Supremes Rule For Citizen Rights

In a history making decision Thursday the Idaho Supreme Court ruled against Boise City’s attempt to go around the voters to finance a parking garage at the airport.

The crux of the argument was whether or not the proposed expense was “ordinary and necessary.” The court noted that parking at the airport may be an important goal, but it was not sufficient to warrant an emergency expenditure that would exempt the city from first seeking voter approval.

Blaine County is currently embroiled in a lawsuit over the issue of getting “judicial confirmation” instead of voter approval for a proposed sheriff’s office and 911 center. This supreme court decision means they just lost their battle.

For many years it was Boise City policy to circumvent the voters. They lost on the issue of a new police headquarters three years ago, but forged ahead on with plans for a new airport parking garage without voter consent.

GUARDIAN editor David R. Frazier filed the suit against the city on the police building case and then again on the parking garage. He issued the following statement.

“I am gratified the SUPREME COURT has explained the constitution and the laws of Idaho to Boise City officials.

The issue  is not the need for an airport parking garage–the issue is allowing the citizens to have a voice in how their public money is being spent.  It is an absolute right of the citizens to approve expenditures for these long term debts, be they for fire stations, libraries, convention centers, police headquarters or parking facilities. 

This landmark decision is a victory for citizen-voters throughout the State of Idaho.  Since this is a Supreme Court ruling it applies to every city and county government in Idaho.

The practice of having a judge make decisions the constitution says the people must approve was standard policy during the era of  the previous  Mayor and City Council.  

Mayor Dave Bieter and this Council had continued the practice with the parking garage– despite pleas I made at public hearings to simply allow  citizens the voice they are guaranteed by the Idaho Constitution.

They refused to allow a citizen bond vote on the Airport Parking Garage, saying it is time for a supreme court decision.   That decision has been rendered and these officials have cost Boise citizens a bundle of cash  in legal fees and  delayed the construction of a parking garage they claim was badly needed.  They could have had it well underway by now had they merely followed the law and held a bond election.

Citizens throughout Idaho can now be assured  major local construction projects  will be  financed more honestly by local governments in the future with bond elections to approve the expenditures.”

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Nice…another win for NIMBY’s and everyone that fears taxation for any reason.

  2. There are enough NIMBYs to go around for sure. This case however, is about government gone wild. From an airport with neon “wings” on its garage in the name of public art, a security system that pays for foyers which old ladies can drive cars into (literally), to Homeland Security money that was “use or lose” and thus became Airport “police” pickup trucks tricked out as though the driver spent too much time and WAY TOO MUCH MONEY at Schucks (Sorry for the massive run-on!) they have already proved they are incapable of making sound fiscal decision. The old “it’s an enterprise fund” has worked for decades. It’s time that nonsense stopped. If you can’t justify it to the taxpaying public, in a way that gets them on board the “support train”, then don’t try to cram it down their throats on the “gravy train”! That is the lesson here. There is no other.

  3. Honestly, I can understand the need to vote on libraries and police stations. But a parking garage? Come on! I’m sure you will get a lot of turnout for that…. so what’s the point?

  4. BoiseCitizen
    Apr 13, 2006, 3:43 pm

    Is that a supermajority requirement or just a simple majority?

    ED NOTE–Supermajority of 2/3 approval. Parking and airports are specifically enumerated in the Idaho Constitution. Boise flagrantly disregarded the constitution.

  5. The words “flagrantly disregarded” assume that you know their intent and the interpretation of the constitution by which they measured their actions. Unless you are their legal advisor or they have told you directly, you know neither.

