City Government

City Allows “Other Side” Into Open House

Early visitors to the City’s street car open house had a chance to get information from at least one opponent of the proposed $60 million project.
Jim Monihan, known to GUARDIAN readers as “Cyclops,” had made repreated requests of Team Dave’s press agent, Adam Park, to have space at the Street Car Open House being staged Thursday at 821 W. Idaho in a storefront rented by Boise City.

Monihan was stonewalled and his e-mails went unanswered, but he showed up with some “educational material” of his own–provided by the GUARDIAN–to share with folks who came by the open house for a look at what the City is proposing. The official city line has been, “If folks knew more about the project, they would be in favor of it.” Monihan was ready to offer that additional info.

At first it appeared the City would not allow any other voices to be heard. Just before 11 a.m. Monihan and Park had a bit of a verbal standoff and a pair of coppers were soon observed “staged” in a bus stop. But Surprise! When the door officially opened for visitors, Park actually invited Monihan inside out of the cold where he politely mingled with visitors and presented alternate facts–with some opinion.



No doubt some quick phone calls and legal advice were exchanged among Team Dave players and the decision was made to allow the voice from the other side. Monihan offered, “kudos to Park and the City for the decision.”

According to Monihan, his unscientific sense of public opinion was similar to the recent Statesman polls–overwhelming opposition to a downtown street car. He also noted a lot of “Boise City” ID cards hanging on the necks of some of those who filled out comments. We listened to visitors who talked with reps from Valley Regional Transit’s bus display and it sounded like folks favored improved bus service over a downtown street car if forced to choose.

The STATESMAN had another good piece in Thursday’s edition about the financing of the proposed project.

For the text of the new flyer passed out by Cyclops, please click on MORE.

(and opinions)

–Any increased tax revenues will go to the CCDC–not Boise City.

–Local Funding as currently contemplated can be forced upon 900 property owners without their consent.

–As envisioned by the City, there is no way to pay for operating expenses without using taxes paid by EVERYONE.

–Council has ignored public opinion with regard to PR expenses.

–A profound public project that will change the character of the city at great expense should have a city-wide vote on the debt.

–Improvement of the bus system should be a higher priority than this circular novelty ride. Note: The city doesn’t own any buses–the bus system is run by VALLEY REGIONAL TRANSIT.

–Claims of “development stimulus” should be viewed in the context of TAMARACK, BOISE TOWER, CONVENTION CENTER HOTEL, and myriad other schemes which failed to obtain financing.

–A new federal transit program which offers $280 million for the entire nation has a $25million cap on any single project…which means there are about 11 possible projects in the entire USA.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. untamedshrew
    Dec 3, 2009, 5:00 pm

    There is NOT a choice between improved bus service and the street car! You are doing your readers a disservice by continuing to promote this idea.

    EDITOR NOTE–We are merely honestly reporting what we observed first hand. Check with The PR guy from Valley Transit who was part of the conversation.

  2. Thank you Cyclops And Guardian, keep up the fight. I remember back in the 50’s going into town and looking at all the overhead wires for the electric buses and the tracks down town on the streets. For some reason I really don’t want to see them back.
    It was not pretty except for the sparks off the bus cables….

  3. “it sounded like folks favored improved bus service over a downtown street car if forced to choose.”

    What in the heck are you talking about? That is apples and oranges!!

    Why can’t you present your good ideas and feedback with the same respect Paul J and Chris Walton do, rather than being so oppositionally defiant? You do have good ideas sometimes. But there really is wisdom behind grandma’s advice: “You’ll catch more flies with honey.”

  4. This is a PORK PROJECT and everyone knows it.

    The real question is what kind of a bus service would we have if we simply forgot about the $40 Million in “stimulus debt” and took the $20 Million and spent it on a bus system that would actually meet the needs of people in Boise.

    Or better yet simply have local cabs drive the route of the trolly and make them “free” to anyone wanting a ride in the two mile loop. You can buy a lot of Ford Crown Vics for $20 Million.

