I am so surprised that a leader of an organization like Idaho Smart Growth would profess and promote the idea of voting as undemocratic!
Voting — to elect our leaders, for public bonds and other issues — is enshrined in our Constitution. Public hearings, open communication and the magical “open and transparent process” are all there to keep elected officials in check and from forgetting whom they work for. The term Scot Oliver forgot to mention is called “checks and balances.”
“Boise Working Together, Inc.” the group of “prominent and progressive Boise residents,” represent a broad swath of Boise, both geographically and politically. They are neighborhood leaders, activists from Southeast Boise, the North End, Northwest Boise, Downtown and all over the Bench. Rep John Gannon initiated the group under one theme: the right to vote.
It is interesting to listen to the opposition from elected officials who rely on the vote when that same vote is used to rein them in, control their spending or to nudge them on path they need to take. Or, most of all, to remind them whom they work for. Never have I seen or heard of a candidate running for office, proclaiming, “Vote for me and forget about what I try to do or how I spend your money while in office.” Thank you, for providing a key issue to bring up in the next very important election cycle.
There are numerous underlying issues at play here. “Boise Working Together, Inc,” which I am part of, is NOT arguing for or against a new Main Library or Downtown sports or a stadium. Instead, we strongly feel that if these public, municipal projects, built “for the people” are right and correct for the people of Boise, they will survive a vote. If they don’t, they obviously wouldn’t be the right projects for Boise, would they?
We are all familiar with the public bonding initiative process for schools, open space, fire stations and libraries. It works — some pass and others do not. The voters, whose money funds these projects, will have spoken either way. When our officials cleverly find and seek funding mechanisms that deliberately and openly remove the voter from the equation, while legal, it is not right or correct. It also calls motivation into question, doesn’t it? The Constitution is very clear in how and when municipal debt requires a public vote.
House Bill 217, currently on hold, per a Senate committee chairman’s prerogative, seeks to close loopholes in the urban renewal laws. Urban renewal was originally intended for areas of blight. It was intended to encourage private development while assisting in the construction of infrastructure. It was never intended to be a slush fund for development of high-end condominiums, hotels, or as a funding vehicle to circumvent the public vote.
The closure of these loopholes has been attempted before. Dave Frazier, Boise Guardian, filed a lawsuit against the City of Boise and the Greater Boise Auditorium District for this same reason. That lawsuit went all the way to the Supreme Court through numerous ruling and appeals. Also in 2016, a bipartisan legislative task force revised and revamped the urban renewal laws in an attempt to bring the various uses of urban renewal funds under control. Yet, here we are once again.
Either way you slice it, look at it or spin it, this about the public right to vote when vast amounts of money are being spent on public projects. It’s a simple concept: “Let’s Vote!” After all, it is our right, whether you like it or not.
Dave Kangas is a realtor with Silvercreek Realty, Boise and a founding members of Boise Working Together, Inc, a group gathering signatures to place Boise’s proposed downtown library and stadium on the November ballot. A Boise native, Kangas is past president of the Vista Neighborhood Association and has been active in the Boise community for years.