The one competitive race for Idaho Falls City Council this November features a longtime incumbent who wants to continue his work and a political newcomer who wants to find ways to encourage development without raising taxes.
Tom Hally, who has been on the Council since 2004 and is the Council president now, says he wants another term so he can see some projects through, such as getting a new police station built and continuing his work on the Idaho Falls Redevelopment Agency.
“There are some things I want to see completed,” he said in an interview.
Stephanie Lucas, who is making her first run for elected office, wants to focus on bringing jobs and economic development to Idaho Falls.
“Adaptability and resiliency is what I would like to focus on,” she said. “And economic opportunity.”
While three seats will be on the November ballot, Seat No. 3 is the only one with two candidates. For the other seats, incumbents John Radford and Michelle Ziel-Dingman are running for re-election unopposed.
Election Day is Nov. 5. Candidates are presented in alphabetical order by last name.
Hally said working on encouraging growth is one of his major interests. He pointed to numerous projects in Idaho Falls in recent years, including the expansion of businesses such as Melaleuca and Idaho National Laboratory, the new Costco coming to Idaho Falls, downtown projects such as the reconstruction of the Bonneville Hotel and the Jackson Hole Junction commercial development project.
“I’m kind of a growth person, and quality growth,” Hally said in an interview. “We have to manage growth.”
Hally said he is proud of the redevelopment agency’s work. The 30-year-old Snake River Project Area, which spearheaded projects including the development of Lindsay Boulevard, Memorial Drive, improvements to the River Walk and downtown streets and the redevelopment of the Bonneville Hotel, was formally closed about a month ago and. The taxable value of the project area has gone up by about $190 million since 1988.
“That’s a permanent revenue stream,” he said.
Other projects Hally said he wants to keep working on include building a new police station, improving the city’s roads and infrastructure, finishing Heritage Park, expanding the Idaho Falls Zoo and seeing the Mountain America Center project, which is run by the Idaho Falls Auditorium District, reach completion. He said he worries someone else might not support some of these projects or might not have the same views on growth as he does.
Hally is on the Idaho Falls Power board. He said he is glad power rates stayed flat this year, which he attributed both to growth and to working with the Bonneville Power Administration. Hally also is excited about the collaboration between NuScale Power and Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems to build 12 small modular nuclear reactors at the U.S. Department of Energy site west of Idaho Falls. The reactors are expected to go online in the mid-2020s, and most UAMPS members, including Idaho Falls, will get some power from the reactors.
“That’s a big thing,” Hally said. “It’s carbon-free power. It’s power that can be relocated to reduce transmission costs.”
Lucas, who has a master’s degree in historical resources management with a concentration in geographic information system mapping, thinks the Council could use her skills as a researcher who might be able to find ways to save the city money.
“I think the City Council needs me,” she said.
Lucas gave picking a site for buildings such as police stations as an example of where her knowledge of GIS mapping could be useful in government. She supports putting a new police station in the former Deseret Industries building on E Street downtown, something she hopes could help revitalize that neighborhood.
“Clearly the police department needs a new building,” she said. “Absolutely, they need to be under one roof. I understand their frustration.”
Lucas said she wants to work on ways to encourage development and job growth without raising taxes.
“I want to focus on resiliency and adaptability, and bringing in economic opportunities to lower-income-bracket people in Idaho Falls,” she said. “We need more jobs.”
One thing she wants to encourage is more small businesses in Idaho Falls’ neighborhoods. She pointed to the corridor of First Street between Northgate Mile and Holmes Avenue as a successful example of that kind of development. Lucas said the Incremental Development Alliance, a group that helps cities with small-scale real estate projects, is doing work similar to what she would like to see happen in Idaho Falls.
“It’s given people an economic opportunity,” she said. “That’s what we need.”
Lucas said she has concerns about a proposal, which could happen in several years, to widen South Boulevard between 18th and 21st streets. This would require taking out the trees that line that stretch of Boulevard now.
“I think there are some disadvantages to tearing up a neighborhood that’s as mature as South Boulevard is,” she said.