  5. untamedshrew
    Dec 3, 2009, 7:15 pm

    I wasn’t questioning what you observed today. I questioned your statement … “sounded like folks favored improved bus service over a downtown street car if forced to choose.” If you are presenting them with that choice w/ the literature you and Cyclops are handing out … you are misleading the public, and your readers. As did The Statesman with its poll. To get an accurate opinion, doesn’t it seem fair that people be told that the stimulus money in question CANNOT be used to improve the bus system?

  6. I attended the open house today. Certainly there were not options presented. I was with a group that was asking Mr. Cecil and Mr. Hall questions and they were simply unable to defend any of their “estimates” and assumptions. Ask the Mayor – is this project a foregone conclusion (my guess is yes), and if so then drop the sham of public input. I heard the mayor on our local public radio station this morning, and when presented wtih the fact that 60-70% of the residents are opposed, he flips it and says they just don’t understand. They DO understand and they DON’T want it. Last week when his spokesman was asked the same question he responded that it just meant they needed to do more of a sales job. We don’t need it, don’t want it, and think it is a farce because the Mayor does not want to turn down the stimulus money. They should improve and add to the current bus system and group ridership. That is green and also cost effective. I was disgusted today at their lack of interest in actual public input. Shame on them. They were dismissive and insulting.

  7. I stopped by the open house around 5:15pm. The main reason was because I wanted to meet & greet Cyclops! (He would’ve recognized me – I arrived on a bike! haha) But alas, there was no alternative viewpoint being presented later in the afternoon…

    The presentation was interesting. However, it was one-sided propaganda, and shouldn’t be construed as anything else.

    – They represented it to be a transportation alternative, contributing to bluer skies and a greener environment. Since it only goes in circles, and riders have to get to the circle, I continue to believe that is bogus. “YOU LIE!”, as the man famously said at the Obama press conference.

    – All of the pie-in-the-sky forecasts about the development billion$ that are sure to follow the streetcar are conjecture. There is no way to prove or disprove any correlation between streetcar installation in other locales, and subsequent economic development. (Also, one has to consider that things were different ’til 2 years ago. We were all riding the Gravy Train. But alas, tough times have befallen us, and we may NEVER revive those turn-of-the-century Glory Days.)

    I’ll email the “streetcar,” explaining my reservations. (And will giddily anticipate the canned return pro-streetcar response.)

  8. costaprettypenny
    Dec 3, 2009, 9:30 pm

    Cyclops, I commend you! Over the years we have had differing opinions. On this one you are my “Champion” Thank you

  9. How about posting a copy of what Cyclops was handing out? If it was presented as either the trolley or an improved bus service, that would be misleading. The task at hand is deciding if the street car will provide the economic development as promised.

    EDITOR NOTE– Clancy, you can find it at the end of the post on the “more” button.

    It is interesting that they are now talking about this new source of federal monies/grants to pay for a street car. Have the TIGER funds been written off? This new source is a much smaller account to draw from and probably more competitive.

  10. OK, so we go in debt 20 million. Either we take that 20 mil and buy some busses that few people ride and call it a day, or we take the 20 mil and add another 40 mil that is granted to us and put many people to work, stimulate the economy, have a nice product that is a “start” toward future expansion (hopefully across the river to BSU first).

    So vote down the streetcar if you want, but I’d just as soon bag the bus thing too since no one will ride them anyway. Why go in debt 20 mil at all? Let some other city get stimulated with the govt. dollars that are there *regardless* of whether Boise wants it or not. Let’s let OUR tax dollars that WE ARE GOING TO PAYING FOR ANYWAY go somewhere else. Good idea? I’m just trying to make some sense of this.

  11. I’m a little confused at this point regarding LIDs. According to the Statesman’s most recent article, a LID can be imposed by cities, even to the extent of $20 million. I thought the Idaho Constitution forbade projects of more than a single year’s revenues without voter approval. I guess I’ll have to read the statutes.

    I am glad Cyclops and the Guardian were allowed into the open house to voice opinions and report on the event.

