Nancy Chaney

(candidate for 2005 Mayor)

1. Moscow’s police officers recently approached the city with a request to form a union. The city refused. Was that the right choice – why or why not? What should the city do now?
It was unfortunate that the situation came to that point. There were obvious signs of discontent that should have been addressed sooner. Once the union came into the picture, the City was prohibited by law from discussing grievances directly with the police, and deciding to not recognize the union was an attempt to solve the problems in-house. Part of the failure in communications may have resulted from the desire to give the relatively new so-called “Pay for performance” employee evaluation system a fair try. City Administrators were emotionally invested in it, so possibly too close to the problem to see it. (We all recognize that SOMETHING needs to change if we are to afford escalating healthcare costs.) Some police may have misinterpreted the semantics as much as anything, and were worried and suspicious, if not resentful of the premise. I perceived internal pressure to maintain optimism, even while lower ranking officers told me they couldn’t afford to live in town or buy their kids’ braces.

Loyalty, in my mind, was never a question. The people I talked with take pride in doing their jobs well and care about each other and the public. I doubt that the merit pay program was the sole motivation for seeking to unionize. According to Chief Weaver, Moscow spends in excess of $100,000 to train each new officer, but too often, our recently-trained officers move away to accept more lucrative positions. The turnover rate should have been a wake-up call. Maybe, as I suggested, providing opportunities for no-threat-of-repercussions anonymous feedback from employees would have given administrators hints about what was stirring, so they could have responded, instead of being surprised to see Council Chambers filled with uniformed officers standing united, with the union representative as their spokesperson. It is my understanding that since the union was not recognized, conversations between MPD and City Administration are underway. If, after those discussions, MPD still wants to unionize, then the affiliation should be acknowledged. It is important that the public knows that police in Idaho are prohibited from striking.

2. Which schools, if any, (K-12, colleges/universities, commercial schools) should Moscow's zoning code allow downtown in the central business district, and under what conditions, if any? Explain why.
Commercial schools such as beauty/barber schools are good fits for the Central Business District. Other schools might fit as conditional uses, so long as they would not compromise the primary purpose of the CBD, “to provide a location for groups of compatible commercial uses…” I am not convinced that a small downtown like ours can accommodate a large-scale colleges/university presence without threatening the viability of the District. The Zoning Code encourages “unbroken street-level commercial frontage,” so non-commercial conditional uses might fit best upstairs.

Mixed uses contribute to the vitality of downtown spaces around the country. We must be careful, however, to not snuff out the very thing that the District is intended to nurture, business. Conditions that might realistically be imposed include limits on numbers of students, square footage that may be occupied, provisions for safe transportation, parking restrictions, and allowable activities such as might relate to nuisances.

By my reading, the Zoning Code presently prohibits schools and educational institutions in the Central Business District. (Title 4, Section 11-5 reads, "This Zoning Code is an exclusive ordinance wherein the stated uses are the only uses which are permitted in each zoning district. Those uses not listed as permitted or conditionally permitted are not authorized.")

The Code distinguishes among educational institutions, schools, and commercial schools by specifically defining each of them. (See Title 4, Section 11-9B #47, 79, & 80, respectively.) In that those definitions are specifically acknowledged within the Code but are not listed among allowable uses in the Central Business District, the phrase, "...and similar public or private institutions" does not apply, and the logical conclusion is that although commercial schools are clearly allowed, schools and educational institutions are not.

Others in City Hall interpret the Code differently than I, suggesting that it may not be adequate as written. In that a municipal code is a legal tool to enforce the intent of the people, it is reasonable that we determine what the residents of Moscow want for our downtown. Our Comprehensive Plan is due for revision and we have the New Cities charettes coming up Oct. 13 and 15. If citizen input tells us that mixed uses with certain conditional restrictions contribute to the vitality of downtown, then we should revise applicable ordinances accordingly. What we must be careful NOT to do, however, is to confuse emotional overlay, strongly articulated beliefs, and inflammatory verbiage with government's obligation to equitably enforce the laws as written. Our laws are supposed to reflect the will and values of the majority of citizens. If our existing Code doesn't do that, then it's time to change it.

