November 2016 Treasure Valley Voters Guide

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Ada County Commissioner - District 2

Incumbent: Republican Rick Yzaguirre is not seeking re-election Term: Four yearsSalary: $102,364Ada County is Idaho’s largest county.Population: 434,211 2017 budget: $231.4 millionCandidates on video:Rick VisserTJ Thomson

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  • Candidate picture

    TJ Thomson

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    Rick Visser

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Biographical Information

Why are you running for office? What is the most important issue facing the county? What in your background qualifies you for the job of commissioner?

Should Ada County continue to give financial support in future budgets to the Housing First partnership that has emerged among the city of Boise, the local housing authority, Idaho Housing and Finance Association and other partners?

What should commissioners do to improve transportation in and around Ada County?

Do you approve of the steps the Legislature took this session to bolster public defense in Idaho counties? If not, what would the right approach have been?

Would you support an effort to reduce landfill usage by establishing a composting program in Ada County? Why or why not?

What is your view of the relationship between Ada County and other local governments with which it works? How can those relationships be improved?

With an end to horse racing at the Idaho Expo, what is the best use and/or future of the large county complex in Garden City?

Have you been convicted of, or pleaded guilty to, a misdemeanor or felony or had a withheld judgment? If so, what, when and where?

Have you or a company you owned filed bankruptcy? If so, when and where?

Age 45
Education Bachelor of Science (BS) in Political Science from Boise State University, Master of Public Affairs (MPA) from Indiana University, Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) from the Institute of Internal Auditors
Prior political experience I have served on the Boise City Council for the past seven years, working to make Boise one of the most livable cities in America—making it a hub for commerce and innovation, protecting our open spaces and recreational opportunities, and serving as a public advocate for education and public transportation improvements.
Civic involvement I am an actively engaged citizen, serving as a Boise City Council member, including time on several city boards and commissions throughout my tenure (e.g. Public Works Commission, Parks & Recreation Commission, City Audit Committee). Each year, I enjoy playing a role in a number of other community involvements, such as COMPASS, Ada County Emergency Management, and a recent focus group analyzing K-12 school infrastructure challenges. I am an alumnus of Leadership Boise, Citizen’s Law Academy, and Citizen’s Police Academy.
Years living in Idaho 36
Family Alisha Thomson, wife; Sena Thomson, daughter
Twitter page @TJThomson
I am running for Ada County Commissioner to promote an ethical and transparent county government that is limited to its prescribed roles, works to empower our communities, and serves as an economic spark to help create jobs through property tax relief for new and expanding businesses. I want to make Ada County an even better place to live, work, and raise a family so that future generations can enjoy continued prosperity and an incomparable quality of life.

One of the most important issues facing Ada County is the contentious relationship between it and our cities. I believe the county should work to be more of a partner in helping cities realize their long-term visions of prosperity and success.

