City Government

City Tries To Hide New PR Expense

Boise’s Team Dave is a step away from a legal land mine as they seek council approval of a PR/marketing agency to promote one side of a public policy issue.

The GUARDIAN sees it as a blatant violation of the “public purpose doctrine” in law which dictates that all expenditures should be in the “public purpose” –in essence benefiting all citizens equally.

Buried in Tuesday’s City Council “consent agenda” among a dozen other items is a proposal to spend $90,000 of taxpayer’s cash to manipulate public opinion in favor of a $60,000,000 downtown trolley being promoted by Mayor Dave Bieter. They want to hire a PR/MARKETING agent–just like politicos do for campaigns and Hollywood does for movies.


In the cover letter attached to the resolution, the agency proposal openly admits the “outreach” is aimed at one side of the issue when they say:

“… we see the streetcar outreach effort not only as an opportunity to educate residents about why
the time is right for a downtown streetcar but also to make the broader case that…”

The G-BAD boys at the Greater Boise Auditorium District tried to pull the same ad agency/PR stunt in 2005 when they pushed for a new convention center after voters told them “no deal.” That group’s illegal use of tax money to influence one side of an election issue was detailed in the Idaho Supreme Court decision issued August 11, 2005. Ameritel Inns prevailed in that case.

We can only hope the Councilors are wiser than Team Dave and they pull the sneaky spending item off the consent agenda, debate it publicly, and NOT approve the funds.

UPDATE 5:45 p.m. (15 minutes prior to the 6 p.m. Council meeting) Council President Maryanne Jordan announced on KBOI 670 AM radio a motion to table the proposed resolution would be considered. She said it was too early to make a decision regarding the “outreach” contract.

The GUARDIAN had predicted on air the issue would not be voted on tonight.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. As reported in the Idaho Statesman today, they are trying to award this contract to a marketing firm, Cronin and Associates, which is owned by one of Bieters former campaign staffers.

    Also, the Streetcar Task Force pushing this project has all their meetings behind closed doors even though they are wanting to use 60+ million of taxpayer funds. The public has no idea what has been discussed.

    It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out what is really going on here. Follow the money.

  2. Enough is enough! We can’t seem to have a logical conversation with Bieter about the mistake he is about to make with this trolley thing. I wonder where Chryssa and the Ada County Democratic party is on this now! She has stated in previous posts that there wasn’t enough information yet to make a decision on the trolley! Gee, Chryssa, it looks like Bieter doesn’t agree with you! I have read emotional posts about starting a recall of the mayor.

    It is time to play hardball with this mayor! He won’t listen to reason! He MUST be replaced!

  3. Is it not illegal for the city to spend $90,000 on an unnecessary thing as a PR firm with out voter approval.If it isn’t it should be.
    Especially during a recession when they are laying off people.
    Maybe we the people need to unite and sue these guys on the council for misusing public funds..and not representing the people who put them in office! Maybe someone should start a recall petition!

  4. So how come all we can do is talk about it. Is there not due process in place to deal with wrongs… or is this just a differance of opinions? I agree it seems silly to have these folks tossing money here and there when local unemployment is nearly 10%… closer to 20% if you count the underemployed… they must have big plans for massive tax increases to pay for there waste as the revenues are sure falling fast… Do worry, they will run out of funding shortly after we do. Am I wrong?

  5. Casual Observer
    Oct 6, 2009, 12:11 pm

    The mayor has already made clear he intends to do this via the LID process, thereby sidestepping the need for voter approval. And, if they don’t intend to have a vote, what is the point of a public “education” campaign?

    Why don’t they just split the money between three city councilmen in return for their vote?

  6. The good mayor and his team are counting on apathy on the part of the electorate. So far, so good, people just are not paying attention and how all this impacts them on a personal level.

    Most people have no idea how much property taxes they pay. It is simply a monthly payment and they simply pay it every month.

    There ought to be at least an advisory vote on this boondoggle but it won’t happen.

  7. There is something we can do. I will be at the City Hall tonight to speak my mind. THIS IS WHAT WE ALL HAVE TO DO!! We can’t let these 6 people run our city broke. Don’t we have a $9,000,000.00 deficit in the first place. We cannot afford this $90,000.00 If the mayor wants this so bad tell him to create a Power Point Presentation and tell us his thoughts. NOT SPEND $90,000!!!


  8. If the contract goes to a cohort of the Mayor or city council than this does not pass the smell test. But where will be trolley go and will it help with traffic congestion or is it a tour guide/tourist type of convenience?

