Boise Spending Report Meant To Outrage

The conservative think tank, Idaho Freedom Foundation, has produced a lengthy analysis of public spending by the City of Boise, reminiscent of the “Golden Fleece Awards” from Wisconsin Sen. William Proxmire.

Entitled ARE YOU KIDDING ME, BOISE?, the report written by Lindsay Atkinson, is obviously designed to outrage.

The document leads off detailing spending like $5,000 to the Gay Men and Women Chorus, another $5K to the Idaho Horror Film Festival, and $3,000 to Olivia Weitz and Arlie Sommer for an exhibit on Basque sausage makers.

Absurdities such as spending $20,000 for a round about mosaic in front of the Depot on Crescent Rim and four years later dumping $27,685 to remove it are detailed.

All in all the report is a damning treatise on City spending, urban renewal, and land development. While some of the items are certainly worthy of debate, many topics left us just shaking our head.

Regardless of one’s politics, it is hard to justify things like Mayor Dave Bieter paying $10,000 to ESPN for 2018 Potato Bowl coverage.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Rod in SE Boise
    Aug 31, 2019, 11:54 am

    Considering the source of that “report”, I would question the truth of any claim they make.

  2. Steve Berch
    Aug 31, 2019, 3:39 pm

    The 2018 Boise City budget was $217,780,709. The total dollar amount cited in this article is $70,685. An alternative conclusion could be “Conservative think tank finds that 99.97% of Boise City spending is reasonable.”

    Raw numbers can be used to deliberately mislead if they are not presented in context, which is why I appreciate the editor’s title of this posting.

  3. Budget Numbers
    Aug 31, 2019, 5:09 pm

    $217,780,710 was the “adopted” budget for the 2018 General Fund, but that does not necessarily mean that is what the City actually spent, as “interim budget changes” occur throughout the year. The only real way of knowing what was actually spent is by reading the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (posted on the City website).

    Keep in mind that nearly 70% of this amount pays solely for City staff wages and benefits which show $149,324,764 in the 2018 budget.

    This leaves aprox. 30% to be considered for all of the other spending that anyone may question, some of which is shown in this booklet, although I have heard this booklet is part of a significantly larger document.

  4. 70% is way too much
    Sep 1, 2019, 12:37 am

    “70% pays solely for City staff wages and benefits which show $149,324,764 in the 2018 budget”

    Two free cars for each employee from the looks of all the city cars clogging our roads

  5. There is careless spending
    Sep 1, 2019, 12:15 pm

    70K is 70K. There is little oversight for some frivolous spending. Give us back our tax money. How about a cheerleading camp, or chorizos to the Tree Fort festival?

    What about those fire stations?

  6. Deep Midnight
    Sep 2, 2019, 6:14 pm

    I dont know that it was written to enrage folks. Maybe I am desensitized or something, but it makes me simply shake my head. Only on page 50 though so maybe that will change.

    I tend to view this document as pretty factual with a libertarian stance. I do not appreciate being taxed so that the north end can become more affluent, but whenever I say something in conversation…all I get are funny looks and a quick conversation change from the recipients. Ive learned to mostly keep my mouth shut, or slowly breech the topic and turn it into a joke.

    For some funny reason, pointing these things out to people who believe otherwise marks you as the orphaned red headed step child. Sort of like a hot potato, no one wishes to actually think about taxation without representation.

    If people want to give their own money freely, more power to them. But they should not expect my money without my permission, and doubly so to build some stupid art exhibit of which I will not benefit from. Personally, I give my charity to the homeless shelters so each time some stupid north-ender forces me to pay for their desires with tax money, I give less to the homeless because I only have so much. Its not really enraging, its just the way things are. I wish more people could understand it and then let me be charitable to those I wish.

    I understand what the city is attempting to do with all of these grants and whatnot, I just wish they would use their own money instead of forcing me to pay for it.

