City Government

Pocatello Election Provides Valuable Lesson

A GUARDIAN reader in Pocatello provided a good illustration of why it’s important for citizens to preserve their right to vote on long term debt after reading the post on a proposed constitutional amendment. It is not a stretch to be concerned that local officials wishing to spend city tax money on the state-owned Holt Arena on the ISU campus could easily declare the facility to be “revenue generating,” and exempt from public scrutiny if a proposed constitutional amendment were adopted.

In February 2008, the cities of Chubbuck and Pocatello held a special bond election to raise $24 million for the renovation of Holt Arena, Idaho State University’s indoor sports arena.  The special election was announced less than two months in advance (during the Christmas season.)
The bond was promoted by the mayors of both cities and on a website sponsored by “Citizens for Holt Arena,” a political committee formed for the sole purpose of promoting passage of the bond.  In a commentary published ten days before the election, Chubbuck Mayor Steve England invited the community to “invest in the future of Holt Arena” in part because “millions of dollars are infused into our economy every year through the events held there.”  (Revenue generating??)
While ISU President Art Vailas remained strangely silent on the request for a 20-year, $24 million debt by city tax payers on a state-owned building, the Vice President of the Associated Students of ISU exhorted students, to “swing this vote.”  
On February 5, 2008, voters overwhelmingly rejected their mayors’ invitations to “invest” in Holt Arena.  In Chubbuck, 33% of registered voters cast ballots, with 83% voting NO; in Pocatello, 32% of registered voters cast ballots, with 71% voting NO.   
The Holt Arena general obligation bond election cost the City of Chubbuck approximately $4,000 and the City of Pocatello approximately $10,000. 

Another, dirty little secret:  The campaign report filed with the City of Pocatello by Citizens for Holt Arena showed that 45% of the $56,000 political campaign funding used to advocate for passage of the bond was provided by the Bannock Development Corporation which lists Bannock County, the City of Pocatello, and Idaho National Laboratory as its “legacy investors.” 

Bannock Development board members who doled out cash for the campaign contribution of $25,000 to “Citizens for Holt Arena” were none other than Chubbuck Mayor England, Pocatello Mayor Roger Chase, and ISU Provost Robert Wharton.

And THAT is why we need to preserve the right of citizens to approve long term debt in Idaho.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Just wait – the city leaders will get a call from Team Dave telling them to ignore the voters and find a way to go around them. I bet the city leaders in Pocatello are likely paying for part of the lobbying effort for the constitutional amendment to not let voters even vote on this kind of stuff.

  2. Seems like those promoting the thing ought to have to pay back the money wasted on the election!

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