Should Boise Take Street Duties From ACHD?

Boise City Councilor Scott Ludwig has been floating the idea of dissolving the Ada County Highway District in favor of shifting the duties–and tax revenues over to Boise City.

We see this as a bad plan on several fronts.

First, it would force the county and the rest of the cities within the county to invest in and create their own street departments. Ludwig says, “Let the voters decide.” In 1971 we did decide and it was to create a county wide district.

Second, we see it as an underhanded way of giving control of the city streets to Team Dave (Mayor Dave Bieter) to use the streets for his obsession of building a trolley.

We do like Ludwig’s idea of letting voters decide, but the city has worked diligently to avoid voter approval on public debt, even campaigning (successfully) to exempt some agencies from the Idaho Constitution.

If Ludwig is true to his word, how about letting voters decide on having wards (districts) within the city government? That way the North End political power would be spread around six districts with a city-wide election, but councilors would have to live within one of six districts. Now THAT’S an idea for voter approval!

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Does this mean all the dead end streets would be maintained better and plowed in winter. Would we be taxed higher for services we still don’t receive. Wish I had stock in a snow blower company.

  2. I think ACHD should remain. Its board should be made up from mayors and a county commissioner.

    EDITOR NOTE–TFBoy, your plan sounds a lot like COMPASS–keep the power and authority among a select few who cannot be voted out (or in) on the basis of the specific organization. Only electors within their specific jurisdictions can vote, but they can decide the fate of all the rest with their power.

  3. It is still representative government and more responsive to the elected leaders of the cities. There are challenges, no doubt, but I have faith in my city mayor and council to represent my interests.

  4. Kent Goldthorpe
    Jan 27, 2017, 1:32 pm

    BINGO Dave! Right on the money. And there is much more. As you have stated so well it’s not just about money but the control of money, hundreds of millions of $$$$ going forward.

    As I have stated several times before, all one has to do is take a look to the southeast at Salt Lake City to get an idea of the likely outcome of this kind of change. Salt Lake controls the money and spend it on virtually ANYTHING BUT roads. The local newspaper, the Salt Lake Tribune has reported very well on this. As a result, Salt Lake has very nearly the worst roads in the country.

    While ACHD is far from a perfect organization we CANNOT STEAL from the public as you see done in Salt Lake and many, many other cities of similar size.

    I can just hear that trolley bell now. NOT!

    EDITOR NOTE–Just a bit of trivia. Boise is larger in population than Salt Lake City.
    SLC pop. was 190,884 in 2014, and Boise was 214,237 back in 2013! (Wasatch Front, comprised a total population of 2,423,912 as of 2014)

  5. You are right on the mark Dave, The city government is the most greedy power hungry group that I can ever remember being in control of this city over the last 50 years.. Tax and spend that is their MOTTO. They would all do well to move to DC where there are a lot of their kind.
    Regarding Scott L., what is a developer doing on the city council anyway?

  6. Lovely. Bitch about developers. Bitch about the North End. These are the people who ran and got elected. If you don’t like it, RUN for office. And don’t say that they all got appointed, because all weren’t. And those that were appointed have run since and won.

  7. Salt Lake is so awesome, they have a BUNCH of mayors! Including Salt Lake CITY and Salt Lake COUNTY! (Plus all the other little burgs – Sandy, West Valley City, Murray, etc.) I don’t visit there too often, but their roads haven’t seemed particularly horrible. (Go to Providence, RI, if you want to see some bad roads!)

    On topic:
    1) To bring up the notion of changing how we do roads in the aftermath of a “30 year snowstorm” is utter, blatant bold-faced opportunism!
    2) If indeed it comes up for a vote, PLEASE don’t think the city can do it for less! If the city takes over, you’ll either be paying more for the same service, or significantly more for better service. (And in either case, also paying Ada County to maintain unincorporated county roads.)