  7. Deep Midnight
    Sep 2, 2019, 6:17 pm

    Hey Rod in SE Boise, maybe you could expand your comment. What is wrong with the IFF? Have they been incorrect before?

  8. Deep Midnight
    Sep 2, 2019, 8:57 pm

    On page 130 now.

    Still not enraged but I do have something positive to say. I really like how this document presents the arguments in a way that I haven’t necessarily been able to vocalize before.

    Take the section on Parks and Rec; golf and ice rinks. The city collects money from me via taxes, then it collects money from me again via admission, and presumably collects money from me again via sales tax on that admission or food or whatever. Thats a 3x tax that really adds up. More on the negative side now…it is interesting how double or triple taxing apparently is normal; the section on CCDC and the city.

    In addition, the city planners really kind of suck according to this document; chronically under-budgeting and signing contracts that are…well indicative of what happened between this country and China, always 1 sided and thus benefiting really only 1 party. Weak leaders I think. So obviously this is not a unique situation to The City of Boise; its obviously how things work.

    Lets say the city partners with a development company who wants to develop a lot that borders your property. You don’t get a say in who develops this, but the city does via its incentives and subsidies, and you don’t get a say as to what is developed there even though it directly impacts you, and then the topic of easements for accessibility come up which you also don’t get a say in even though they steal your private property to accomplish it. I have read so many stories of how this city, via its partnerships, bullies private land owners into submission…and for what?

    There is something like this brewing for the folks on Cole and Fairview; the developer wants to put in a huge car-wash and low income housing (both subsidized by the city presumably indefinitely), and the city wants to plant pedestrian access paths through private property so that people can more easily wash their cars or I guess more easily visit their new neighbors?

    The folks that live out there voiced their opposition loudly to the city and to the developer; nothing changed. I have to say, even though this is really sort of mean…I am glad I dont live there. Never mind that this section of town doesnt need another car wash, can you imagine the noise the darn thing would kick up? And nothing against low income housing, but…Fairview and Cole is already congested; can you imagine hundreds of more cars trying to get out of a crowded lot onto those crowded roads? Also some of those older houses are directly connected to this development area, so imagine their excitement in anticipation of a huge car wash and tons more cars. And for their trouble, these homeowners will get to pay an increased property tax until they are taxed out of Boise.

    All of this, as I understand the problem out there, doesnt even compare to the first problem; that lot was under last will and testament to be and always be either a school or a park. The city did some fancy foot work….and BOOM a government subsidized carwash rose from it. I am sure glad our weak leaders are there protecting the interests of our citizens. The funny thing is, having read this document, I think I now understand that it doesnt matter if I dont live in one of these troubled areas…I still end up paying for it anyway.

    So I guess what I am saying is, it seems business as usual…which is why I offer nothing more than a shaking of my head.

    If we think that Bieter in a dress woman is going to solve it, ha ha, she is going to make it 3 times worse. But hey, why break with tradition in terms of the 3x.

  9. Deep Midnight
    Sep 2, 2019, 10:05 pm

    Hey Steve Berch, where did you get that total from? 70k? The only place I see in the document which gives that number is in the public art exhibit at the depot bench neighborhood.

    In fact, the document states: “In total, the following
    pages will dive into more than $144 million of city spending.”

    Anyhow, I remember when Las Vegas was the fastest growing city in the country. What they got for their trouble is drugs, homelessness, increased taxes, and hundreds of new but vacant buildings.

    I worry this is going to happen to Boise. But as a recent article pointed out, there will always be another Boise.

  10. Steve Berch
    Sep 3, 2019, 2:03 am

    Deep Midnight: You may want to read this. Betsy Russell is one of the most respected journalists covering the legislature.

  11. Midnight..they have *zero* of “their own money.” It’s all ours.

  12. Lindsay Atkinson
    Sep 3, 2019, 10:27 am

    Representative Steve Berch, your comment (undoubtedly well-intentioned) is using incorrect numbers.

