Guardian Top Stories

City Library Vote Off, Project “On Hold”

Wiser heads have finally prevailed on the question of an advisory vote regarding the controversial Boise Library project.

Ada County Clerk and chief election officer Phil McGrane sent a strongly worded Letter to Mayor Bieter 8.16.19 to Mayor Dave Bieter Friday refusing to place a confusing advisory question on the November ballot along with a citizen-initiative requiring approval of financing for the project which was set to cost about $104 million, but now would likely cost much more.

In his letter, McGrane revealed that Boise’s own legal counsel had informed officials in February they did not have authority to place the advisory vote on the ballot. McGrane also was backed up by Idaho Secretary of State Lawrence Denny who advised him to refuse the city measure from the ballot.

Despite the seemingly unanimous legal advice, Boise Councilors continued spending millions of dollars on the library project, passing an ordinance supporting their position, all without pausing to catch their financial breath. BOISEDEV claimed “the city committed to spending $11 million on architecture services from Safdie Associates & CSHQ, leaving $74 million for all other costs. The city paid out $3 million to $4 million of that contract to date. If the project ultimately does not resume, the city will not have to pay the remaining $6 million to $7 million of the architecture contract.”

Boise City Council President Lauren McLean, who is running against Bieter, said today’s action should have “happened months ago.”

“I will always love and support public libraries: they are essential to our identity as Americans and Boiseans. And I know that so many Boiseans also support a downtown library, but they saw problems with the project, process, and budget.”

Even so, she voted in favor of the advisory ballot question which was sponsored by Councilor Elaine Clegg.

In a press release from the mayor’s Team Dave, the entire project has been “paused.” “Since the special election is unlikely to move forward, Mayor Bieter has cancelled Tuesday’s scheduled public hearing related to the vote, which had been planned for the city council’s regular 6 p.m. meeting. He also cancelled Tuesday’s planned 3 p.m. council briefing on the project to give the city more time to understand its options around project finances. Tuesday’s briefing was planned to cover the project’s next planning phase and cost estimates, among other topics. Much of the information planned for the presentation could change as a result of the new cost estimates.”

The GUARDIAN has repeatedly called for a simple bond election seeking permission of citizens to go into debt to finance the project as mandated in the Idaho Constitution. City officials have repeatedly attempted to cobble together money laundering schemes and urban renewal deals to skirt the constitution, much to the disdain of the citizenry and the Idaho Legislature.

We also strongly hinted the city non-binding advisory vote would be denied BALLOT SPACE.

Boise Councilors Oversight Failure

If a development near the airport with as many as 22 industrial buildings is allowed to proceed, Boise citizens will be deprived of property taxes and forced to pay for the infrastructure to benefit the private project, thanks to a contract signed by Mayor Dave Bieter.

Here’s how it works. Boise City retains ownership of the land which is TAX EXEMPT. CCDC, the urban renewal agency, would pay for the infrastructure. The tax exemption would be in perpetuity for the land and only for a mere 20 years on buildings within the urban renewal district constructed by the developer.

In what amounts to pretty much a “no risk deal,” the developer agreed to pay a base rent of 12.5% of net operating revenues.

The clean way to offer fair access to public land is through an auction and sale to the highest bidder following a “declaration of surplus property no longer in the public purpose.” As the GUARDIAN sees it, these sweetheart lease deals are a way to select the ultimate user and eliminate any chance of a fair bid process.

Don Day at the BoiseDev site has posted a story revealing the insider deal between Mayor Dave Bieter’s Team Dave and a land developer.

Day explained that Bieter signed a lease agreement in 2017 with the Boyer Company of Salt Lake City promising to work on establishing an urban renewal district on city-owned industrial park land along Eisemann Road near Gowen Field. The council approved the deal on the “consent agenda” which is a catch all vote of routine items lumped together with no public discussion.

According to Idaho’s urban renewal law, “An urban renewal project for an urban renewal area shall not be planned or initiated unless the local governing body has, by resolution, determined such area to be a deteriorated area or a deteriorating area or a combination thereof and designated such area as appropriate for an urban renewal project.”

Bieter signed the contract before the council acted on the urban renewal question. The urban renewal district is now progressing.