  8. No

  9. It would be really interesting to calculate how much the Ada Country tax payers lost and spent in $$$ during this storm due to lost jobs, price-gouging-private-snow-plowers, lost wages, lost business, accidents, bidding-war sitter payments. Oh wait, wait, wait, ACHD is saving us $$ (not!), so they prioritized a few roads to keep plowed up and no one would expect to overwork those poor employees during the holidays (see the lovely writing in the Idaho Statesman by one ACHD commissioner whining in the comment section). If the all-knowing ACHD spent it now on you wussie citizen, silly’s boo-hoo’s, you will not get your fruit cup, aka, future “X” road project. And poor ole’ ACHD really did not have to plan for this snow emergency and be effective and keep our city productive- shit happens, you need to get over it you wussie citizens. ADHD knows best! The reality is this bloated ACHD organization is another layered/unnecessary and unresponsive government agency that does not answer to the citizens. This ineffectiveness and truly unresponsiveness group was taking place WELL before the snow storm. My hope is the snow storm will be the catalyst to
    wake-up the citizens of Boise to the fact that they are paying more taxes and getting less from dear old ACHD. And I have no doubt the City of Boise could do much, much, more to benefit the Boise citizens with their portion of the ACHD 103 million dollar budget. Cutting the bloated administration alone (~60 people used to manage the ~350 people working this 103M budget) would be a simple and quick cost savings. I would LOVE, LOVE to have Boise own their roads and ACHD dissolved. If you know of a petition floating about, please share. I would be happy to sign it AND pass it around. I am motivated to get change- bring on the vote and kick out all these lame ACHD commissioners and employees.

  10. Truly the best year ever for tire sales, ambulance chasing lawyers, auto body shops, and kids days off. We built one of the best snow forts ever!

    PS: Call his bluff, he don’t want to be responsible for the roads. He wants the money and the power but not the angry voters. He stays in office by making sure nothing stinky ever belongs to him. (Which is why the F-35 thing is stupid for him. He must actually believe the military’s bullcrap.)

  11. A few comments to make after some of my own research. IMO Mayor Bieter has some major complaints that ACHD has failed to resolve in over 10 years. Boise represents half the population of Ada County. Accordingly, Boise also pays at least half of the tax revenue that ACHD receives, yet only has 1 seat out of 5 at ACHD.

    If one cares to look, you can clearly see that the districts were created in way that minimizes the influence of Boise at ACHD. In the legislation that created ACHD I do not see any requirement that ACHD return or spend the money received in the City or area that generated it. I believe this is probably why Boise has so few fully updated corridor roads. I could be wrong, but I see a lot of completed corridors in Meridian. Boise has been here since ACHD was created. Meridian has only been experiencing substantial growth with in the last 15 years. There should be a requirement that ACHD report to each City on how much tax revenue was generated and how much has been within that city. Furthermore, there is no requirement that ACHD get approval from city council on major capital improvement projects, that just does not make any sense. ACHD went ahead and built Ustick despite months of neighborhood testimony against and despite opposition from Boise city council.

    ACHD has the potential to be a very effective organization in efficiency and cost savings. However, in the 45 years that it has been in existence that model has never been duplicated, even once, in Idaho or the US. For me, that is a clear indication that there is an issue with the organizational model. Currently, ACHD only answers to the legislature. It is also apparent to anyone involved in planning and devlopment that there is a major difference in philosophy and ideology on transportation issues between Boise and ACHD, that goes way beyond the trolley. Now, BOise is a “world class” city that is receiving national attention for the quality of life that it has created here. The growth in the whole county started with Boise. It is also drawing billions of dollars of investment dollars from various developers. It does not bode well for anyone in this county to have ACHD and Boise bickering. IMO, Boise is the paying customer to ACHD and represents half or more of the customer base and their revenue. I feel the anmisoity between the two needs to be left at home and it is time to start acting like the professional people they were elected to be, on both sides. Mayor Bieter has some major complaints. Yes, he lashed out, but only after receiving 100’s of complaints that he is powerless to respond to. I do not support dissolution of ACHD, but it is time to make some changes. It would be better of ACHD initiated those changes. If it won’t it is time to take it the voters, 10 years is long enough. ACHD is our one of kind organizational model that we gt to answer too. It also an organizational model that no one else wants to touch with 10 ft pole, with th recent bickering, clearly illustrates why.