I have spent my career as an auditor seeking out fraud, waste, and abuse in both the public and private sectors. One of my top priorities is to increase efficiencies in government operations, reduce impediments to economic growth, and ultimately reduce the burden on taxpayers—something I am uniquely qualified to do. I recognize, firsthand, the ways we can improve our county government to be a better partner to our cities, helping them fulfill their own vision for their community.
Ada County taxpayers are on the hook for millions of dollars each year, assisting our homeless population through indigent care services, associated legal fees, emergency management services, and time spent at the county jail. Focusing on mental health services and partnering with cities, charitable organizations, and community leaders on supportive housing solutions may reduce taxpayer costs while also assisting the homeless. Rather than spending millions of taxpayer dollars on medical treatment, legal services, and ambulance rides, serving as a community partner on tax-saving alternatives is worth exploring.
Ada County should serve as a partner to cities and transportation agencies to find creative solutions to meet our transportation needs. I support the vision COMPASS has laid out for our community, and believe the best solutions come about by involving every city in the discussion (including broad public input from our citizens) to determine the best transportation solutions for our growing population. As our county grows, it is imperative that they coordinate with ACHD and other local governments to find cost-effective solutions that meet future demands while maintaining our unique quality of life.
I do approve of the steps the legislature has taken to address this issue, though I think it is far from resolved. It is our constitutional duty to provide Idahoans appropriate and adequate legal representation. The legislation passed last session provides additional funding to counties for public defense improvements, and the State Public Defense Commission has created some of the new rules that direct the counties to implement new case load limits, require an attorney’s experience to be compatible with the complexity of the case they are assigned, ensure a defendant has the same attorney from arraignment through trial, and require continuing legal education for defending attorneys. It is the county’s statutory obligation to follow these rules. My biggest concern is related to the impact these new and subsequent requirements could have on county taxpayers. While the state has allotted additional funds to counties to implement these provisions, we must continue to look for efficiencies that will reduce the tax burden on our citizens and ensure that Ada County is providing quality counsel to those it represents.
Ada County performed a waste stream analysis study in 2014 which noted that, in Boise alone, close to half of all waste collected and transferred to the landfill from single-family homes is organic (food/yard) waste. There are several potential benefits to establishing a composting program, but any such program is likely to be handled on a city-by-city basis. Diverting organic waste saves space at our landfill for future refuse disposal, expanding its lifespan. A composting program may also provide enormous opportunity to produce a product for use by our residents and city parks departments. But first, any interested cities should identify a single location for a composting facility to assure reduced program costs, prevent duplication of efforts, and ensure any associated odor issues do not impact county residents. The feasibility and potential cost to citizens should first be analyzed thoroughly, and the public should weigh in heavily on such a program before moving forward.
I believe relationships can be improved in several areas. Cities know best when it comes to fulfilling their vision for the future. The county should work more as a partner with cities in local projects, rather than impede progress. I want to work to improve relationships between the county and our cities and make sure Ada County is sticking to its prescribed roles and supporting local communities.

