City Government

Politicos Dislike Public Scrutiny

Lee Iacocca could well have been talking about Ada County in his new book, “WHERE HAVE ALL THE LEADERS GONE?”

Add Eagle Mayor Nancy Merrill to the list of well intended inept elected officials. In keeping with the tradition of excluding the public from hearing the public’s business, she scheduled a meeting of city and county elected officials at a “retreat” at her home in Eagle.

The purported purpose was to iron out differences between Boise, ACHD, Ada County, Star, and Eagle. These players are sounding more like a chapter out of the MidEast battles between Israel, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, etc. Truth is they don’t like each other despite grips and grins. And no matter how long or often they meet, there will never be peace.

To their credit, the Ada Commishes filed proper public notice and planned to attend. “Not so fast,” says Mayor Nancy. Don’t want the nosey public or reporters from the Daily Paper showing up and letting people know how these people REALLY feel about one another…when two Commishes meet, it is PUBLIC. Their solution? Send just one Commish.

Several years ago it was the Good Sheriff Gary Raney who had a meeting that wasn’t a meeting scheduled for the Arid Club. When the GUARDIAN and a Daily Paper reporter showed up at the exclusive club, the meeting to discuss funding a detox center suddenly got canceled.

Then there is the annual Chamber of Commerce “retreat” at Sun Valley which is widely attended by so-called leaders of treasure valley…which translates to elected officials and DEVELOPMENT INTERESTS. Public is priced out of that one at $300 cover charge and 200 mile drive.

When Boise City Councilor Vern Bisterfeldt tried to meet with the Ada Commishes with an olive branch clenched in his teeth, the commishes went into secret “executive session” and cost the taxpayers about $30,000 in a protracted legal hassle over violation of the state open meeting law. Like many of these battles that one involved Boise’s Mayor Dave Bieter.

Bieter has managed to offend the Ada County Highway District, the city of Star, Ada County and assorted citizens with his bungling law suits and ill timed public statements. He was the subject of an op-ed piece by Mayor Nate of Star in Sunday’s Daily Paper.

The GUARDIAN thinks dang near all of these politicos are growthoholics in a barfight to see who can grab the other guy’s tax base while the developers sit on the sidelines buying the booze and watching the turf battles. Nancy Merrill tried to turn her home into the Betty Ford clinic, but she is a lame duck mayor with little clout–thanks to growthophobes who oppose her efforts to colonize the hills above Eagle.

Meanwhile, there is a groundswell of growthophobic opinion from the general public shouting, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! CUT BACK ON GROWTH.” Judging from the positive public reaction to Ada P&Z Commish Steve Edgar’s call for a moratorium on growth, the candidates who jump on that bandwagon can plan on getting a ton of votes.

Nothing new in this latest debacle. Local officials have all conspired to meet for the purpose of discussing public business in SECRET with no public present. Shame on all who attended and let us not forget them on election day.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. This meeting was originally planned in such a way that the public would have been allowed to attend… I think that’s called A LEGAL MEETING. Once again, the citizens “TAKE ONE” at the hands of those we pay salaries to.

  2. Hey Tibbs!

    Look, an issue. For god’s sake Tibbs, wake up and smell the rot.

    This is an ISSUE. Get it. Get it?

    Are you out there, Tibbs? Maybe you could show a little outrage?


    Couuld we have a real candidate please?

  3. The Ada County Commissioners came so tantalizingly close to getting it right, it must have made their heads spin.

    This alleged purpose of this meeting is overdue by at least a decade. It is my observation that just about everyone thinks an area wide planning process is desirable. This is true for most citizens and most business, including developers. In fact, one of the recommendations that came out of the Boise Chamber of Commerce’s “Leadership Conference” this spring in Sun Valley was that something of the sort is so desirable that it should be on the ballot this November.

    About the only part of it that most people question is, the degree to which it should be rolled into code, and how fast. (Deep, and fast. Really really fast.)

    Commissioners Tilman, Yzaguirre, and Woods should have been the leaders in this process, but the fact that they weren’t is nothing new. They did send out the notice of a public meeting. That was a start. It was the right thing to do. However, when Merrill told them the press and the public would not be admitted, the commissioners should have stood their ground.

    The concept of the meeting is good, but the entire process, and therefore the outcome, is tainted if the public doesn’t get to monitor the proceedings.

    We were so very close. There for a brief tantalizing moment, we were within inches of having a democracy.

  4. …talking about inept. I hope Dave Bieter fails reelection.

    I was at his first debate and he sweated, stammered, and was so nervous he could barely talk, let alone put two words together. Chuck Winder was just embarrassed to be in the same room. If the public could have seen that first debate televised, Bieter’s political career would have been over right there.

    Dave is inarticulate and spews feel good nonsense anytime he is unscripted. I have no idea how anyone so brain-dead could have passed the Idaho Bar Exam.

    I suppose all that is required to get elected is a pulse, sworn allegeance to the corporate bosses, and enough money to flood Boise with campaign posters and a few TV ads.

    I personally know Tibb’s and think he is a smart, articulate and well intentioned man. He is the choice to vote for unless some civic minded, social justice candidate signs on.

  5. Tony Jones is right on with his comments. To exclude two Ada County commissioners from a meeting in order to avoid the requirements of the Idaho Open Meeting Law is just plain wrong. The public’s business should be conducted in public. The public’s business should NOT be conducted in private clubs, or in private homes, no matter who is in attendance.

    The daily paper’s “Our View” piece on the subject is way off. They wrote, “Ada County commissioners created an unnecessary problem by insisting that all three attend — Merrill only invited one — therefore creating a quorum and triggering the open meeting law. We’re pleased that two backed off and decided not to go so those attending could hopefully be more candid and get results.”

