Guardian Top Stories

Water Bond Has Gravitational Force


The GUARDIAN has a basic understanding of gravity and understands water runs downhill (downstream). The largest bond in the history of local government in Idaho seeks authority to build a sewer treatment plant in the eastern part of Boise. It is the ONLY item on the November 2 ballot which can be voted upon by all citizens.

Regardless of how clean these folks think they can filter the sewage, it will end up in the Boise River—upstream from the area where thousands float in their inner tubes and rafts each summer and upstream from where Suez Water pumps drinking water from the river.

A NO vote on the sewer bond will force the council to either risk being unelected if they raise sewer fees 53%—as threatened– in the event the bond is rejected by voters OR to take notice of the “gravity of the issue” and refrain from seeking voter approval of an upstream sewer plant that could truly threaten clean water.

City councilors need to rethink the funding sources and scale back the proposal. A modest rate hike is in order to maintain the sewer system, but it should not be expanded in an effort to foster more growth and industrial use of our resources, including the Boise River.

Most households have received printed mailers urging a “yes” vote on the bond. It was paid for by a political action group calling itself “Yes for Clean and affordable Water.” Far from a grassroots citizen movement, this outfit is a who’s who of special interests destined to benefit from increased population and growth.

GUARDIAN volunteers did the research at the Idaho Secretary of State and identified the following list of players and what they paid to influence your vote.

o Blue Cross of Idaho — $10,000
o J.R. Simplot Company — $10,000
o Hayden Beverage Company — $5,000
o Republic Services (trash hauler) — $5,000
o Block 22, LLC (property management) — $5,000
o Roundhouse Group, Inc. (condo developer, formerly known as Los Angeles-based “LocalConstruct” — $5,000
o Micron — $10,000
o Patrick Bageant for Boise City Council — $1,000
o HDR, Inc. Employee Owners PAC (Omaha, Nebraska-based industrial planning and design company) — $5,000
o Conservation Voters for Idaho — $2,500
o Ball Ventures Ahlquist/BVA Development (Meridian, Idaho) — $5,000
o Old Boise LP (Boise developer) — $3,000

Potential Trumpesque Boise Election

Discussing the various rules, changes, and laws regarding the upcoming Boise City election, the GUARDIAN discovered what could be a treasure trove of votes if city council candidates take advantage of the Idaho law.

Those densely populated student housing areas along the Lusk St. area and Boise Ave. near the campus could yield close to 20,000 votes in the new City Council District 5.

All those out-of-state kids from California and Washington potentially have the power to influence Boise’s political landscape.

Here are excerpts from the applicable Idaho Code:

Idaho statute § 34-104
“QUALIFIED ELECTOR” DEFINED. “Qualified elector” means any person who is eighteen (18) years of age, is a United States citizen and who has resided in this state and in the county at least thirty (30) days next preceding the election at which he desires to vote, and who is registered as required by law.

Students may also use a current valid student identification card from a post secondary educational institution in Idaho accompanied with a current student fee statement that contains the student’s valid address in the precinct together with a picture identification card.

Idaho has election day registration. You may register at your polling place on election day by providing proof of residence. All documents used in providing proof of residence must be accompanied with a photo ID.

Ironically out-of-staters don’t qualify as “residents” when it comes to tuition classification unless they have worked full time and paid state income tax for at least a year prior to an election.

Pure Thoughts On Clear Water Issue

The following information is in regards to the “water renewal” (sewer) bond financing scheme on the November 2 Boise City ballot.

GUEST OPINION
By ERIKA BENSON

What most voters will not know is there are other Federal funding sources that can pay for a lot of this, but Boise is going to use these monies to expand government while simultaneously allowing the citizens to subsidize even more growth. I have attached a document I put together that combines info. from your BG articles with additional content from city records, with the key points being the following:

There are three (3) buckets of Federal money that could be usedto help pay for the sewer and water renewal projects in the City’s Water Renewal Utility Plan, but only the first one below is in the City’s record to help cover the costs:

1) Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA)
Provides long–term, low cost fixed interest rate loans to finance up to 49% of a project.
The current round of funding through the EPA includes $6.5 billion.
The City has submitted an initial application under the recent July 23, 2021 deadline.
2) American Rescue Plan Act
Boise is receiving $36.9 million of the $1.9 trillion from the American Rescue Plan Act.
Funds can be used for necessary water and sewer infrastructure projects.
Boise website shows the City has already selected the following categories* to spend these funds on: Housing, Mental Health, Food Security, Small Business Support, and Childcare.

* The separate $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Act will have provisions to cover many of the same categories Boise is listing on its website for the American Rescue Plan funds.

3) Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R. 3684)

$1 trillion in Federal funding to improve and modernize the nation’s infrastructure is currently making its way through the legislative approval process.
$55 billion of this amount is allocated for clean drinking water.
$50 billion is specifically allocated for western water infrastructure and making systems more resilient to climate impacts.

A “Yes” Vote
Since the bond language does not specify which sources of funds will apply to replacing existing infrastructure versus funding the cost of expansion, the voter cannot know if a “yes” vote may be simply covering the cost of expansion to support more growth, while the WIFIA funds will be used to cover the cost of replacements to the existing system.

Does the voter understand that a “yes” vote will simply enable the developers and investors to not bear the costs by having the City avoid enacting water and sewer impact fees, or implementing a Community Infrastructure District?

A “No” Vote
Language in the City’s record and the ordinance says “up to 53%” – – which can mean this rate is not the final rate that would be implemented if this bond does not pass. In addition, the letter from the City’s legal department for the bond ordinance states the City Council has discretion on how to implement these increases and will decide in November whether to implement the entire amount in 2022, or potentially consider other rate increase alternatives.

