A bungled attempt by Boise City to ambush the Ada County Highway District’s relationship with the Idaho Legislature on February 14 has ignited a unified firestorm of disgust and outrage from the mayors of Meridian, Kuna, Star and Eagle, the Ada County Commishes, and the ACHD board.
The sleazy attempt by those in the office of Boise’s mayor rivals the loss of integrity and reputation Boise City government suffered 10 years ago when former Mayor Brent Coles and his staff were eventually jailed for their misdeeds.
Based on documents obtained by the GUARDIAN, ACHD officials scheduled a “dog and pony show” for legislators at their Garden City headquarters on Valentine Day.
At the Capitol while boarding Commuter Vans to ferry the members of the House and Senate Transportation Committees, a member of Bieter’s staff handed each member a damning anonymous flyer which alleged the relationship between the ACHD and cities of Ada County were “strained at best.” It also included things like, “Is it true ACHD spends more on communications and public relations than ITD?” ( Editor note: NO. Not true)
The poison Valentine also asked rhetorical questions obviously aimed at ambushing any communication ACHD had with their political guests that day. While the flyer was presented by a member of Mayor Bieter’s staff, there was nothing to indicate it came from the city or had the blessing of the city council.
ACHD President Sara Baker (a former Boise City Councilor) wrote to the Transportation Committee members denying most of the claims which she termed, “a clumsy attempt to taint our reputation.”
Attached to the letter were letters of support from the Ada Commishes and most of the mayors of Ada County Cities.
STAR Mayor Nate Mitchell termed the Boise flyer a “hit piece,” and told legislators, “Mayor Dave Bieter continues to blatantly misrepresent the political reality between Star, the other cities of Ada County and the ACHD.”
MERIDIAN Mayor Tammy de Weerd in a letter to ACHD’s Baker said of the Boise flyer, “This does not accurately reflect the positive working relationship the City of Meridian has with ACHD.”
KUNA Mayor Greg Nelson was, “Disturbed with the mis-statements in the document and in the manner by which this “opinion piece” was distributed and it does not reflect the relationship the City of Kuna has with ACHD nor does it represent (Kuna) City’s views.”
ADA COUNTY Commishes termed the relationship with ACHD as one of “cooperation, not confrontation.” They added, “We think that perhaps the Board of Ada County Commissioners is in a better position to speak to the status of that relationship than the (flyer authors).”
In an e-mail to Boise City Councilor Maryanne Jordan, ACHD President Baker wrote, “I reported our conversation and your apology to my colleagues at ACHD.
“Although your personal apology is very important, due to the egregious accusations and falsehoods in the flyer, it is felt this is not enough.”
Baker went on to explain the damage she claimed the Boise action did to the interest of highway districts statewide. She also termed the flyer an “anonymous hit job.”
Baker also scolded Jordan saying, “Quite frankly Maryanne, you should be embarrassed that this thing was developed in your shop and that it had no attribution of its origin. Perhaps because it was so egregious is the reason it had no attribution. If any one of ACHD’s staff members had done this on my watch, I would fire them in a New York minute.”
She called on Jordan and the city to make a formal apology to the House and Senate Transportation Committees.
It will be interesting to see how Bieter’s efforts are received to use ACHD streets for his “Trolley Folly,” let alone any chance at getting a local option tax passed by the legislature.
BAKER’S MEMO TO JORDAN
To: ‘Maryanne Jordan'; ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’
Subject: The Discussion Topics flyer
I reported our conversation and your apology to my colleagues at ACHD.
Although your personal apology is very important, due to the egregious accusations and falsehoods in the flyer, it is felt this is not enough. Let me explain.
The staff agonized over that presentation, spending many hours on refining it down to present transportation concerns and issues for not only Ada County, but Highway Districts throughout the state in a light that might be beneficial to increased funding for transportation. Because of this flyer, it is unlikely that can be achieved at least in this legislative session and perhaps next. Stuart Davis, the director of the Idaho Association of Highway Districts was at the joint committee meeting and was horrified by the flyer, particularly since two legislative committee members are also members of highway districts, one in Caldwell and one in Filer. Stuart had input into the presentation and was justifiably concerned. In addition, ITD, who we consulted with very closely on this presentation (as we do in many efforts), was also in attendance at the joint meeting.
It wasn’t just the multiple points of misinformation contained in the flyer, it was the fact that it was in effect an anonymous hit job. As I mentioned to you, Boise is the only City that has a strained relationship with ACHD. For this flyer to say all cities and the county had a strained relationship was not even close to being true. Ada County has a former ACHD Commissioner on its Commission. How could anyone at Boise think our relationship with them is strained.
Other falsehoods include 1c. The ULI never said the cities should jointly govern ACHD but rather to cooperate more. Based on input from our CICAC, made up of city representatives, our Five year work plan vetted by each City, our CIP also vetted by each City, there has been a marked increase in cooperation since 2007 and particularly since two years ago. I could go on and on with examples, but I will give you just one – 30th St. ACHD pulled back on the design timeline to allow Boise to provide increased input and a different direction, which ACHD followed. Then ACHD accelerated the funding for the project, even with an uncertain revenue picture. How we could have gone from the uplifting and cooperative groundbreaking for 30th St to this flyer is beyond me and is very disheartening.
ACHD does not do land use planning, particularly because over the years cities have said don’t do land use planning. However, in each area plan, like the NW Foothills Study, the State St TTOP, the Kuna Downtown Plan, etc, land use and transit are always taken into account.
The impact fee examples are without attribution. How are we to know if these are accurate or not? They could have been completely made up. Recently, ACHD was accused of limiting development in downtown Boise because of high impact fees. The truth turned out to be that 35 businesses were started in DT Boise and of those, 31 paid NO impact fees, at least to ACHD.
Your assertion that ACHD spends $15.8 million on Administration is baffling. How did you get this figure? Where did you get this figure? No one from ACHD recalls anyone from Boise City calling and asking for this kind of information. Apparently, whoever put this flyer together made it up from whole cloth.
Quite frankly Maryanne, you should be embarrassed that this thing was developed in your shop and that it had no attribution of its origin. Perhaps because it was so egregious is the reason it had no attribution. If any one of ACHD’s staff members had done this on my watch, I would fire them in a New York minute.
As I said, the members of ACHD are very upset by Boise’s actions. All the good work that has been accomplished in moving our relationship forward is in imminent threat of collapsing.
In order to salvage what we can from this episode and move to put it behind us, I recommend that you do the following. You and/or the Mayor need to send a formal letter to the Senate Transportation Committee (each member), to the House Transportation Committee (each member) and to the ACHD Commission indicating that you all were wrong to send this basically anonymous flyer, that it contained numerous misstatements of fact and that you apologize. And I recommend that it be done posthaste. Only a written letter can alleviate the anger this has caused on the Commission and set the record straight with the Legislative Committees.
I had such great hopes for the coming year, that Boise and ACHD could work together to move this community forward. I still believe that can be done, but we need to put this unfortunate event behind us. And from what I hear from the others at ACHD, only a letter containing the information listed in the above paragraph can get us to that point.
To insure more advertising-free Boise Guardian news, please consider financial support.