Urban Renewal Battle Continues…

Guardian reader “Chicago Sam” offers this news bulletin on the progress of House Bill 217, the measure to force urban renewal agencies to gain citizen permission to go into debt for construction of public buildings.

HB 217 just forwarded to House of Representatives with a DO PASS. I believe the vote was 14-2.

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. (This demeaning argument is used by those opposed to seeking a vote on expenditures in excess of a single year’s revenues as mandated by the Idaho Constitution)

Proponents were steadfast and bi-partisan that on large projects the taxpaying public should have a say.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. The vote was 14-2, only Mat Erpelding and Rob Mason voted “No.” All the other committee members voted “Aye.”

    Video of the proceedings:

  2. Yours truly offered the following testimony:

    Mr. Chairman, Committee Members:
    I ask your support of House Bill 217, which amends the Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) to close a loophole in the original legislation.

    HB 217 ensures that tax-increment revenue will be used for infrastructure improvements within an urban renewal area but not for large public investments like stadiums and libraries unless 55 percent of voters approve. LEDA is intended to incentivize development in blighted urban areas by investing public funds in the infrastructure to support it. Recently, especially in Boise, LEDA is being used as a way of getting around the constitutional requirement that voters approve long-term debt for local-government projects.

    Tax-increment financing is meant to divert taxes on the appreciated value of redevelopment into the infrastructure supporting the improvements. Increasingly, however, tax-increment financing is being used as a conduit for financing debt for large projects that would otherwise require voter approval. Thus, taxpayers end up financing the debt incurred for these projects, in addition to paying for the usual community services they receive—police, fire, schools, etc.

    Boise’s first urban renewal district in 1965 was an eight-block, 34-acre area along 8th St. in the downtown core. Under the Capital City Development Corporation (CCDC), Boise’s urban renewal districts now comprise a huge portion of the downtown area: 927 acres. Recently, the Gateway East urban renewal district near the airport was added—another 2,640 acres! There are plans afoot to use CCDC’s debt financing conduit to partially fund two large projects that would otherwise require approval by two-thirds of voters.

    There are no checks and balances for this debt incursion. HB 217 would reintroduce taxpayer agreement to incurring this long-term debt by requiring CCDC to obtain 55 percent voter approval to spend urban-renewal funds on city building projects over and above infrastructure. Please support this return to government accountability. As Rep. Stevenson noted when the bill was introduced: “URAs need help behaving better.”

  3. Branden Durst
    Mar 6, 2019, 8:02 pm

    Just for reference, the final vote was 14-2, not 11-3. All the committees Republicans and Boise Democrat Jake Ellis voted in favor. They all deserve our thanks.

  4. A comment – well done – to those that spoke FOR the legislation – well done.

  5. Going back to the 1980’s, votes for the convention center and urban renewal districts were, I believe, even more directed by the public vote, as in more votes than 55%. I look in to it and see what else I can share.

    Who was it that talked about that whooshing sound of money leaving your pockets. Stadiums do that, as studies will show. No profitable gain there. If I wanted one of those I would go build one myself. It would cost you $200 to get through the door, but. .

  6. A comment- well done – to those that spoke AGAINST the legislation- well done!

    Seems the people in favor of the bill are simply opposed to URDs, expensive libraries, and publicly owned stadiums.’ not much about the actual bill.

    Those speaking against the bill were thoughtful about the specific pitfalls of the bill and how it was created and the unintended consequences that might happen.

    I’ll also note the rude tone of comments of Rep Moyle.

    I am opposed to URDS, but this bill is the worse of two evils.

    Fight the power- Amend and improve.

  7. Only 1 or 2 “regular” people testified against the Bill. A pack of lobbyists opposed the Bill, and some tried to distort what it would do. I had no idea Urban Renewal districts had lobbyists, back lobbyist, others. They sure are touchy about anything that would bring about accountability and limit the back door dealmaking currently taking place. Having a vote on big projects also serves to make the City present a clear and solid plan to the public. Not the insanity we are seeing with Bieter and City Council regarding the Library/Library Campus/Parking Garage/Cabin Relocation, Events Center luring in the Wings, a potential “skywalk” to connect the garage, even mention of moving the Greenbelt in a news article.

    I was VERY disappointed in the Democratic Rep. who claimed he was voting against it because there hadn’t been “collaboration”. The “collaboration” he apparently wanted was between the banks, developers, raft of consultants that feed off these projects and cities with incestuous entities like CCDC. And NOT collaboration with the people.

  8. TaxpayerWins
    Mar 7, 2019, 9:57 am

    The people behind responsible Govt, such as this, really deserve our respect and applause. What we are seeing from Boise leadership has become reprehensible. Wish there was a solution to leaders who think they own who they govern. We (the people who pay the bills) don’t seem capable of “eternal vigilance” so then what? Remove the good with the bad via term limits? Right now I’m just thankful we have people like the Guardian who help force some regard for honor & fair play from our Leaders.