  9. sam the sham
    Oct 6, 2009, 1:35 pm

    We need a good lawyer right now to save the citizens of this town which is being run by the good ol’ boys of the Boise Downtown Business Ass et pals ie Mayor Sold-Us-Out-Bieter.
    So, let’s fight ’em.
    If my property taxes go up any more I will be forced to sell (in this market?) in order to starve on social insecurity. I did not work this hard to own a home just for the street car desires of the BDB and their henchman Dave!!!

  10. I’m glad I live upwind from City Hall.

  11. Bieter has been in long enough that [like Brent Coles] he now believes it is his town. To hell with the voter, it is what he wants that counts. So street cars it is unless we really stand up to him. The arrogance of politicans today is off the charts. If we really have $60m to throw around lets see if we can help Bieter find something resonable & responsible to spend it on.

  12. It would be great if the advertising campaign did a takeoff on Star Trek:

    Cue spacey music.

    Fade from black, to a trolley, empty except for the conductor, a Bieter look alike, with the city council for crew, orbiting a black hole known as the PIT.

    Voice over: These are the voyages of the Boise Urban Trolley, boldly going were no one ever goes.

  13. So why don’t one of you run for the Office when the time comes? Do you have what it takes to do it better? I doubt it, otherwise you would have tossed you hat in the ring for one of the opening council seats. No…you are braver sitting in the background rating their every move and decision. Do I like the Trolly? No. Do I Think it is a pet project for the Mayor? Yes. Do I think any Mayor would have a pet project? Yes. Do I think I could run this City better than them? No. Am I going to vote in the election? Wouldn’t miss it for the World!

    EDITOR NOTE–Deadmeat, great interview! We would love to have you on staff at the same pay as the editor.

  14. Get out the tar and feathers.

  15. Hi Cyclops, I’ve never spoken on behalf of Ada County Democrats on this issue. The county party does not take a stance on city issues. In my last remarks I made it exceedingly clear that I was speaking as a resident of Boise and an employee of a downtown business. The Democrats and Republicans I know are split on this issue: some are for it and some aren’t.

    It’s no shocker that the city wants to move forward with the project, or that they’ve hired someone to help them educate the public. This is all very standard. As for myself, I’ll be gathering information as it’s available and making my own personal decision in time.

  16. Deadmeat, I have way too many skeletons to run for office. The media would have a field day with my past, and I wouldn’t put my family through that. But that doesn’t mean I can’t comment on the miserable failure of this city’s administration. The question that I keep coming back to is how can we be spending 90K on a media promotion when the majority of the funding has not been awarded yet? If the stimulus money doesn’t happen, we have just tossed 90K out the window! ( unless Bieter has a plan B he hasn’t shared) This project doesn’t take a single car off the road and, to me, doesn’t come close to the qualifications for stimulus funding!! So far, it appears to be strictly an ego thing with Dave Bieter, and I am not willing to “pony up” that much money for Bieter to have a “legacy”!!

  17. As a voter within the Boise City limits, I am becoming more and more concerned with what is lacking in City government – the consciousness that the Mayor and Council represent ALL of Boise and its citizens; not just Democrats (these are supposedly nonpartisan positions), not just those who follow the Mayor’s lead blindly. Also, that wide citizen input and consideration of significant issues regarding the health and welfare – both physical and financial – of the citizens of Boise seem to not be getting attention up front and prior to the City spending funds to promote them. One of the huge issues recently, of course, is the plan advanced by BFD regarding the paramedic issue, starting with the North End.

    The current hot button issue is the downtown streetcar that is being proposed; if it is such a wonderful idea, why is the Council even CONSIDERING spending $90,000 of taxpayer money – particularly in this economic environment – to hire a public relations firm to “sell” the project to the taxpayers? How much did the fancy flyers for the recent open house cost the taxpayers?

    I would urge the Council members to remove this item from the consent agenda and use that $90,000 (if they insist it must be spent) to benefit more than just the Mayor’s pipe dream.

  18. Give the "other side" $90,000!
    Oct 6, 2009, 5:44 pm

    If the City is going to give $90,000 to promote the trolley it should give $90,000 to the opposite view as well. It would be cheaper to just allow a vote of the people.

    Isn’t there a law that indcates that tax $ can not be spent on this?

    There should be NO city funds spent on this. If the Mayor wants it then let him creat a task force to go raise funds – and let’s see who pays what.

    So all you demos who voted all these folks in – hope you enjoy paying higher taxes. To say that the mayor and council are non – political postions is just plain stupid – they are and we know it.

