The days are numbered for all of this snow and the cruel cold that allows it to linger in the Treasure Valley. By late March, though, we’re going to see warmer temperatures and, after we turn our clocks ahead, sunshine kissing our days until 8 p.m.
What we’re wondering is whether there will ever be a thaw in relations between two of the most powerful and often hyper-political government agencies in the Treasure Valley: the city of Boise and the Ada County Highway District.
The animosity never seems to go away. It raised its ugly head earlier this month in the midst of efforts by our city, county and citizens to dig out of this snow. That’s when Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, in a Statesman Guest Opinion, decided to criticize ACHD’s pace and advance preparations to clear our roads — after a record-setting winter that has buffeted us with nearly 3 feet of snow amid subfreezing and even subzero temperatures.
Bieter was right to declare a state of emergency because we were in one. We’re happy he ordered city crews to pitch in to help clear the roads. But then to boast that the city of Boise could do better if it were in charge of the streets? That’s when the opportunistic nature of his rant became clear, and we in the community heaved a heavy sigh, “Here We Go Again.”
ACHD Commissioner Paul Woods responded with a Guest Opinion rebuttal pointing out “falsehoods” in Bieter’s assertions and making it clear that “ACHD has been working since December 10, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and brought in all available public and private resources to help.”
Woods and most of us saw through the blizzard of ACHD criticism to understand that this is about Boise getting back control of its roadways — which it lost 45 years ago when ACHD was formed. Woods, who used to work for the city under Bieter, even went so far as to say Boise can make some good arguments for getting back control of the roads.
Two Boise City Council members who did not sign on to Bieter’s piece —Scot Ludwig and TJ Thomson — chimed in with a third Guest Opinion suggesting that maybe voters should get a chance to reconsider this arrangement whereby ACHD is in charge of road maintenance for the cities in the county. In fact, there is a dissolution pathway spelled out in Idaho Statutes.
But before we get there, let’s get through this winter. There’s plenty of time to do a postmortem within ACHD — and a larger discussion where citizens, ACHD and all representatives from cities ACHD serves can attend. Bieter is unhappy with ACHD’s performance. Meridian Mayor Tammy de Weerd told us she was quite satisfied with the ACHD and community response during “a historic weather event.” Under the difficult circumstances, we appreciate the efforts of ACHD and Boise — though we all know any effort can be improved.
ACHD has spent $4.2 million on the storm so far — after budgeting a reasonable $1.8 million for snow removal in a typical year. The 30-year event doesn’t come along every year, it comes along every three decades. To buy equipment and staff up for a winter like this every year would result in citizens complaining about higher taxes, and people and plows sitting idle.
In these surprise years, we have to pull together. People in the Treasure Valley did. We thank them for the countless gestures of assistance, for their patience. We appreciate all of the employees who got out there day and night and did their duties.
We understand that ACHD and Boise have issues. But what leadership of these government agencies needs to remember is that we expect them to find a way to work together, give us the best city services our taxes can buy during this crisis — and then, let’s talk about how to do better.
Unsigned Editorial Board opinions express the consensus of the Statesman’s Editorial Board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email editorial@idaho statesman.com.