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IFF says Boise officials backing constitutional amendment on airport debt, misusing resources

IFF says Boise officials backing constitutional amendment on airport debt, misusing resources

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
July 20, 2010

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter and other city officials are campaigning in favor of a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would allow airports to borrow money without needing voter approval, according to the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF).

Wayne Hoffman, executive director of IFF, said public records obtained by the foundation show city officials have met to discuss the proposed amendments, and that Bieter has e-mailed other public officials looking for ways to promote passage of the amendment.  See a copy of Bieter’s e-mail here.

"The documents clearly illustrate that the city is using public resources to advocate the passage of a ballot measure," Hoffman said in a news release.  “Whether or not the city has broken the law is not the issue.  It clearly has violated the public's trust through the misuse of public resources."

Officials with the mayor’s office did not return IdahoReporter.com’s call for a response.

The Boise City Council will consider paying $60,000 to Gallatin Public Affairs for educational outreach about the amendment.  Handwritten meeting notes obtained by IFF show that city officials are also considering forming a political action committee to work on the issue and partnering with other cities and the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, a large business organization in the state.

"The city is trying to label its effort as 'education,'” Hoffman said.  “Clearly, that's not the objective.”

The push to change Idaho’s constitution comes after the Idaho Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the Boise Airport couldn’t sell bonds to build a parking garage without a public vote.  Dave Frazier, who filed the lawsuit that led to the court decision and blogs at BoiseGuardian.com, called the city’s proposed educational efforts “a thinly veiled effort to influence an election issue.”

The proposed constitutional amendment allowing airports to incur debt will be joined on the ballot by similar amendments letting publicly-owned hospitals and city power-generating systems to also issue bonds.  Records show Boise officials have considered collaborating with proponents of those amendments, including the Idaho Hospital Association.

Those backing the amendments say bonds are a necessary tool of business, and that taxpayers won’t be affected by the debt, because property taxes couldn’t be used to pay off the bonds.  Opponents like Frazier say the plan would deny citizens’ right to vote on public projects that would take on long-term debt.

Records obtained by IFF show that the city also submitted six statements favoring the airport debt amendment to the Legislative Services Office, which will help put together the secretary of state’s election materials.  The city didn’t offer any statements against the amendment, though staff had suggested that people might oppose the plan because it would remove the voter requirement for debt projects.

Note: IdahoReporter.com is a product of the Idaho Freedom Foundation.  The public records requests on the city of Boise were performed by IFF, not IdahoReporter.com.

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