Even though it’s only June, the city elections in November are only a bit more than 4 months away.

Already, it appears that the marquee race will be the open seat contest for Meridian mayor. State Rep. Joe Palmer, who is House Transportation Committee chair, is running, as is City Councilwoman Anne Little Roberts and Robert Simison, who is current Mayor Tammy de Weerd’s chief of staff. Meridian is Idaho’s second largest city and has added more than 30,000 residents since 2010.

What are the likely themes in this year’s municipal elections?

Front and center in almost every community will be the challenges associated with growth, or, the lack of the same.

Overall, Idaho is or is one of the fastest growing states in terms of population.

But, the growth is not even.  Idaho’s largest cities have seen a disproportionate share of Idaho’s population growth.  The following chart show the surge between 2010 and 2018 for Idaho cities whose population topped 20,000 in 2018:

City

4/1/2010 Population

7/1/2018 Population

Boise

205,671

228,790

Caldwell

46,237

56,541

Coeur d’Alene

44,137

51,303

Eagle

19,908

28,363

Idaho Falls

56,813

61,535

Kuna

15,210

20,746

Lewiston

31,894

32,817

Meridian

75,092

106,804

Moscow

23,800

25,766

Nampa

81,557

96,252

Pocatello

54,255

56,266

Post Falls

27,574

34,691

Rexburg

25,484

28,687

Twin Falls

44,125

49,764

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

 

Every single one of these communities grew, many significantly. Communities adjacent to the major urban communities — like Ammon, Chubbuck, Hayden, and Star —  also saw population surges.

But, many smaller, more rural Idaho communities have seen only stagnant growth.  The following examples are illustrative:

City

4/1/2010 Population

7/1/2018 Population

American Falls

4,457

4,367

Bonner’s Ferry

2,543

2,595

Gooding

3,567

3,473

Homedale

2,633

2,675

Kellogg

2,120

2,119

Malad

2,095

2,126

Montpelier

2,597

2,522

Orifinio

3,142

3,124

Salmon

3,112

3,141

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

The challenge for candidates for mayor and city council is to meet their particular local needs, and those vary widely.

A rapidly expanding community needs policies to address infrastructure needs, demands for more law enforcement and fire protection, urban planning, and recreational priorities. Most candidates will focus on one or more of those elements.

A slow or no growth community has a different set of priorities. One is the challenge of providing adequate services with a confined tax base. Another is how to spur local economic development. Those are inherently tough.

Successful city candidates will be those who identify and propose persuasive solutions to their community’s individual challenges.

 

Steve Taggart is an Idaho Falls attorney specializing in bankruptcy (www.MaynesTaggart.com).  He has an extensive background in politics and public policy. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..