Day has apparently caught team Dave in what has become a pattern of back room deals. The City Council failed in its duty to see that Team Dave plays by the rules. Granted, council agenda packets often contain 2,000 pages of info–more than any human can consume and comprehend during a week of part-time work. However, they can stop blindly following Team Dave and exert their authority to withhold approval until there has been public discussion, regardless of the topic.

Library Study: Boiseans Are Fat, Poor

Included in the $12 million design fee for an $85 million library is a $40,000 study completed by Boise-based Vitruvian Planning.

We note Chris Danley is the founder of Vitruvian Planning and is a former member of Boise City’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

In an unbiased report, IDAHO PRESS reporter Margaret Carmel offers some results of the study which included travel to Salt Lake City and Bozeman, Montana by the consultant. Cost of the survey was buried in the overall architect fee. She reports the city fathers and mothers are aiming to make us all healthier.

Here’s what the GUARDIAN took away.

–Boise folks are fat, underpaid, underinsured, trend toward mental illness, suffer from homelessness.

–If we spend the big bucks for a library the best designs would include lockers for the homeless, desks without chairs, streets without cars, covered bike parking, obscure elevators, and “exciting” staircases.

The report claimed Boise has a 28% obesity rate and 16% of us suffer a week of bad mental health days per month.

Bear in mind there has been no permission from citizens to spend any money for a library project, despite a pending ballot measure and state law requiring approval of public spending.

Surveys like this along with the free spirited public spending obviously drive folks mad and cause them to pig-out on junk food!

McLean Defended After Idaho Press Story

GUEST OPINION
By GARY E. RICHARDSON

Early in the week of July 21, a packet of WikiLeaks documents hacked from Hilary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign was sent to the Idaho Press by an unnamed source.

The anonymous source alleged that Boise City Council President and mayoral candidate Lauren McLean is part of a “dark money” political fundraising effort to shield progressive donors from campaign finance laws that would require them to disclose their identities. McLean is campaigning to unseat Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, who is running for a fifth four-year term.

In support of the claimed election law violation, the “packet” included a March 2015 email to John Podesta, then-White House chief of staff. National Education Association director John Stocks had forwarded the email to Podesta, inviting him to a Ketchum meeting of the Idaho Progressive Investors Network, which McLean founded a decade ago. Stocks, a progressive organizer and Idaho state senator in the 1980s, is a member of McLean’s network.

Along with McLean’s meeting invitation, Stocks attached information about Better Idaho, a group that promotes progressive causes supported by several investors in McLean’s network.

On July 25, the Idaho Press headlined the story:

“McLean defends political fundraising through organization she founded”

The clear implication of the header is that McLean is on the defensive about her fundraising organization. You have to read on to learn that the emails are not about fundraising for her mayoral campaign but about work she did in her profession as an advisor to investors who want to fund progressive causes.

The story begins with this sensational lede:

City Council President and mayoral candidate Lauren McLean makes an appearance on the notorious website WikiLeaks, but she says it’s not in relation to any fundraising for political candidates or “dark money.”

The only actual appearance McLean makes (present tense) is her smiling photo above the lede in the online edition. Her forwarded emails made their appearance three years ago when WikiLeaks published the hacked contents of John Podesta’s computer.

Reading on, we learn that four years ago Stocks wanted to get Podesta to Idaho to take him on a hike in the Boulder-White Clouds roadless area to lobby then-president Barack Obama to designate the area as a national monument. Podesta never came.

In the rest of the story, McLean explains that neither her investors network nor Better Idaho raises funds for political candidates. Their purpose is to connect donors to Idaho causes they care about like education, public lands, and other issues affecting the state’s future. Because the work relates to clients’ financial decisions, members’ names are not published.

Gary E. Richardson is a former Idaho Public TV reporter/producer and ACHD commissioner. He is not endorsing any Boise mayoral candidate but says he knows “dirty tricks” when he sees them.

Public Frowned On Facial Recognition

Amazing how effective a little bad press and public outcry can be in an election year.

Just a couple weeks after claiming that employee safety was the motivation for a $53,000 contract for a facial recognition system, Mayor Dave Bieter and his Team Dave dumped plans to spend the cash to protect employees.

The GUARDIAN was critical of the move. The American Civil Liberties Union and Council President Lauren McLean, who is trying to unseat Bieter, also condemned the idea of Team Dave unilaterally spending the cash for a dubious system.

The IDAHO PRESS posted the decision Friday after Bieter’s staff issued a press release confirming the action.

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