    First, no matter what the city’s budget was in 2018, the city spent $409 million. But this report, written by IFF and SMART Boise, is primarily focused on spending in 2019. For the current fiscal year, spending is projected to be $521 million. These figures are listed in the introduction of the report, and the city budget documents that provide these figures are referenced in the endnotes. There are even hyperlinks in the document that take readers straight to the source of this information.

    Second, our report does not just cover $70,685 of spending. Our report covers over $144 million used by the city on various projects, a much larger chunk of city spending than your comment gives us credit for.

    If you would like to read the whole report and understand our concern with how the city is using tax dollars, please download a copy at

    Though I hope unintentional, I have written this comment with the purpose of stopping the spread of false numbers.

    To give credit to the worth of my comment, I am the author of the report.

  13. chicago sam
    Sep 3, 2019, 11:10 am

    Mr. Berch
    Your reference to long time reporter Betsy Russell and her jaded opinions of the report reflect back on you and Betsy in a negative way and in no way diminish the research of Lindsay Atkinson. Perhaps Ms. Russell and yourself should read the report more carefully rather than sitting on your reputation

  14. Mr. Berch. I hope your cavalier attitude toward waste doesn’t extend to the state budget.

  15. Deep Midnight
    Sep 3, 2019, 1:42 pm

    Hey Steve Berch, no offense buddy but respect is cheap these days. Hell, I can buy the respect of anyone for a few thousand dollars.

    I do not respond to who is and who isnt respected. People doing so is how we ended up with an outsourced and extravagant library proposal that no one wants but were still forced to pay for. I am sure there were plenty of local architects that could have preformed such a service for far cheaper. I guess they were not as respected as that out-of-state feller. (sorry, I know that kind of stings)

    Ill read it though; give it a fair shot. And I do appreciate the link. I dont mean to quash your efforts in these comments.

  16. I agree with Rod- anything coming from the IFF folks is suspect.

    Ms Atkinson, your comment of Mr Berch using “incorrect numbers” is incorrect and too quick on your draw.
    While I am not typing for him, but his numbers are simply ADDING UP what the Guardian has posted in the original article just exactly what Berch posted, $70,685 “cited in this article”. Pretty easy to read and see that solid explanation.

    While the #’s may be accurate, context is needed and IFF’s bias agenda defies any serious consideration.

    As mentioned above, the bulk of the city budget is for police and fire. Does IFF question why Chief Bones has to travel to Montana to attend an FBI Association bi-annual conference, for minimal actual hours in any kind of meaningful session? No.
    Is the report full of all the other BPD and BFD frivolous spending? Is there a new BFD jet boat in the report? Is the city’s total cost of the Garth Brooks concert reported?
    What’s the current cost of the BPD MRAP? Any thing about the excessive salaries/pensions/healthcare for fire employees hanging out at the station?

    Small grants to various arts commission projects are important to some people- I couldn’t give a rat, but I do know it makes for a better community for everyone; certainly not a budgetary crisis, though.

    As to the report– why does someone have to fall on the information sword and give IFF personal information to get this magnificent report?
    Zip Code??? doing too much data mining over there at IFF- for anti-government principles they sure want to be just like ‘big brother’.
    Will we now be interrogated as to party affiliation for their next report?
    Transparency or control freaks????

    Four of the five ‘conclusions’ of the report have NOTHING to do with city budget waste. The city can’t control the whole housing supply & demand of the Boise Valley.

    Will there now be a SMART Twin Falls?
    A SMART Coeur d’Alene?
    It’s all a ridiculous agenda; but thanks for the research!

    Smart and IFF/TeaParty are not words I would put together in any report.

    “Reasonable, limited government”?
    How about if IFF accepts the ballots of the people, instead of filing a lawsuit to stop the will of the people???? (just because IFF doesn’t agree with the majority of Idahoans)

    Idaho Tea Party and IFF are filled with characters like Rep Phil Hart (thief of public resources), and Rep Heather Scott (confederate flag fan) — suspect nut-jobs at best!

