More On “Desire Named Street Car” (sorry)

EDITOR NOTE–We hate to keep beating this Trolley Horse, but the politicos and press just won’t let it die.

Team Dave Just won’t quit
Pushing this streetcar bit
There is no way they can
Cover this crazy plan
They’ll just put a LID on it!
–Poet Paul

Both the DAILY PAPER and the BOISE WEEKLY have published stories about the Desire Named Street Car and plans by Team Dave to keep voters out of the decision process.
Boise wants to spend $60 million on a novelty ride running in a circle downtown. $40 million MAY come from the feds with the remaining $20 million financed locally–present plans preclude a vote of citizens on any portion of the project, favoring a Local Improvement District (LID) which requires only three council votes and the mayor to impose $20 million in taxes on 900 property owners without their consent.

The Statesman’s Cynthia Sewell got the legislative angle covered with the convervative voices of House Majority Leader Mike Moyle of Star and his neighboring rep, Raul Labrador of Eagle.

Moyle and Labrador favor a bill requiring a vote of property owners on any city-initiated local improvement district that levies an assessment to pay off $1 million or more in bonds.

All they really need is to do is simply insure that Idaho’s constitution is properly enforced. Article VIII, sec. 3 says in summary, “Any debt exceeding a single year’s revenues has to be approved by the voters.”

A simple “catch all” statute requiring a vote of citizens on ALL debt by any ANY local agency would eliminate all the laundering through urban renewal districts, phony lease-purchases, and local improvement district (LID) financing schemes.

Boise City Councilor David Eberele told the GUARDIAN there is no need for the people to vote on a street car–it is up to the “beneficiaries” through a LID. No doubt it is easier to convince 900 property owners than follow the constitutional mandate of a 2/3 voter approval.

Demo rep Branden Durst of Boise told the Daily, “It’s not our job to be constraining city government. It is our job to be empowering city government. We need to stand up for our city governments because city governments get stepped on a lot, especially when certain legislators try and use state law to hamstring people trying to do their jobs. I think that is disheartening and disingenuous.”

Rep Durst seems favor Team Dave’s concept of leaving the citizens out of the loop. There is a fair number of citizens who think THEY are the ones getting stepped on–especially when their voices are ignored repeatedly at hearings and the local politicos won’t let them vote on profound public projects.

“The way the process works today, the people who are paying the taxes don’t have a say, and that needs to be fixed,” said Moyle adding, he wants to give taxpayers the authority.

Rep Moyle is no doubt one of those “certain legislators” mentioned by Durst and says he does not want to take away cities’ authority; he wants to give taxpayers authority. “We still want to allow cities to use the tool, but we want to limit them from abusing it.”

Comments & Discussion

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  1. I am going to call my senator and reps and let them know that what Boise is doing is nothing more than trying to get around the voters and I want to see a law change to require voter approval before we get more cities thinking that they can go around voters.

    It is sad to see that those who got elected have such distaste for the voters after they get elected.

  2. The problem is not just in Boise. Nampa wants to spend $68 Million on a new library and police station with no vote of the people. Caldwell is building a $7 Million building for TVCC an out of state for profit Oregon based college.

    Yes I said for profit..they take 20% right off the top of the money generated and send it back to Oregon. Right now that comes to $325K/year.

    Urban Renewal, LID’s and other methods used by cities to get around voters needs to be dealt with by the State Legislature. Cities have figured out how to circumvent voter oversight and inputs into massive capital expendatures. They are spending out money without our approvals.

    The only cure is Legislative at ths point. Mayors and city councils in this valley are out of control with our money.

  3. It is “disheartening and disingenuous” (apologies to the late O.J. lawyer Johnnie Cochran) to assume that elected leaders have carte blanche to “do their jobs” by stepping on the electorate and taxpayers. This is a no-brainer, hold an election and allow the voters to have their say on the streetcar and proposed LID, as mandated by law. Our elected leaders work for us, the voters, not for cities, counties, special interests, or pet projects. I say not only “hamstring” those who would silence voters, but also “hogtie” them and send them out of office on a rail.

  4. I e-mailed a request to have representation at the “public information” event this Thursday when the city will try once again to gain support for the proposed streetcar. The e-mail requested enough space (tabla and a couple of chairs) for the purpose of presenting “an alternatate point of view” on the streetcar. At the last event, Adam Park told me “this is our event and you will have to be outside on the sidewalk”. Let’s see what happens this time.

  5. costaprettypenny
    Nov 29, 2009, 11:44 pm

    Thanks Mike and Raul!

  6. sam the sham
    Nov 30, 2009, 8:52 am

    If only the street car actually went someplace where it was needed it could be a good thing. Let’s see…. from the depot to the Statehouse – to connect north and south of the river. But it does not. It shows a great lack of planning – of support for connecting the two sides of the river, of trying to help cut traffic problems.