    EDITOR NOTE–For the record, BOISE CITY lobbied (during the Coles Admin) for the specific districts when they pushed to expand the commission from three to five members. The intent was to enable them to get rid of one member who was not part of the strong conservative element. They would love to have him back today.

  12. Commissioner Goldthorpe writes, it’s, “the control of money,”

    Exactly. He is being honest.
    ACHD wants to control the money and the streets and everything else if possible. Just ask their legal department for proof.

    For example, some years ago, former ACHD President Franden wrote a public letter stating ACHD would transfer the Commuteride Program over to VRT.
    Commuteride is the vanpool program, in case a reader doesn’t see one of those vans regularly. A vanpool program should be under the operations of the BUS People as part of public transportation, or at least COMPASS don’t ya think? Imagine if VRT owned all those excess vans, and excess capacity, sitting on the Commuteride lot not being used.

    Commuteride has routes going to/from Mtn Home (ELMORE County), Idaho City (BOISE County) Nampa (CANYON County), and even Ontario ( a different STATE). Does that sound like something ADA COUNTY Highways should be doing?
    Yet, it is still poorly managed by ACHD, because ACHD gets all that revenue money- do they really care about ridership or efficiently using those van assets?
    The Comuteride program actually loses money (users do not pay all the costs), but somewhere in the mix, there must be a reason ACHD still controls the program.
    There it is- “control”.

    “We cant’ get our own ACHD people to time the lights downtown consistently, but we want CONTROL of every mile of pavement- including YOUR driveway and sidewalks- AND the carpool vans too.”
    Why does ACHD still control Commuteride?

    Here’s a possible reason- if you are making excess money in Program A, you want money-loser Program B to net against Program A, so the net effect is break-even on your financial information.
    “Gee taxpayers, we are not taxing you tooooo much. See, we are break-even (thanks to the feel good money loser programs with federal tax revenue).”

  13. I am being serious, can someone please tell me something they think the City does well? I will offer the parks are nice, the public golf course is cheap and a good value. Before I even consider voting for Boise to take over the streets I would like some examples of what the city does effectively.


  14. It’s really hypocritical of the City of Boise to impose a BID tax free zone that does not pay county taxes but demands extra attention in extraordinary circumstances.

    Take all that tax revenue that you’ve denied the county and plow your own roads.

  15. The city does a really good job of raising our taxes “EVERY” year. Even during the real estate dump they took their 3% every year and actually gave city employees a raise during that period.

  16. Regarding what Boise City does well: certainly NOT code enforcement. They only respond to complaints (which tends to pit neighbors against each other).

    There is NO proactive approach to cleaning up neighborhoods (Team Dave always says the Mayor supports ‘strong neighborhoods’). Look around as you walk/bike/drive: trash cans everywhere; junked cars; RV’s parked on the street and in driveways;assorted trash piles. You get the picture.

    City Hall, get a grip!

  17. So Easterner, while you always think you have all the answers, regarding commuterride you are wrong.

    While it is true that VRT is supposed to run Commuterride, they never have, preferring to have ACHD run it under a Memorandum of Understanding. As far as I’ve always been concerned, if VRT wants it back, I’d be happy to let them have it. That way ACHD taxpayers wouldn’t have to subsidize it to the tune of at least $250,000 per year.

    And BTW, the reason Commuterride goes to Mountain Home, Emmett and Canyon County is because either Ada County residents work in those counties, or those residents work in Ada County.

    In any event, Commuterride doesn’t make ACHD taxpayers any money and it doesn’t break even. So as I said, if you can convince VRT to take it back, sans subsidy of course, be my guest and encourage them to do so.

  18. “VRT is supposed to run Commuterride”
    Thanks Commissioner Baker!
    Maybe Trump will issue an Order tomorrow to fix that ___.

    Commissioner, by the way, it’s only 1 “r”.

    And, why does ACHD still control Commuteride?

    Thanks for being a reader.

  19. Easterner. ACHD does Commuterride because VRT doesn’t want to?

    As I said, if you want VRT to do it, get on them to take it over. If anyone could snark/badger/hound them into it, you could. And FYI, Trump has nothing to do with it.