  9. Rep. Moyle, a cosponsor of HB 217, hit a home run when he noted that “Everybody opposed to this thing [HB 217] is making money on these things [the long-term financing conduits that cities use to avoid going to their voters for approval].” (at 1:31:20–23 of 190306_hrev_0830AM-Meeting.mp4)

  10. Eamonn Harter
    Mar 7, 2019, 12:02 pm

    On another note, I noticed that the chairwoman of the CCDC (Dana Zuckerman) is an Israeli national and graduate of McGill University in Canada, as is Moshe Safdie of Safdie Architects. Is there any connection between them? The parallels seem a little suspicious if you ask me.

  11. A Broken City Council
    Mar 7, 2019, 12:53 pm

    I would like to see the legislature mandate that the city council must be divided into districts.

    This broken city council refuses to divide into districts so it can protect its majority Democrat party super majority.

    EDITOR NOTE–Not certain, but we note the state laws are very liberal, allowing cities and counties to choose their own form of local government. A petition asking for a ballot measure would probably be in order.

    Mar 8, 2019, 9:02 am

    The Mayor just stated on KBOI radio that he will NOT allow any vote on the library.

    Even if the new legislation passes he is not going to allow a vote…”because we have had multiple votes” on the issue (via electing the mayor and council) and “we are too far along to slow down or stop”.

    So all you legislators have just been given the finger.

    EDITOR NOTE–We voters also have been flipped off.

  13. E.B. Schofield
    Mar 8, 2019, 11:13 am

    I offer a recent example of how the current structure of the LEDA Statute disregards the taxpayers.

    Close to 2 years ago, the Boise City Council approved a Construction Management & General Contractor agreement for real estate development consulting services for a new downtown library/civic center. Shortly thereafter, on May 8, 2017 — the Capital City Development Corporation’s Board of Commissioners approved the issuance of $13 million in redevelopment bonds for 3 specific projects in the River-Myrtle / Old Boise District, where the library is located.

    Over the next year, Boise City proceeded with pre-construction activities for the new library and selected an architectural firm for the design concept.

    On May 14, 2018 the CCDC Commissioners approved Resolution 1529.

    This resolution redirected the $2.6 million of the $13 million intended for The Fowler parking garage purchase toward reimbursement of eligible expenses associated with the new downtown library/civic center project. That decision occurred a month and a half before the majority of the Boise population was made privy to the new library design, the tremendous cost, and the disregard for the historical log cabin.

    Although a library project is an allowed use for these tax-exempt bond funds, it is the process that is unjust. It is unjust to allow unelected individuals from 4 different financial and legal firms, along with the CCDC Finance Director, to make decisions and recommendations on the funding of a major municipal building while the taxpayers are being denied the opportunity to make any funding decisions whatsoever on the same project. Funding decisions for a project stated to cost between $85 – $104 million, that will most likely require increasing future taxes to meet the debt payments, as well as impact the availability of tax revenue for allocation to other necessary infrastructure and municipal services.

    In addition, the type of funding mechanism commonly used for large, costly municipal projects that are not placed on the ballot is Lease Financing. This funding method is documented to be more expensive than General Obligation Bonds, due to the higher risk rating creating higher interest rates and transaction fees.

  14. Eamonn Harter
    Mar 8, 2019, 12:52 pm

    From Schofield above: “Over the next year, Boise City proceeded with pre-construction activities for the new library and selected an architectural firm for the design concept.”

    What process did the City use to select the architectural firm? Did they have an open bidding process and select the firm with the lowest bid? Were bids from local architectural firms also considered?

  15. Question for E.B. Schofield: Are you saying Lease Financing results in a different bond category? Thanks!

    EDITOR NOTE–The lease deals are UNSECURED LOANS. As a result, they require “bond insurance” and the repayment is at a higher interest rate, hence it costs extra to go around the mandate to have a vote which offers “the full faith and credit” of the municipality. Citizens agreed to tax themselves to repay the debt.

  16. L. Rincover
    Mar 8, 2019, 9:40 pm

    Over many years, as a member of TAC and more importantly as a candidate for Ada County Commissioner my mantra was that UR had been hijacked by the Boise city. If I had become Commissioner I would have argued that over $ 200,000,000 has been stolen from the Ada County coffers for Boise projects which meant that every other property owner in the County has subsidized downtown projects. OK. The projects are nice, but the funding should be accomplished as the legislation requires: A public vote. The more responsible alternative would be an LID (Local Improvement District) which, so far, the legislators refuse to consider.

