Candidates clash over GBAD funds

Three challengers pool resources and appear on one brochure.

sberg@idahostatesman.comMay 10, 2013 

  • What is GBAD?

    The Greater Boise Auditorium District was authorized by voters in 1959. It was meant to boost the Boise economy.

    The district gets its money from a 5 percent tax on hotel rooms inside its boundaries, which surround Boise. It operates Boise Centre, a convention venue that opened in 1990.

    WHAT ABOUT THE ELECTION?

    On May 21, voters will decide who runs the district.

    The election is at-large, so the top two vote-earners in the race for two six-year terms will win. One candidate will win a two-year term.

Money, not ideology, was the reason Jim Walker, Steve Berch and George Tway appeared together on campaign literature, the candidates said Thursday.

When they decided to run against Greater Boise Auditorium District incumbents Rob Perez, Stephanie Astorquia and Peter Oliver, the trio of challengers believed teaming up was a more efficient way to use their resources, they said.

Hy Kloc, the board's sitting chairman, discussed the move with them. Kloc, whose seat on the board is not up in this election, said he wants Walker, Berch and Tway to win to shake up the district's leadership.

Tway said Democratic party campaign specialist Shelby Scott helped design the challengers' joint brochure. Efforts to contact Scott were unsuccessful.

Two other challengers, John May and Noah Bard, are not on the brochure. May is a veteran hotel manager and former board member for Boise's urban renewal agency. Efforts to contact Bard were unsuccessful. He did not appear at a candidate forum Thursday, citing health problems.

Control of the auditorium district is at stake in the May 21 election. Eight candidates are vying for three available seats on the five-member board. The winners will determine how to spend the roughly $13 million in district savings, plus more than $2 million a year in surplus income.

The fact they're on the same brochure doesn't mean Walker, Berch and Tway are ideologically aligned, they say, although that is exactly what many politicians and businesspeople suspect.

"We don't necessarily agree on everything, but we think we can work together," Berch said. "I know I can work with George and Jim, having met them and just knowing who they are. I believe I can work with anyone."

The challengers outlined some of the things that make them different following Thursday's forum.

Walker said he's intrigued by the idea of using district money to build a sports stadium west of Downtown. He's not convinced Boise needs more convention space.

Tway is less enthusiastic about the stadium, although he doesn't rule it out. He believes more and better convention space can boost the area's economy.

Berch said he's open to all kinds of projects, but hasn't decided which ones are the best. At Thursday's forum, Berch aggressively attacked what he described as a lack of cooperation and momentum by the incumbent board.

The three incumbents - who are openly running as a group and appear on the same website promoting their candidacies - say Berch is wrong.

Perez, who was appointed to the board a year ago, said the infighting and ineffectiveness that plagued the district in recent years has gone away. The incumbents have established a level of trust that positions them to be productive moving forward, Perez said. That's why they're campaigning together, they said at the forum.

Oliver said everyone on the board now understands that any district undertaking has to make business sense for the district as well as the greater Boise area.

Sven Berg: 377-6275

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