City Government

Library Issue Gets Even More Confusing

In its continuing adversary relationship with the public, Boise City Councilors Tuesday allowed a citizen-passed initiative to require a vote on a new library to proceed to the ballot and voted to include their own “alternative” non-binding ordinance on the same November ballot.

At issue is a measure to require public approval of a proposed new library and a possible sports stadium.

Councilors at the meeting cited “constitutional concerns” in their decision to not enact the citizen petition into law prior to an election. In essence they bad mouthed the petition language, calling it flawed and offered their own version. The council instructed city lawyers to refine a draft proposal that we see as a placebo so they can claim folks voted, but to no affect. It is very unclear if the council even has the legal authority to put an advisory vote on the ballot.

The GUARDIAN sees an advisory vote about as meaningful as a warning ticket for speeding. The proposed vote would;d be nothing more than a non-binding opinion survey.

While nearly everyone who testified at the hearing advocated a citizen vote on the library, Councilor Holi Woodings revealed why there is so much maneuvering by the City. She noted the Idaho Constitution provides for bond elections which simply seek permission from citizens to finance public projects, but it takes two-thirds majority to pass. Rather than follow the constitution they all claim an oath to uphold, councilors are working to make an end run to avoid the two-thirds hurdle.

The IDAHO PRESS reported on a budget meeting at city hall earlier saying the city planned to “pay cash” for the library. “The city plans to accomplish this through a combination of drawing down savings, changing up its strategy on a downtown fire station project, and cobbling together unallocated funds to get the project done possibly in time for a 2023 opening.”

Several of those who testified were critical of the City’s funding priorities, including former Mayor Brent Coles. Coles claimed the need for more police, an upgraded downtown fire station, and the use of a high priced out of town architect were reasons to support the initiative to be enacted as an ordinance.

The proposed ALTERNATIVE ORDINANCE can be found on pages 20-24 HERE.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. All of a sudden they have “constitutional concerns” what a joke!

  2. Thank you for this excellent article Dave!

    It’s astounding how out of touch with the public all the Council members and the Mayor are, and how unwilling even one of them is to break ranks. The “Groupthink” of these Bieter regime folks that Bob Kustra wrote about in an excellent OpEd a few months ago was vividly on display last night. They had clearly devised their plan in advance of the hearing: Brand the initiatives as unconstitutional. Loftily proclaim you must follow your sacred oath to uphold the Constitution (which you violate all the time anyway). Create confusion in the public to undermine the upcoming vote.

    I think the public outrage will build over the City coming up with 50 million dollars to pay cash for the Safdie monstrosity. And the total in the end – with cost overruns – is more likely to be 100 million in cash. This 50 million will be just the beginning.

  3. Disgusted with the bunch
    Jun 26, 2019, 1:21 pm

    So now the City has the cash to pay for an $90 million library? Talk about overtaxing the public. And I bet they take the entire three percent plus growth again this year which means our Boise taxes will go up about 6%.

    Thanks Bieter, McClean and Elaine! While Sanchez, TJ and Hollings follow along.

  4. Boisean Since Forever
    Jun 26, 2019, 1:46 pm

    “More confusing” seems to be the goal for Bieterville’s leaders. If people would just leave them alone and quit asking questions, they would be happy to move forward with whatever is best for us.

  5. Picking & Choosing
    Jun 26, 2019, 2:43 pm

    Last night’s City Council was another example of when and how the City’s elected officials will pick and choose when to use laws, or even the Comprehensive Plan, to support or not support something, In the many, many times I have watched City Council hearings, this is the first time I have heard them use their Sworn status and tossing out the Constitutional card.

    This selective picking and choosing also crosses into how and when to use different data, but only when it fits what they want. The City will say that library surveys show the “usage’ has increased. Of course it will increase when you have more libraries than you had in the past and more people from growth. This is not the same as a stable population number suddenly starting to use the library more, which would indicate an increase in actual usage.

    Yet the data from the 2018 Citizen Survey is disregarded because it does not fit the City’s wish to have this library. The 2018 Citizen Survey shows the citizens ranked Community Services (which includes libraries) as 7th out of 9 choices. Yet the funding for the main library project is at the top of the priority pile.

    The selective use of data in the City’s data driven decisions making, as the basis for their Priority Based Budgeting process, is skewed.

  6. Taking the 3%
    Jun 26, 2019, 3:16 pm

    Comment posted by Disgusted wondered if the City will take the 3% increase again. You betcha! This has become standard operating procedure, and is planned to continue into the future, even though the increase is primarily to fund the annual base compensation increase for employees, rather than using this toward essential core services and the many problems the city is facing. The budget director is on the record stating this issue to Council, that this increase primarily funds personnel increases.

    You can see how property taxes and personnel costs go lock-step together in the budget documents by Comparing the Total Revenue amount to the subtotal under Personnel Costs (p. 40-41 in FY 2020 budget).

    In 2014 personnel costs were $124,148,000. By the year 2024 they are projected to be $189,636,000. I question if this is sustainable.

    If I were a City employee, I would be highly concerned about the cost of this library project, and the impact on employment when the next recession rolls in. Whose positions will be on the chopping block to cut expense in order to afford the operation and maintenance costs that will come with this enormous structure?

    The 2008 recession require lots of cutbacks. Or will cut backs occur by reducing the contributions to the pension fund? Just as the City is currently evaluating reducing the reserve fund from 8% to 5% to afford this library, which reduces the city’s “safety net” that is needed when revenues decrease. Will medical insurance premiums no longer be 100% covered by the City? Will the minimum 8 hours of sick leave per month be reduced? Will the $500 wellbeing credit or the free bus passes be eliminated? Or will taxes just keep going up for the citizens?

