How A Bad Idea Just Got Worse

Only Team Dave and a handful of people with blinders and earplugs think there is public support for a $60 million trolley to nowhere in downtown Boise.

Just when we figured the issue was off track, council candidate Dave Litster sends us a lettter he received from the CCDC confirming the agency is budgeting $75,000 for unspecified activities with regard to a proposed streetcar. In the same letter, Director Phil Kushlan revealed the agency has already spent more than $70,000 on Public Relations related to the streetcar.

Today (Tuesday) the City Council will apparently vote on dumping another $90,000 into a public relations campaign to promote the trolley. They say there will be time for public comment on the expenditure at the noon meeting…look for the issue to come up by 1p.m.

Without question the VAST MAJORITY of calls to the mayor’s “hotline” have opposed the project in general and the expenditure of PR money in particular. Same think for comments on the GUARDIAN and every other blog or letter to the editor we have read.

While city leaders claim the expenditure of PR money is not an attempt to “sell” the project, it’s difficult to convince thinking people the efforts are “educational outreach seeking citizen input,” when there is a better than even chance the needed $40 million in federal money and the $20 million in local funding will never materialize. No matter how it’s spun, Team Dave is trying to hire an opinion shaper to sell us a trolley that probably will never be built. Any councilor voting to spend this tax money should hear from citizens at the polls next Tuesday.

UPDATE: Council passed a resolution Tuesday to pay Cronin PR for the “outreach” but it is somehow linked to whether or not they get the $40 million from the Feds. Tibbs and Bisterfeldt voted against.


“Streetcar Outreach” is what they call it.
Bisterfelt and Tibbs voted to stall it
Bieter got a big grin
For his buddy Cronin
And taxpayers get it in the wallet!

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Any councilor voting to spend this tax money should hear from citizens at the polls next Tuesday.

    That’s how it’s supposed to work in a democracy, Mr. Guardian. And I sincerely hope Boise’s citizens are paying attention.

    Also, I hope they understand that even if $40 million in federal funds were to become available – which frankly seems unlikely – that is $40 million in TAXPAYER DOLLARS! Taxpayers just like them! It’s NOT a gift from Heaven.

    You always hope that local “public servants” will be more responsible and prudent with hard-earned taxpayer dollars, than those Bozos back in the Hallowed Halls of the Beltway.

    Of course, Beater and his toadies are hoping that tradition will play out:
    – voter turnout will be very light,
    – those who do vote haven’t been paying very much attention,
    – and are voting on name recognition.

  2. Part of the contract that is to be voted on today states:

    “Question: Define winning for this project.
    Answer: The City will consider the project successful if the citizens actively participate in this process and if they have been provided with facts and data that can support an informed decision.”

    If that is the case, and it is decided by the council to move forward with this contract, in my opinion it will be necessary under this contract for Cronin and Associates to provide the citizens with the necessary facts and data that show how streetcars can both positively AND negatively affect a community; not just one side.

    If this contract is to be approved solely for the purposes of promoting, marketing, and informing the public of only the positive aspects of streetcars, then the public will not have been properly briefed on streetcars, and therefore the contract will not serve its intended purpose of public outreach.

    The Cronin and Associates attachment to the contract states:

    “Similarly, 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 our region’s quality of life hinges on our ability to plan for the future by investing in public transit. Traffic, air quality, and the vibrancy of downtown not only impact our quality of life, but also directly correlate to our economic strength. A downtown streetcar can serve as the first phase of a longer-term expansion of our transit system that will eventually tie into other routes and corridors and provide residents with more options for moving about the valley.”

    This statement specifically speaks only to the positive aspects of a streetcar and therefore it appears fairly obvious that the outreach program will only present that side.

    In addition, active participation by the citizens will be overwhelmed by the fact that the city will be spending $90,000 on their campaign while the citizens do not have any tax money to spend to present their side, whether pro or con.

    As for the grant money, don’t be too sure it won’t be awarded with Crapo, Minnick, Simpson and Risch all pushing for it.

  3. We are against the Boise City Council voting for a contract of up to $90,000 to a public relations firm to promote public marketing of a streetcar to no-where. If a project was worthy and wanted by Boise citizens , marketing would be un-necessary.An open minded council would put this issue to a vote, before spending tax dollars on this nonsense. In these uncertain economic times, the tax-payers dollars should only be spent on necessary things. This city has many more pressing problems than to promote an un-necessary 2 ½ mile streetcar that serves no transportation purpose.I know the mayor says that most people are in favor of this, but he is wrong or being misguided. Everyone I talk to is against this streetcar!
    The city officials in Boise should be working with other entities in this valley to improve transportation throughout the valley.
    Vote to start taking back our city on Nov. 3 !!!

