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Meridian mayor discusses growth, Eagle Road, divisive politics during State of the City address

Meridian Mayor Robert Simison during his 2023 State of the City address on Thursday discussed divisive politics, lowering the speed limit on Eagle Road and growth.
Credit: Brian Myrick / Idaho Press
Meridian Mayor Robert Simison addresses a crowd at the annual State of the City address in the Galaxy Event Center at Wahooz on Thursday.

MERIDIAN, Idaho — This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press.

Meridian Mayor Robert Simison during his 2023 State of the City address on Thursday echoed many similar goals and concerns from last year‘s address, including divisive politics, the speed limit on Eagle Road, and growth.

Last year, Simison asked the Legislature to fund schools. This year he thanked the Legislature for passing a bill that would provide money to school districts for paying off bonds and levies. But he also criticized those that don’t focus on “main street” issues like education and transportation.

“I am frustrated with the vocal minority who are manufacturing social issues to create fear and division in our state and communities in an attempt to achieve political gain,” Simison said from the Galaxy Event Center at Wahooz. “We don’t always have to agree, but we do need to be able to listen and be courteous to one another. This is how we have done it in Idaho.” 

Simison said such behavior erodes society and “detracts common sense people from serving in our communities.”

This appears to be a key issue for Simison, who established the Leading Idaho PAC in Fall 2021. His goal was to “identify, cultivate and support” elected officials who will lead with “common sense solutions.”

“It is important that we have people who are leading at all levels of our government focused on policy and solutions, not politics and rhetoric,” Simison wrote in a 2022 newsletter.

In another newsletter issued this winter, Simison promoted an occassion where people could come participate in events about the PAC or support his reelection campaign.

Simison on Thursday also asked yet again for the Idaho Transportation Department to lower the 55 mph speed limit on Eagle Road. Last August, Meridian officials blasted and questioned ITD officials on their comments on the Eagle Road speed limit and crash data.

The family of Kess Boesch has been pushing to reduce the speed limit on Eagle Road and ban unprotected left turns after Boesch died last November in a crash at the intersection of Eagle Road and Baldcypress Street, according to Idaho Statesman and Idaho Press reporting.

For Simison, growth was once again a big topic as Meridian’s population continues to rise. He discussed some of the benefits of growth, including 8,500 jobs created since 2020, a new phase at the Village at Meridian and new businesses.

One big-name business coming to Meridian is In-N-Out burger, which is expected to be completed in September, BoiseDev reported

“And of course, who can’t wait for In-N-Out?” Simison said.

He also said he is asking for six additional police officers in the next budget and wants to address the need for a community center in the city. Simison wants to devise a plan for performing arts facilities as well.

“Finally, what would the community look and feel like without talking about the look? What we are seeing and moving towards in Meridian is a more vertical city in certain areas,” Simison said. “In downtown, we put a minimum height standard in place for buildings other than single-family residential to help create the opportunity for vibrancy.”

However, Simison said there are challenges to come, including finding funding for the Linder Road Overpass, dealing with congestion and working on school funding.

“It’s hard to believe that I am delivering my fourth State of the City address. The last several years have been some of the most rewarding and challenging as we have watched our country, state and community evolve,” Simison said. “The state of our city has never been stronger.”

It has been an interesting past 12 months in the city of Meridian. Some of the noteworthy storylines have been:

Meridian Police added six new school resource officers to local elementary schools in response to the public shooting epidemic that has engulfed the United States. The city council considered implementing a public intoxication ordinance; Topgolf opened right off Interstate 84; and a new autism facility opened.

A teenager was hit and killed on their way to school, prompting a case study about intersection safety. A Meridian woman was forced out of her tiny home and sued the city. An AARP report called Meridian’s lack of medium- and high-density housing alarming. Former city councilmember Treg Bernt won a seat in the Idaho Legislature and was replaced on the council by former Police Officer John Overton.

In January, the ‘Park Mom’ who was arrested at a Meridian playground in 2020 for her protest of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions had her charges dismissed by new Attorney General Raúl Labrador. The Meridian Library District faced a petition for dissolution, but survived.

And this spring, lamb quintuplets were born on a Meridian farm.

This article originally appeared in the Idaho Press, read more on IdahoPress.com.

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