  19. Ahhh…. you alerted them. Could of been another slam dunk lawsuit for you.

  20. I am running to replace a current councilman. I beleive there is no need to spend $90,000 to do the council’s job. The disconnect with this bunch is they make a decision, then act on it, and if forced, they have a dog and pony public hearing. The process should be- 1) Hold public hearings and gather information. (the public must show up!) 2. Evaluate the information and ideas. Include studies from other areas doing similar things. 3. Make a recommendation and let the people vote as required by our state constitution on long term debt. Why is this so tuff for the current administration? The public must turn out for the upcoming election and make sure we get three new council members. If you vote back in what you have, who will you blame? Call me, I am available now and will be available after I am elected.

  21. So, Mr Dunham…what will your pet projects be? What promises are you making?? What do you think is the right project to bring to the City and do 100% of the people agree with you?

    It’s a tough job and one I agree with cyclops on…too many skeletons for me to do.

    My point is that there really isn’t anything different with this pet project than that of any other politician except maybe the price tag.

  22. Editor…but I’m already being paid nothing for my opinion (probably what it’s worth too)…why would I want to make a job of it? It would take all the fun out!

  23. Mr. Watcher
    Oct 8, 2009, 6:39 am

    Deadmeat, fact of the matter is many elected folks don’t have “pet projects’. Hey follow this!!! Not all Irish are drunks and so on.
    This project is way beyond a pet project, its a nightmare that will be a ball and chain on the citizens long after the people who forced this on us are long gone from office. One quick way to stop these kinds of shams is to force the government to remove the immunity laws that protect these people. If there were no immunity laws you can bet your bottom dollar this project would have been shelved long ago. But these people have laws that protect them from us the taxpayers. So they can pretty much do as they want and if somehow a lawsuit does find its way around the immunity laws, the high dollar lawyers they get we pay for. No matter how you look at it, we need to talk about this and start voting for people who will leave their private lives for a term or two, to return back to that private life.

  24. Mr. Watcher…Not everyone cares about this as passionatly as some of you do. Now I know you are going to accuse us of being asleep at the wheel…but you are allowed your opinion…just as I am.
    Hey follow this!!! Obama – Health Care; Bush – War on Terror; Carter – Peace in the Middle East etc, etc, etc. Then there are the politicians that have special pet projects like opposing everything…thinking that will make them popular. Very few politicians don’t have pet projects…it’s what gets them elected. The ones that don’t take a side on issues are the ones that don’t last long.

  25. Mr. Watcher
    Oct 8, 2009, 8:18 am

    Deadmeat, you can try and spin me as a person who calls other posters and fellow citizens sheep. However as the person who I am, I will not insult others who do not think as I may. This is a poor way to set the stage to try and make your point sit better. You are fooling no one.
    Lets take your seemingly one sided view of all folks in elected office. First off the president of the US is in a whole different world than a mayor of a small city. You are talking apples to oranges.
    Fact of the matter is: The citizens of Boise would rather see the mayor just run the city to keep the basic services that are there and without new taxes. There is always going to be an agenda for any elected person but that doesn’t mean “pet projects”. What about Ron Paul’s agenda of seeing the federal reserve be audited. One could say that what Dr. Paul is trying to do is a pet project which I would disagree being its his agenda of his belief of how government needs to serve the citizens.
    It would be fair to say that some people having a calling to serve in elected office to do the right thing. That would be an agenda. Others get in government for all the wrong reasons and stay there because a life of living off of taxpayer’s money is a better life for them than they can earn otherwise.
    Deadmeat, I do understand your feeling and you are justified to a large degree. However we can not if we are to move forward start putting names on all folks who want to serve because we may be damaging good people that we need in the process.

  26. WATCHER–
    So now you are the voice for all of the “Citizens of Boise”? I think you mean – Some of the citizens of Boise would like to see a Mayor who just runs the city. Some of us would like to see the Mayor take some chances to bring jobs and money to the City. Thanks for not calling me a sheep…but it appears that I’m not the only one who is “one sided”. As for making a living…if I’m not mistaken, our Mayor was a pretty successful Lawyer prior to politics and I’m sure he could make more in that field than he could as the Mayor…and if I’m not mistaken, didn’t he turn down raises over the last couple of years?

  27. Mr. Watcher
    Oct 8, 2009, 11:54 am

    Deadmeat, you MO is to insult others to gain some kind of ground to make your point.
    The only way the mayor can get jobs into this city is to reduce the size of government and lower taxes. Roll back a lot of the useless building codes that do nothing but make doing business much harder.
    Don’t lookfor any more replys if you start off your post with insults.
    Many if not most of the folks in government can not do near as well in the private sector as they do in government and you think that these very same people know how to bring jobs to our city.

  28. Mr Watcher,
    Don’t forget that many so called free enterprise folks down at the Boise Chamber would love to get a “real” convention center and then stick it to the taxpayers when it goes broke or make us finance it for them.

