Urban Renewal Under Attack By Legislators

UPDATE–Nampa city council endorsed the bill during Monday night’s meeting.
Two bills before the Idaho Legislature, clearly aimed to restrain Boise City councilors and the mayor, are worthy of support from voters.

In a nutshell they seek to require citizen approval before urban renewal funds can be used for construction of either a library or sports stadium.

Urban renewal has been abused state wide with cities and the Greater Boise Auditorium District leading the way in a scheme to launder property tax money through local urban renewal agencies to avoid a citizen vote on “profound debt projects.”

Idaho’s constitution (article VIII, sec 3) mandates that local governments seek permission from voters to go into debt. Typically this would be a bond for a school, city hall, auditorium, library, sports stadium, etc. By laundering tax funds diverted to urban renewal agencies, the politicos avoid a public vote.

Here’s how it works. Once an urban renewal district is formed (a designated area within a jurisdiction), the tax on any improvements or appreciated value is diverted to the UR agency–the CCDC in Bois’s case. The original idea was to improve an area, increase the property value along with taxes, and everyone was a winner.

Somewhere along the line the crafty politicos changed the rules to allow urban renewal agencies to finance projects for 20 years without citizen approval, thus diverting the taxes while requiring cities to provide services like police, fire and schools for free. Money laundering, euphemistically termed “tax increment financing” is the method used.

Even more egregious is the practice of local governments getting the urban renewal agencies to use their bonding authority to build major structures such as auditoriums, libraries, and police stations making an end run around the constitutional mandate of citizen approval. The scheme has the urban renewal folks owning the building–even a city hall–and rending it back to the local government. The Ada Courthouse was owned for years by CCDC to avoid citizen approval of the project.

The two proposed laws deserve public support and approval to rein-in the overzealous local governments.

For details see STATESMAN.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. About time CDDc was identified as a way to symphony taxpayer dollars for politicos and their close friends financial enrichment.

  2. I just sent the following message to all (D) legislators:

    I am a life-long Democrat and a 40 year resident of District 19. I am writing in support of the Bill to require public approval of any construction project using Urban Renewal funding.

    I understand the consternation of my representatives at not being consulted or involved in the development of this legislation. It is sort of like the City not seeking the approval of voters when spending $100 million+ on a Library and a ball park. I am equally upset.

    I am no fan of Rep. Moyle, et al. However once in a while good ideas come from weird places. This should be a bipartisan bill and I encourage you to find a way to work with the sponsors.

    I have a considerable network of like-minded Democratic friends who are miffed at escalating property taxes and the cavalier manner with which our City leaders increase the City budget to the maximum allowable by law (every year since 2014 and every year projected through 2024).

    Using Urban Renewal increment financing to circumvent the Constitutional requirement of a vote of the people when incurring long term debt is repugnant to citizens regardless of political affiliation.

    Urban Renewal Districts divert property taxes from the support of the very services they create demand for and shift the levy demand to homeowners like me who are being priced out of our homes in Boise’s North and East Ends.

    I assure you that this bill will be very popular across a wide spectrum of voters, including hard core Democrats like myself.

  3. I rarely agree with legislation in the Idaho Legislature, but fully support reining in the convoluted development schemes Bieter and City Council are using to 1) Thwart public process and transparency 2) Ruin Boise, 3) Have our taxes subsidize grandiose development schemes and palaces to ego like the Safdie library that will further ruin Boise.

  4. Humm
    so you think a group of politicians are going to pass a law that takes power away from other politicians?

    Good luck on that one

  5. Steve Berch
    Feb 28, 2019, 5:19 pm

    The statement that “. . . the Greater Boise Auditorium District (is) leading the way in a scheme to launder property tax money . . .” is incorrect. GBAD is funded by the hotel room tax – not a dime of its funding comes from property taxes.

    As for the implication that is some nefarious ‘money laundering scheme’, readers should know that the Idaho State Supreme Court ruled unanimously (5-0) that the manner in which GBAD funded the convention center expansion was constitutional, ruling against the lawsuit filed by editor of this website.

    One may not like CCDC or GBAD, but please don’t mislead readers with hyperbole.

    EDITOR NOTE–GBAD paid lawyers $750,000 to win the case to which you refer and avoid a vote of citizens. The convention center expansion is owned by the CCDC. GBAD pays an annual rent to the CCDC landlord with 20 renewals in a “lease-purchase” deal. You are correct regarding room tax PUBLIC MONEY paying the rent rather than property taxes. Why didn’t GBAD simply have a bond election?

