City Government

Boise Continues “Cart-Before the Horse” Management

Boise has been creating urban sprawl for years, annexing hundreds of acres into the city–often despite protests by residents–and then bening forced to provide services. Fire stations have been built out of the annual budget and park land purchased with no money left to maintain or “green up” the space.
Now, they are claiming the existing stations within the city are old and falling apart. They want to get a $34,000,000 loan to take care of what has been ignored in the past. It will cost the average homeowner $260 to finance the bond. This is like buying a vacation house and second car, but going into debt for paint, lawn care and oil changes. The city council has advocated living beyond its means.

The most recent bond election–which failed–was for $38,000,000 for a library. Citizens said NO, but we ended up with three branch libraries and were able to do it out of annual budget revenues. Same was true for a police station. They attempted to make an end run around the voters for a headquarters which would have cost about $38 million with interest, but with some careful bean counting citizens didn’t have to go into debt and the new HQ cost only about $14 million.

Boise politicos have taken their dog and pony show on the road for three “open houses” aimed at making their case for approval of the bond. The next two are upcoming:

Wednesday, August 21, 4 to 8 p.m.
6411 W. Fairfield Ave.

Thursday, August 22, 4 to 8 p.m.
BOISE CITY HALL – 3rd Floor Council Chambers
150 N. Capitol Blvd.

If only we had Jim “Cyclops” Monihan to attend the open houses and spread the gospel! (For newcomers to the GUARDIAN, Jim attended several of these promotions for the “trolley folly”–Team Dave’s ongoing street car dream.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Rod in SE Boise
    Aug 20, 2013, 11:38 am

    The Guardian is conflating three separate issues – urban sprawl – annexation – and fire station building maintennance or replacement.

    If having adequate fire protection and maintaining our infrastructure are “living beyond our means”, then we are a failed society. If some fire stations need to be replaced NOW, I don’t get the implication that they should have been replaced earlier, unless the Guardian is claiming the buildings need to be replaced now because they weren’t properly maintained in the past.

    EDITOR NOTE–That is EXACTLY what I am claiming. They annex and increase the need for a fire station, pay for it out of annual budget and then nothing is left to fix what we already own! If they came to voters and said, “We want to annex more land outside the city, but it will create a need for new fire stations,” do you think the debt would be approved? It is all a matter of strategy.

  2. Grumpy ole Guy
    Aug 20, 2013, 1:00 pm

    Thank you for helping to spread the word about the public meetings. I hope that they will be well attended.

    As to the “other issues”. I see it as two issues, there are continuing costs and upkeep costs and the State does NOT allow governments to accrue “savings” accounts. So a budget as large as Boise City has does probably have enough “wiggle room” in it to accommodate a great deal of unexpected maintenance; but not large growth items.
    No organism stays static over time and that includes towns, if a city attracts businesses or higher education or cultural institutions it attracts population growth and traffic demands of tourists and residents with all of the attendant demands. If it does not attract (and plan for) growth, it shrinks and loses viability. The choice, ideally, is up the residents.

    EDITOR NOTE–We think of putting a new roof, energy efficient windows, a new furnace into a house as PROGRESS. Adding a second story, new garage, pool, and hot tub are GROWTH. It’s all a matter of priorities.

  3. Here is a good explanation of why funds may be needed. Our property tax system is broke.

  4. The most disingenuous thing is that every time they ask for more money they list practical things such as fire and police expenditures and other vital services. I want the entire budget, every idiotic expenditure. Tell me you don’t have enough money for lobbying efforts, or downtown parking spot studies, but don’t tell me you don’t have enough for the police or fire budget. In my lifetime I have never seen my property taxes go down, I don’t expect them to ever go down. Inflation is a fact of life, 2-3% is considered a healthy inflation rate, but doubling it every 10 years is getting ridiculous. They will take every cent they can get their hands on and one thing is for certain they will want more in another 5 years. Say NO, NO, NO.

  5. Werner, you can obtain detailed budget info from the City and it will make you want to throw up when you see how money is spent. I will vote NO on any bond issue.

  6. Boise has enough cops. I say no. And Grump is right. Savings are not allowable in both city and state government. Makes bugeting for repairs impossible. Lets legalize common sense first.

