New Boise library or stadium? They’re OK with it, but want a say for those who aren’t

If it has its way, Boise Working Together will put a proposed downtown Boise sports stadium and library to a vote.

The non-profit group believes that people should have a right to have their say on where their money goes.

About two dozen people gathered Saturday afternoon on the south lawn of the D.L. Evans Bank before heading out to start acquiring the required signatures to place a pair of initiatives on the upcoming November ballot.

The initiatives, which need 5,000 signatures in order to make the ballot, would require voter approval on both the stadium and library.

The library project has already been approved by local government entities, while the stadium is still in its proposal stage. As of now, neither requires a public vote.

“It is so important to have people involved in their government. And it seems like government in general is saying, ‘No, no, stay out,’” said state Rep. John Gannon, a Boise Democrat. “And I don’t think that’s good. I don’t think that’s healthy.”

The library, proposed to overlook the Boise River, is budgeted to cost $85 million, while the stadium, proposed on the south side of Main Street between Whitewater Park Boulevard and 27th Street in the West End, is budgeted at around $40 million, per previous Statesman reporting.

When projects are slated to cost a significant amount of money, Gannon believes people should have a say.

“These kinds of initiatives and public involvement are so much a part of a democracy, and they’re so important to living in America,” Gannon said. “Part of living in America is getting people involved in their government.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, an initiative is “a law or constitutional amendment introduced by citizens through a petition process either to the legislature or directly to the voters.”

Just 24 states allow for ballot initiatives, which, in essence, allow citizens to put measures of public interest on a ballot for a public vote given that they have the required support, the Initiative and Referendum Institute says.

Initiatives require a simple majority to pass once on the ballot, and the signatures must be collected by April 30 in order to be put on the ballot.

Among those in attendance to help collect signatures was Adelia Simplot, who serves as the board president for Boise Working Together. Simplot isn’t against a new library; she’s been going to the library since she was 4 years old, she said.

She does, however, believe the opinions of residents should matter.

“I think what we’re against is how quickly this has happened without the people having impact,” Simplot said. “When we’ve tried to go to the city and have a response, they seem to shut us out.“