    This report is simply to tell IFF followers, “Look, we did something. Now we need your money to do something else.”

    IF the IFF had their way the whole city of Boise budget would be $1,000, and that “would come from the sky to be spent on nothing”—
    “We don’t need no stinking government.”

  17. Deep Midnight
    Sep 3, 2019, 9:13 pm

    I was wondering when Easterner would show up; this person seems to follow me from the shadows. Where I post, you can best bet Easterner will be there lurking right afterwards.

    Good God Easterner, you sound like a distressed poodle.

    I am not trying to be mean, but seriously…You bring up ideas such as racist or biased and…as far as I can tell you are all of those things but you can’t see it due to your distressed barking. I really think you need to calm down and understand what you’re saying here.

    What I got from your comment is you want us to give Berch leeway (as a public official) for not reading a document prior to voting on it with his voice. Seriously? You also agree with the comment by Rod who so far has not qualified it. How could you agree with someone who hasn’t stated his reasons for saying it? Could it be because he might be as distressed as yourself?

    Interesting that you brought up the confederate flag on this article. I get that you dont like the flag even though there is an entire other side to the story that you probably dont know about because your too busy barking at everyone. For example, not everyone views that war as good; tons and tons of people in the south would argue it was the federal government overreaching into states’ rights – which it was the same way as gay marriage mandated by the federal government was. They would argue that the way of slavery was nearly over anyway and they would have gotten rid of it themselves. Likewise gay marriage was on its way in anyway and the voters of our states would have voted it in. In both cases it can be viewed that the federal government overreached.

    I employ Don’t Tread on Me flags, are you going to call me a racist trump supporter? Have you any idea that such a flag has multiple meanings, the least of which comes anywhere close to where I suspect you would go with it?

    So you couldn’t give a rat about frivolous spending on public art, but you are sure that art benefits the entire community. Did you read how the round about art was placed and then removed for more costs? You don’t care about extra costs? How does that benefit the entire community? Further, if you don’t give a rat about that, why should anyone here care what you have to say about topics you claim to know everything about? And finally, if you are unwilling to admit that a budgetary crisis has many parts, frivolous spending on art included, then why should we view you as anything other than a distressed poodle?

    I do agree with you regarding the zip code request; but it is what it is. If you were nicer, I would have offered the document to you anonymously so that you wouldn’t have to fork over that most sensitive of personal information..

    You, dear Easterner, don’t need to be interrogated to know what political party you’re affiliated with; you wear it on your sleeve, and even more disturbing is that you shut down entire conversations on this comment section with your barking. You have the right to post; I won’t take that away, but I would caution you not to become too unhappy in your life by doing so. You seem like a very miserable sort of person to me.

    So smart or IFF/Tea Party are not words you would string together in any report? Fortunately I tire of you after I see your name so I won’t need to worry about reading your reports.

    In short, Easterner, I find your entire post (indeed most of your posts) to have all the elements of a troll. One bent on shutting down conversation with vapid and emotional responses designed to stalemate everything.

    This will be the last time I comment on Easterner, for what this person desires most is attention and I will not give it.

    EDITOR NOTE–We concede that Easterner enjoys trolling. I am nearing a shutdown of comments at this point, so warning to all–stay on topic and cut the personal attacks.

  18. Deep Midnight
    Sep 3, 2019, 10:18 pm

    Toward the Editors Note: my apologies.

  19. Self Discipline and Maturity needed.
    Sep 4, 2019, 11:04 am

    Self Discipline and Maturity needed.

    All repeat poster: What you type could be edited down to a paragraph. Suggest you do so and then also limit yourself to only one post per article. Some of you are more or less creating a crazy guy manifesto and will find no friends even among those who agree with you. In short, make your point then STFU so other ideas can surface too. You might just learn something new, even from people you don’t like or don’t agree with.

    Old duffers get a pass because of senility perhaps.

