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Crafting Policies

Boise State University’s School of Public Service strives not only to empower its students to become the best public service leaders they can be, but also to serve as a trusted resource for local and state policymakers searching for effective solutions to pressing public concerns.

In order to fulfill this mission, the school conducts annual surveys, reaching out to communities across the Gem State to find out what is truly important to those who call Idaho home.

Downtown Boise, for Explore Magazine, Allison Corona photo.

In October 2017, the School of Public Service released the results of the second annual Treasure Valley Survey, which surveyed 1,000 adults currently living in Ada, Canyon, Boise, Gem and Owyhee counties. Respondents were asked about their attitudes concerning a variety of topics, including the Treasure Valley economy and economic development, housing, employment and wages, and taxes and public spending priorities.

Corey Cook, dean of the School of Public Service, said that the survey is carefully designed to serve as a tool for groups from around the valley.

“We craft the survey with input from local stakeholders to ensure that it will be useful to public service leaders in the private, public and nonprofit sectors,” said Cook. “We have received positive feedback from a variety of people in the community and have seen the surveys cited in public meetings and used in grant applications, and those leaders say they have generally increased awareness of public preferences and priorities.”

Public transportation proved to be a priority for those in the Treasure Valley this year with nearly 74 percent saying they could use more options, a 7 percent increase over last year’s data. In addition, when asked what local governments should be spending money on, public transportation came in as the No. 1 priority.

Idaho State Senator Maryanne Jordan stands at a bustling intersection in downtown Boise, where behind her city officials are installing a protected bike lane in front of city hall. Allison Corona photo.

In 2015, Maryanne Jordan was appointed to the Idaho Senate to represent District 17 after serving on the Boise City Council since 2003. Jordan said the surveys put out by Boise State’s School of Public Service provide her with valuable data for discussions with fellow lawmakers.

“They’re really valuable resources that I utilize to make decisions,” said Jordan. “Some issues that come up at the statehouse may be perceived as strictly a Treasure Valley problem, but sometimes that’s not true, it’s something that affects the whole state. I like to compare and contrast the statewide survey with the Treasure Valley survey because it’s data that I can trust.”

Boise Mayor David Bieter also uses the survey findings when evaluating policy.

“Making strong public policy is all about having the right information,” said Mayor Bieter. “The School of Public Service is a great partner in helping us understand the viewpoints of Boise and Treasure Valley residents on a wide variety of issues. The in-depth statistics we get from their annual public policy survey, in particular, are an invaluable tool for staying at the forefront of policy issues that impact the lives of our residents.”

Bieter isn’t the only local mayor making use of the survey. Former Nampa Mayor Bob Henry also looked to the survey when evaluating what’s important to his constituents.

“The survey gives an inside look at issues in the community and is an excellent tool for city directors and leadership to evaluate particular situations as the city of Nampa moves forward,” said Henry.

Justin Vaughn, survey director for the School of Public Service, said the results show that Treasure Valley residents continue to say they enjoy life in the valley.

“Treasure Valley residents rate life here quite favorably. This is true whether we are talking about across the board factors such as quality of life or specific dimensions of life such as the economy or neighborhood safety. There are some areas of dissatisfaction but by and large the results of this study underscore the high quality of life the region has come to be known for,” said Vaughn.

Nearly 90 percent of the respondents said that their neighbors are welcoming to newcomers with different religious, economic and ethnic backgrounds. Beyond that, Treasure Valley residents are generally optimistic about jobs and wages, with positive responses about job availability and quality of pay.

However, residents did express concern about heroin and opioid abuse in the Treasure Valley. Forty-five percent of respondents said they were either extremely or very concerned, and an additional 35.9 percent said they were somewhat concerned.

Cook also noted that respondents have been concerned about the pace of growth in the valley for the past two years.

“In both Treasure Valley surveys we see extraordinarily high ratings of the region’s livability. At the same time, there is increasing concern about the rate of growth of the Treasure Valley and what that means in terms of infrastructure, housing prices and quality of life,” said Cook.

Nearly 55 percent of those surveyed said they believe the Treasure Valley is growing too fast, an increase of more than 10 percent over the previous year.

The School of Public Service also produces an annual statewide public policy survey that asks Idaho adults about public policy issues of interest to researchers, the media and the public. In addition, the school can create custom surveys for groups and organizations looking for more information. To view all of the surveys or request one for your organization, visit