    By the spirit of what I have read, they were proceeding with this project based upon the perceived immediate need for it. As someone who travels almost every week of the year I can attest to the immediate need for this facility. The lot is at capacity greater than 90% of the time that I travel. This necessitates that I then travel to the shuttle lot, wasting time, money, and fuel. Multiply that times a few hundred other business travelers a week, and the numbers would be so staggeringly large that a simple $100 million over time for a parking garage makes the economics of this quite simple. You want immediate public need? What about the economic damage caused to the Boise economy by not having it. Think about this possible scenario if you will…The economic consequences of decisions like these drive up the cost of doing business in Boise, which results in net job loss (or at least reduced earning potential), which in turn translates into a reduced tax base that drives up the overall individual tax burden percentage. Couple this with other incredibly short sighted campaign wins of the anti-any-tax lobby (convention center anyone?) and you possibly have the exact opposite effect that was intended.

    Makes me wonder if anyone even does a simple macro economic analysis on the outcome of the efforts of the anti-tax-lobby, or if people are just so selfish in today’s society that none of that matters anymore.

  6. “I’m gratified the Supreme Court has explained the Constitution and the laws of Idaho to Boise city officials,” Frazier said.

    Now if you could just get the Supremes to explain that to the state, re King Kempthorne’s massive road plan!!!

  7. Good job Dave and congratulations on the vindication. Hey dtrain, the issue isn’t about voter turnout for parking garages, its about public leaders spending our money and following the rule of law. I’m sure you are not alone in your assessment but if you don’t like the law, get it changed.

  8. Frazier: “I’m gratified the Supreme Court has explained the Constitution and the laws of Idaho to Boise city officials.”

    Ouch! That cuts DEEP!

    The impertinence! Doesn’t he realize? Mayor Bieter is an attorney! Councilman Shealy graduated from a prestigious Ivy League college! How DARE he?!!!

    (In answer to the “What’s the point?” inquiry, in this citizen’s mind, the point is, our elected representatives can’t make up the rules as they go. At some point in the past, the citizens were concerned that they might be ridden over roughshod by the bureaucrats, so that taxpayer protection was written into the statutes.)

    Way to go, GUARDIAN! You earned your handle today, good buddy! Chalk one up for the Little Guy! But, I guess you won’t be getting invited to any fancy-schmancy receptions at the Boise Depot any time soon, huh?

  9. curious george
    Apr 13, 2006, 5:27 pm

    Regarding Jon’s statements,

    Opposing NIMBY & BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) sentiments can be a sometimes Quixote-like (i.e., difficult but honorable) task. Just make sure that you’re on the right side of the law.

    And, if you disagree with that law, work to change it. Don’t waste your energy griping about those of us who insist on fair and equitable treatment while that law is in sway.

    Personally, I think a 2/3rd’s super-majority approval for some debt obligations is a little over-kill, especially when there’s a demonstrable link to improvements in the local economy and education.

    Aim your lance in that direction and I’ll be your Sancho Panza.

  10. Sharon Ullman
    Apr 13, 2006, 5:57 pm

    Congratulations, GUARDIAN! Once again, your heroic efforts on behalf of us taxpayers have paid off! You are truly living up to your name.

    If a project is worth having, then voters can be convinced of that fact. Perhaps now ALL our local elected officials will start paying more attention to the Idaho Constitution regarding the necessity for a vote before incurring long-term indebtedness. It’s just too bad this decision didn’t come before Ada County incurred the $100 MILLION debt for the Courthouse.

  11. Curious, I think you and I could probably agree on more than we disagree and your points are well taken.

    My initial comment is directed right at Mr. Frazier or the moderator of this board. He was stating his opinion on the motive of the City’s action, and I would have to assume he has no idea about their motive. For my part, I don’t assume their motive was to spend money recklessly, but rather to build a facility that would meet the public need.

    Regarding my gripe, other than my general comment about NIMBY’s, most of what I had to say is directly squarely at the anti-tax-lobby and not about those that truly care about the fair application of law. I’m just calling it like a see it, and what I see is a growing “no tax for any reason” movement in Idaho that is largely financed from out of state.