    That “lease-purchase” scheme is being adopted by other local governments like Boise City for the library proposal. You won Steve and your model is the basis for avoiding bond elections.

  6. @Steve

    Thanks for reminding us that public agencies/leaders have set the threshold for ethics and leadership as to what is legal… not what is right, what is ethical, what is fair, or what is best for the public, only what will keep “me” out of jail…..

  7. This seems like spouse swapping between agencies
    Feb 28, 2019, 11:28 pm

    GBAD is able to tax hotel rooms for the convention center and what else? Travel bureau? That is an important question. If they are making so much on room tax that it overfunds the convention center, then we need make some changes to the law.

    CCDC can build parking, sidewalks, plant trees, and what else. What is the language in that law?

    How can the GBAD spend money to support the CCDC or the CCDC spend money to support the GBAD? And how can either subsidize the city? I have heard the lease agreement, but that musts be, must be an error in legal judgement by definition.

    GBAD is for the convention center. CCDC is parking and sidewalks. Is the city just the spoiled child begging from both?

    Need more information about the explicit purpose of the CCDCGBAD organizations. I must be missing something. Who are they both servicing?

  8. The problem is both the attitude and the business practices of the City of Boise.

    Rather than FIRST defaulting to asking the people to vote the very FIRST thing they think about is how to AVOID the voters. This thinking leads to extraordinary moves to shift money between agencies, park money in department budgets, and look for every LOOPHOLE they can find.

    It also lead to the dominate political party in City Government appointing themselves to the other agencies that “participate” in the scheme.

    Poor attitude toward voters and very poor fiscal business practices.

    BUT until the legislature changes the law these folks will continue to milk the system and thumb their noises at the voters – a practice that has gone on for over 10 years now.

  9. This will be a nice start to some urban renewal reform. Next up should be limiting the number of city council related positions on an urban renewal board to less than 50%. Of the 7 commissioners on the CCDC board, 5 are on the city council, have been on the city council or related to someone on the city council.

    EDITOR NOTE–“LEGAL”, but still intended to skirt the intent of the law.

  10. I concur and support reigning in runaway spending without OUR approval. Keeping bridges up and roads in repair is way more important than fancy new legacy trophies.

  11. Eamonn Harter
    Mar 1, 2019, 10:28 pm

    Call or email your legislators and tell them you support House bill 217 which would require 55% voter approval before urban renewal dollars can be spent on public projects. It would force a vote on the stadium and possibly the library.

  12. Taxation without representation. I live in a urban renewal district. My property taxes go to CCDC. I am not able to vote the members for CCDC, and I am not able to vote on the projects they pay for.

  13. No they won't !!
    Mar 2, 2019, 11:08 am

    Legislators will do nothing, or, will make only slight changes for the benefit their friends who are running the same racket in their district. Most of them simply posturing to get their cut.

    Book after book after book lately full of socialist bullcrap reasons why America’s middle is sliding backward. Book not needed. Can be explained in brief:
    *Death by government spending.
    *Apathetic stupid people only concerned with tonight’s Netflix.
    *Apathetic stupid people with zero saving and a huge expensive TV on a payment plan.
    *Apathetic stupid people drinking to excess daily.
    *School syndicate that teaches apathetic stupid people victimhood and intensive brainwashing of how their apathy and stupidity is not their fault.

    Bieter and his pals will have us eating from trashcans before they will lower taxes and cut spending. Rent controls in Oregon coming to Boise soon.

  14. E.B. Schofield
    Mar 2, 2019, 9:35 pm

    Up through 2011, the Boise City Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) use to include the following statement in the Statistical Section:

    “This process recognizes that, when considering the City’s ability to issue and repay long-term debt, the entire debt burden borne by the residents and businesses should be taken into account.”

    The categories and amounts of debt included direct debt obligations held by the City, as well as those held by Capital City Development Corporation (CCDC), Ada County, and school districts. As of 2012, this wise consideration no longer appears in the CAFR.