  7. I wonder if there is a connection between Motive Power (they make train engines) and the Mayor, I would bet Motive is already tooling up to build “streetcars” hmmm how much money will change hands behind closed doors to make this farce fly???

  8. Please call and email everyone that you know and tell them to attend the not-so-open house on Thursday and protest by filling out the comment sheets.

    The open house will be held as part of the December “First Thursday” event on Thursday, December 3, 2009, from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the storefront at 821 W. Idaho St.(near 9th St.).

    More information at:

  9. Rod in SE Boise
    Nov 30, 2009, 8:41 pm

    I generally agree with Brandon Durst but not when he says: “It is our job to be empowering city government.”, I have to disagree with that. City government needs to be UN-empowered. It’s getting so that the Federal government is more responsive to the needs and desires of citizens than is the City of Boise, a really, really strange situation.

  10. untamedshrew
    Nov 30, 2009, 9:28 pm

    We elect officials to make decisions on our behalf, collectively. If we’re unhappy with their choices, we don’t re-elect them. That’s how “we” have a voice. It’s how Mike Moyle gets to participate in decision-making in the legislature. That’s the only way government can get anything done. Are you actually suggesting that every time the City Council decides to spend some money, that decision should be up for a vote? Have you lost your mind? Boise voters just voiced their opinion recently … Mary Ann Jordan and TJ Thomson were elected. How about we let them do their job?

    I want a space at the Trolley Open House to voice my opinion too! Just a table and a few chairs. I think a friend of mind also wants one. He’s unhappy about a few things as well. Think we should all have an opportunity to voice our opinion at a public event? That’s actually not the way it works Cyclops. There’s this legal idea called time / place / manner. Just cuz you got a right to speak doesn’t mean you get to exercise it whenever you want.

    EDITOR NOTE–We have no problem with the city “spending money.” The CONSTITUTION mandates that we get to vote on DEBT beyond a single year’s revenues. The city has taken to avoiding a vote at all costs and seeks to control the information and venue for so-called “educational outreach” shows. Any info not from the city or CCDC is labeled as “disinformation.”

  11. Most aptly named avitar, when I was told by Adam Park at the last “outreach” that “this is our event, you will have to be out on the sidewalk” I wondered just who the OUR EVENT comment was geared toward. A taxpayer who wants to truly present both side of the question? I found that my tax money doesn’t make you an involved citizen, because according to Mr. Park, there will only be the rose colored glasses viewpoint being offered.

  12. Today’s daily publishes yet another pale editorial with flawed logic and attacks on legislators who speak up for voters and laws. Reps. Moyle and Labrador are not seeking to stip cities of local control or taxing powers. It appears they are trying to ensure that local officials stay within the mandated constraints. The daily’s editorial brands simple oversight a “power struggle” and skirts the entire issue of the potential imposition of $10 to $15 MILLION in LID taxes. How does that much money break down to each LID taxpayer. I’m not surprised by the editorial. As I recall, the daily endorsed the streetcar plan. I think I’ll take up the crossword puzzle again. And yes, untamed, freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution.

  13. Mr. Guardian and readers:

    HERE is an interesting story from the 12/1 Salt Lake Tribune website: “Commuter rail: Once a gamble, TRAX ingrained in Wasatch Front’s future.”

    The TRAX in SLC debuted 10 years ago this month, and is a hit!

    From the article:
    – The opening TRAX route ran 17 miles, and cost $312 million. 80% was from the feds.
    – Construction began in 1997, so it took 2+ years to complete.
    – “Voters approved a quarter-cent sales tax increase in 2000 and again in 2007 to accelerate TRAX construction.”
    – “Per trip… it costs $1.25 to move each person on light rail, compared to between $3 and $4 on a bus.”
    – UTA officials already have a broad vision for what the upcoming decades will hold. Train tracks, either light or commuter rail, will be the backbone of a network that will include streetcars, buses and bus-rapid transit, as well as pedestrian and bike ways across the Wasatch Front… Eventually, he wants 90 percent of the urban population within one mile of public transportation. “You won’t need a car, but you’ll still want to have one,” Inglish said, adding the best transit solution is a mixture of both.

    Of course, I don’t want to liken the TRAX to the Boise Streetcar, which is more like the choo-choo that does circles around SLC’s Hogle Zoo. The TRAX actually transports people to destinations.

    A light rail from Caldwell to Boise would be much more similar to TRAX in concept. The similarity is limited, however… TRAX puts people in downtown SLC, close to their offices. A Treasure Valley model, using existing tracks, would put people at the Depot, with another trip to get where they’re going.

  14. Dean Gunderson
    Dec 1, 2009, 12:33 pm


    There’s an existing heavy rail spur line that splits off the line that runs to the Depot, near the intersection of Franklin and Hartman.

