With every seat in the room filled, Bellevue mayoral candidates Jared Murphy and Ned Burns sat in front of an engaged and attentive crowd Tuesday night answering questions for nearly an hour in hopes of proving to be the right man for the job.
The Pizza & Politics event, hosted by the Idaho Mountain Express, brought up many of the issues facing the city of Bellevue, including the paving of streets, advancement of the city’s comprehensive plan and questions of how to maintain emergency services and amenities for citizens with growth looming both north and south of the city’s core.
During a one-minute introduction by the candidates, Burns said he hoped to study current infrastructure to find the best means of improvement, focus on paving the streets and create an increase in businesses.
“We have to finally solve some problems that we’re facing and not just put Band-Aids on it,” Burns said.
Murphy said he hopes to focus on developing affordable housing and creating an “open forum for citizens,” with frequent town hall meetings to listen to the people of Bellevue and bring their voices to City Council meetings.
Both candidates said street paving is one of the most vital projects the city has been neglecting.
Bellevue resident Tom Blanchard asked both candidates what zoning they would change to create more affordable-housing opportunities, given that residential housing already allows for some multi-family housing.
“I’m a fan of infill,” Burns said.
Murphy said there are some properties in town with multiple lots, and splitting those lots up for development would grow the town without creating unacceptable density.
Another citizen asked about unintended consequences of water-meter changes that are moving residences from a flat rate to charges based on use. Both candidates agreed that the new system would create an opportunity for citizens to become more aware of how much water they’re using and to create intelligent water use.
As the city faces a possible annexation and development of a subdivision, a question addressed how it would maintain its level of emergency care response. Murphy said that with population growth would come an increase in tax revenue. Burns said that would be a matter that would have to be addressed further as the city grows. With regard to the Marshal’s Office, both candidates agreed that it is doing the best it can with limited resources.
Regarding the city’s comprehensive plan, which was completed over a three-year process and passed in June 2017, a resident asked the candidates what they would do to take the plan to the next level. Burns said he would follow the recommendations as outlined in the comp plan and stay budget-conscious when making decisions. Murphy said he had read the plan and looked at is as more of a guideline for the city with missions outlined for how to advance the city. He said he would keep an open mind for change.
On a lighter note, one parent asked on behalf of his son what the mayoral candidates would do for the kids of Bellevue. While both men agreed that there were limited activities and venues for kids to gather and engage in, Murphy said sustained development with a family-oriented community in mind was important to create venues and events for kids, while Burns said he would work with the Parks and Recreation Department to look at what the city currently has and what could be improved upon.
Both men confirmed to one resident that they would have the flexibility in their day jobs—Burns is a real estate agent and Murphy is a Hailey police officer—to attend City Council meetings and be available to residents and city staff when needed. With that being said, Fire Chief Greg Beaver asked both candidates how many City Council meetings they’ve attended. Burns said in the one year of his two-year council term he has only missed two meetings, one of which he called in to while on vacation and the second he wrote a letter to in response to items on the agenda to be read during the meeting. Murphy said he had not attended any City Council meetings.
At the end of the public questions segment, each candidate had the opportunity to ask each other one question.
Murphy asked Burns how he felt he could be a strong leader for Bellevue. Burns responded that with his experience on the City Council, he would be able to lead and direct staff and agendas in a meaningful way.
Burns’ asked Murphy how, in the event of a police or other non-fire emergency, would he wear the hats of both a police officer and a mayor if he were on duty at the time. Murphy said his supervisors in the Hailey Police Department are understanding and supportive of his bid for mayor, and that if elected he would have the flexibility to take charge when needed.
“They would let me do what was right for Bellevue,” he said.
During closing statements, Murphy asked that the city give him two years to prove he is capable of the job, even though he is young—26.
Burns closed his statements with a reaffirmation of his love for the city of Bellevue and his passion to get it to its full potential through his leadership.