  17. E.B. Schofield
    Mar 9, 2019, 9:05 am

    Eamonn Harter for question above: Boise City did follow the formal bid process. The Boise Working Together group will soon be posting documents to the group’s website for these bids. Meanwhile, here is a brief summary if you wish to submit a Public Records Request to Boise City in order to increase transparency on this project:

    CMGC 17-132: Bid identifier for the Construction Mgt./General Contractor contract – due date for proposals was 01/18/2017.

    RFQ 18-031: Bid identifier for the Library Campus Architectural Services Building contract – due date for proposals was 10/28/2017.

    I will supply more info. later today, need to attend a meeting this morning.

  18. chicago sam
    Mar 9, 2019, 9:44 am

    In arguments yesterday on Medicaid work rules Mat Erpelding (D) is quoted as saying in the Idaho Press “It’s deeply troubling that the House majority leadership believes the voters do not understand what they voted for.” He goes on ” They devalue the voter, to justify the fact they could care less—and they secretly hashed out another ‘we know better’ bill in some back room.”
    How does this square with his remarks urging defeat of H127 which gives the voters a say on large in large projects which will incur heavy debt?

  19. E.B. Schofield
    Mar 9, 2019, 9:56 am

    For Katie – above: Thanks Mr. Frazier for answering. I have found that a simple way to understand this would be to compare this to a potential homeowner seeking a loan.

    Person X wants to buy a house and they have steady income with a solid employment record of 6 years at the same job, and no outstanding debt.

    Person Y wants to buy a house and they have sporadic wages, gaps in their employment record, and other debt obligations.

    The investment bank will deem person X as low risk, low uncertainty in paying back the loan – which equals a lower interest rate. Whereas person Y is a risk due to uncertainty in their ability to pay back the loan as well as other debt payments they are obligated to, resulting in a higher interest rate.

    Person X is equivalent to a City’s obligation to pay back a General Obligation Bond that voters approved – the investment bank’s risk and uncertainty is low because the payment is secured via the levy on each person’s property tax.

    Person Y is equivalent to a City’s obligation to pay back a bond via Lease Purchasing (Revenue Refunding Bonds) – no voter approval means less certainty and more risk for the bank. The payments in the case of CCDC are backed by the tax increment financing in an Urban Renewal District and the revenue from the 6 parking garages owned by CCDC – neither of which is a guarantee, as the economy can change and impact both of these revenue streams. In addition, Lease Financing usually has higher issuance/transaction costs compared to General Obligation Bonds.

  20. Don't look now, but
    Mar 9, 2019, 10:31 am

    Don’t look now but due to the stupidity of the Ada voters, and the orchestrated lies of the local media, Bieter has his minions installed in several powerful local and State governance positions. There’s good reason why Bieter was very confident when he told all of southern Idaho to stick it where the sun don’t shine on the radio.

  21. Eamonn Harter
    Mar 9, 2019, 11:01 am

    To “A Broken City Council”: Perhaps part of the solution is for Boise to go to a Council-Manager form of government and eliminate the Mayor position. This is especially appealing for the largest and capital city in the state, where the mayor job may attract a certain type of character with a “vision” for the city and who is cozy with the Chamber of Commerce and developer interests.

  22. Broken City
    Mar 9, 2019, 8:31 pm

    Eamonn – the greater problem is the council can all come from one single area of the city and feel they only need to represent one view from one ar3ea of town.

    8 unique district spread throughout all the areas of the city would make a HUGE difference. The current council will never move that way as it takes away their collective re nomination and reelection to office.

    EDITOR NOTE–Last time we checked four of the six councilors lived within a mile of each other in the north end. Best system is residence within districts and a city-wide vote.

  23. So far we have. .
    Mar 10, 2019, 10:27 am

    Who has announced so far for elections?

    For mayor we have. .

    For council seats we have. .

    Will someone summarize this, either here or in a story?

  24. E.B. Schofield
    Mar 10, 2019, 4:33 pm

    Re: Eamonn Harter – info. on Architect process as promised.

    The following information is for the first of two contracts for architectural services for the Boise library/civic center project. Information is from RES-61-18 for RFQ 18-031A. Six proposals were received and scored on a scale of 710 possible points:
    * LMN Architects – Cole: 605
    * CTA Architects – Lake Flato: 605
    * Safdie Architects – CHSQA: 603
    * Architectural Nexus – Hummel: 577
    * HGA-LCA Architects: 576
    * FFA-Babcock-McKibben Cooper: 545

    The top 5 firms were scored by the review team, including the Mayor and two Council members, on a scale of 125 possible points:

    * Safdie Architects – CHSQA: 109
    * LMN Architects – Cole: 108
    * HGA-LCA Architects: 99
    * CTA Architects – Lake Flato: 99
    * Architectural Nexus – Hummel: 93

    Watch for more information and documents to soon be posted to the Boise Working Together website.

