What Are We?
The Treasure Valley Partnership is a group of mayors and commissioners from Ada, Canyon, and Owyhee Counties to include 14 cities in Southwest (Treasure Valley) Idaho who became concerned with the change in their communities because of rapid growth in the 1990’s. In 1997, the mayor of Boise, Brent Coles, realized that if something wasn’t done to proactively manage the number of people and jobs flowing into the region, the communities of the Treasure Valley would lose their character and many of the traditional western ways. He organized a two day meeting called the “Treasure Valley Institute” to see what the other mayors and commissioners were thinking.
After two days of listening to national speakers talk about the economics of growth, city planning, urban design and transportation, the elected officials realized they had more in common than they thought. They knew their citizens wanted good recreational opportunities, good job opportunities, housing and a quiet, “small-town” feel to their communities. They wanted to provide these without sacrificing the traditional agricultural base that has supported the area for many years.
After the two day meeting, a document was signed, called the “Treasure Valley Partnership Agreement” in which all members of the meeting agreed to work together on 4 areas (see Partnership Agreement 2000) and to meeting monthly to keep communication open and learn more about how to be proactive and use the area’s growth in a beneficial manner.
In 1998, the Partnership formed a 501-C3 non-profit organization. The organization is funded by annual dues the members pay and there is one part-time staff person, Executive Director Elizabeth Conner.
The agenda topics for the monthly meetings follow the goals of the Partnership Agreement. These meetings also provide a forum for groups and individuals with information on growth related issues to meet with leaders from all the communities in the two county area. The Partnership does outreach to other groups such as highway districts and local planning organizations to help build ties between elected officials and staff.
The most unique aspect of the Partnership is that the Partnership has no legally binding decision making authority. That is, the mayors and commissioners who sit on the Partnership boards cannot bind their represented communities to any issues. The Partnership Agreement is purely a “gentleman’s agreement” and it is up to the members to inform, educate, and guide their city councils and commissions in any issues that may legally commit their communities. While this may be seen as potentially ineffective, the result has been outstanding. The mayors and commissioners work with their council and commissions to further the goals of the Partnership in many unique ways (see Accomplishments).
Many of the Partnership’s original members have left office since 1997, but because of the camaraderie of the group and the dedication to proactive growth management, the new members have come on board with great attitudes and support for the Partnership.
The Treasure Valley Partnership has one part-time staff person, Project Manager Bill Larsen .
Mr. Larsen has been with the Partnership since June of 2005. He acts as a facilitator on project activities the Partnership decides to work on. Early on in his employment with the Partnership, Bill coordinated with officials in law enforcement, the State Pharmacy Board and numerous State legislators to develop language for City/County ordinances to restrict the sale of Pseudo ephedrine. The purpose behind these ordinances was an attempt to restrict the supply of pseudo ephedrine being used in the manufacture of methamphetamine.
Bill holds a Masters’ in Business Administration and has professional experience in developing and managing projects covering a wide variety of disciplines. He has held positions such as Project Coordinator for the University of Idaho, Resource Development Specialist for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Marketing Manager for two different businesses and has been the owner and manager of his own business providing Medicaid related services to clients in the Treasure Valley. He has also been a member of several state-wide boards and commissions beginning in the early 80’s.
Lastly, the Partnership is very privileged to have worked with leading individuals such as:
Hank Dittmar, Great American Station Foundation
Shelley Poticha, Congress for the New Urbanism
Christine Saum, Mayor’s Institute on City Design
Gianni Longo, ACP Visioning & Planning
Rolf Pendall, Professor, City Planning, Cornell University
Jim Weatherby, Profession, Political Science, Boise State
…in the pursuit of finding the right solutions to the pressures of rapid growth in our valley.
Role of Elected Leadership
The active members of the Partnership include the mayors and commissioners from Ada County Boise City, Canyon County, Garden City, City of Meridian, City of Parma, City of Eagle, City of Star, City of Caldwell, City of Nampa. Other communities in two-county areas are also considered members even though their leaders cannot always participate to the same extent as the core members.
The active members of the Partnership are the driving force to accomplishments of the organization’s goals. While the Partnership does employ a part-time Executive Director, individual members perform the bulk of the work necessary to accomplish the stated goals. The level of trust among members is unique. Even when disagreements arise among partners, the agreement to disagree on some issues does no damage to the overall cooperative effort of the group.
The Partnership has accomplished many things in the four years since its original meeting. The members of the Partnership have also changed with elections. And two new members have been added. The strength of the Partnership is the common belief of its founding members that the work of this group will be critical in preserving Idaho’s unique quality of life.
New members have also embraced this belief, regardless of their political beliefs or agendas.
Level of Community Involvement
During the early years of the Partnership, only annual events were conducted to provide information to the public about the work being done by the organization. The Partnership focused primarily on building relationships with local chambers of commerce, businesses, and interest groups, including some private citizens, groups, and environmental groups.
After the Treasure Valley Partnership summit in May 2000, the focus turned to more frequent public education and input. The Partnership co-hosted an open forum on how the Treasure Valley is growing and asked the public for input on their areas of concern. A workshop concerning regional energy demands was sponsored by the Partnership for elected officials as well as staff members from cities and counties.
