Guest Opinions

On Boise Centre, GBAD spent $750,000 to skirt election law

David Frazier
David Frazier

One can only marvel that our elected, business and civic leaders could actually take pride in their three-quarters-of-a-million-dollar expenditure for legal fees during their recent effort to deny citizens of the Greater Boise Auditorium District the right to vote on financing an expansion.

Their decision to engage in a protracted legal battle — and subsequent victory — has the potential of eliminating the right of voters to approve long-term debt for any public project.

Idaho’s Constitution clearly requires a two-third voter approval for debt to finance public works projects. I brought this fact to the attention of the GBAD board. They ignored the Constitution and spent three quarters of a million dollars in public money collected from the hotel room taxes to fight the simple request to hold an election.

The only reason to go around the voters was fear of rejection. An election would have been a simple question on the ballot — not even a special election.

Not once, but twice, 4th District Court judges ruled that a convoluted financial scheme put forth by GBAD was nothing more than about $23 million in debt disguised as an annual lease with 20 renewals.

Boise’s urban renewal agency, the Capital City Development Corp., has authority to sell bonds for public works projects, so they actively partnered with GBAD to build a public structure that will never yield a nickel in tax revenues. They were complicit in preventing the will of the people from being heard at an election to consider the debt.

Perhaps the best barometer of the true nature of the scheme came when Wells Fargo Bank backed out of the proposed financing deal, declaring it was nothing but an unsecured loan. They refused to be a player.

I don’t offer an opinion regarding merits of the Boise Centre expansion. My only issue was the fact five members of GBAD took it upon themselves to deny citizens of the district the right to vote on the multimillion-dollar public project, which lined the pockets of lawyers, developers, planners and bankers.

Frazier is a semi-retired photojournalist who edits the news blog He sued GBAD in an unsuccessful attempt to force an election over the issue of public debt.