3. Please list the changes in city regulations or policy, if any, that you favor to lessen the depletion of our aquifer: for example, a stronger tiered rate structure, required use of treated effluent water for irrigation in parks, required installation of water-conserving designs in new structures, limitations on building permits, or any other changes?
I served on the Citizens’ Rate Committee that helped develop the tiered rate structure. Let’s give it a try as written to find out how it works. From the outset, the structure was expected to be dynamic and flexible enough to pay for the service while being equitable to users. Base rates must be affordable for everyone and we must deliver a message to conserve the resource, while still paying for its treatment, delivery, and maintenance of the system. Encouraging and anticipating increased use of treated effluent is appropriate, but requiring its use isn’t practical because the infrastructure is expensive, the resource already used extensively by the University of Idaho is of limited supply, and State regulations restrict its use. I favor offering incentives for water-conserving fixtures and features. The City’s Water Department is investigating rebate opportunities for high-efficiency washing machines and grants to help make it happen.

In response to Idaho Department of Water Resources Director Karl Dreher’s recommendation, the Palouse Basin Aquifer Committee helped develop a Citizens’ Advisory Group to provide new perspectives to managing the resource. Latah County Commissioners recently set an excellent example for us when they adopted a groundwater overlay zone to protect areas of likely groundwater recharge. I was a member of the planning group that put together the recent two-day Water Summit in Moscow. We are opening and strengthening the lines of communication among our neighbors in the Palouse Basin and are increasingly cognizant of the need to manage water regionally. Moscow is a leader among cities in the Palouse Basin in terms of taking incremental steps toward sustainable practices. We could do a better job of protecting the watershed within the City limits by preserving open space around surface water sources like Paradise Creek and the South Fork of the Palouse River, providing incentives to builders who use permeable pavers, rainwater catchment, xeriscapes, low flow or dual flush toilets, etc, establishing a hillside construction ordinance, including such elements as on-site pretreatment of wastewater as considerations for large-scale retail or industrial users’ permits, expanding participation in public education and outreach, etc.

4. Should a bridge be built over Paradise Creek to connect Third Street between Hayes and Mountainview Road? If no, why not? If yes, should that bridge be built for use only by bicycles and pedestrians or should the bridge be designed for motor vehicles? Are there ways to improve the city’s approach to planning and maintaining our transportation needs?
A bridge for motorized vehicles would serve as the preferred magnet for traffic from anticipated developments to the east. Inviting more motorized traffic onto Third St. would likely involve unmitigatable trade-offs. Although I appreciate that roadway connectedness is a general premise of Smart Growth, in this circumstance, it has long-ranging implications for all of us who value East City Park or who have to negotiate traffic jams on Third Street downtown. My concern is that as the straightest, flattest route to the Palouse Empire Mall and WSU, it would increase traffic flows into the City’s core. More traffic will mean more gridlock, followed by efforts to reduce the gridlock, possibly by widening Third St. downtown, thereby reducing the walkability of that space and damaging the small town ambiance that supports merchants there. Without reasoned predictions of the effects on East City Park, we risk irreparable damage to that precious place.

The route would take that traffic past East City Park, described on the City’s Web site as a place for “leisurely strolls…relaxation…two major fairs, and many summer concerts.” Although by Moscow’s standards, it is a large park—just over seven acres—it is not so large as to be able to buffer the noise and visibility of much more traffic. I have heard my opponent cite New York’s Central Park as an example of how such beautiful oases and large numbers of cars can co-exist peaceably. I feel compelled to point out that Central Park is 843 acres—120 times the size of East City Park, and even then, New Yorkers choose to close the six-mile long road encircling the Park to motorized traffic in the evenings and on weekends, to preserve the safety and relative serenity.

I have a sense that opposition to the Third Street vehicular bridge proposal is increasingly being framed as a NIMBY issue, weakening the thrust of arguments by some bridge opponents. We all know that residents who live on Sixth or B or whose children walk to Moscow Jr. High are no less important than those who live on East Third St. or attend Lena. Measurable facts will go a long way toward developing a persuasive and defensible arguments on either side of the issue.