  4. Basically what it comes down to is you can vote for TJ and Marianne if you want the trolley. If they both get in we will have a trolley, guaranteed.

    I attended the NENA meeting last evening where all the City Council members showed to answer what appeared to be three main topics (Trolley, EMS, Green).

    What I got was TJ and Marianne support the trolley (TJ did not outright say it like Marianne did but in a round about way, he is on board)while all others outright apposed it even VB.

    All Candidates outright apposed the City getting into the ambulance business (“if it isn’t broke don’t fix it”) with the exception of TJ and MJ. They gave long answers with big words talking about some service agreement (what ever that means) but did agree that the service currently provided is a good service. I considered their answers a drop back and punt type answer.

    The other main topic was Green energy with all giving decent unrealistic answers as to be expected.

    What I got out of it was I really liked Dan Dunham over VB, sorry Honey I liked you but DD was just much better spoken. VB is humorous but looked grumpy and from time to time I swore he was sleeping.

    I liked Lister over TJ. TJ seemed fake to me. Well spoken and charismatic but not genuine. He is one of those guys I just don’t trust. Lister seamed honest but sometimes he seemed intimidated by either the small crowd or TJ.

    Marianne vs Braumbach is tough for me. Marianne didn’t answer very many questions outright as LB did. Although self acknowledged by LB he would continuously bash the current City Council which is telling me what he doesn’t like vs what he will do. That lead’s me to believe he will be very difficult to work with inside the city council causing many necessary thing to stall or become more then what they should be. But on the other hand that could be very useful with alot of issues that the city is trying to pass without the people knowing. He did seem to be a proponent for the people and open government. MJ is very much a part of Team Dave and will( I think she will) fall in line with what ever he wants rather then use her own judgment so that is also concerning for me. The good side of MJ is that she did seem very compassionate and concerned about issues and if allowed by Team Dave would use good sound judgment. so I am un-decided on that race. Hopefully I will have a chance to see other debates.

    One Boise native and Democrat’s opinion. That’s two republicans for me for sure. It feels Weird but with what is going on I have looked beyond voting party lines and started listening. The republicans in this race are not afraid to answer any questions.

  5. Well I hardly think this is a single issue campaign anywhere but at the Guardian. But since it seems to be a referendum on the streetcar here, I’ll take it that y’all will temper your criticism accordingly should those candidates who are running solely on that platform lose. That seems fair.

    EDITOR NOTE–We have BEGGED candidates, media, citizens alike to weigh in on issues of annexation, police commission, CCDC power, compliance with Idaho constitution to allow voters to decide long term debt, fire department ambulance.
    We don’t like the one trick pony any better than you!

  6. Flyonthewall
    Oct 27, 2009, 3:12 pm

    Note to EVERYONE from the Mayor and City Council:


    Note to the Mayor and City Council from the voters:


  7. ADR, I am with you up until the last sentence. You might want to check with the congressional and senate representatives. I believe you will find a different attitude than you have portrayed.

  8. sam the sham
    Oct 27, 2009, 7:46 pm

    I am with Flyonthewall – vote the entire lot of them out!!!!!! I do not need to sold on something I have already said I do not agree with – and then pay for it!! Yep, that is tax money incumbents, it did not grow on trees nor appear out of no where.

  9. Well, it appears no matter what the people think – we are going to have all of this Trolley stuff crammed down our throat. Nobody cares what what the public thinks. Very sad. Thanks, Dave for putting up the good fight. See you on the Trolley, I suppose.

    PS – Where is the petition to get this to come to a vote? Is that really something that could happen?

  10. One of the worst things that could happen to my neighborhood is a cheap form of transport linking it to the bad neighborhoods a few miles west of here… why all the leftly libs in their nice diggs don’t get that simple concept for keeping crime out is beyond me. (transportation cost/difficulty barrier) Boise is one of the only cities I can think of with such a safe and clean downtown… about the only people that ever have a problem downtown are really drunk and fight with another drunk… very few muggings etc… Dave and co don’t care… they just want some O’bama money

  11. Cyclops – they are all on board with this.

    Minnick co-sponsored the Streetcar Reinvestment Act.

    Minnick, Crapo, Risch and Simpson all have begged the Transportation Secretary for the money.



    They all want it, plain and simple – which does not bode well.

  12. I normally agree with the Boise Guardian, so I am surprised to be writing this. COMPASS held so many open houses in downtown about the trolley, the streetcar, other public transportation options, and I attended two of them. I believe there were two sessions over the course of a year. This would have been one or two years ago maybe.

    The results were that of those focus groups, most people did want a street car or a trolley, and this is sad to me!

    I watched these open houses go from sporadically attended to very well attended. I took many people there myself. Everyone seemed to LOVE the streetcar.