  15. Hummp. That bill kinda sucks.

    -eliminate the dollar threshold.
    -Change the vote from 60% of voters to 55%, and
    -Mandate it for any construction or remodel for above ground work of “municipal buildings”

    So a private company builds a stadium and leases it to CCDC at a very high rate, this bill doesn’t apply. (not a municipal building and still on the tax rolls- because owners don’t apply for exemption).
    CCDC scoundrels say, “Don’t worry builder, we got ya covered and your ample profit will be in the lease payments”. Would developers on CCDC & GBAD, (sounds familiar) send work to their buddies in the private sector?

    And no monetary threshold for expenditures. IF CCDC plans to spend 100 dollars on a building facade, it requires a vote?

    oh AND claiming “an emergency” exists to get immediate effectiveness.
    Really, there’s an emergency? Dang, the legislators ought to call 911!

    FUNNY that the bill writer put in “streets, roads, streets, gutters…””
    What? No avenues or boulevards?

    Now maybe ACHD will get in bed with CCDC and do lots of downtown infrastructure improvements. The surface of Main Street sure as heck needs it!!!!

    The bill’s Statement of Purpose is wrong. It is all poorly written. The objective is just muddied.
    Back to the drawing board boys. Better yet, wait till one of the women does it.


    ANYTIME one makes a law to get a specific effect there are usually many routes around that law. It just takes one attorney.

    If the sponsors of the bill are so adamant that the URDs are misbehaving and wasting tax dollars, then they just shut down the URD law.

    EDITOR NOTE–Sounds like trolling, but your idea of eliminating URD sounds good.

  16. In the wording of “diverting the taxes while requiring cities to provide services like police, fire and schools for free”- ‘free’ is certainly not accurate.

    In an age of “fake news” and people believing everything on the Internet or the next tweet along with the real confusion of URD it would be nice not to add to the problem. 🙂

    EDITOR NOTE–If cities provide services without receiving revenues, it would seem to be “free.” Please don’t quibble over the small “base amounts.”

  17. Lastly, I’ll add a note on JJ’s post of “reminding us that public agencies/leaders have set the threshold for ethics” as to only what will keep “me” out of jail…..”

    Really, it is not the politicians setting that low threshold; it is the voting people.

    Many of the readership tolerate such low standards at the national level and say NOTHING. And instead are actually supportive of the person.
    Out right lies, immoral behavior, unfairness, and simply wrong – on a daily basis.
    Does anyone think we should hold our local politicos to to a higher standard? ha!

    In today’s environment, there are people willing to vote for an accused child molester instead of the opposing candidate. Hello Alabama Senate race and all his ‘supporters’.
    WHO is setting that standard?

    Regardless of the side, half of the people accept poor standards from “THEIR” politicians.

  18. Easterner: “I think i’ll go eat worms”.

  19. Interested in facts
    Mar 5, 2019, 7:46 am

    Can anyone provide a link to the bill itself?


  20. The Idaho House Revenue and Taxation Committee will hold a hearing on HB 217 “LOCAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ACT” this Wednesday, March 6th at 8:30am.

    HB 217 would give voters more say in how their tax dollars are spent.

    Idaho’s constitution mandates that local governments seek permission from voters to go into debt. Typically this would be a bond for a school, city hall, library, sports stadium, etc.

    An exception to the law exists where if an area is suffering from blight, an urban renewal district can be created without a public vote and bonds issued to finance restoration

    Many proposed urban renewal areas don’t meet the requirements of a “deteriorated” or “blighted area” that would justify input from public voters.

    Cities statewide have abused urban renewal to avoid voter input on profound debt projects

    The bill would not stop public projects, simply provide residents with a voice.

  21. chicago sam
    Mar 5, 2019, 6:16 pm

    Hooray for Nampa–Our Mayor and Councilpersons have learned from the no vote allowed for the Library and Police Station debacle which left Nampa saddled with debt for many years.

  22. chicago sam
    Mar 6, 2019, 11:43 am

    H 217 just forwarded to House of Representatives with a DO PASS. I believe the vote was 11-3.
    A packed hearing room with proponents outnumbering opponents at least 3-1.
    Opposition seemed to be centered on whether outhouses or park benches would require a public vote.
    Proponents were steadfast and bi-partisan that on large projects the taxpaying public should have a say

  23. E.B.Schofield
    Mar 8, 2019, 10:54 am

    The CCDC website has the “CCDC Participation Program” manual available to view. If you want to understand how CCDC funds projects, and how benches and toilets will not be impacted by this truly necessary loop-hole closing amendment to the law, please take the time to locate this document and get yourslef informed.

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