City Government

Publicly Funded Website Gets “F” For Education

Using part of a $60,000 appropriation of public money from the Boise City Council, a new website claiming to be an “educational outreach” debuted recently in what can only be seen as a blatant campaign promotion to pass a constitutional amendment.

Dubbed HJR5 Facts the one-sided website has a plethora of facts about airports in Idaho and a paucity of objective information. You be the judge about the “information and educational” aspects of the site and decide whether or not it is an attempt to influence the outcome of a ballot measure–using public funds. The site does not disclose who paid for it, nor does it provide any avenue for contacting any officials behind it.

We make no bones about it: The GUARDIAN opposes the proposed constitutional amendment. We will also pledge to tell you the truth about what passage of the amendment REALLY means to Idaho citizens and not obfuscate the truth behind slick photos and facts which have no bearing on the proposed amendment. The site has pages about firefighting and military–apparently attempting to imply if government is forced to continue to seek citizen approval of airport debt it will somehow impact these areas.

Here are some factual considerations about the HJR5 amendment conveniently omitted or favorably spun by the publicly-financed website.

  • As written the amendment will TERMINATE EXISTING VOTER RIGHTS to approve public debt at airports.
  • As written the amendment opens up the potential of airports to own tax-exempt hangars, parking facilities and other property that would otherwise be built with private funds and provide valuable tax revenues to cities, schools and counties.
  • Public facilities and structures can be placed at financial risk–including foreclosure–when financed without the approval of voters.
  • Any project contemplated for airports is currently allowed by the constitution The major change from the current constitutional language is to eliminate citizen approval.
  • Local property taxes could increase when private property is converted to government ownership and revenues are lost.
  • Airports would be allowed to compete directly with private enterprise which currently rents space to rental car companies or finances hangars. Hotels could also suffer if cities choose to construct lodging through debt obligations.
  • California’s constitution (like Idaho) requires citizen approval of debt for airports and that state’s economy is bigger than most countries.

We think a well rounded “education” is in order and hence offer additional study opportunities and classes at the GUARDIAN.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. While I agree with you on the issue at hand, I did find the most of the information that you pointed out as missing.

    From the FAQ page: This website funded exclusively with Boise Airport user fees. No tax dollars used.

    Pro/con page: states most of what you said was missing.

    EDITOR NOTE–All those user fees are as I said PUBLIC MONEY! You make a good point on some of the FAQ. I have edited my text to reflect your comment.

  2. Rod in SE Boise
    Sep 2, 2010, 8:30 pm

    HJR5 sounds to me like another scheme to benefit big business (United, and Delta, just to name a couple) at the expense of average citizens.

  3. Their intent is to continue to grow an airport that is already about twice as big as we need.

  4. Chris Mitchell
    Sep 7, 2010, 12:44 pm

    As you are probably aware I am a supporter of HJR 5, and while I typically applaud your efforts and respect your role in society, I don’t think you are being objective when it comes to I’ve reviewed the website and for all intents and purposes it seems to address both sides of the issue. There is no doubt that the City of Boise, and other cities for that matter, want this amendment passed, but to say the website is “one-sided” and has a “paucity of objective information” is simply wrong. There is language directly from the Secretary of State listing the pros and cons, and in my opinion the FAQ addresses several of the other issues. If you truly feel that hjr5facts.coms is a “blatant campaign promotion to pass a constitutional amendment” then I would suggest you pursue legal remedies because there is a clear legal distinction between advocacy and education.

    EDITOR NOTE–IF you are an insider you should be aware of the press release sent out by the Association of Idaho Cities with about half a dozen quotes from mayors statewide–all supportive of the amendment with carefully worded statements about the importance of their local airport and encouraging folks to visit the site. Well done PR effort, creating the illusion that if HJR5 doesn’t pass, airports, fire protection, and the economy are in jeopardy.

    We are just as blatant in telling people their existing right to approve airport debt will be taken away. That FACT is never acknowledged. Existing constitutional rights will be denied if passed. The issue at hand is NOT about good airports, fire protection, or the National Guard payroll. We have those things now and will continue to have them. HJR5 is aimed at cutting the voters out of the equation.

    The CON arguments were NOT written by those of us opposed. In fact, only PROPONENTS of the amendment were at the Legislative Council meeting. There was a concerted and conscious effort to eliminate the language about voters being cut out of the equation.

  5. Chris Mitchell
    Sep 7, 2010, 10:12 pm

    To a couple of your points; I was made aware of the press release, but assumed the “con” arguments were crafted by the guardian and presented to the Secretary of State. Did proponents of the amendment also write the dissenting opinion?

    Also, doesn’t the second question in the FAQ adequately address the issue of voter approval? What would be the effect if H.J.R. 5 is adopted? Local governments that operate airports would be allowed to acquire land, improve facilities and develop public purpose projects without using tax dollars or requiring a two-thirds vote.

    To me the issue boils down to this; Idaho and California are the only western states that require a vote for these kinds of debts. We are at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to business development. Idaho has lost economic opportunities to other regional airports that can respond more quickly to the demands of companies than those states that require a vote. While I don’t like relinquishing my right to vote for public debt, this is one area where I will make a concession.

    Not to be contrite, because I do respect your work, but I often use your reader’s responses to help gauge the validity of your arguments and it appears that this topic hasn’t garnered much of a response. Granted, it was a holiday weekend and the elections are almost two months away, but is there a chance you are not viewing the website as objectively as you could? Yes, economy, fire protection, and Gowen Field are perhaps being used as a smoke screen, but there is nothing fictional portrayed within website.

    While we disagree on this issue, and will cast different ballots in November, I would like to say keep up the good work. It is a special country we live in where opposing parties can air their differences in a civil manner.

    EDITOR NOTE– Nicely stated in a gentlemanly manner. I will certainly agree with your “smoke screen” observation and perhaps add “red herring.” I don’t have the $60,000 or the PR efforts of AIC to generate a buzz, so the GUARDIAN is my “bully pulpit” as a “crusading editor.” Boise and other cities are attempting to do away with the citizen vote before EVER holding an election. Neither you nor anyone else can claim we are losing business because we have never allowed a citizen vote. “WE THE PEOPLE” own the airport and anything else that is public and we have a right to determine how and what debt will be allowed. Truth is, the cities want to eliminate citizen votes because they fear folks will say NO on a particular project. Change the projects to suit the voters, but don’t alter the constitution to suit the current political climate.

  6. Unfortunately what people are not considering is that this isn’t about constitutional voting rights it’s about jobs in Idaho. This ruling hampers the ability to create jobs.

Get the Guardian by email

Enter your email address: