Boise mayor not giving up on bonds projects

The spending measures could be brought back, Dave Bieter says.

sberg@idahostatesman.comNovember 7, 2013 

  • Election Day final four: the case of Ada County’s ‘uncounted’ precincts

    As close race after close race drew to an end Tuesday night, candidates and voters alike couldn't help wondering about four precincts Ada County showed as uncounted.

    The four in question are sparsely populated. Three — Precincts 2213, 2205 and 1412 — are on the county's southwestern, western and northwestern edges, respectively. The fourth, precinct 2109, is southwest of the corner of Victory and Cole roads.

    In most races, those precincts wouldn't carry much weight, but some were tight enough that a handful of votes could make a difference. And so some election watchers stayed nervous into Wednesday's wee hours.

    Unnecessarily nervous, as it turns out. The reason Ada County didn't show the last four precincts as counted was that there were no votes to count — either because people didn't participate or they had no races to participate in. That meant the vote-counting machines had nothing to tabulate, so they didn't report the precincts as counted.

    That's not a common occurrence, even in off-year elections such as Tuesday's, county election staffers said.

For a man who put his reputation and sweat into a losing cause, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter seemed pretty upbeat Wednesday.

"There's just too much good news to feel too bad," Bieter said. "Even though we wanted to win."

Bieter watched Tuesday night as voters narrowly defeated two bond measures he announced in June and supported. More than 61 percent of votes were in favor of a bond that would have invested $15.5 million in open space purchases and Central and West Bench park upgrades, and 64 percent said "yes" to a bond that would have authorized $17 million in debt for fire station upgrades and a new fire training facility.

As City Council President Maryanne Jordan said, those percentages usually represent a landslide victory. Barack Obama won last year's presidential election with less than 52 percent of the popular vote.

"When 64 percent of your citizens vote to tax themselves, that's a big deal," Bieter said.

But it isn't enough to win an Idaho bond election, which requires a two-thirds majority.

John Freemuth, a Boise State University professor of public policy and political science, wondered whether Bieter and the pro-bonds campaigns blundered by not paying enough attention to West Boise and Bench neighborhoods.

"The people heard more about the Foothills and less about their neighborhoods," Freemuth said.

People who live on the Bench and in West Boise might have believed open space purchases — many of which would have taken place in the Foothills — wouldn't benefit them as much as residents of the North End and Northwest Boise, Freemuth said. Provisions for Bench parks might have been seen as tokens meant to draw in Bench votes, he said, when the real goal was to get more money for the Foothills. The bond called for $5.5 million for Bench parks and $10 million for open space purchases.

So what now?

Bieter said "everything's on the table" when it comes to figuring out how to pay for the investments the bonds would have covered. That includes potential future bond measures or two-year levies to raise the money, he said.

The mayor said it's too early to know which funding options are the most likely to succeed.

He is confident, however, that Boiseans will be receptive. Tuesday's results bear that out, he said.

"You have to conclude, with three incumbent council members winning overwhelmingly and these numbers on the bonds, that people think we're on the right track," Bieter said.

Sven Berg: 377-6275

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