After her success in Mays Greater Boise Auditorium District election, 23-year-old Shelby Scott took on a tougher campaign: convincing Boise voters to raise their own taxes.
Scott helped reshape the auditorium districts board of directors when two of the three candidates she worked for knocked off incumbents. Success this time will mean two out of three ballots cast in favor of two separate bond measures. The bonds would allow the city to borrow more than $32 million for new and improved parks, open space purchases, upgrades to four fire stations and a new fire training facility.
If she fails, it wont be because of a lack of money.
The Yes! Yes! for Boise campaign, which Scott and fellow independent contractor Tom Hamilton are running, paid almost $10,000 for a 30-second video promoting the bonds.
The campaign also paid more than $5,000 to Washington, D.C.-based strategist Hilltop Public Solutions, which helped shape the campaign, and at least $8,300 to lobbying firm Strategies 360, according to Boise election records. The Strategies 360 payments were for help designing mailers, Scott said.
Spending in excess of $200,000 ranks up there for a Boise campaign, but its not unprecedented. In their 2007 mayoral race, Dave Bieter and Jim Tibbs raised more than $300,000 between them.
Some of the biggest players in Boises business community are backing the bonds.
The biggest cash contributors are ESI, the company thats building the 8th and Main tower Downtown, and Gardner Property Holdings, sister to the company that owns the building. Those companies each contributed $15,000 in August. Babcock Design Group, which designed 8th and Main, gave at least $5,000.
We do a lot of this sort of stuff when we believe in it, Gardner COO Tommy Ahlquist said. I think (the bonds are) going to do a lot of good. It has everything to do with the community.
Republic Services, which collects garbage for the city of Boise, gave $5,000 to the cause. So did CH2M Hill Engineers and St. Lukes Regional Medical Center.
Hayden Beverage Co., Syringa Networks and The Grove Hotel each gave $2,500. Stein Distributing contributed $1,000, as did Mountain West Bank, commercial real estate broker Thornton Oliver Keller, Challenger Productions, architecture firm CSHQA and D.L. Evans Bank.
At least four unions Idaho State AFL-CIO, the International Association of Fire Fighters, Professional Firefighters of Idaho and Boise Fire Fighters Local #149 gave a total of $8,750.
It just really speaks to the support that were finding in the community, Scott said of the contributions. I mean, were getting it from individuals, small businesses, large businesses.
No broad, organized or well-funded effort to fight the bonds has materialized, though a few prominent Boiseans have announced their opposition. Mike Tracy, former spokesman for U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, sent out postcards recently that encouraged anyone whos a fellow Republican to vote against the bonds and 20 years of interest payments that would add more than $18 million to the bonds cost.
Make no mistake This is a big property tax increase! Tracys postcards warn. Stop the wasteful spending and the out-of-control growth that David Bieter has been pushing since he was elected in 2003.
Tracy said he spent $2,000 of his own money on the postcards.
Wayne Hoffman, founder and president of the conservative Idaho Freedom Foundation, and City Hall watchdog David Frazier have also publicly opposed the bonds.
James Auld, president of the Ada County Property Owners Association, wrote a Readers View in the Statesman urging Boiseans to vote against these phony bond issues.
To be clear, these bond issues are not investments in the usual sense that an asset is purchased with the hope of a financial return or increase in the value of the asset, Auld wrote.
ECHOES OF 2001
City Councilwoman Lauren McLean, whos not up for re-election this year, matched dollar-for-dollar from her own campaign donations made to the bond campaign on her behalf. The total contribution came to $5,170.
McLean made a mark on Boise politics in 2001 when she helped run the campaign for a two-year serial levy that generated $10 million for purchases and preservation of Foothills land. She said the enthusiasm that shes seeing going into Tuesdays bond election compares favorably to what she saw 12 years ago.
Were seeing more interest in this city election than in recent ones because Boise residents know that what we have here is special and that this election gives the opportunity to save more Foothills open space and natural areas along the river, McLean said.
Scott said the campaign has spent most of its money, so organizers dont have a big flourish in store for the last few days before the election. Theyll still send out fliers, she said, and volunteers will be out knocking on doors and making phone calls.
Staff for Conservation Voters for Idaho helped coordinate some of those volunteers, in addition to donating office space and other efforts geared for the campaigns ground game. Executive Director John Reuter, a former Sandpoint city councilman and spokesman for the Idaho Senate Republican caucus, said the enthusiasm around the election is great and has convinced him that the bonds will pass.
I am increasingly convinced that this is a turning point in the city of Boise, Reuter said. In the early weeks of the campaign, I was skeptical, but as Ive seen these volunteers show up night after night and watched as they reach out to people and the responses they get on the phones, it is inspiring, and it really shows that we have a community that cares about its future.
Sven Berg: 377-6275