    You are correct, in that that this is the law of the land (the vote count at the SC leaves not doubt about that), and as such it would now be up to those of us that disagree with it to change it. However, I’m not sure that the law itself was every really in question here, but rather the definition and application of the “immediate public need” issue (I don’t know this for a fact as I haven’t’ read the Supreme Court opinion, nor the arguments presented to it).

    It is my opinion (yes I know I’m ranting a bit here…please indulge me), that often the anti-tax-lobby cloak themselves in the “rule of law” because they are afraid that their true opinion would be toxic politically. They see no need for any new taxes or large public expenditures and will oppose them at any cost. “New schools; don’t need them. New Library; who reads books? New Police HQ; what meth problem? New airport parking; why should I care, I only fly once a year? New convention center; those attendees don’t spend any money downtown do they? New Highways; an hour commute from Boise to Nampa isn’t that bad is it?”

    Call me a dreamer, fanatic, liberal, whatever, but I believe that part of what makes a community great is what it has to offer to me and my family. Much of that comes by way of private enterprise, but some of it has to be provided by the public sector. We are beginning to create an environment in the valley that makes it very difficult for the local government to provide all but the most basic services to its citizens.

    ED NOTE–Guardian editor iand Frazier are the same guy. “flagrantly disregard” conclusion comes from the plain English in the in the constitution that requires citizens to give “2/3 assent” for the city to own and operate PARKING GARAGES specifically!

  12. lib.Redneck
    Apr 13, 2006, 7:26 pm

    Let’s play the Slippery-Slope-Game some more Jon!!

    If our local government was not checked by others what kinds of purchases might earn “emergency” status.

    Jon, you are right about those not caring about a parking garage because they only fly once a year… Why should they care that your private needs require you to take a shuttle. I don’t see why anyone should care about your parking perils… “Quick, its an emergency. South Ada County does not have a large park for the kids to play in. We will go over the tax payers heads and build them a park because we know what they need…” –Ada County

    Are you then saying that it is up to tax payer to get you a better parking spot? You are not liberal; you’re looney!!!

    I applaud the Guardian for helping our government follow the law. When I speed or run a red light I am reminded about the law by some friendly people in uniform!?. (although now I know they are sizing me up incase they need to open a can of whoop-azz on me like the earlier posted female officers…)

    Jon, you also mention the loss of jobs here in the valley because of the lack of parking?!?! Are you referencing those high paying service jobs that would be created for the whopping $5.15/hour? Yes, the Valley certainly needs more service jobs…

  13. Lib:

    Now that I have stopped laughing, let me respond.

    Elected officials are entrusted with a tremendous amount of responsibility, and I agree that sometimes that trust is breached in one way or another. However, the fact that we (in the collective sense) put them in office means that we believe they have the qualifications, knowledge, and vision to do the job we ask of them. We are not talking carte blanc here, but within boundaries we (again in the collective sense here) allow them to operate our municipalities.

    I think that most reasonable people can see the difference between an emergency expenditure to better the transportation of the city and meet a real need, and an “emergency expenditure” for a hypothetical giant “Welcome to Boise” sign. Something like that would/should be called on the carpet. I mean seriously are we all forgetting that a mayor was recalled less than 5 years ago for, among other things, questionable expenditures?

    As far as the parking goes, I think I put it in pretty plain terms. It’s not about convenience, it’s about dollars and cents (or maybe sense in this case) and the cost of not doing it. It’s not just about me either. I used myself as an example, but was pretty careful to point out that you have to multiply my experience times the many other business travelers passing through the airport (Your comments about my state of mind…now that was classy. Nice way to turn healthy debate into petty bickering. I’ll choose not to respond).

    My friend, the cost can be much greater than the loss of minimum wage service or call center jobs (those people, in general, rarely would be traveling on business), but rather would be the high wage engineering, software development, management, and other professional jobs. Being a “business friendly” city or a low cost place to do business means a lot more than just having a low tax burden.