I’d like to see a traffic study with projections and to hear transportation experts’ responses to the concerns that arise if a vehicular bridge were built there. Would a local-traffic only route with a landscaped roundabout and a series of stop signs and/or speed bumps deter high volume, faster-paced through-traffic as it has through the campus on 6th St.? Realistic transportation alternatives would be helpful, particularly since Moscow will almost certainly see significant growth to the east. Those details should be included in any factually-based decision.

I cannot preclude the possibility that a vehicular bridge may be constructed someday, but we would be foolish to not do everything in our power to preserve the safety, relative quiet, non-motorized options, and on-street event parking there. Past planning (or lack thereof) has gotten us into this jam, and it will take some creativity and compromise to get us out. It is not a compartmentalized issue within the exclusive domain of transportation interests. If the ultimate decision is to build a bridge for motorized use, mitigation must be funded simultaneously and include traffic-calming measures, sidewalks, vegetative buffers, and speed regulation.

5. What are your views about the proposed city ballfields on Palouse River Drive? To ensure that neighborhood parks are created in new subdivisions, should development of dedicated parkland there occur simultaneously with the initial development of the subdivision? Are there ways to improve the city’s approach to planning and maintaining city parks?
I believe that the property that the City acquired for the purpose of building a park is well-suited to playfields and that we probably do have need of more places for athletic activities. The concept plan that has been circulated and has been dubbed by some opponents as a “mega-sports complex” is by no means a done deal. A workshop is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. on Oct. 18 in the Hamilton Indoor Recreation Center to discuss options based on input from a variety of perspectives. The optimal solution will not develop from a take-it-or-leave-it, all-or-nothing approach. I believe that compromise is possible, so that playfields may be developed there, while minimizing disruption to the neighborhood and nearby arboretum. That may involve planting rows of trees, improving West Palouse River Drive, modifying plans for the public address system, demonstrating full cutoff lighting effects, possibly removing some parking, limiting use or extent of the facilities, shifting lines of sight, etc. I also believe that we should remain receptive to alternative sites that may be proposed.

In June 2004, the City Council voted to authorize use of $500,000 in Hamilton funds to leverage additional funding (grants, gifts in kind...) for developing a park a park there. At that time, we were told that use of treated effluent for irrigation would be the first choice. Since then, the proposal has shifted to use municipal (aquifer) water. I cast a minority vote opposing that use, however temporary, but was not in opposition to the fields, per se. It is important that neighbors who may oppose plans for any development there recognize the real potential that something far more intrusive than playfields could be an unintended consequence if this beautiful site is not secured for a clear purpose soon. The upcoming workshop will help us all know what options are available and which compromises could make this acceptable to sports interests and arboretum users alike.

6. Please include biographical information about yourself and any other message or contact information you want to share with Moscow voters.
I have served on Moscow City Council for two years. My educational background is eclectic. I have degrees in registered nursing, psychology, and a master’s in environmental science. I serve as chair of the City’s Public Works/Finance Committee, and am Council liaison to the Health and Environment Commission, Fair and Affordable Housing Commission, and Transportation Commission. I have also served on Moscow’s Historic Preservation Commission, Citizens’ Rate Committee for water and sewer, the Citizens’ Police Academy, and the task force to develop an emergency ordinance for Large-scale Retail Development, the so-called box store ordinance, and on the water summit planning group.

I am glad to be among the regular invitees to PBAC meetings, even though I’m not officially a representative. (Their secretary told me that it’s because I show up!) I continue to be an active community volunteer and am a supporter of the arts. I chair the Art and Aesthetics Committee for the Latah Trail Foundation.

Official credentials aside, I think my personal characteristics make me suited to the role of mayor. I enjoy the challenge of playing match-maker…of bringing together diverse groups and individuals, whose overlapping interests may have been unknown to the other, for the purpose of accomplishing common or complementary objectives. As in the field of environmental science, I believe that interdisciplinary networking results in stronger, more sustainable results than decision-making based only on compartmentalized perspectives.

My motives for running are personal only insofar as I find work in city government to be personally gratifying. I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t think I have the qualifications to help guide Moscow toward a more sustainable future. I look forward to that opportunity. I promise that I will work hard to earn and keep your trust and respect. I will spend as much time as required and be as well-informed and prepared as I can to serve Moscow faithfully as its next Mayor. Thank you for this opportunity to comment.

Postal: Chaney for Mayor, P.O. box 8811, Moscow

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