  20. Self Discipline and Maturity needed
    Sep 4, 2019, 11:10 am

    Editor please consider:
    1) Your blog is powerful and the local government and local MSM would like to shut it down.
    2) They are unable to shut it down under the current system of laws.
    3) Perhaps they are in effect shutting it down by clogging it up with long rambling manifesto postings buy people they’ve assigned to dominate the threads.

  21. The Pot Calls The Kettle Black
    Sep 4, 2019, 1:24 pm

    Hmm. Okay. Is this too long of a post?

  22. ^^ Hilarious and sad at the same time.

    oh boy.
    I struggle to get through the whole report.

    Is IFF correct?
    from the report: “This department receives one cent from every tax dollar the city collects”

    From the city (link provided by the report):
    “1 cent of every City of Boise general fund tax dollar is dedicated to Department of Arts & History budget”

    Hello IFF!
    There is a difference between ‘every dollar collected’ and ‘every dollar in the general fund’.

    When THAT is the lead issue for critique, and it is skewed, I find it tough to read the rest.

    Several of the mentioned art projects funded by the city are in the VISTA neighborhood. Art on the bus stops. Trees donated to Vista homeowners…. Perhaps the VNA people here could comment on those projects, since they are frequent readers here.
    As in, WHO applied for all those (frivolous) grants?
    NO ART FOR VISTA! – so says IFF.

    Or, $4/person per year for city art? Okay. I’d pay that to go to an art museum. So, now, I don’t have to go to a museum to see the pretty things in town. That is a ‘collective’ admission charge to see art instead of a sterile city.
    Same for the parks, etc listed.

    The report even wants to diminish the new Bandshell efforts in Julia Davis park.
    Wow! Bashing on the Bandshell.

    Bottom line, IFF is in favor of the least possible government– an extreme political opinion. Extreme and unrealistic.
    Yet, apparently the Boise police force is doing perfectly fine. I wouldn’t want to live in “Wayne’s City”.

    Running a decent city is a tough job. Granted, the City does waste a lot of tax dollars.
    WE give, they will spend it!!!!
    But there is a term of “material and important”. Let’s focus on the big picture, or in this case at least focus on the process and benefits of the many expenses. To just say, $5,000 to XYZ doesn’t help anyone.

    Maybe Wayne Hoffman could do a better job than the Mayor. Considering their salaries are about the same, their current output should be comparable, right? “Mayor of a major city” and then “Wayne’s job”; getting money from Tea Party fans. Wayne gets about $120,000 a year + pension. THAT Is money that reduces our state tax coffers. And I would argue IFF is wasting a lot of money on Wayne Hoffman’s salary- at taxpayer’s expense.

    Other than the fire bond, and money for police cars nothing is mentioned about Boise Fire or Boise Police in a 150+ pages.
    The two biggest departments in the city get ‘a free pass’????????

    But thanks for the list of expenses.
    I can’t wait to see the SMART ACHD report. 🙂

    It’s hilarious to see that IFF accepts bitcoin and cryptocurrency for donations; considering in 2008 and 2010 their supporters promoted resurrecting the Gold Standard as an Idaho Party Platform.
    Two Thumbs down.

  23. Spending Amounts
    Sep 6, 2019, 4:48 pm

    This report shines a light on discretionary spending amounts, which many are not aware of. I would have liked to see a contrast with the City’s future projected amounts for personnel cost, as this escalating expense may consume much of the discretionary expenditures, especially if a recession kicks in. Over the next 6-year period, personnel expense is shown to increase 29% – from $146.8 million in 2018 to $189.6 million in 2024.

    Is that due to compounding costs of raises, retirement contributions, and insurance premiums for existing staff, OR is it for hiring more staff to keep up with massive growth, OR a combination of both? The budget does not break it down to show this detail. I have been told that the City use to publish the much longer, detailed budget on the website, but no longer does so.

    I’m guessing that most other types of business do not expect to increase this line item by that much, in that amount of time?

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