    I continue to be disappointed in the overall lack of openness and transparency by city leaders on this very important transportation issue. The public does have a right to guide those they elect in the proper direction, as do the political party leaders who entrust their candidates (whether “nonpartisan” posts or not)to adhere to party guidelines on matters of trust, ethics and openness. Mayor Bieter, et al, study this issue more carefully, weigh it in terms of human costs and keep the doors and your minds open to the electorate and press.

    EDITOR NOTE–LID is not a general tax levied by the government. It is a LIEN on property with the property being the collateral for repayment of the debt (bonds). While allowed by law, no one can show that it has EVER been done in Boise when initiated by the government. Typically it is for sewer, curb and gutter, sidewalks in a limited area and requested by petition of the property owners. The city proposes to IMPOSE the obligation on property owners.

  12. Alva Couden
    Dec 3, 2009, 11:02 pm

    I talked to a young transit enthusiast today. He visited the open house. He’s well aware of my conservative perspective, and he reported to me that he was disappointed in how limited and useless the current proposal is. He thought it might have gone out to Nampa or even the mall. Even the callow youth seem to understand the silliness of this project. The guy that calls it a MOAT in the making has a good analysis. This is likely to turn into a big downtown disaster, performance bond or not. In a year we may have a moat downtown. Alas! Let’s fill it with hot water and call it a hot spring.

  13. MOAT… heck no. Lets build a big log ride or roller coaster around that path… yee ha !!!

  14. I too heard Mayor Bieter on KBOI this morning. His main defense of the trolly was his experience in Salt Lake City on their system. He expounded on the permanance of a street car and how that would somehow translate to economic development.

    I have been around a few years and made a few trips to Salt Lake but have not had the opportunity to ride their rail system. I do know they had a great bus system that would take you to virtually any of the ski areas near Salt Lake City and all over downtown very cheaply and efficiently. That said, I think Mayor Bieter has the cart before the horse on the fixed rail system for Boise.

    There also appears to be a change to the Idaho Urban Renewal laws headed for the State Legislature this session to further exclude voters and taxpayers from participation in Urban Renewal creation as well as long term debt decsions. It will all be cloaked in the guise of cleaning up old laws and condensing them down to something called the IDAHO URBAN REINVESTMENT ACT.

  15. $40Mil????? Wtih roughly 220k in population and 600k in the metro area, that is enough money to give every citizen over the age of 5 a nice bicycle and make the downtown area into a pedestrian and bik only area. Then do as quite afew major cities and allow delivery trucks in after 6 p.m.

  16. Craig Watts
    Dec 4, 2009, 2:02 pm

    I stopped by the open house yesterday, and didn’t find it very informative. Lots of charts. Lots of buzz-words and lingo, lots of “studies” and “assumptions”; taxes being called “contributions”; taxes being called “investments”; sources for operating costs not yet known.

    All of the members of the public there while I was there were there were either skeptical or opposed to the trolley plan.

    Does the Mayor plan to go ahead with this Project no matter what? It seems to me that in a democratic country, the public servants would hold a referendum, or otherwise determine if the public is pro or con. If they go ahead no matter what the public thinks or wants, just to get their hands on “free” federal money, they just increase the contempt citizens have for this so-called “public process”.

    My perception is that this is a “done deal”, and that the Mayor won’t hold any sort of a referendum because he knows the trolley-plan would lose.


  17. As I said on another streetcar thread… the proposed Boise Streetcar is more comparable to the little choo-choo that circles SLC’s Hogle Zoo, than their TRAX light rail system.

    The Boise Streetcar and Zoo Choo-Choo are both novelty rides, go in circles, and don’t provide an alternative transportation mode. By contrast, the TRAX is very legitimate transportation.

    (Our experience: We parked our car in a park-and-ride lot around 90th south, and rode to downtown in the TRAX. I’d guess it’s 10+ miles. It was very smooth and comfortable. Made a few scheduled stops along the way. Completed the trip faster and with far less frustration than on I-15 during rush hour. Returned that evening. So… how does Bieter’s Streetcar compare in any way, other than they look a little bit alike?)