    And I don’t know what I think, but the people demanded it then. I think it’s healthy to have a debate about it. I’m glad people are upset about something, but the facts were there from those focus groups.

    Additionally, if we build a small sector of streetcar we can expand on that cheaply later just like the Portland system. And much like the Portland system did, there will be many more businesses cropping up around the streetcar.

  13. sam the sham
    Oct 28, 2009, 10:11 am

    Looks like public display of buttocks!!! Call in the SWAT team and let the swatting begin.
    Hey Zippo, if we band together instead of calling names like “lefty and liberal” and “right wing nut” then perhaps the voters could band together and accomplish something. It’s the only way, Zip, we can do it.
    ps, I’m a “lefty” and live in your ‘hood or worse.

  14. You need to do a little more research ADR.
    First, there have been numerous changes since June.
    Second, Once Bieter and his CCDC buddies “sneaked” into DC to meet with Transportation officials and failed to even phone the congressional delegation, commitments have changed. You see, not only is Bieter mis-directed in his desire for a choo-choo, he ain’t real bright politically either.

  15. Questions to answer-

    1. Will Boise’s $40 million TIGER application affect VRT’s $25 million TIGER application?

    2. Will Boise/CCDC sign over the streetcar to VRT as they did with the BUS system? VRT was voted in by citizens to be the Transit Authority in Ada and Canyon counties.

    3. CCDC is considering passing resolution 1194 mostly for a group seeking local option taxes for transit at the state level. 1194 states though:
    “Idahoans should be empowered to decide:
    1. What mobility choices they want to in their community
    2. How to pay for the choices they make.”

    Will CCDC allow Boise citizens to vote on a Trolley?

    link to resolution 1194 pdf

  16. Cyclops – if you can show me a source that references what you are saying, I’ll be happy to look at it. I know Crapo and Minnick (bill cosponsor) would most likely not have changed their position, especially Crapo, because he is the one of the biggest pro-rail Senators in the U.S. He and Bieter have been in bed on the streetcar since the beginning because Crapo sees it as an offshoot of his grand plan to bring back the failed Amtrak Pioneer – yet another pork project that would make the streetcar costs absolutely pale in comparison. If you remember when Crapo was last in Boise, he and Bieter went to the city council and got the phony non-binding resolution endorsing the return of Amtrak.

    As for the open houses, it wouldn’t surprise me that most of the people that show up to them are pro-streetcar. It’s the same thing that happened at the open house at the Boise Depot when Crapo was talking about Amtrak coming back – the only people that showed up were people that were train buffs. Open houses and focus groups typically will attract more PRO people than CON people. The open houses also will control and ONLY PRESENT ONE SIDE of the debate. That’s just a fact, the CCDC knows it, and it’s all part of the spin machine.

    As for Portland streetcar costs being ‘cheap’ – theirs cost over $100 million for a 4-mile section. They have had to increase parking fees, and their LID tax rates have increased over 70% yet their ridership has DECREASED over the last year.

    Portland also now has a road paving backlog which it approaching $500 million – partly because they have dumped so much money into rail projects. The increased fees, taxes and backlogs plus other shortfalls have more than negated any economic benefit they derived from their system – not to mention streetcar overhead wires trash the esthetics of wherever they are put in.

    Streetcars cannot be expanded cheaply – they are one of the most expensive forms of transit known, typically costing $25 to $30 million per mile plus exorbitant maintenance and operating costs.

  17. Healthy debate doesn’t make one disagreeable. I’m happy to have the support of many Democrats that feel like Aimdee. One Democrat told me that she voted for me, and she will have lunch with the mayor and coffee with my opponent next week. I’ve been to many City Council meetings and talked with the council members about the issues. I’ve also been to the Ada County Democrat Central Committee and found some concerned Democrats there too. One of my primary platforms is that this has become a partisan race and it doesn’t need to be. The national agenda does not have to drive the local agenda. The partisanship is as disappointing to me as to Aimdee. The solution is real discussion that includes both sides of every issue. We’re not getting that in today’s monoculture.

  18. KarenJeffries
    Oct 29, 2009, 5:33 pm

    The naysayers have apparently adopted a slogan where the community is labeled as ‘nowhere’, a testament to a lack of hometown pride. Some folks are against things they don’t appreciate that might add a whole dollar to their taxes (even though it would save them many more simoleans from the investment).

    Some folks put their brain cells on autopilot about the time they learned to tie their shoes. The world is changing, and that scares them. Where did they ever learn to think that the world was a safe place that was always going to be the same? The world has always been changing. It comes in waves, and your choices have always been to surf or drown. It will be changing long after we all take a dirt nap. The time to be scared is when things stall, because then you are dead – or might as well be.

