Signatures delivered to city clerk: Two issues for November
This November, Boiseans may head to the ballot box to vote on the proposed new main library and a stadium. Then again, they might not. Even if they do, they would vote only on the chance to vote again.
Here’s what Boiseans need to know:
The Ada County clerk on Thursday verified that enough signatures were gathered on petitions to place two proposed city ordinances on the ballot as citizen initiatives. The county is still verifying that the people who notarized the petitions are in good standing and that the circulators are all at least 18 years old and Idaho residents. Once that is done, the ordinances will appear on the November ballot.
Unless the City Council steps in.
Under Idaho law, when voters pass ordinances, they become law. But the same law gives city councils the option to adopt the ordinances first and render an election unnecessary.
City Council President Lauren McLean could not be reached Friday for comment on whether that might happen.
A citizens group called Boise Working Together circulated the petitions. Boise Working Together says it wants Boiseans to have a vote on the projects because of their cost, sizes and locations.
The language in the petitions doesn’t call for a stop to the projects. The ordinances simply require the consent of voters if a library project requires more than $25 million in city funds or if a stadium project requires more than $5 million in city funds, including the value of in-kind assistance, staff time and land.
Boise plans to replace its existing main library on Capitol Boulevard with an $85 million building on the same site. About $52 million would come from the city.
The proposed baseball and soccer stadium would be built for the city by Atlanta-based Greenstone Properties between Main Street and Fairview Avenue, and between Whitewater Park Boulevard and 27th Street, in the West End. The stadium is expected to cost about $50 million, but it is not clear how much of that would come from the city.
David Klinger, spokesman for Boise Working Together, said in a phone interview Friday that the initiatives “merely set up a better way, we think, of doing business and obligating the city on projects of this magnitude to have to go before the citizens for a vote.”
If the council wants to consider adopting the ordinances, it would have to hold a public hearing first.
If the ordinances stay on the November ballot and pass, or if the council adopts them, only then would the projects themselves go before voters. For the library, that could happen as early as next May, one year from now. Elections like these can be held only in November and May.
Mike Journee, Mayor David Bieter’s spokesman, said in an interview Thursday that he didn’t know when a vote might occur. On Friday, he told the Statesman that passage of the ordinances would not affect any contracts that have been signed or work that has already been done for the library.
The stadium project is not as far along as the library. The city has not yet received an official proposal from Greenstone Properties, which has been working on it for more than two years.
The petitioners’ proposed ordinances are unrelated to separate potential ballot measures on each project that a newly enacted state law would require if the projects use property tax revenue raised by urban renewal districts.
Both projects are inside urban-renewal districts. Exemptions in the law may allow the library to escape an urban-renewal election.
But the stadium’s financing plan, disclosed before the Legislature passed the law this year, depended in part on urban-renewal funds. Greenstone expected to produce more than $100 million of development in the urban-renewal district surrounding the stadium to generate the tax dollars that would cover bonds needed for construction. It’s not clear whether a different financing plan would allow the stadium to escape an urban-renewal election.
In Idaho, residents have a right to create legislation through initiatives such as Boise Working Together’s ordinances under Article III, Section 1 of the Idaho Constitution. Requirements for initiative elections are spelled out under Title 34, Chapter 18 of Idaho Code.
Business Editor David Staats contributed.