  18. Property owner
    Dec 4, 2009, 4:46 pm

    There is a meeting on the 9th for property owners along the path of the trolly. I heard it on the grapevine. Does anyone know if there is an official invite somewhere? Interesting that it is being held during business hours.
    As a business owners we were shocked to find out how we were going to be charged. The Statesmans’ description was different than the propaganda received at the open house. The land versus building was different. Whichever way it is, as a small business struggling like everyone else, being hit with tens of thousands of dollars right now is not OK, although they say I can pay it over 20 years at 5.5% interest. I did not ask to take out a loan to pay the city – lending them money is not the business I am in. I might consider loaning them money if THEY paid me interest at that rate in today’s market. This seems a bit backwards, however. Does anyone know if the property owners have been polled? I have not heard a positive response yet.

    I did get the handouts from Cyclops but did not notice it until I got home. I would have loved to shake his hand.

  19. Let’s get something crystal clear here, angry, mean spirited woman.(Webster’s definition, not mine) No One is presenting an expanded bus system over a streetcar. The overwhelming number of statements that WE RECEIVED from citizens at the open house was ” give us a good bus system before we spend all this money on a streetcar” In addition, you may want to include the infamous “stimulus” monies in the total but I did not. We have merely applied for those funds and they are, at this point, meaningless numbers. The figure I used in discussion was the 20 MILLION DOLLARS that we , here in Boise, have to come up with in order to make this work!!!!

    That is the money that would be better spent on making our bus system meaningful! Senior citizens have told me that they realize they won’t be able to drive forever,hence they need a good transit system to allow them to access the services they need. Younger people have said that they want an expanded bus system that would allow them to come downtown for dinner, a movie, possibly a concert, have a few drinks and be able to get home without risking driving drunk. Special needs persons have told me that an improved bus system is paramount to their desires to maintain some semblance of normalcy in their lives.

    To me, the most interesting thing I have heard throughout these discussions, is that virtually every person I have spoken with that supports the streetcar, uses the words “cool” “fun” “cute” or “quaint” in the sentence voicing their support. Yet the city actually expects the citizens to blindly allow a project that makes no transit sense, the city doesn’t have the remotest idea of the hard costs, and that has, to date, garnered tremendous negative reactions, to go forward. In an effort to cut to the chase, we can’t afford to spend 20 MILLION dollars on “QUAINT”!!!

    The women that worked the “open house” that were city employees were very pleasant, co-operative and accomodating to my presence inside. You obviously had other things to do that day that precluded your participation!!

  20. I hope that more people who attended the ‘open’ house were able to see how completely disingenuous the city is being regarding the streetcar project.

    Also, now that more of the truth is coming out, it should be obvious that the city and CCDC is just on a money grab at the long-term expense of the Boise taxpayer. The LID proposal has become yet another very fishy aspect of this project.

    The city and CCDC started out a long time ago saying that the LID would be used to raise between $15 and $25 million. Now they are saying it is more like $10 million because the city and CCDC have agreed to kick in $5 million apiece.

    This begs the question – where is the city getting the $5 million? They do not HAVE $5 million sitting around for this. According to their own numbers, they are running a $9+ million budget deficit along with mounting departmental shortfalls, including parks, arts programs, health care, and police.

    Not only that, the LID will do exactly what I predicted months ago – hurt downtown businesses and property owners. Clay Carly, the owner of the Pioneer Building, has already said he will raise the lease rates on his tenants. The El Korah Shrine, which would derive NO benefit from a streetcar, will get money taken away from their non-profit programs. The largest property owners are mostly not streetcar destinations because they all have their own parking facilities, but will pay the most for the LID – St. Luke’s share alone will be $1.4 million.

    Every dollar that is spent on this foolish project is a dollar that will be taken away from something else. The VAST majority of people here would rather see the bus system improved before any other transit system is discussed. If Bieter wanted to see how Salt Lake City did it, he needs to understand that they had an excellent bus system in place over 40 years ago, and that the TRAX system is light rail, not a streetcar (there is a difference).

    Regardless of what the grant money can or can’t be used for, the truth is that a streetcar in downtown Boise is completely unnecessary and , if built, will be a logistical nightmare. The proposed route is completely unsuited on every level for a streetcar and the whole project should be scrapped; we would be money ahead to do nothing.