Strengthening local control and fostering better collaboration between cities and the county will require a general shift in attitude by the commission as a whole, to give more deference to cities on projects that specifically affect them. An initial necessary step is resolution of existing high-profile disagreements. I believe my time serving on city council gives me unique perspective and experience for this role, which is why I have the support of five Ada County mayors and nearly every city council member serving in the county. As Ada County Commissioner I will work to bring cities to the table to work out reasonable agreements to resolve these issues once and for all. This will reduce the tax burden on taxpayers while strengthening relationships throughout the county.
In 2007, an in-depth study was performed as part of an effort to fund the redevelopment (or relocation) of aging Western Idaho Fair/Expo Idaho facilities located on Ada County’s 240-acre property. Several options were examined, including solutions to upgrade and modernize Expo Idaho facilities, but Ada County made the determination not to act on the recommendations. It’s time for a broad public discussion about present and potential use of the Idaho Expo Fairgrounds. While I believe keeping Lady Bird Park in this area is important—due to its value and heavy use by the community—I would like to explore opportunities for additional commercial, residential, and economic development (as well as other beneficial uses of the property) in conjunction with the Western Idaho Fair and other popular annual events. These decisions should not be made in a vacuum; rather, close coordination with our citizens and Garden City’s local officials should determine the best possibilities for our community as a whole.
Age 68
Education B.A. Molecular Biology, University of California, San Diego. J.D. Law, University of Idaho, College of Law
Prior political experience Did annual bill tracking and bills of interest reports for the Idaho Supreme Court (5 years). Authored a new DNA Access bill that became law.
Civic involvement Ada County Sheriff Volunteer (2010 - present) Youth Club soccer coach for ten years.
Years living in Idaho 40
Family Married to Julie Jensen, an Idaho native. We have three children - Jeremy, Summer and Erika.One granddaughter. My mother, brother and sister all live in Ada County.
I am running for the District 2 Ada County Commissioner office because I desire to bring my common sense and administrative experience to the office. I have witnessed several periods of growth in Ada County in the 40 years that I have lived here. I am concerned about the quality of life for the four generations of my family that are living in Ada County. I believe that the most important issue facing us now is that the county's infrastructure has not kept pace with the county's recent rapid growth. We are facing related challenges in traffic congestion, increasing pollution, and public safety. I retired from BSU and the State of Idaho with 21 years of administrative and problem solving experience. I am a proactive person who believes in accountability to and fiscal responsibility for the residents of Ada County. Most of my career in Idaho involved customer service. I enjoy listening to people and getting ideas. I believe in the principle that there is nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come.
I would search for partnerships that are working, review the current partnership in Boise, and then make my recommendations. I would encourage open communication with the Boise and Ada County Homeless Coalition. I am aware of the argument that the Housing First programs are working as evidenced by lower crime rates and less public health care costs. I believe Orange County in North Carolina has a mutually beneficial Housing First program. I am also thankful for Rescue Missions. I have served holiday meals at the Boise Rescue Mission, and I encourage others to also volunteer to serve there.
It is evident that Ada County roadways have not been able to keep up with the rapid population growth in the county. Personally, I do not think that funding should be expended for a new light rail system. The New York City subway system has been operating since 1904. It is essential in a large metropolis. I do favor other ways of reducing traffic congestion, such as: flexible work schedules, increasing the number of Park & Ride sites, and giving incentives to those who take the bus, carpool, ride bikes and walk.
I agree that action needed to be taken. Especially so in light of the 2015 lawsuit claiming that Idaho's public defense system was defective. The number do not lie. As an attorney, I learned that there is a great discrepancy in public defense versus public prosecution budgets. Both offices are to work for justice. The Innocence Project has brought to light that innocent people can be convicted of crimes that they did not commit. Over 300 men and women have been freed by DNA evidence, and fortunately in half of those cases, the true criminal was found and convicted. I think that if any public servant ignores exonerating evidence, he or she should be held accountable for his or her actions.
Absolutely. I know that Seaman's Gulch 1 is full, and the landscape has changed because of trash. Even though there has been progress in recycling, America is still a throw-away society. My wife and I have a compost bin, and our wonderful garden is evidence that composting works. While in law school, I wrote an article on the problem of overburdened landfills and the need to recycle. It was entitled, "No Time to Waste!" I would search for successful programs in the US, and work to implement a proven one in our county.
Currently the relationship between Ada County and the cities of Garden City and Meridian is very strained. This problem stems from the issue of who should provide magistrate court services. My opponent, TJ Thomson, has met with all off the city officials in Ada County. TJ has convinced many of them that they should not have to pay. TJ clearly stated his position earlier, "cities should not have to pay for court services" (Boise Weekly, 03/09/2016).His statement is a blatant misrepresentation. Idaho Code §1-2218 says cities may be made responsible for providing magistrate services, and I.C. §1-2219 says that a majority of district judges can order a city to provide magistrate facilities. In seven years as a Boise city councilman, TJ has failed to do anything about this problem. TJ does not mention that in 2015 Ada County sent payments from fines to every city in the county: Meridian $453,000; Boise $259,617; Garden City $168,253; Eagle $56,228; Kuna $40,020; Star $27,845. I would propose that the "legal costs" that a city owes be offset by the above fines and that the fines and fees of Magistrate Court be increased for those individuals who use the magistrate courts. A win-win way,
I believe that it is time for a new study to be conducted that determines what is the "highest and best use" of this property. A prior study in 2007 had three recommendations - sell all the property, sell one-half of the property, or sell one-third of the property. I also would like to solicit ideas from Ada County citizens. Given the recent exceptional prosperity and growth in Ada County , this property has significant value and potential that all our citizens can share in. Another question to explore would be relocating the Fairgrounds to a more central location in Ada County.
No, I have never even been charged with any crime. I have one traffic ticket in Idaho in the last 40 years (1978).
No, I have never filed for bankruptcy.