  14. Apparently, the Idaho Supreme Court can read plain English.

  15. Good job, Guardian. Now if you could just come to Eagle and straighten our leaders out. Please.

  16. It seems to me that many airports have shuttle services to their car rental factilities away from the main airport terminal. Why can’t we accomodate visitors in a similar fashion?
    Don’t most of us have family or friends that can drop us off at the airport here? Do we need to park our cars in the terminal when there are so many other viable options? Why not a taxi? Its cheaper than the airport parking fees. For out of towners who do need parking facilities, what exactally is wrong with the shuttle lots?

    Of course I understand the main question here was whether or not the government could build certain projects without the vote from the citizens. A skeptic now, as I read about a new project the city has in mind, I assume there are many others already involved in the project hoping to make their share of the dollars. For the good of citizens or to enrich…..

    We can build and build until concrete, congestion,pollution,crime rate, reminds us of those beautiful cities of Ft Lauderdale, Miami, Dallas.

    In the meantime, Way to go Guardian. You are brave to stand up for what you believe.

  17. I don’t believe I know when the need to build a Police HQ, a parking garage, a library, or any other building or road would be an “Emergency” (I suppose if one of those existing things were blown up or knocked down then that would count). I subscribe to the philosophy of “poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part” ie. you want a Police HQ, building etc… start saving! I haven’t heard anyone state they are against these specific building projects, but that they are required to be voted on if a city/county wants to go into debt for it. Period. So good job Fraz! Now how about that suit against the legislature for the unconstitutional 200 million in GARVEE debt?

  18. Congratulations, Guardian. Good job! Maybe the Idaho Supreme Court can explain the U. S. Constitution to the scounldrels who occupy the White House in Washington, D. C.

    I hope that in Jon’s second comment, he wasn’t lumping NIMBY’s and anti-any-tax-anytime people together. Apples and oranges. Some of the anti-tax people are simply against corporate welfare, and an airport parking garage could fall into that category. Government – federal, state, and local – should exist for the benefit of people and not the business community. Population growth and illegal immigration both benefit the business community to the detriment of the average American and yet, those governments – federal, state and local – bend over backwards to be on the side of corporate interests. If this unbalance continues we won’t be commenting here on NIMBY’s and anti-tax advocates, but on anarchists.

  19. lib.Redneck
    Apr 14, 2006, 8:36 am


    You are scaring me with your ‘collective’ talk. Are you a reader of Ayn Rand? Read ANTHEM then be careful with the word ‘collective’.

    This whole issue (government entities not being above the law) comes down to following the Constitution. Seems to be quite an issue for elected officials from the federal level down to local levels. Actions of the County Commishes comes to mind….

    I apologize for the “looney” comment. It was an emotional response to the thought of “I” having to pay more for the “WE”.

  20. Rod, your comments are well taken. I try not to lump the two groups together, but in practice, many times they seem to be allies of convenience, and as such end up on the same side of some arguments.

    I agree that the government’s first obligation is to the people, but it also plays a huge role in creating an environment that either encourages or stifles business growth.

    Most businesses (especially the local ones) don’t want unbridled and uncontrolled growth either, as its side effects can hinder business just as much as not having the right infrastructure. It has to be a careful balance of planning and execution.

    As far as Patman’s comments regarding saving for projects and building them when you have all the money, it’s a nice idealistic idea but not necessarily the mainstream of business practice (or personal practice). Long term debt is a tool, not something to be afraid of (unless of course the risk far outweighs the reward or outcome). Most of us on this page embrace long term debt to pay for our house. Many companies embrace it to pay for market expansion, etc. How are GARVEE bonds and the like a different?

  21. Way to go Dave! It is good to see a run away windmill brought back on track, if even just a bit. Thank you.
    It is too bad that government entities are given Limited Liability status so that we, the taxpayers, are forced to assume the pecuniary costs that rightfyully belong to our decision making “Public Servants.”
    Oh yes, it’s been a few years since I traveled much but Logan Airport, O’Hare, Denver, Atlanta, and LAX all had “great parking” for frequent flyers. I recommend a move to any of those areas for those who can’t handle poor little Boise’s system.