  7. @Werner: you hit the nail on the head, it is a matter of priorities. The city has enough money for in-house lobbyists (AKA government relations) and external lobbyists, study after study for a trolley, public art, etc but they assume the citizens will emotionally support the plea to fund basic services like police and fire. They skimp on funding the things they assume citizens will find extra money for, to allow for funding of the stuff citizens would never issue debt for.

  8. While we are on public art….if the art community thinks public art is so important, let those artists donate their art. I am sure plenty of artists would appreciate the free advertising of having publicly displayed their work and name. This would free up funds for basic services or god forbid an actual tax decrease.

  9. costaprettypenny
    Aug 22, 2013, 12:31 pm

    Team Dave and his ilk evidently didn’t know or realize that you need density to do mass transit ie. Trains, buses ect. Well back in the day (I was on Ada County Planning and Zoning Commission) and watch firsthand the annexing of every inch of land that was contiguous to the city. It was like watching someone pour a can of motor oil on a swimming pool! Density wasn’t even in their thought process. So, sad for those folks, but every couple years the citizens can institute a change. This year is one of those years!

  10. Nan e mouse
    Aug 23, 2013, 5:35 am

    Dog, of course savings are allowed. Cities can fund depreciation. It’s budget deficits that aren’t allowed.

  11. Ada County Planning Director Lynn Rogers in 1966 warned that urban sprawl would result in high costs to extend water and sewer lines plus roads to the suburban rural areas. That is why he favored zoning and a development plan and I think city planners were onboard with that. Maybe Ben will read this. No one ever listens.

  12. Gene Fadness
    Aug 23, 2013, 10:49 am

    “Grumpy ole Guy” is absolutely correct about Boise growing and the challenge we face in finding correct ways to manage that growth. I too was on the P&Z Commission. Some of my time was during the recession so there wasn’t annexation all the time, but we did annex plenty of property. I preferred “infill development” and more density within the city’s already established limits. But, for residents, that was just as unpopular as annexation. No one likes to see mixed-use (residential, multi-family residential and small retail) in what for them had been a quiet residential neighborhood. But as long as we continue to grow and we don’t want to gobble up more open space, that is the answer and it can be done very well. Eventually, it likely could create the density to support more transit options.

  13. I disagree with the guardians repeated argument about annexation enabling urban sprawl. The idea in fact is to decrease urban sprawl by allowing higher density subidivisions. Otherwsie you will really have urben sprawl with 5 acre home sites. I truly thought the coservative point of view is to allow business to flourish, which is what growth is. Of course, here you are using it as an argument to prove a point on soemthing you disagree with. Please make up your mind, are you pro business which is growth or are you for poor planning, which is what the 5 acre sites would be. I am surprised that after years of job drought, you are hammering Team Dave about jobs and a flourishing business climate.

    Growth comes with issues, the biggest one, is the cost of growth.
    Who is to pay? Does the benefits (sales and jobs) out weight the cost? Hard to say.

    We may not like the idea of the bond to fund open space, I do and don’t. Boise is Boise because of the foothills open space and noteworthy philanthropists of past who donated land for parks. Without the green belt, the foothills open space and all of the parks along the river, Boise would NOT BE very special. IMO the focus should be where the growth is going, to the south, preserve land and parks out there to balance Boise’s North end.

    EDITOR NOTE–We seem to agree the emphasis on new spending should be in SW. Also to preserve open space, habitat, and wildlife in SW. The GUARDIAN is not conservative or pro business. The GUARDIAN is “pro citizen” and a GROWTHOPHOBE–we oppose growth for the sake of growth. If a company or individual wants to come here, pay its share of taxes, fair wages, and impact fees for the drain on the system (police, fire, schools, roads, etc.) we welcome them. If they need any kind of “incentives” or job creation funds, they should go elsewhere.

    Finally, growth is costly to those of us who are already here. Costs outweigh benefits.

  14. The P&Z Dilema: Single family homeowners scream about condos and apartments being built in their neighborhoods. Condo owners scream about apartments. Apartment dwellers complain about trailer parks, and we all demand the city keep the homeless out of our neighborhoods. Welcome to my “Community”!

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