    In this case, the commissioners were finally on the right page, and then backed off. YES, all three should attend meetings to talk about the relationships between the cities, ACHD, and Ada County. YES, all three should attend meetings to talk about growth and the future of the County.

    Private meetings of government officials to discuss public business must come to an end, once and for all.

  6. I find this meeting to be absolutely ridiculous. The residents of Ada County and the 6 cities within the county do not require our public officials to hold retreats behind closed doors to iron out their differences.

    What the people need are public servants that are working to improve and maintain our quality of life. We need to have them stop bickering like junior high kids and behave in a manner that exudes dignity, compromise and respect. If our current representatives behaved in this manner there would be no need to hold meetings that prohibit the public from attending.

    Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have local officials who recognize their constituents want safety, clean air, affordable housing and a multitude of other things regardless of where their home is located. They are not interested in minor turf wars or who did what to whom and it is time for the residents of Ada County to take a stand and demand local leaders work for our community as a whole.

  7. While I don’t really care for deer in headlights Dave, I think that the Mayor of Star (can’t even remember his name) was way out of line going after Bieter as he did in the Sunday paper.

    All Bieter did was propose Chuck Winder’s name for the so called transportation alliance to keep the process moving and all hell broke loose. And the question is why?

    I suspect that ACHD really doesn’t want an alliance or anything like it to happen for in doing so they cede power, power which I might add was never intended that they have – the power to plan land use.

    I also suspect that since so much of our tax dollars are spent on outlying “cities” like Star and Kuna, they and ACHD have kind of a devil’s pact. (You all know of course that Boise taxpayers subsidize the small cities in transportation dollars – 25% of taxes raised in Boise are spent elsewhere.) Ruin close-in neighborhoods so that those who build and live in these outliers have an easier time to get to their jobs while saving $40/month on house payments.

    If Winder was not a good choice, both the Star guy and ACHD’s Franden could have proposed an alternate. In fact, according to the premise of this Guardian article, Bieter proposing Winder’s name in public is what we want. The alternative is to keep everything secret and then present it to the voter’s as a fait accompli.

  8. All of these points are completely valid. Although I can understand Merrill’s resistance to making it public. After all, when I was a boy and I got called to the woodshed, I didn’t want anyone to watch either. And that is exactly what happened to Dave Bieter yesterday, He got a call to the woodshed!

  9. IdahoSkeptic
    Jul 24, 2007, 2:20 pm

    It’s interesting that the Guardian keeps mentioning ACHD in the context of this meeting. In reality, no ACHD elected officials were there.

    It’s clear the cities and county are girding their loins to fight for the proposed alliance and wrest some of the power from the district.

  10. The problem is each elected official has visions of their future greatness. Each mayor is more concerned about their future governorship, senator, etc for all levels of elected leadership. This concern pushes them to do business behind shades because if how they truly felt about sensitive and politically correct issues was public knowledge, they could not be elected in our coarse unforgiving world of feel good corporate funded politics. It is partly their fault for not having the courage to speak and act as their core beliefs dictate, and it is partly society’s fault for being unforgiving of elected officials, we expect them to be perfect and jump on every error. Learning is a life long pursuit and we should not expect our elected leaders to have already learned all of life’s lessons.

  11. John Mitchell
    Jul 24, 2007, 7:04 pm

    PTL that Nancy isn’t running again—-she screwed up a nice community by blessing development after development and transforming Eagle into Eaglefornia. Nice job Nance. We should rename Eagle Road Merrill Road as a legacy for what NOT to do in this valley. What a disaster—-started when she ramrodded a stoplight into her subdivision Island Woods—-a State Highway which is supposed to “move traqffice expeditiously”. Can we ask her to leave early so she doesn’t do any more damage????

  12. Grumpy ole guy
    Jul 24, 2007, 9:25 pm

    Citizen governments have to suffer the fate of having amateurs calling all shots and being in charge. Both good and bad result. That said, it really does seem as though the elected officials here in Ada County could grab a clue somewhere and conduct themselves in a manner well above even a hint of suspicion. I’m sure these people are well-meaning, just as I am sure they are mis-guided in how to conduct such meetings. I don’t think that it is reasonable to speculate what other people (candidates or not) might have done in the same situation. We should focus on those involved in this careless and thoughtless act – and we should call them into accountability; it doesn’t matter how someone else would have done it; it APPEARS to many of us that what the attendees of this meeting were subverting the public’s right to be informed and for THAT, they should be held accountable and promise(s) extracted to avoid such meetings in the future.

    It is OUR interests they are supposed to be conducting; apparently they each and all need to be reminded that their bosses are unhappy with their performance.

  13. Everyone can see the debate at I’m not sure what debate Bob Blurton was watching? Everyone can see it and judge for themselves.

  14. Boisean, I believe the debate you are referring to was actually the 2nd. debate so far. The first debate was before the realtors conference about three weeks ago.
    From reading the quotes attributed to mayor Merrill, it would appear that the most productive thing to come from the “summit” was that everyone exchanged personal cell phone numbers. I can’t speak to the other mayors in the valley,( I am sure they all pack personal political baggage) but from Boise’s standpoint, to borrow a line from our president right after Katrina,” Gee, your doing a heck of a job Davey” !

  15. Bob Blurton
    Jul 25, 2007, 6:47 pm

    The first mayoral debate, in the race between Chuck Winder and Dave Bieter took place at a high school gymnasium. There were perhaps 6 different debates and Dave definitely improved quickly.

    I was running for Boise City Council against Sheeley so attended all events.

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