    There is a lot more information at – the side of the story the city ISN’T talking about.

  21. I went to the open house and I listened to the Mayor on the radio – – in both situtations I found this project to be nothing more than a “pet project”. If the city proceeds with this project it will clearly show that they have no interest in representing the majority of the citizens in Boise.

  22. Why Not Try This?
    Dec 5, 2009, 10:48 pm

    Why don’t we just get some trolleys on wheels and try this route for about six months and see what happens…it either works in concept or it does not. If if does not then the project is dead and we have not spent millions or created a new tax base that no one can afford. Why not try this first?

  23. This streetcar issue has more plots and turns and twists than a bad soap opera. Now we have the city and CCDC saying they will front $5 million each in nebulous funds for the project, leaving only $10 million for the taypayers to absorb? Given that the Statesman has reported that cities are likely to receive only $25 million not $40 million in federal grant funds for streetcar projects, that leaves $35 million for cities to pick up for a $60 million project. Deducting $10 million from CCDC and the city, still leaves, guess what, $25 million! Welcome to “As the Streetcar Turns.”

    Cyclops, it is the duty of public relations people to be accommodating and to seek favorable press and public opinion. You had every right to be included at the OPEN house. Don’t take it personally. Remain skeptical and vigilant in presenting your ideas at public forums.

  24. I’m in SLC this weekend and rode TRAX several times to get around the downtown area. It’s convenient, quiet and “cool”. If we could snap our fingers and have such a system in Boise, I’d be for it. The current plan to put a streetcar in Boise is fraught with problems well documented by previous commenters. I believe that use of the LID will force out the small, local businesses that make the current downtown fun and interesting to visit. With them gone we’ll have a downtown populated by major brands charging more for goods in order to sell them within the “Streetcar Impact Zone (Crater?)”. All the more reason to shop online instead. One thing I did like about the presentation last week was that the busses will use a separate transit mall rather than parking right in the heart of downtown. But that plan is in place independent of the streetcar vision. I haven’t seen a compelling reason to take on debt to build the streetcar, and “Cool Factor” falls way short of a reason to do it.

  25. Thanks for the flyer info and additional facts regardings LIDS. If only we could charge $90,000 for our enlightened and educated thoughts! We could throw one COOL GUARDIAN YULE PARTY!

  26. In theory a trolley or streetcar (mass transit) sounds like a good idea. When in Portland I like to stay at the downtown hotels and enjoy taking the Redline into town for less than the cost of an espresso. Looking over Seattle’s new mass transit this past week I can see the benefits of that also.
    What I cannot see in the Boise plan is the benefit of an amusement ride that goes around and around a short circuit in downtown. Treasure Valley is missing the additional million of people needed to make a decent sized system pay for itself, maybe??

  27. Here is some interesting testimony regarding the expansion of the Portland streetcar. If you are wondering why everyone, including many of the developers downtown, would prefer an improved bus system over a streetcar, this summary from the testimony nails it:

    “The Portland Streetcar is 73 times more expensive to build per-mile than the Rapid Bus alternative; in what ways is it 73 times better? In fact, it is not superior by even a single metric. The Rapid Bus system is cheaper, more flexible, twice as fast, arrives more often, is easier to implement, and its users are willing to pay 23 times more for service.
    Portland is a city whose leaders pride themselves on promoting “sustainability,” yet the streetcar requires subsidies for 100% of capital costs and 98% of operating costs. Exponential debt is not a sustainable development concept.”

    A link to the testimony can be found here:

  28. Property Owner
    Dec 7, 2009, 9:18 pm

    I was called and told there was a meeting on Dec 9 but I cannot find an announcement anywhere officially. Does anyone know about this meeting for property owners on the proposed route?

  29. Does anyone else find it “at least” interesting that the official Boise Streetcar website ( domain was acquired by the city more than a year ago in October of 2008? Check out the website domain creation date from Who IS:

    Domain ID:D154467179-LROR
    Created On:14-Oct-2008 19:52:43

    Team Dave has been planning to spring this on the public for awhile now.

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