Signatures delivered to city clerk: Two issues for November
Boise’s library and stadium projects may both make November’s city ballot now that a citizens group has submitted more than 7,000 signatures to the city clerk, about 40 percent more than the minimum needed.
Boise Working Together submitted additional signatures Tuesday, bringing their total to 7,148 to put the stadium on the ballot and 7,311 for the library. The group needed 4,962 for each. The signatures must still be verified, a process that often rejects some signatures as invalid, so a cushion is necessary.
“We worked so hard to give people a voice in November, and now they get to vote however they feel is better,” Adelia Simplot, president of Boise Working Together, told the Idaho Statesman after the signatures had been turned in to Deputy City Clerk Jamie Heinzerling. “It is truly a valuable, valuable gift for the city.”
The city plans a new main library to replace the existing one on South Capitol Boulevard. The city is working with an Atlanta developer to build a stadium west of Downtown that would be the new home of the Boise Hawks baseball team as well as a new professional soccer team. The stadium would sit between Main Street and Fairview Avenue on Whitewater Park Boulevard.
Mayor David Bieter said the city is “optimistic that both projects will become reality, no matter the ultimate determination by the county clerk on the petitions.”
“Whatever the outcome of this process, these projects represent the kind of city we want to leave behind for future generations,” Bieter said in a news release. “To me, the choice is clear – we must chart a course with vision. The alternative is simply not worthy of this fine city and its residents.”
The library would cost an estimated $85 million and the stadium $50 million, much of which would come from taxpayer money.
The library’s funds are expected to come from $15 million in urban-renewal funding for an adjacent parking garage, $15 million from other city funds, $18 million in philanthropy, and $32 million to $37 million in lease payments the city would make.
The stadium would be privately developed but owned by the city. Most of its $50 million is expected to come from bonds sold by Boise’s urban-renewal agency and paid back with increased property taxes created by new, surrounding development, plus lease payments of more than $1 million per year made by Agon Sports, which owns the Boise Hawks and the soccer team that would play at the stadium.
The plans for both projects to use urban renewal money triggered the possibility that either or both could end up going before voters independently of the petition drive in order to comply with changes the Legislature made this year to Idaho’s urban renewal law. The law requires a public vote if the cost of a municipal building or a major remodel exceeds $1 million and is funded by at least 51 percent non-federal public money that includes any amount of urban-renewal money.
Bieter said the new law was aimed at Boise’s plans. Bieter said in a radio interview Friday that the library project could move forward as planned under the new law, and that he thought “a route forward” existed for the stadium too, but he has not provided details.
Those who worked to gather the petitions said they were pleasantly surprised that Boise Working Together had achieved its goal.
“We were under a lot of pressure,” John Bertram, a member of the group, said. “We weren’t sure we were going to make it, but then more and more people started dropping their petitions off. Something happened, and then all of a sudden it was nonstop. … It’s democracy in action.”
The group says it has no stance on either project but wants people to have the chance to vote.
Robert West, treasurer for Protect Our Libraries, a pro-library group that tried to give potential signers “a few facts to consider” before signing, said his group plans to move forward to make the library project a success.
“For every person who said yes and signed, I bet there are three or four who said no,” West said in a phone call Tuesday. “We’ll just have to wait and see what the county says.”
The petition signers must be registered Boise voters as verified by the Ada County Board of Elections. The 4,962 signatures represent 20 percent of the voters who cast their ballot in the 2017 Boise city election. Heinzerling said the county has 60 days to verify the signatures.