  20. Dearest Commissioner, Thanks for your vote of confidence!
    Frankly, (may I call you Frankly?), I don’t want VRT to control that program. I don’t want ANY govt agency to have such a program. If it has merit, a private company can operate it- maybe Uber. See But I certainly dont’ think ACHD has any sense dealing with it. Another good example here though.

    Again, Commuteride is spelled with one “r”. ACHD spent over $275,000 (+$50,000+/year salary for a marketing manager + helpers$) with an advertising agency just to advertise Commuteride WITH the correct spelling- you don’t want to create confusion do you? ;-/

    And in other news, some are concerned with Otter spending only $100K on advertising for jets as an economic BOOST to the airport…

    Commissioner(s), let me try this in story form:

    I mow my neighbors lawn for free.
    It’s a negative to my family budget.
    If someone asked me why I do that, I c o u l d say, “because they don’t want to” to do it.

    Well, duh! Nobody wants to mow their lawn.
    Do you see how that is not really the reason I do it?

    But it might be “I like my neighbor and he is not able to mow his lawn so I do it for him out of respect for old people”.
    Or ” I mow her lawn and she bakes me cookies so it is a good trade for me”.
    Or, “I like to control which day, how high, and how often their lawn gets mowed, so I voluntarily mow it so I get to control 100% of the turf around my house.”

    See? These explanations could actually be why I do it.

    “Because they don’t want to” is not the reason I do it.
    I suppose ‘that’ is not a valid reason for anything— in the universe.

    But, I don’t want to “snark and hound” further. I’ll just conclude you don’t know the reason, either.

    And the Mayor wants to control the streets? Wow!
    Good chat!

  21. I think ACHD is a good model. And I think that police and fire should be county-wide too.

  22. Here's to you S. Fenrich
    Jan 30, 2017, 3:02 pm

    It doesn’t seem right to give the responsibility for streets in Boise back to Boise now. A majority of the money in the ACHD accounts seems to have gone to Meridian. Boise now needs a pro quo.

  23. Steve Rinehart
    Jan 30, 2017, 8:39 pm

    Ludwig’s notion looks and smells like political posturing, which is in line with his general performance on the Boise city council. As hidebound and pathetic as ACHD’s response has been, and continues to be, to this winter’s snowy roads, it makes more sense to have a unified county transportation agency than a bunch of cities with their own road crews, thier own work schedules, their own engineering and traffic standards and their own bureaucracies

  24. A few thoughts:

    ACHD doesn’t need to be disbanded, just the commission. Return the decision making back the mayors of the respective cities and the Ada county commissioners (for unincorporated areas). This should better satisfy the needs of each respective city as well as remove the needless animosity between Boise and a few of the commissioners. From what I’ve heard, the staff & engineering working relationship is quite good between ACHD & Boise – it’s just the commission and Mayor who fight.

    Meridian does receive a higher share of dollars in vs. dollars collected, and that will not change anytime soon. It’s not really a question of fairness – simply a consequence of the urban form. Meridian has a higher pavement area to taxable property value ratio than Boise, because more of it was built in the last 30 years than in the last 100 years. We can debate the merits of this all day, but it’s not going to change anytime soon. I admit i don’t have on hand data to support this claim, but i’d bet the ‘less dollars for Boise’ holds true even accounting for the TIF/Urban renewal tax diversion in downtown Boise – and will worsen once the TIF zones expire (downtown core starting in 2018).

    Dave Bieter’s timing on the ‘disband ACHD’ call is classic politics – but he’s a politician, what did you expect? Never waste a tragedy.

    As far as I’m concerned, the ACHD Commission needs to go. It’s just another unnecessary layer of government for everyone to use and abuse. More hoops to jump through and boxes to check – to the annoyance of everyone – residents, businesses, and cities.

  25. Clancy Anderson
    Jan 31, 2017, 3:24 pm

    I do see a benefit for having a county wide agency in place for road planning. Though cities should have more say in how monies are spent. Maybe give each city a slush fund to spend on their priorities whether it be cycling infrastructure, more vehicle lanes, or some silly trolley.

    EDITOR NOTE–We can only hope your idea of a “slush fund” is for melting snow removal.:-)

  26. The City should have control of the streets…get rid of ACHD!!!

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