Tuesday night’s election results handed Republicans a majority in the Senate, and an expanded GOP presence in the House — part of shifting midterm political tides The Blue Review parsed in our latest issue. But in local politics a major shift took place in the agency responsible for managing the City of Boise’s roadways: the Ada County Highway District.
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Paul Woods won a crowded, six-way race for the District No. 3 seat while Kent Goldthorpe unseated ACHD Vice President Mitchell Juarena in the District No. 4 post. Juarena was only recently installed as ACHD commissioner to fill the seat vacated by the outgoing Dave Case, now an Ada County Commissioner.
Craig Quintana, the ACHD’s Chief Information Officer, indicated that the new commissioners may represent a new swing vote.
“They’re going to bring their views and perspectives to the table, but ultimately it takes three votes to guide policy. Whatever position they take will bring that swing vote. At the staff level, we always have to be able to count to three, and that’s going to hold sway going forward,” said Quintana.
Asked specifically if Woods and Goldthorpe would mean changes for ACHD regarding friction between ACHD and the City of Boise, Quintana couldn’t say.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know if they’ve tipped that balance. We’ll just have to see what they believe once they get here. Once you’re in the inside, things often look a little differently than they look from the outside perspective.”
But news of the ACHD commission’s new makeup may well be an early Christmas present for Mayor Dave Bieter. As reported in Boise Weekly, the mayor publicly expressed his desire to see new leadership at the commission — a wish that came true Tuesday, Nov. 4.
The Idaho Statesman‘s Cynthia Sewell caught up with the candidates and Mayor Bieter on Nov. 5
In recent years Ada County residents have watched a back and forth between ACHD and the county’s largest city over many street issues including downtown bike lanes and the placement of “smart” parking sensors in roadways. Vince Trimboli, City of Boise Community Relations Supervisor, stressed the city’s hopes for better collaboration going forward.
“We’re hopeful that the changes at the ACHD commission will lead to the ability to be more collaborative with them, and bring about the best result for the citizens of Boise,” he said.
Trimboli cited the results of the ACHD race, and the city’s successful push for a new fire safety bond as evidence voters are in sync with the city’s approach.
“We want to work collaboratively with ACHD — we always have — and we hope this gives us the ability to provide quality road sevices to Boiseans,” he said.
Trimboli said Boise City Council members have expressed dissatisfaction with ACHD’s decision-making process.
“Their biggest thing is that they want to have the ability to be a part of the decision process before the decision is made,” he said. “They want to be sure that whatever decisions are being made are hand in hand with our land use and transportation planning. The [ACHD] model is certainly failed in that area, in that we have designs and plans for our city, but without control of the roads we can’t always ensure that happens.”
Quintana at ACHD said that the District is used to frequent turnover.
“We’ll have to see once the commssioners-elect get in here and make their will known. It’s going to be one of those adjustment phases, but honestly we’re pretty used to it,” he said. “It happens every two years.”
A change in the commission’s makeup could mean different outcomes in tussles over the City of Boise’s multimodal transportation priorities. In June, a controversial vote not to renew a 30-day downtown bike lane pilot project was decided by commissioners Rebecca Arnold and the outgoing Jaurena.
According to Quintana, the new commission has choices to make come January 7.
“One of their first big decisions is to elect a president,” said Quintana. “Juarena was the sitting vice president, and all indications were he was going to be elevated to president should he carry the day in his race.”
Commission presidency constitutes a leadership role and influence in setting the commission’s agenda. Woods and Goldthorpe will impact selection of the new “face” of the ACHD.
“Right off the bat, they’re going to have to make a big decision about who’s going to the lead the commission,” said Quintana, “and the two newcomers will have a large role in that.”
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of Boise State University, the Center for Idaho History and Politics, or the School of Public Service.