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Boise city government attempts to manipulate the state constitution

Boise city government attempts to manipulate the state constitution

Wayne Hoffman
July 28, 2010
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July 28, 2010

The state constitution, like the federal Constitution, begins with the words, "We the people." The constitution doesn't begin with the words "we the governments" or "we the cities" or "we the bureaucrats."

I point this out only because certain city government officials believe it is their responsibility to "educate" us on the constitutional amendments that are on the ballot this November.

That's not their job.

The Boise City Council voted Tuesday to spend $60,000 to educate the public on House Joint Resolution 5, which would allow cities to incur debt for airports without a vote of the public. Councilman Alan Shealy said it is the city's responsibility to make sure voters get "an unvarnished view" of the amendment.

"Some public agency must step forward to make sure accurate information is disseminated to the public," added Councilman David Eberle.

Of course, that assumes that the city can be the official arbiter of what's true and what's not. The city is incapable of this role. Boise officials lobbied the Legislature to pass HJR 5. Should we now expect that the city will provide impartial and "unvarnished" information about what HJR 5 does?

Public records obtained from the city suggest otherwise. Among the documents are notes from a March 22 meeting of city officials including Mayor Dave Bieter and top aides. According to the meeting agenda and handwritten notes from the meeting, the mayor and his staff discussed the formation of a pro-HJR 5 political action committee, fundraising for the organization and who would serve on its board.

Other documents reveal that Bieter's administration understands that the amendment takes away the right of voters to approve debt-financed airport projects. But in April, when prompted by the Legislature to develop pro and con statements regarding the constitutional amendment for the secretary of state's voters' guide, city leaders discarded statements against the amendment and claimed they couldn't think of any reason why a voter might want to cast a "no" vote.

A June 11 e-mail from Bieter to mayors and airport managers throughout Idaho clearly shows the city's interest is the passage of the amendment. In the e-mail, Bieter asks for a meeting of city leaders "so we can discuss ways to work together to pass this important amendment."

In short, the city has already invested taxpayer resources in the passage and approval of the constitutional amendment. And now we're supposed to believe that the city will tell "the unvarnished truth" about why HJR 5 should become law?

City governments have one function and one function only. They are to administer the city government. Provide resources to catch the bad guys when a crime is committed. Put out fires.

The use of government resources to manipulate a document like the constitution is extraordinarily alarming and establishes a horrifying precedent. What happens if Idaho's 115 school districts decide that it is their job to help "educate" Idahoans on the two-thirds majority needed to pass a school bond? What if the state's local governments decide that the rights enshrined in the constitution are too inconvenient for these modern times?

If government agencies across Idaho start to follow Boise's lead, taxpayers - and freedom - don't stand a chance.

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