What the watchdogs sniffed out this week

Lindsay Atkinson Articles

Every week, as I read through the news, attend county and city meetings, and hear comments from residents, I learn more about the complicated pool of local government authority.

This week, early voting has begun in many counties. In addition to voting for state officials, Idahoans have the opportunity to choose their local officials. As you submit your Election Day ballots, keep in mind the liberty-promoting and liberty-diminishing policies your local officials have implemented over their past terms.

Below are recent noteworthy actions by local governments across the state.

Boise. On October 9, the transfer of the Grove Plaza from the Capital City Development Corporation (CCDC) to the city received extra attention. The city council had already approved the transfer at its August 28 meeting, but Council President Laura McLean requested a reconsideration.

In August, the mayor’s staff prepared the meeting’s agenda memo for city council members. However, the agenda memo did not mention a key deed restriction: If the city sells the plaza in the future, the sale proceeds will have to go to the construction of a public sports park. This lead to the transfer being approved without discussion in the August meeting.

During the October 9 reconsideration, CCDC explained that it included the deed restriction to ensure that if the taxpayer-funded facility is sold, another may be constructed. Councilmembers Lauren McLean and Elaine Clegg questioned the specification of the construction of a sports park as the only possible use of the funds, instead of a range of options of public facilities that could be constructed.

The council ended the discussion with a confusing vote change that led to the upholding of its original property transfer, with the condition intact. While substantial public opposition has formed against a publicly-funded sports park, several city officials, including Mayor David Bieter, who appoints members to and sits on the CCDC board as its secretary-treasurer, have consistently supported the construction of a public sports park.

Idaho Falls. On October 11, the Idaho Falls City Council passed a hands-free cell phone ordinance that bans the use of handheld devices while driving. Starting January 1, violations will be ticketed. The first two violations are citations, but a driver will be guilty of a misdemeanor after the third citation in a two-year period. Ammon, a city adjacent to Idaho Falls, does not have a hands-free ordinance.

Nampa. On October 15, the Nampa City Council approved the expenditure of up to $1,800 on ten anti-panhandling signs. Though the signs cannot prevent panhandlers from asking passersby for money, their intended use is to educate the public about alternatives to giving to panhandlers—such as giving to local charities. However, upon discussion of if local charities would be interested in helping to fund these signs to redirect panhandlers to their services, no city councilors knew of any interested parties. So, the council approved funding for the signs and gave the police department discretion regarding the location and wordage. The decision to fund these signs comes after a three-year streak of zero ticket issuances by the Nampa police department for panhandling.

What is your local government doing that should be highlighted? Please comment below and let us know. Thank you!