GUEST OPINION, Robert Forrey
When Idaho became a state in 1890, the US Congress granted 3.6 million acres of land to the new state to be used “for the support of common schools.” These lands can be sold or rented, but this must be done at a public auction in order to “… secure the maximum long-term financial return…” to the public school endowment fund. (Art. IX Sec. 8, Idaho Constitution)
However, in recent years, the Idaho Land Board members (Gov., Atty. General, Controller, Sec. of State, and Supt. of Public Instruction) have been ignoring the constitutional mandate to hold auctions when disposing of endowment lands.
For example, the Land Board spent $320,000 to remodel the Sherm Perry Bldg. in downtown Boise for the 10 Barrel Brew Pub with a negotiated lease and no auction as required.
Currently, the Land Board owns 20-some commercial properties, mostly in the Boise area. They consist of office buildings, retail, parking lots, a bank building, a 414 unit self-storage building, as well as a research building in Idaho Falls. These properties are all removed from the tax roles.
But, this is only the beginning, as the State Land Board plans to capture and control the commercial real estate market in Idaho.
According to their Asset Management Plan of Dec. 2012, they plan to “Add properties to the commercial portfolio” (pg. 24). This plan includes, “Operating a profit oriented business within a government agency” (pg. 26).
In order to accomplish these goals, the plan states that they will work on “changing social and political attitudes and values, markets, and products” (pg. 26). To add insult to injury, the Asset Business Plan seeks to “Identify and Describe our Competition” (pg. 35).
The Idaho Supreme Court describes what our Land Board is doing in Village of Moyie Springs v. Aurora Mfg. Co. (1960). “…it is not the function of government to engage in private business…” The court stated that if the state became involved in sponsoring and controlling private business, “… our free enterprise economy would be replaced by socialism.”
It may be time to replace all of the present Land Board members, all Republicans, and all members of our executive branch of state government.