  25. good job Fraz,watch Bieter wiggle,now new tact. To make sure u kill the snake u cut its head off then cut in half. What is next? Coop

  26. Eamonn Harter
    Mar 11, 2019, 11:56 am

    E.B. Schofield: Thank you for the info on the architectural services contract. It sounds like the scoring process is subjective and cost is not the only concern. I’ll be looking forward to the documents BWT posts on their site.

    I personally feel that an old brick warehouse (the current library) is a more attractive structure than the proposed modernistic library. I gag a little when I am confronted with one of these overdone and asymmetrical contraptions. You also have to consider the ongoing heating and cooling costs on such a structure which includes that much glass, especially the side facing towards the south during the summer.

  27. I think that architect/engineering contracts in idaho are qualifications based without regard to cost. Or at least cost is negotiated after selection.

  28. Eamonn Harter
    Mar 11, 2019, 2:07 pm

    To put things into perspective, the iconic 77 story, 1.2 million square foot Chrysler Building in New York City is selling for only slightly more than the new library is planned to cost: $150 million. Insane.

  29. The Shoe to Fall
    Mar 11, 2019, 6:43 pm

    Rumor has it that the next shoe to fall after the #100 Million library is that the mayor will want to move City Hall and attach it to the Library. Again using CCDC money to the tune of $45-60 million!

    The property just to the west where the bio company is would be used. The long term lease on the building was created to “protect it” until the mayor got the library done then he could build his cathedral to himself next to the eternal library.

    Don’t expect anyone to confirm the rumor until the mayor announces it after the library is done.

  30. E.B. Schofield
    Mar 12, 2019, 2:25 pm

    Meanwhile, at least $14.4 million has been spent on the current City Hall since 2012. Amounts listed below are from Boise’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFR).

    But City Hall also shows up as a project under the CCDC umbrella. It is not clear if CCDC has paid more than what shows in Boise’s financial docs, or if they have simply contributed to pay some of these amounts? This is one of the major lack of transparency issues with the current City/CCDC sytem and municipal building projects.

    $3.9M – remodel 2012
    $3.2M – remodel 2013
    $2.3M – remodel 2014
    $2.6M – remodel 2015
    $2.4M – plaza, 2017
    2018 CAFR numbers are not out yet

  31. E.B Schofield
    Mar 12, 2019, 5:08 pm

    Located some of the CCDC dollars for the City Hall Plaza project.

    $1.3M – 2017 (says they shared cost with Boise City, this is phase 1).

    Phase 2 of plaza project shows up again in the 2018 (draft) report, but does not show how much they spent.

    If these dollars do not commingle with Boise dollars, they have spent more than $14.4 million on City Hall to date.

  32. Branden Durst
    Mar 13, 2019, 10:11 am

    I hope everyone will take note that when the bill went to the House floor, that only one legislative district delegation unanimously opposed it… that would be District 18. Reps. Rubel and Green both argued against the bill with specious arguments. In contrast, all the Democratic reps in Districts 15 and 17 (Berch, Ellis, Chew and Gannon) voted for the bill, as did two other Boise Ds. In fact, the only Boise Ds to vote against the bill were Erpelding, Mason and the two from District 18.

  33. Do Your Part
    Mar 13, 2019, 1:56 pm

    You can do your part to help keep this bill alive, thus impacting your future taxes, but action is needed TODAY.

    Committee Chair Senator Jim Rice is refusing to allow a committee hearing and vote on HB 217. Please contact Senator Jim Rice, and Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, and urge them to give this issue a hearing. Your message can be brief: Urban renewal reform is important for all Idahoans and HB 217 deserves a Senate vote.

    [email protected]
    [email protected]

    Background: The bill (HB 217) to reform urban renewal passed the Idaho House of Representatives overwhelmingly on Monday March 11 with a vote of 59-11. The next hurdle for HB 217 is to be heard by the Senate’s Local Government & Taxation Committee, where the nine lawmakers can recommend whether or not it should be passed to the Senate floor for a full vote, but this is being held up right now.

    Please do your part readers and contact these two representatives ASAP. This bill will place the power of decision making, specific to the funding of municipal buildings/projects, back into the hands of the citizens of the State of Idaho.

  34. Do Your Part - NOW
    Mar 14, 2019, 10:10 am

    In addition to Senators Rice and Hill, send you concerns about HB 217 to the other representatives on the Senate Local Government & Taxation Committe:

    [email protected]
    [email protected]
    [email protected]
    [email protected]
    [email protected]
    [email protected]
    [email protected]

  35. Relieved that this much has been achieved. Now, on to the Senate.


  36. Don't think
    Mar 17, 2019, 9:43 am

    You can’t just think about it and have the message get out there. You must act and contact these senators. I think contacting the governors office is important, too. The constitutional directive to vote will be hijacked by lease payments if this is not put in its proper perspective.

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