BOISE — Six months after a group of Boiseans began a campaign to put the proposed sports park and main library on the ballot, the issue is getting its day at City Council.
On Tuesday, members of the public will get a chance to tell Boise City Council members their thoughts on a proposal that would put any library project or sports park project directly before the voters in November. The public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. on the third floor of City Hall. Since the ballot measure qualified last month, the proposal has been surrounded by legal uncertainty, and there are still lots of unanswered questions about whether the city has the authority to enact this ordinance at all and other implications.
The ballot initiative that qualified potentially creates a two-step process for voters to navigate. If City Council members do not take action, voters would get to decide in November if they would like a vote on projects of this kind. If a majority of residents votes yes, then it would set up votes in the future if the city proceeds with the projects.
The City Council members also can choose to adopt the ordinance after the required public hearing on the issue Tuesday. This would bypass the “vote for a vote” and eliminate any possible confusion.
However, Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane told council members last week he is not sure this is legal because of the structure of the Idaho Constitution and cities’ narrow range of power under the document.
If council members do not adopt the ordinances exactly as written in the initiative, the “vote for a vote” will automatically go on the November ballot.
Despite the uncertainty, citizens group Boise Working Together that worked on the initiative and other supporters are planning to come out to urge council to pass the initiative and circumvent the “vote for a vote.”
“The city has rarely been held to the degree of citizen engagement as they have with our initiatives which have galvanized both the county and state governments to deal with this true expression of citizen unrest,” Boise Working Together said on its Facebook page. “If the past week has shown us anything, it is that the city is once again trying to find a way around its responsibilities to engage with citizens and obtain our consent for large projects. We cannot allow this to happen!!”
The question of whether the city has legal standing to enact an ordinance requiring a vote on any library project set to exceed $25 million or a sports park that costs more than $5 million is still being studied by city attorneys.
Although the voter initiatives are related to both the main library and the proposed sports park, only the main library has a firm proposal on the table for consideration. City Council will be solidifying the details of whether it will use long-term lease financing or pay for a large portion of the project in cash in Tuesday’s budget workshop prior to the public hearing.
Meanwhile, a proposal for the sports park from Atlanta-based developer Greenstone Properties has not been presented to City Council, so there is nothing for residents to vote on at this point. If the ordinance in enacted, it would trigger a vote once a proposal comes forward.