  22. More than once is “flagrantly disregarded”.

    “greater than 90% of the time” may or may not mean 100% of the time.

    No tax is a good tax.

  23. “King Kempthorne’s massive road plan” is mostly federal tax money.

  24. Jon,
    I don’t remember stating that long term debt is bad…. oh, that’s because I didn’t. What I said was that if a City/County wants to build something & doesn’t want to ask the voters for permission to go into debt, then they should start saving. Garvee bonds are no different & should also be struck down by the court. If the Idaho Legislature wants to put Idaho taxpayers into debt, there is a constitutional provision requiring a vote… otherwise, they too should start saving. (and yes, Garvee bonds are debts… they’re called Grant ANTICIPATION revenue vehicles for a reason. If the federal government doesn’t pony up the cash, we still have to pay the bill. It may be lower risk, but it’s still DEBT!)

  25. Patman:

    Maybe I should have made myself a bit clearer (I see a typo or two on my part) or maybe you should read a bit more carefully. I fully understand that GARVEE’s are debt, I was just stating that GARVEE’s and the like are a tool, just like a mortgage.


  26. Sharon Ullman
    Apr 14, 2006, 11:41 pm

    Patman and Jon,

    GARVEE bonds ARE a tool like a mortgage, but it seems to me that when I have gotten a mortgage, I had some VOICE in whether I would be taking on that debt or not. It seems the state wants us to take on that $200 MILLION debt (BILLIONS once they are done with the desired road projects) without asking voters whether we are willing to take it on or not. In that regard, GARVEE bonds are similar to bonds for an airport parking garage in the judicial confirmation case that the GUARDIAN just won on our behalf!

    This IS different from, for example, the $75,000 annual expenditure for the Boise Depot. That expense can be handled within the City’s annual budget without incurring any bonded indebtedness. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is a good expenditure, particularly if the Depot is not actually accessible to the taxpayers who are paying the bills, but it does appear to fall within the expenditures allowed by our Idaho Constitution without a vote of the people.

  27. Jack said:
    “King Kempthorne’s massive road plan” is mostly federal tax money.

    Jack, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but “federal tax money” comes from the same place as state tax money, city tax money, county tax money, highway district tax money, etc. — the pockets of us po’ folk.

    Besides, Kempthorne wants to build all these new roads with money that we don’t even have, banking on the idea that the feds will give it to us someday. (Maybe he hasn’t heard that the federal goverment is about umpteen zillion dollars in debt and cutting all kinds of programs except those that aid Emperor George W.’s buddies.

    King Kemp found out somehow (I don’t know who told him) that this state isn’t supposed to go into debt, so he swam around in the sea of laws and found a nice big loophole to dive through. Simple: We won’t go into debt; our grandchildren will, so not our problem, right?

    Sure, some roads need fixin’ — some roads ALWAYS need fixin’, so are we gonna play this smoke and mirrors game every time another highway needs a bridge or more lanes, and every time a governor wants a quicker route to his favorite ski resort?

    Bad precedent. Bad! Bad! Bad!

  28. RE: GARVEE

    Folks we need to remember that we have a representative form of government. When I went to school, they taught us that we vote for representatives who then vote on our BEHALF. Since they can’t please all the people, they need to do what’s right for the masses. In my mind, that’s what makes GARVEE without each of us making an individual decision to take on debt, an appropriate move. Not that it’s appropriate in its intent, but that it’s appropriate in its execution.

    The difference as I see it with the Airport Garage issue is the size of the necessary expenditure, the global nature of the debt, in that it impacts everyone…not just a limited user group, and as I’ve stated before, the Airport proving itself time and again as poor fiscal managers. Overall I have not opposed Judicial Confirmation as a tool….but it is because we have a REPRESENTATIVE form of government. If we want to have something different, there are better places to start than GARVEE bonds.