The Partnership will host a regional forum for other elected officials from counties neighboring Ada and Canyon Counties. The goal of the forum is to inform these officials of the work the Partnership is doing and to cultivate future Partnership members. The Partnership will continue to look for assistance on outreach as the year continues. The members believe that it will be crucial to form many “partnerships in order to accomplish the outlined goals. There is a high level of expectation from many groups that the way the Treasure Valley Partnership does business should be emulated local governments around the country. In fact, members of the Partnership and its Executive Director have been asked to speak to groups such as the National Association of Counties, the United States Conference of Mayors, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
You Too Can Form Your Own Partnership!
The Partnership model is easily applied to any area that has visionary leaders committed to cooperative efforts and a coordinating person to assist the process. However, visionary leaders who can agree and cooperate with each other are sometimes hard to find. That is why it is necessary to start slowly and identify just a few areas that maybe only a few leaders (with or without vision) can agree upon.
Although the population size of the city and county members Partnership varies from 1,700 to 180,000, the Five Goals of the Partnership are the common uniting factors for these members. These goals came specifically from questions asked to each leader about concerns they had about their own
community. As the answers were reviewed, it was discovered that each member had addressed five issues. These issues were then compiled into a common format that members understood and agreed upon. When the common issues were identified in a neutral manner, the agreement to work together naturally followed.
However, one critical step to building a “partnership” cannot be overlooked. That is an unwritten consensus of the Partnership members to agree to disagree and to just leave some issues alone. Those issues may never be resolved by Partnership members and can be addressed in other forums by other groups. Many people ask why the Treasure Valley Partnership will not take on additional issues. The response is that there may be a time in the future when the members will agree to take up other goals, but retaining the focus of the Partnership on sustainable growth issues is a core value with its members. There is also a great desire to not replicate other agencies work. The Partnership is designed as an organization to assist mayors and commissioners in making good decisions
in the five goal areas for their individual communities as well as for the Treasure Valley.
The organization does not attempt to do traffic planning, encourage specific economic development, or implement radical growth strategies. It does try to understand the region, how it works now, and gather ideas as to how it could work better in the future. Initial obstacles to the Partnership included the belief held by some city councils and county commissions that it may not be productive to spend time and money on this effort. Most of the participants in the original Treasure Valley Institute held in 1997 were very enthusiastic and willing to participate. But, some of their fellow elected officials were less confident about the project.
There was also criticism that other governing bodies were not included, such as highway districts and school districts. The rationale of having a small select group initially was so that the Partnership could develop a strong core of elected officials who understood the need for regional cooperation and who could reach out to other elected officials, groups, and the public. Another concern was that a large number of Partnership members would lead to overwhelming and unproductive meetings. In the four years since the original meeting, concerns about the Partnership becoming ineffective or ultra-exclusive have diminished greatly. Because of the members openness and willingness to include any group on the agenda, there is a strong base of public support for the Partnership.
Securing Long Term Quality of Life
“Let us judge what can be done by what has been done,” Rousseau
This phrase accurately describes the ongoing work of the Partnership. Because of the professional and personal relationships of Partnership members, issues that would have been impossible to address ten years ago are not only possible but logical to work on now in order to protect and enhance the quality of life in the valley. Because of the efforts of the Partnership, a regional transportation authority initiative passed by 70% in a public vote in both Ada and Canyon Counties.
The metropolitan planning organization that formerly operated for only Ada County is now the planning authority for both counties. The Partnership does not have specific goals for environmental protection, economic development and social equity. However, it is understood by all members that if the five goals of the Partnership are not met in some way, if outreach is not ongoing, and if the cooperative work does not continue, it will have a detrimental effect on all those aspects of the region.
Every member realizes that in order to have a stable, healthy community, air and water quality cannot be allowed to deteriorate. The Treasure Valley has beautiful landscapes and recreational opportunities that draw people from all over the world. Often these people want to stay and create businesses.
The businesses need employees from all backgrounds. The Partnership members work to provide unique, safe and desirable communities within a framework of the larger community of the Treasure Valley.
Another significant element of the Partnership is that every member sits on the boards of various interest groups, including local economic development groups, transportation planning groups, environmental groups, and other organizations of a regional nature. Because of the “cross-pollination from these groups, the Partnership members are better able to understand the specific economic issues of the valley and share this information with other members. Many Partnership members are active in both religious and secular organizations devoted human rights awareness in the valley. Each Partnership member has an area of strength that he or she shares with other members and the Executive Director.
Because of this, the elected officials have a better overall understanding of the large number of issues in the valley. This does not mean that the Partnership organization will work on all of the issues. But more importantly, it does mean that each member is more aware of these subjects and along with efforts being made to address them.
In May 2000, the Treasure Valley Partnership presented an action list on the long-term goals of the Partnership.
This priority list included:
1. Working on focusing new development along the rail road line that runs from Boise to Nampa.
2. Continuing work on the Treasure Valley Futures grant.
3. Building awareness and implementing a regional open space trail program.
4. Developing an outreach program for citizens, elected officials and others to continue working on the four original goals.
Learn more about the Partnership…