Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-part series featuring outgoing members of the Payette City Council. Up next are Alan Massey and Kathy Dodson.
Part of serving your community is knowing when the time is right to let somebody else take over, as outgoing Payette City Council member Craig Jensen has determined. First elected in 2011, Jensen took time out of his day on Jan. 2 to talk about where he goes from here.
Jensen, a resident of Payette since 1981, said he ran for City Council to make Payette a more feasible place to do business.
“I felt there was some things that we could change with the city of Payette, try to bring more jobs into the community, lower our taxes … Property taxes, we had quite a high levy rate … And to make Payette more accessible to the citizens and welcome with open arms and be able to move Payette forward.”
Jensen shared his lengthy list of accomplishments for the City of Payette that he was happy to help with during his two terms, which include:
• Getting a Miracle Field built, a special needs baseball field for special needs children
• Starting a Boys & Girls Club
• Stopping the practice of taxpayers funding health insurance benefits for City Councilors’ spouses and family
• Helping streamline the city’s Planning and Zoning operations, allowing the city to approve variances without applicants having to wait for city council approval. Jensen estimates the resulting ‘one-stop’ approach saves applicants about a month per project.
• Helping lower the tax levy, with the result being the lowest levy in 30 years.
“I felt like that was a good accomplishment,” said Jensen of the lower levy.
• Helping the city build a reserve of $600,000 of foregone money, in an effort to be conservative with taxpayer monies. “I think the only time we ever should go into foregone taxes [is] a catastrophe that affected public health and public safety. There’s not too many cities that have that kind of budget.”
• Helping implement an employee incentive program, rewarding city employees for finding ways to save additional tax dollars
- Helping make it easier for the public to reserve public park facilities for special events.
“That was a big win for the citizens to use our city parks,” Jensen said.
• Getting discounted swimming pool passes for veterans with disabilities
• Helping implement the city’s annual economic health survey for business owners to give input about how the city’s doing in helping businesses to thrive.
“I think that’s something that [the council needs] to keep doing after I’m off the City Council is to go and survey our local businesses to see how things are going.”
• Helping to put the current moratorium on per-lot developer impact fees in the city of Payette. “We were the only one in the valley that charged that, so … it was a big disadvantage for us to have people invest in Payette to develop because we were charging this extra charge per lot that nobody else was doing.” Jensen acknowledged those fees, when they were being collected, may have helped fuel growth in Fruitland.
• Helping to get two pickleball courts installed, as the sport gains traction among seniors. “It’s getting very popular.”
• Getting rid of nuisance fees in Payette, which didn’t generate much money for the city but rather just annoyed citizens.
“One that comes to mind: We used to charge another business license fee if you just moved your business to … a different address. And that was just so wrong, because it was still the same business that … just had a different address.”
Jensen said he didn’t run for a third term because he believes in term limits.
“I think that you reach a point where you pretty much have done about what you’ve set out to do,” said Jensen. “I felt like it was time to get some fresh blood in there with new ideas.”
There was one thing Jensen wishes he could have gotten done: Get a new motel built in town.
“I was really hoping I could bring a motel to our city, because I think it’s so important for the retail businesses in our town,” said Jensen. “People shop where they lodge … they usually shop around the motel. You can’t force investors to spend their hard-earned money if they don’t want to.”
Even though he wasn’t able to get the motel done, Jensen advises future councils not to give up.
“My advice to the present City Council would be to continue to pursue that. We need a motel.”
Jensen will remain busy, himself, as he’s on the steering committee for Boise State’s Payette Community Impact Program.
“I’m really excited to start that; That’ll really be helpful for our kids, and hopefully we can have kids decide to study here because they can make a living wage they can survive on.”
Life after City Council will also see Jensen and his wife, Tracy, take occasional vacations to warmer climates. Florida, Hawaii and Southern California are on their bucket list.
“We like to go places that are warm,” Jensen said.
He said he appreciates his time working with the City Council, city staff and with the citizens of Payette.