    How did cars and suburbia become the only measures of happiness some folks have? There is something fundamentally wrong with our culture if that is the only yardstick these folks find to tell how they are doing. No wonder this “I-got-mine-forget-everyone-else” mentality that leads to falling school budgets at a time of unparalleled prosperity, and all these older folks who don’t want to have to pay school taxes because their kids aren’t in school. Somehow, they’re threatened because some choose to follow another path – and it doesn’t seem to matter at all what the other path might be; any idea they don’t have themselves is pronounced wrong, and I find that to be a far greater threat to our way of life than many other trends.

    Fortunately, these totally devoid of ideas folks have little effect
    other than to delay the inevitable. (In which case, they do a Congressman Delay, who had the gall to show up at the opening of the Houston light rail line and claim he was always for it – this after 20 years of stalling even a nickel’s worth of government funds to be spent on the project. Like San Diego, it was built with totally local funds – and they’ve already voted to expand, even before the new line opened. I tell ya, it’s enough to give politicians a bad name.)

    Build the line. You’ll love it just as every other city loves the lines they built.

  19. Karen – this is how I see it. I’ve lived in Idaho all my life and Boise for over 40 years. I’ve run businesses here for over 30 years. I am not against public transportation. But, this whole streetcar issue is not being approached pragmatically. The city is running a $9 million and growing deficit. Is it fair to saddle the taxpayers with another huge debt (one of the largest in the cities history) that will benefit, at best, a few hundred people a day? There are so many alternatives for public transportation that the city and CCDC are ignoring. We have a bus system that is so poorly run it can only muster 3300 riders a day average after 11 years of operation. The streetcar proposed covers 1.2 miles; how is that going to benefit anything? It will require the stringing up of overhead wires which will affect the esthetics of downtown permanently – is that what is really wanted or needed?

    Above all, is it really fair that only 4 people get to decide to commit the city to over $60 million in tax expenditures, with a 20 year minimum LID tax on downtown businesses? If that is how you see things should be done, I pity your position. The people of the city should get to decide on this one, not four people. It puts far too much power into the hands of a few, not the way the government should work.

  20. Karen, If the trolley was a good Idea I would be all for it. DT Boise is tiny in comparison to Huston/San Diego. I have lived here all my life and I never have had the need for a trolley. I cannot for the life of me see the need, oh wait, maybe if I was drinking at the Symposium bar and for some reason need to get to St. Lukes it would come in handy but that is about it.

    We could use the money for schools and things that actually need the money.

    The trolley is completely pointless. We do need a train/tram/trolley (whatever) like Utah has that goes from St.George(Caldwell) to Salt Lake (Boise or even Mt.Home) way before a 15 block down town trolley.

    Boise needs to start looking at a bigger picture which just may include county and state wide issues, not a multimillion dollar trolley.

    As far as your surfing analogy goes, we are all surfing. No one is drowning since we have no say in it but it may not be all that progressive to walk to the edge of you board and hang all your toes off the end. It may look cool but it may just be a stupid idea after you lawn dart yourself on the bottom of the ocean and leave yourself paralyzed.

  21. The misinformation is coming from City Hall. The streetcar is not mass transit. It is a novelty. It is actually competing with bus funding, which is where we should be focusing. People should not think of this as mass transit, and they should not think of Boise as a metropolis. 200K population doesn’t make a metropolis. It is the Idaho natives that see this as a metropolis or the outsiders? I’d like to see a poll on that. Perspective matters.

  22. Karen Jeffries
    Nov 3, 2009, 4:53 am

    “Pointless”, there’s a fits-all word. One wonders if it was bandied about during talk of the Space Needle, the Eiffel Tower, the Sistine Chapel ceiling or the Statue of Liberty, projects that had to have seemed pointless to the bean-counters in their time. Some know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

    Do you think Tony Bennett would have left his heart in a city where little cable cars run halfway to the stars on rubber tires?

  23. I think you forget you live in Boise Idaho.

    Are you seriously going to compare the 15 block trolley to those huge iconic pieces of ART. Lets be realistic here, the trolley will be an eye sore. Not a piece of art. Nice try though.

    I also have a feeling that most people around here don’t care where Tony Bennett left his heart and are more concerned with their own. A trolley is not going to help make up their minds. There are alot of people that have left their heart in Boise without a trolley.

    Space Needle= privately funded and erected for the 1962 Seattle World Fair.

    Eiffel Tower= Built commemorating the centenary of the French Revolution (close comparison).

    Statue of liberty= donated by France and dedicated on October 28, 1886, is a monument commemorating the centennial of the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence (another close comparison).

    Sistine Chapel, seriously the Sistine chapel when we are talking about the 15 block trolley, WOW.

    Bieter’s, Trolley= Still POINTLESS.

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