  7. Navillus.55
    Jun 26, 2019, 3:30 pm

    Bieter and our City Council members apparently have never understood the meaning of the word ‘frugal’. This is so totally disgusting… The current library plus the neighborhood libraries are perfectly capable of handling the needs of Boise’s citizens. As for a new baseball venue, a little upgrading of the Hawk’s Stadium in Garden City would be just fine.

    Please do not vote for Bieter in November !!! This man needs to go, and the sooner the better…

  8. Paul L Alldredge
    Jun 26, 2019, 5:19 pm

    All they need to do now is make the ballot read so YES means NO and NO means YES.

  9. Seems to me that our elected public servants, Dave and the Master Bieters, have confused their constituents into believing this is a LIBRARY. It is a $105 Million plus Art display and meeting facility with a $20 million library. WE NEED TO CALL IT WHAT IT IS.
    My disgust with our ELECTED public servants,in regards to the stadium, is only two sites have been mentioned. Both in the CCDC zone? Their DIRECTION is not by their constituents but by out of state developers! ARE THEY TAKING PAY CHECKS FROM BOTH?
    Elected public servants do an injustice to all Idahoans when decisions are made for the betterment of out of state developers and NOT THE PUBLIC.
    MAYBE THE BEST AREA TO INVEST IN A STADIUM IS BETWEEN BOISE AND CALDWELL? Make it easily accessible to the masses not just to Dave and the Master Bieters?! WHAT AN ACT THEY ARE!

  10. western guy
    Jun 26, 2019, 9:06 pm

    As a many-decade budget professional, I see how the City ‘leaders’ are doing a ‘buffet style’ approach to scraping up cash: a little bit here, a little bit there.

    They are going to save $$ by not purchasing vehicles? Hah! Have you seen a white Boise City vehicle that’s more than 2 years old?

    Do they charge the airport for the central services provided (HR, accounting, etc.)? There’s some $$. Do they charge the other agencies that generate their own revenue?

    When will sewer rates go through the roof? Franchise fees charged to cable TV and utilities (which will get passed on to the citizens)?

    There are a dozen more ways for the city to tap us directly or indirectly. Watch it happen.

  11. Western Guy is a good predictor – the FY 2020 budget shows the Water Renewal division is requesting a customer rate increase of 5% for year 2020. The word “increase” comes up 59 times in the budget.

  12. Confusion & Unknown Costs
    Jun 26, 2019, 11:13 pm

    The library brochure that was on the table with the City council Agends says, “Project will not result in an increase in city taxes” – just as the main library page has said.

    Unless not one single additional employee will be needed to staff a significantly larger facility, this continues to be a misrepresentation of the impact. And the City’s own FY 2020 budget says,

    Potential operating costs associated with the Main Library project, budgeted in FY 2019, are still being evaluated.

    Without knowing what the operating costs will be, how can the City truthfully say this project will not increase taxes. The library project study conducted in 2000 shows the costs for operations as, “total additional costs over the current costs” as $2,656,785. And that was without an expensive book robot that can run around $1 million a year.

  13. western guy
    Jun 27, 2019, 2:28 pm

    We are being lied to. We are being BS’ed to. When will the uprising take place? When will the $85 million project actually turn out to be $125 million? Remember, architects normally receive 7-10% of the total building cost as their commission.

    Keep watching…

  14. western guy
    Jun 27, 2019, 2:29 pm

    “Water Renewal” is the new term for ‘sewage treatment plant’.

    How special.

  15. Watched the June 25 Budget Work Session by video today – says the operating costs for the library are preliminary numbers of a little under $2 million. It must be magic that the City can increase annual operation costs but not also have this increase taxes.

  16. Las Vegas Rebel
    Jun 29, 2019, 6:57 pm

    So I am confused. I thought that we were going to have a vote as to weather to build the library or not. Now dingle Dave has scraped together $50 million together to pay for the library and the rest just comes from wherever. So does the vote then mean nothing? If the citizens vote no does the library still get built because he came up with the majority of the cash? It seems like he is trying to do an end around because I think he knows it may get voted down. Is this the case?

  17. A Vote To Approve Spending
    Jun 30, 2019, 4:50 pm

    Skirting the majority of the publics involvement has been the process so far.

    Citizens can not directly put a project up for vote, so the petition was not a direct vote for the current proposed projects. The citizens could not convince the City to take that direct action, as most cities do when major expenditure of public funds are involved.

    This left the only choice of a petition to have a vote this fall, that would then set a City Ordinance (law) which requires the City to conduct a citizen vote for any type of a library project costing $25 million or more, and any type of a sports stadium project to cost $5 million or more, both with public monies.

    This vote will be on the ballot this fall, and so will the Mayor and 3 Council Member seats! What the City chooses to do between now and then is going to be interesting.

  18. Out Of Their League
    Jul 7, 2019, 9:32 am

    When the City became totally “Wowed” by Safdie’s interview, did anyone at City Hall do one simple mathematical calculation:

    Take the $84 million in voter approved bond money that Salt Lake City determined they needed for their 2003 Safdie design (nearly identical to Boise’s) and plug that amount into an online inflation calculator?

    It comes up with a cost of $114,635,804 in 2018 dollars.

    That would have been a simple test to understand that this groups product was way, way, way out of their league, due to the fact that the City had a $65 million budget during the interview vetting process.

  19. More Confusing – And More Expensive

    Check out this item on the July 9th Council meeting:

    The original contract was for $20K – under the limit for open and advertised bidding. It has since ballooned to over 10 times that amount, well beyond the statutory limit for, at the minimum, and Informal Bid. No Department in the City would have been allowed to skirt the law like this. Once again, the Mayor’s office plays by its own rules, legality be damned. But Council can’t claim they didn’t know about this one…

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