Boise & Garden City

Group pushes to get Boise library issue on the ballot. Here’s what city council faces

What will and won’t be on the Nov. 5 ballot when it comes to the proposed new Boise library is still unclear, but it could become a bit clearer after next week’s Boise City Council meeting.

At its meeting Tuesday, the council decided to come back next week with a new ordinance about how residents weigh in on bigger city projects. The goal is to combine the two ordinances proposed from Council Pro Tem Elaine Clegg.

Those ordinances brought forth drafted language to amend the city code to authorize the city to put “special city questions” to a vote. In order for the council to place the library project on the ballot, it first would need authority to put projects to a vote. Clegg said these ordinances could give it that.

Idaho grants cities relatively narrow authority and only powers explicitly given by the Legislature, Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane told the Statesman in June. The state lays out what a city can put on a ballot, and it’s not clear if a vote for spending is one of those things, he said. Idaho law dictates that if any of the ordinances were to pass, those measures become law.

The first ordinance dealt with capital city projects and outlined public hearing requirements for projects on $25 million or more in general funds. Additionally, it said the council would need to give a seven-day notice for a public hearing and provide the description, estimated cost and plans for the project.

The second ordinance dealt with having special city elections. Those could occur in two ways: A group of 25 or more residents could ask the council to consider a city special election, or the mayor and council could take that action on their own.

Those suggested ordinances are expected to be combined to streamline and simplify the process. Some council members had concerns about the scope of the ordinances, and they wanted to make sure they get to the issue at hand: ensuring the library project is on the ballot for residents to vote on in November.

“Streamlining this process and simplifying it, at least right now, would be a good move so we can get this on the ballot this November,” Boise City Council Member TJ Thomson said at Tuesday’s meeting.

The council is working up against a tight deadline. To get the library project on the ballot, the new ordinance has to go through first, second and third readings next week. If members approve it, they will need to schedule a public hearing by the end of August. That could be difficult, however, because the council recesses for part of August.

Clegg said the council needs to submit to the county clerk by the end of August to meet a Sept. 16 deadline to get the issue on the ballot.

Council members say they want to honor the spirit of the citizen initiatives brought forth by citizen group Boise Working Together and ensure residents can vote on the project and other pricey projects in the future.

The council voted unanimously June 25 to reject two ordinances proposed by Boise Working Together. One ordinance would require a vote on library projects costing more than $25 million, while the other would require a vote on stadium projects costing more than $5 million in public or private money.

Because the council declined to adopt them, those initiatives are both set to appear on the November ballot and will give residents a chance to “vote for a vote.”

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