A “no” vote will place pressure on the elected public servants to utilize other funding sources before resorting to large rate increases.

MORE DETAILS Election – Sewer Bond Topic

City Defeats Voters Prior To Bond Election, “Cash or Credit?”

The politicos at Boise City have pulled off a brilliant strong arm move without voters even being aware they have lost the power of the purse.

See the story below for details, but here’s what it all means.

Following all the rules for “transparency,” the council has decided to spend upwards of $810 million for increased sewer treatment plants which will make more growth and population possible.

The November 2 bond election–according to BOISE CITY is simply a question of “cash or credit?” Citizens will have no voice at the polls to limit the scope of additional facilities. They only get to decide the payment method for purchases already determined by the council.

From the city website: What does my vote mean?
YES: Voting “YES” authorizes bond fund funding of up to $570 million and results in stable and predictable rate increases over 20 years (9.9% in 2022)

NO: Voting “NO” rejects bond funding, not the projects, and results in sharper upfront rate increases (up to 53% in 2022)
(emphasis added)

Dirty Tricks On Clean Water

In a classic “fox guarding the hen house” move, Boise city councilors favoring a sewer bond to accommodate development and increased population have approved a ballot proposal with no input from the public or folks who may be opposed to increasing public debt.

Labeling the proposed sewer funding hike totaling $810 MILLION as “water renewal,” the November 2 city election ballot will have the biggest bond request in Idaho local government history. Even though only half the Boise residents can vote for a single city councilor this year, we can all vote for or against this mega spending proposal.

The bond proposal timing is brilliant. The voter turnout is likely to be sparse and the North End district will be the big council race

The craftily worded City ballot proposal:

TO CONTINUE TO PROTECT THE BOISE RIVER, ENSURE RELIABLE SEWER SERVICES, ENCOURAGE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, AND TO TAKE CLIMATE ACTION, IN OCTOBER 2020 BOISE CITY COUNCIL APPROVED ESSENTIAL IMPROVEMENTS TO BOISE’S WATER RENEWAL SYSTEM (WITH AN ESTIMATED REPLACEMENT VALUE OF $3,000,000,000), INCLUDING UPGRADING AGING PIPES AND WATER TREATMENT FACILITIES, CONSTRUCTING AN ADDITIONAL FACILITY TO KEEP UP WITH CUSTOMER DEMAND AND LAUNCHING A RECYCLED WATER PROGRAM. IMPROVEMENTS WILL BE MADE AND CAN BE PAID FOR WITH CASH FROM HIGHER UPFRONT SEWER RATE INCREASES (UP TO 53%) OR FINANCED TO KEEP UPFRONT SEWER RATE INCREASES LOWER AND MORE AFFORDABLE. SHALL THE CITY OF BOISE CITY, IDAHO BE AUTHORIZED TO KEEP UPFRONT SEWER CUSTOMER RATE INCREASES LOWER AND MORE AFFORDABLE BY ISSUING AND SELLING ONE OR MORE SERIES OF REVENUE BONDS UP TO $570,000,000 OVER THE NEXT 10 YEARS?

X– IN FAVOR of funding clean water improvements by issuing bonds for the purposes stated in ORD-39-21
X– AGAINST funding clean water improvements by issuing bonds for the purposes stated in ORD-39-21

Boiling the question down to being either IN FAVOR or AGAINST clean water is akin to the classic, “Are you still beating your wife?” A legal challenge would be nice to obtain “judicial confirmation” the language is impartial and not electioneering.

This deceptive language would have voters think the City is “saving” money if they approve the bond. Sounds like the guy who bought a new fishing boat because the price was lowered $5,000. “Honey I bought a new boat and saved us $5,000.”

We all want clean water, but Boise has a never ending cycle of favoring costly growth, then working to solve the problems it creates. Money spent creating increased population and “density” would go a long way toward preserving a better quality of life AND water.

Growthophobes suggest this more realistic and honest language for the proposal:

“SHALL TAXPAYERS INCUR $570 MILLION ($810 MILLION WITH INTEREST) IN DEBT TO SUBSIDIZE REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT AND INCREASED POPULATION, INCREASED TRAFFIC AND AIR POLLUTION, DEMAND FOR NEW SCHOOLS, HEALTH SERVICES, POLICE AND FIRE SERVICE. A “YES” VOTE WILL DOUBLE CURRENT SEWER FEES FOR THE AVERAGE PROPERTY OWNER. WITHOUT EXPANSION OF SEWER AND WATER TREATMENT FACILITIES, GROWTH WOULD BE LIMITED.”

X–IN FAVOR OF highest debt in Idaho history
X–AGAINST higher tax debt to create more growth

The GUARDIAN suggests the legislature amend the ballot language process for municipal bonds to include “FOR and AGAINST” explanations just as we have on statewide constitutional amendment ballots. One way to create the language would be by a court approved order following open testimony from citizens.

To further promote their move to increase growth and help the real estate development folks, Boise officials have set aside $300,000 to “educate citizens.” If they spend the tax money, much of it will go to the same public relations individuals who were on the losing side of the F-35 and mega-library projects. Growthophobes would love to have a $300,000 “education fund.”

BOISE DEV has a good explanation of the financing scheme.

The Boise Guardian

…is a fun, factual, informed and opinionated look at current news and events in and around Boise, Idaho. The Guardian was born of necessity.

Get the Guardian by email

Enter your email address:

Categories