    This line, only partially abandoned, could take light rail transit right down to Riverside Park (near Shoreline Dr.) — there’s still a steel trestle bridge across the river that could be rehabilitated to support this rail line. It would be comparatively easy to extend this route under the Connector (via the Shoreline Dr. underpass) and onto Fairview. The line could then run down Fairview to Main Street.

    This would provide a truly regional light rail transit route from downtown Nampa to downtown Boise. With stops in downtown Meridian and at the regional mall, the only thing that it wouldn’t connect to is Micron — but if that company really cared about its employees’ access to work, it could start operating a bus fleet from park & ride lots (near transit terminals) to its campus.

  15. What you say is very correct, Dean. I ride over that steel trestle bridge (on bicycle) almost every day! And I can remember the “downtown” trains from my childhood; I used to put pennies on the tracks.

    (From a selfish standpoint, that bridge and the associated corridor are a marvelous component that makes the Greenbelt a better transportation corridor. But it’s much easier to find a bicycle alternative than a rail alternative! Just like it’s easier to run a bus than a streetcar.)

    If the traditional rail path were reinstated, it would go right through the front yard, within feet if not inches, of the Syringa Bank at the corner of Orchard & Irving.

    If we’re going all “visionary” here, Micron could be served by the spur line – already owned by the city of Boise – that goes east from the Depot and passes within a couple blocks of the Micron complex.

  16. Dean Gunderson
    Dec 1, 2009, 2:18 pm

    The rail spur could connect to Micron, but it would require a dedicated run — if the downtown light rail system were to run down, what could be now called, the Syringa Line. This extension could also service any other development extending out into the desert reaches — back to where the spur reconnects with the main line (about 4.5 miles south on the old Orchard Access Road).

    The city was very short-sighted when it permitted the partial vacation of the portion of the spur line that now runs through the glass atrium of Syringa Bank — but that’s an easy fix (and a lot less expensive than whatever would have to be done to correct the transportation mess around the Depot – so often overlooked in discussions regarding the re-opening of the Depot for passenger rail service).

    Since the steel trestle would have to be rehabilitated for its use as a light rail bridge, it could easily be retrofit with a pedestrian/bike pathway on (or attached to) the trestle.

  17. I don’t want a cheap/no pay travel connection between high-crime Nampa/Caldwell and our fairly low-crime, safe downtown… Note crime problems in all cities with cheapo transport.

    Micron is dead gone ba-bye… traffic count down with it?

    Make rail-beds into bike path so we don’t run so many over (tragic bad mix of big vs. little)

    Transportation is not a mess in this area… pollution is, but that’s gonna reduce with getting rid of dirty woodstoves and dirty old cars… Anybody wants a choochoo just wants to spend other people’s money on their national political image/future. The best way to do that is to leave your city in financial ruin while spending fed money on stupid stuff we don’t need or want.

    I’m waiting for them to announce a beer tax for a new pro sports stadium we don’t need either.

  18. Hey? Is it true that the fed money is free money? It grows on a big tree in DC right?

    My advisor said no, the more we spend the less our money is worth. Hmmm, so is that why I feel raped while exchanging money for Euros? Yes, he said. Hmmm.

    Maybe we should stop the presses and tell China to restructure our debt.

  19. Bikeboy, Dean:

    Thanks for the informed comments about light rail and the existing spur line. These things make sense. I hope one or both of you weigh in on this issue to city hall/daily letter to editor. According to today’s daily, only $25 million, not $40 million, will be available for streetcar proposals from the feds. Why not turn down the money and write a new grant for light-rail or bus improvements that serve more people and are less disruptive to existing business owners and downtown traffic.

  20. Mr. Frazier,

    You and I have spoken about the issue of the right to a vote and I have always agreed with your position. I for one think that there should be an advisory vote on the Streetcar. However, what Rep. Moyle is trying to do is make an already difficult situation for cities that much more difficult. Does my position against Moyle’s bill mean that I am “pro-Streetcar”? No, it doesn’t. It means that I am pro-local government. What you are seeing within the City of Boise with the Streetcar proposal is a desperate grasp for something, anything, to help city government. Moyle and his ilk are solely responsible. If they had permited local option authority I can almost guarantee
    the issue of the LID would be non-existent.


    Rep. Branden Durst

    EDITOR NOTE–Rep. Durst, Many thanks for taking the time to comment. The GUARDIAN and many if not most readers favor logical, efficient public transit and local government. I join them in opposing the street car project. The quote from you about “empowering” rather than “constraining” local government raised warning flags. Without the legislature, there is NOTHING other than the GUARDIAN and public opinion to constrain local government.

    Urban renewal agencies are currently meeting to craft legislation to insure they will not be “constrained” through public votes on spending the public funds diverted to them from counties, cities, highway districts and schools without a single vote of a citizen or elected official. Empowering is not what we need–just look at the empowerment granted to banks, GM, and wall street to see the need for constraints.

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