No doubt about it. Boise politicos view the citizens as an adversary group when it comes to the library issue.
Last night the council passed a “special question” ordinance which is nothing more than an opinion poll to be placed on the November ballot regarding the proposed library and sports stadiums. The law has no teeth, is non-binding, and in our opinion serves as a way to confuse voters and justify an end run of the Idaho Constitution.
When local governments want to spend more than they can take in during a single year, the legal solution is to ask permission from taxpayers to approve a bond (mortgage) to pay for a project over an extended period up to 30 years. It is article VIII, sec. 3 of the Idaho Constitution.
Section 3. Limitations on county and municipal indebtedness. No county, city, board of education, or school district, or other subdivision of the state, shall incur any indebtedness, or liability, in any manner, or for any purpose, exceeding in that year, the income and revenue provided for it for such year, without the assent of two-thirds of the qualified electors thereof voting at an election to be held for that purpose…
Boise officials have tried to launder funds through the urban renewal agency to avoid the voters, but the legislature put a stop to that with house bill 217. Citizens gathered signatures seeking to have any high-end projects approved by voters. Mayor Dave Bieter’s campaign operative worked to derail the signature drive and failed.
Councilor Holli Woodings publicly noted citizens probably wouldn’t approve the funding of a bond, but continued to look for ways to get around the constitution, supporting the non-binding opinion vote.
While neither the Idaho Secretary of State nor the Ada County Clerk have not offered a definitive opinion, it is entirely possible Boise is without authority to place their question on the ballot.
It is frightening to think advocates for a proposition would have control of non-binding ballot language and then use the results (or not) to claim, “people voted for it. We don’t need to have another election.”
The citizen initiative will be on the ballot, but the question posed is essentially, “Should we vote to approve library projects in excess of $25 million?” It is NOT a vote to approve or deny a library project.
If the non-binding vote is placed on the ballot with a slanted question such as, “Do you favor improving and expanding the library?” the politicos will claim they have public support regardless of any other outcomes. Two questions about the same topic on the same ballot is nothing but devious.
The only clean and HONEST way is to follow the constitution and have a bond election with a simple question such as: “Shall the city go into debt in the amount of $85 million to be repaid over 20 years?”
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