-fund a campaign if I have to. And I feel strongly enough about a change in the mayor's office that I am willing to put a significant amount of my own funds into this campaign. But I'm also fundraising as well.

PRENTICE: Well, let's talk about the mayor. History tells us usually in municipal elections that incumbents are rarely unseated. It's usually, if they are unseated, a scandal, a public safety issue or a bad economy. And I don't think we have any of those.

ARNOLD: We do have a number of issues that I've heard raised with regard to public safety. We are short the number of officers that we need in law enforcement. I increasingly hear from people that they're very concerned about that. And the city doesn't seem to be taking any steps to rectify that. I've even talked with officers who are concerned about not having adequate coverage for certain shifts. So there is a public safety issue.

PRENTICE: But you see the crime reports, which are actually positive.

ARNOLD: I do. But as we grow, that changes. And I think we have to anticipate that we are going to be looking at increases in crime. One thing that's not being addressed at all is traffic enforcement. I've talked with Chief Bones, I've talked with the sheriff's office and talked about traffic enforcement. Aggressive driving is rampant. Running red lights is rampant. People are dying because someone runs a red light and plows into them. And what the law enforcement professionals tell me is they don't have the manpower to do anything with traffic enforcement. And I'm not blaming the law enforcement agencies for that. I blame the city of Boise for not focusing on that and for not providing enough officers to provide that coverage. So that's a concern.

And I recognize that it's difficult to unseat an incumbent, but I think there is enough discontent across the city with events over the last couple of years, the out-of-control spending that we're seeing. The library is a perfect example of that.Hiring an out of the country architect to design this over the top building, you have to ask yourself, who are they designing this for? It's not for the people who live here. It's to impress visitors from the outside. I think that was a huge mistake. We should have hired a local architect. A local architect would have understood what our values are, what our priorities are and what our community values are. And I think we would have gotten a much better product without impacting things like the cabin and the Anne Frank Memorial. It's very important to me to keep those two things in place and not negatively impact them. So out of control spending on on projects like the library, on the issues with the stadium.We don't need to try to shoehorn a stadium in downtown Boise. We don't have the infrastructure to support that.

PRENTICE: Can I ask about those two in particular, how would you vote on the initiative requiring voter approval for a possible new library project?

ARNOLD: I'm very much in favor of letting the voters decide. The voters should have been involved in that discussion about a new library early in the process and often. And that isn't happening. The current administration of the city of Boise seems to want to not listen to the public. They have their agenda of what they want to do with certain projects, and they really don't want to hear from the public. They even tried to quash the whole initiative process, which I think is wrong. You have to listen to your constituents and you have to involve them in the process early and often and in convenient locations.

PRENTICE: Can I also assume then that you would vote yes for the initiative asking for voter approval for a stadium project?

ARNOLD: Absolutely.

PRENTICE: And are you okay with the wording of those initiatives?

ARNOLD: I think they're a little confusing. So it'd be interesting to see if voters really do understand what the initiatives are about. A yes vote means that has to go to the public. They're a little confusing.

PRENTICE: But a yes vote would ask for a more definitive vote for any project to go forward.

ARNOLD: Correct.

PRENTICE: A month ago, there was an interesting report in the Idaho press. It reported that the city of Boise has added more than 200 full time employees to the payroll since 2013. Do you think that has been appropriate?

ARNOLD: I am skeptical that it has been appropriate. I think one of the things I would do, one of the first things I would do,is take a very hard look at the budget and a hard look at personnel to see what positions are really necessary and where there's been some fluff added, because I have no doubt there is some.But that would be one of the things I would look at early on in the in the processes. Are these positions that we really need? And if not, then they should be eliminated. But it does seem like a very high number at first blush.

PRENTICE: The winner of this election has to get a full majority of the votes. Are you prepared for a possible runoff election?

ARNOLD: If that's what it takes,absolutely. I think the key in this election will be voter turnout in West Boise, Northwest Boise and southwest Boise. If you look at the historical voter turnout in municipal elections, it's generally about 10 to 20 percent. We have seen as high as 30 percent. To me, that that is sad that some areas of our city are not engaged and not voting. Those folks this year have the power to change the direction for Boise. And if we can get voter turnout in those other areas, I'm not sure there'll be a need for a runoff.

PRENTICE: Is it your sense, though, that there is an urgency to this local election unlike any in recent memory?

ARNOLD: When I talk with people in other areas of town, I live on the Bench. Well, more West Boise now. I moved two years ago. But I've always been on the Bench, and I understand that there is a huge discontent among voters on the bench and in West Boise that that they're being ignored. And in newly annexed areas of Boise, they feel like they're not getting the services they need. For example, there's a need for a fire station in Northwest Boise. And at the city council meeting the other night, the discussion was, well, it'll take a year to design it, another year to build it. So it'll be at least two years down the road. Well, that's not acceptable if you have response times that are not appropriate for an area, you have to get something done quickly. And if ITD and ACHD can collaborate and rebuild an overpass in one year instead of three, surely we can build a fire station in northwest Boise in less than two years.

PRENTICE: Rebecca Arnold, thank you.

ARNOLD: Thank you for having me.

Copyright 2019 Boise State Public Radio

George Prentice has been honored for his decades-long career in broadcast and print journalism. As news editor of Boise Weekly, he won multiple awards for his investigative reporting and took home top prizes in the fields of crime/courts, environmental, health, religion and feature reporting.