Boise Mayor Dave Bieter is most certainly entitled to a “bully pulpit,” to spread his wish list and opinions, but Idaho courts have ruled it is illegal to use public resources, staff, or other assets to influence a ballot issue.
However, that’s exactly what he is doing with the city website. Bieter sent out a “mayor’s memo” Thursday which is posted on the city website. It’s the opinion of the GUARDIAN the language, context, and use of terms such as “great opportunity” and vowing to “spread the word” constitute an advocacy position in favor of passage.
The memo said in part:
“Here’s the best news: If approved by the required two-thirds supermajority in the Nov. 5 general election, the bond is estimated to cost the average homeowner only about $12 per year — slightly less than the $13 per year in the original proposal.”
“A buck a month: As I’ve told many audiences in recent weeks, I think that’s an outstanding value. Over the next two months, I’ll be joining with City Council members, business leaders, and community groups to help spread the word about this great opportunity for Boise.”
Using the same numbers from the city, the bond is also a 20 year debt which will cost taxpayers $51,000,000 with interest. We want to post this fact and others in the same city website.
In 2005 when the Greater Boise Auditorium District tried to use public funds for a bond proposal campaign, they were sued by Ameritel Inns. The Idaho Supreme court concluded, “We also reverse the holding that the Auditorium District was authorized to use public funds to advocate passage of the bond measure. We must remand this case for the district court to determine whether the Auditorium District’s conduct constituted such advocacy.”
A Fourth District judge ruled GBAD had indeed violated the law and the GBAD District was NOT authorized to use public funds which advocated on behalf of the ballot measure (bond to build a convention center).
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