    ED NOTE–The airport and its parking are SPECIFICALLY covered in the Idaho constitution as needing a vote. GARVEE is not.

  29. Please accept my sincerest gratitude for taking care of what I neglected. I am religious in casting my vote, since it is so easy. Unfortunately, I passively accept issues that are not so easily resolved. Again thanks for your “eternal vigilance”.

  30. Dave Frazier deserves congratulations not just from every Citizen of Boise but from every Citizen of Idaho. He has forced every city and county politician in idaho to stop relying on politically motivated courts to render decisions on how to spend the taxpayers money and start relying on ” A Vote Of The People.” We can all learn a lesson from Dave in these very difficult times for every American taxpayer- The fight for ultimate control of our government by the PEOPLE will only be over when the PEOPLE stop fighting!!!

  31. John Paul Jones
    Apr 15, 2006, 5:40 pm


    My fellow Vietnam veteran, you fought a good battle, and I know you will continue the war on government, corporate facism. People need to take back their government.

    P.S. I couldn’t help but notice that only two commenters were identified with a full name; Joe Moran and Sharon Ullman. I still use one of her quotes often with reference to the Ada County Courthouse “Taj Mahal”.

  32. One writer mentioned the motivation of our elected officials….in Boise I can tell you that there are several elected officials who have as a principle motivation that they are MUCH smarter than the voters so why should they need to vote. In addition they feel the voters simply get in the way of their agenda(s). They also look for “other options” to get around the voters.

    The simple fact is that the framers of our State Constitution saw this motivation and tried to stop it – by putting in the document the words they did.

    They (our officials) often talk (weekly) about the fact that they can make decisions and the voters do not have either the time or money to challenge them. They know it takes time and money to challenge them in court – and by the way they have FREE, tax payer financed legal resources! Voters don’t – not too fair ughh?

    Several of our officals lecture voters weekly as to how they (the officals) have to follow the law but then they work very, very hard to bend it as far as possible. Again they are smarter than we are. 😉

    It is very very common to have a city council person recuse themself from a vote yet broker deals outside the council meetings on that very issue – just an example of some creative “bending”.

    Good job Guardian – we need more like you – and those who comment.

  33. Inside, you said a mouthful there. The bench is going to be smarting from the recusal brokering that went on over Crescent Rim for a very long time. I guess “smart” growth means growth that hurts. Ouch.
    BTW, Guardian, Nicely Done!

  34. curious george
    Apr 17, 2006, 7:08 pm

    Thank you Guardian! I have to say that this website has afforded me an opportunity to express my personal opinions on subjects I care deeply about.

    It’s interesting to see the commonalities between people of various social perspectives. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult for me to group “professional” politicians into this category – especially ones who first belonged to the Tax’n’Spend party and then switched to the Don’t Tax’n’Spend party just to get elected.

    Of course if no one fits in this category, then no one should be offended.

    On a side note, when my kids get their allowance (when they go above and beyond their chores) they get to spend 1/3 however they want, 1/3 goes in their savings account, and 1/3 goes into the “tax” jar. At the end of the year all the money comes out of the tax jar and is spent on a family event. And, we always go out to eat for a special dinner after we vote.

    So often, folks (depending on their party affiliation) like to say America is either Democratic or Republican – when truthfully, it’s a democratic republic. We elect our representatives to speak for us, and if they get it wrong we don’t re-elect them. This is why I think a referendum is an abrogation of American principals, why a recall is uncalled for (barring a conviction for illegal behavior), and why our duly elected leaders have been (or at least should be) given the responsibility to determine how our taxes should be spent.

    I don’t know if this makes me a progressive liberal, or a reactionary conservative, but I know expressing these opinions makes me an American.

    Thank you again Guardian.

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