Idaho Cities Battle For Convention Dollars

GROWTHOPHOBE (growth o phobe)–”One who opposes growth just for the sake of growth. Usually refers to municipalities and governments seeking to increase population and attract businesses merely for the sake of growing without due regard to long term affect on citizens and taxpayers.”

The opposite of GROWTHOPHOBE is GROWTHOPHILE and that special breed seems prolific among local politicians and Chambers of Commerce. The standard justification is always “jobs and money” without regard to the finite supply of each. Just check out the plans of three Idaho cities infected with convention center mania.

–The Greater BOISE Auditorium District, B-BAD for short, has a board member election coming up in November and rather than IF, the major political question is “where and how big?” when it comes to additional meeting space. The city has also funded a feasability survey to build a new baseball park downtown.

–Meanwhile, NAMPA is hellbent on repeating its financial debacle at the Idaho Center with another hotel room tax to fund even more entertainment venues. The May 17 election will ask voters if a new auditorium district should be formed with five unopposed nominees to serve on the board.

–IDAHO FALLS voters will also go to the polls to decide on a 5% room tax to fund a convention center. Not taking a hint from the financially troubled Qwest Arena in Boise, plans in I.F. call for a hockey team as the so-called “anchor tenant.” Financial benefits for the proposed center range from an annual loss of $88,000 to a profit of $1.88 million. Not a very sound investment for the bond market.

Lest we forget, all three of these venues will be competing with each other in a game of “who can give away the most.” An ice arena, baseball park or giant display space is not a guarantee to attract visitors. Officials in both Nampa and Idaho Falls claimed in news stories they could borrow against revenues to fund debt. Even if it were legal, lenders are not likely to risk money when repayment is subject to the whims of the market place and management skills of hoteliers.

Article VIII, sec 3 of the Idaho constitution makes no distinction about funding sources, be they revenue bonds or general obligation bonds when it comes to auditorium districts. If a municipality (subdivision of state government) wishes to go into debt of more than a single year’s revenues, they MUST seek permission and get approval of 2/3 of the electors voting in an election for such permission.

A hotel tax, while dedicated for an auditorium district, is PUBLIC MONEY and it belongs to the people of the District. THEY–not a board–hold the sole authority to enter into debt in excess of a single budget year’s revenues.

Many issues beyond the wishes of hoteliers are to be considered when a convention center is built. It is up to the citizens alone to determine if they want such a venue in their community. Boise voters have twice denied permission of the Greater Boise Auditorium District to go into debt. Once it was defeated by a simple majority and the second time the G-BAD boys failed to get the required 2/3 majority.

This type of uninformed promotion causes law abiding citizens to lose faith in their government at all levels when officials and their lawyers spread “disinformation” and make plans based on false assumptions about funding sources.

Idaho is a wonderful place with natural scenic beauty unequaled in most of the nation. We have great fishing, hunting, skiing, camping, and related outdoor activities to offer.

However, we are NOT an urban destination for conventions. Boise’s Mayor Dave Bieter is fond of noting the City of Trees is the “most remote city of its size in the country.” Right on Mr. Mayor! No matter how big you make our airport, there is no reason for out of staters to convene in Boise, Idaho Falls, or Nampa. With just over 2 million residents, it is our opinion that more auditorium venues will serve only to dilute the market to the detriment of all.

We already do a great job of offering rooms and serve as a “jumping off spot” for back country float trips, skiing at the likes of Sun Valley, etc. We just don’t have enough naked showgirls, or cartoon characters in a plastic fantasyland to call ourselves a “destination” for major national conventions. We are remote and that is part of our charm.

Like convenience stories of the 1970s, hotels have popped up at every major intersection and many want local government to fill their rooms. It takes more than a public facility funded with tax dollars to sell motel rooms.

GROWTHOPHOBES will gladly settle for the philosophy of former BSU coach Dan Hawkins who proclaimed, “Bigger isn’t better. Better is better.”

EDITOR NOTE–While GROWTHOPHOBE is not yet in the dictionary, nearly every internet search using the word will send you back here where it all started–the BOISE GUARDIAN! 🙂

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. serendipity
    Apr 17, 2011, 5:25 pm

    What? I thought Boise, and Idaho, were broke?
    Cynicism deepens………….

  2. This is an important matter, because all over the country — perhaps the world — various boards, committees and CEOs are meeting with their employees, asking, Where should we go for our next convention?
    We are considering Honolulu, Nampa, Las Vegas, Boise, Atlantic City, Tahiti or Idaho Falls. It’s such a difficult decisions, we’re asking you to vote by secret ballot to pick one of those.

  3. Congratulations! It’s so cool to invent new words. I’ve invented several but can never recall them the next day.

    Worry not growthophobes, the Grim Reaper is within site. The only growth is in your government and the resulting tax bill. Our recovery is as false as the political hot air and international banking shell game it is built upon.

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