City Government

Amendment Seeks To Deny Voter Rights

The Idaho legislature will soon be considering HJR 005 which looks pretty tame at first glance, but it is designed to deny citizens the right to approve long term debt at airports and allow airports to go into the real estate speculation and rental business. Here is the GUARDIAN’s take on the bill.

The net effect of this amendment is to deny CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS to citizens. Currently citizens have a right to approve profound long-term debt projects at airports. Without voter assent there will be liens on public property owned by all the citizens of a city.

Here is how it works. When citizens go to the polls and approve a long term debt, they offer the FULL FAITH AND CREDIT of the city. When an entity like an airport enters into debt with future revenues as the sole revenue source to pay the bills, it places the public building or land in jeopardy because public assets are used as collateral for the bonds. Typically, these unsecured bonds come at a higher interest rate than those backed by the full faith and credit of the city–backing obtained only through assent of the voters.

Despite what one of the “trusted” rating agencies may say, it is also a terribly risky investment to purchase bonds when the only safeguard is collateral in the form of a fractional interest in an airport structure which you could never foreclose upon.

As written it appears airports would be able to go into the real estate speculation business–purchasing land, building commercial structures leasing them, AND disposing of them IN DIRECT COMPETITION WITH THE PRIVATE SECTOR. In short, cities will be able to “launder” just about any project through airports or urban renewal agencies without voter approval.

One must also remember that any building owned by the government is EXEMPT from taxes. While a city may charge rent for their airport buildings or land; schools, counties, and other taxing units are deprived of revenue from those structures which are owned by city government.

These amendments are nothing more than get-rich-quick schemes and are not good for the citizens–regardless of the revenue source. They are no doubt encouraged and appreciated by the lending institutions which will benefit from the interest on the unsecured bonds.

Link to HJR 005 Warning, it is slow to load, but eventually comes around.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. I wonder who sponsored this piece of fantasy? To take away the citizens right to say how THEIR money is to be spent is unacceptable.

  2. How can they not be “good for the citizen”? Any citizen that is a “user” of the facility built through these efforts sees a direct and tangible benefit. Those that do not use the facilities see no tax risk since the bonds are secured by long term users fees and fractional collateral. I have asked in the past, but you have yet to show me a financial model or scenario in which, even in today’s depressed market, these types of bonds would result in the financial apocalypse that you insinuate might result.

    Also in the past you have suggested that if people wanted the law changed, that they do the leg work to make it so. That is happening, and now you call it an “end run”. How about letting representative democracy work for a change Dave? Oh, that’s right, you would rather take the path of judicial interference.

    EDITOR NOTE–You are disingenuous in your remarks. If you were sincere you would advocate a vote of the citizens on long term debt–regardless of the revenue source. How about DEFENDING THE CONSTITUTION?! This amendment’s main thrust is to eliminate a right we currently hold–voter approval. Not unlike Congress passing a measure to eliminate state’s rights to ratify. Are you AFRAID to tack on at the end of this proposal, “with assent of the voters.”?

    I am trying not to be rude, but you sound like Dave Bieter. Read the post again! It explains that once a building or land is owned by GOVERNMENT it no longer yields taxes. For example, if the city built a parking garage for rental car agencies they would indeed have revenue from the rent. However, the taxes on the property (gov’t-owned) and the tax on that private rental income would be lost. Citizens need to determine if that is a good deal.

    All the property currently owned or rented by Hertz, Avis, Alamo, Thrifty, etc. would
    would be devalued and the schools, county, ACHD, etc. would lose the tax revenue. Same for buildings and hangars etc. The amendment seeks to allow the airport to own, construct, sell, lease, and dispose of structures. As written the airport could sell bonds to build a hangar for Simplot, lease it for 99 years and take it right off the tax rolls.

    I can assure you no citizen group has approached the legislature and asked, “How about changing the law so our collective voice is not heard.”

    Citizens voting on the constitutional amendment will be hard pressed to vote “Yes. We trust our local politicians and we want to eliminate our constitutional right to decide if a project is going to hurt our school funding.”

    Does that work for you Jon W.?

  3. Be as rude as you want Dave, it doesn’t hurt because your logic is often specious and self serving. I can assure you that I’m not Dave and hold no government office, just someone with a different viewpoint than yours. Unlike you, I believe that representative democracy works. If my elected officials do something that I don’t like then I vote them out of office at the next election. I have neither the want nor the need to vote on nearly every large expenditure that the government makes. That would not be an especially efficient or effective use of government funds.

    EDITOR NOTE–Jon, how about you at let the rest of us vote if we so please. We would be perfectly happy that you trust the politicos. If you read the bill you will see that it goes way beyond the issue of voting on a single expense. It allows all sorts of things–like using public funds to purchase property and then sell it to private individuals or corps.

  4. Jon, I would caution you on taking on the Guardian with regard to these issues. He is 3 and 0 here and knows from whence he speaks. You go ahead and give up your voting rights, I’ll hang on to mine. By the way, did you hear about the city wanting to put a garbage transfer station in your neighborhood? Yup! That piece of property upwind from your home!

  5. Cyclops, thank you kindly for your words of caution, although I think his success has more to do with many of our judges having constructionist leanings than anything else (although I’m not against Dave on everything…recent freedom of information case would be an example).

    Regarding the xfer station, I think they are putting it right next to the nuclear power plant aren’t they? 😉

  6. Jon,
    As a voting member of the public I am not ready to forsake my rights to vote.

    The whole idea behind voting is “they ask and we approve” items that go beyond one budget cycle. Check Article 8 section 3 of the Idaho constitution please.

    The framers of the Idaho Constitution worked very hard to keep the “easy credit” people in elected office from obligating the public or future elected officials from incurring debts, liabilities or obligations beyond one budget cycle without the full faith and credit of the people saying YES.

  7. Right next door Jon! At least the plastic will glow in the dark. Maybe his success is because he is correct! Maybe??

  8. Every one of those big expensive $ failed $ cities with a big busy airports has one. All the Mayors were happy to have it until they found out they have no power over it. Not even the Govenor will be able to overpower this tax eating beast. Bad idea to start a port authority. Bad, Bad, Bad idea.

    It will suck from the city and county and give to the airport. The airport will give to the airline so they will fly here more often. Like a football team the airline will demand a nicer building and cheaper rent. They will give it to them because the do not answer to anyone.

  9. Paul, I do understand Article 8, but every time that I try to park at the Airport and end up off site due to there not being any spaces, I interpret the need as being pretty “normal and ordinary”.

    Cyclops, what I’m really looking forward to are the 6 legged frogs.

  10. Yes, that’s right. Violate my rights so you have more parking that someone else has paid for. You can walk, use the free bus, or take a cab. Passenger counts are down at our little port so they are worried. This is a money/power grab before there is none left.

  11. Will voters ever get the opportunity to actually vote on bond issues anymore? Politicos like to call side stepping voters “tools” for city government. I call it a dictatorship.

    We the people need to be “asked for permission” to spend our tax dollars above and beyond annual budget items.

    When was the last time we got to vote on a bond measure that was not a school issue?

  12. Jon: Maybe you can get Mayor Dave to run his pet trolly from your parking space to the terminal.
    Since neither of you approves of letting the public vote on such things, you should be able to work it out.

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