  29. Watcher, I would say you need to go to school on Politics 101, but you are way too intelligent for that, so let’s just say I am calling you out.
    The #1 priority for any Congress person or Senator in this country is to raise money for their next election. That is reality. They have no time to develop, or write, legislation. Every member of the congress and senate have what is referred to as an administrative assistant (AA)
    When an issue comes before the body, the AA assigns 2-3 staffers to write position papers,usually positive as well as negative. They submit those papers,after lengthy conversations with lobbyists,because they aren’t knowlegable on the issue as well, to the AA who then condenses them into the “stance” of the office holder.
    This slimy avenue has slid down to the state level over the last many years. In that most state legislators don’t have the staff capabilities, they rely on lobbyists to feed them information directly. Now fast forward to the local level. Have you noticed that the vast majority of local elected officials are “connected” in some way to the community they “serve”?
    That is referred to as “electability”. Sadly, many of those officeholders simply aren’t intelligent enough to hold that office. What they bring to the table are Family Ties, Ethnicity,Business Associations, Personality, etc. As a result, key city staffers actually run the business of the city. They are immune from the electorate and are judged solely on their effectiveness at selling the officeholder to the community. They are also the ones who “guide” the funds to their contacts in the political community. So if you realy want to cut off the head of the serpent at city hall, you need to find Jade or Mike and take their heads. Once that happens, the office holders will just fade away to the next “elite cocktail party” in the neighborhood.

  30. Mr. Watcher
    Oct 9, 2009, 8:27 am

    Dog, excellent point! The folks that want this are the people in the service industry in the downtown area. I personally am in the manufacturing industry and bring fresh/new money in to this economy from across the nation and from around the world. What I do is what this valley needs to have a lot more of. What point is it for business folks to try and grow the local economy if the effort and money is going to be taking away by government and used against the very folks that have the brains and know how to make positive things happen.
    Government has one place and that being out of sight and in the backseat with little to no effect on how productive folks live.
    A convention center serves no one but parasites and if the topic comes up the light will shine on such, parasites. Who on earth will want to come to the middle of nowhere to do a trade show in some false light and air controlled indoor hall? Few, very, very few. Parasites win, decent taxpayers lose.
    Thanks dog for bring up this point and clearly you get it.

  31. Mr. Watcher
    Oct 9, 2009, 7:53 pm

    cyclops, we agree by far and large but I still feel that there are good people who are in there but they are far and few between.

    I have always wondered if law demanded that only citizens who are legally able to vote could give money to folks running for office and only in the zip codes that the people would serve. This would stop all business money from entering elections and stop outside interest from controlling the taxpayers best interest from being represented. The system we have now is clearly, taxation without representation.
    Again, I go back to the folks who are willing to serve. If a person is from the private sector and does well in the private sector without any government contracts, grants, etc. And this person is only willing to serve for one or two terms then wants to return back to their private live. That is the person voters should be willing to bet their tax money on.

    I clearly understand that having such decent folks who are willingly able to take time out from their lives to try and do the right thing is next to impossible with the system we have and the media that is against such.

    Government has no limits on how much it can take from productive citizens and it never stops growing and taking. This will come to an end in due time because there will be nothing left to take or the people will engage in a civil war because they can’t feed themselves having nothing left from the fruits of their labor.

    There is no debate in reasonable terms that this town has a mayor that is not doing his work for the best interest of the citizens of Boise. That is proven by a simple fact. If this street car scam was not a total failure from the get go. Team Dave would get a private company to install this system and pay the city for the right away. Of course the street car is going to charge folks to use its services. So being said if there’s money to be made on this thing a private company would step in and be willing to pay for the right away after installing the project. That will never happen because this is a scam and nothing but a scam that is not in the best interest of the citizens of Boise.

    Keep your eyes open for some new blood in 2010 to vote for and maybe we can get our government back. Regards.

  32. Mr. Watcher- My pet project will be to control spending. The City has many resources and I am sure I can find where some are underutilized and others that are unneccesary. As far as 100% agreeing with me, I doubt it. I will want public hearings BEFORE decisons are made instead of after. Since this is representative government, I will represent the smaller government, less spending, encourage free enterprise, improve existing services before we try to EXPAND, common sense side of the equation. If on the other hand you want what we have always had, you probably don’t agree with me. It is time for new ideas.

  33. Redgie Bigham
    Oct 10, 2009, 11:56 pm

    This is incredible!! Love to get folks thinking. Thank you Mr. Dunham for throwing your hat in the ring, for stepping out with what I believe is courage to make a real difference in Boise City politics. May the best man win!! (Thanks Guardian for the post and for spurring us all on!!)


  34. I agree with Redgie…Sir, you are exactly right…NO more “status quo”…we need to sleep at night and still own property!!

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