With city council poised to put stadium to public vote, mayor delivers surprise news

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Boise City Council members appeared ready to put a Downtown Boise baseball stadium up to public vote, when the mayor threw a curveball.

The discussion was teed up as a chance for the council to give direction on two high profile projects that would use tax dollars: the stadium, and a rebuild of the main library building.

But before that discussion began, the mayor said Ada County officials advised him Tuesday that the city could not hold an advisory vote in odd-numbered years.

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“Obviously we are not in one,” he said – nothing he thought it was something city officials thought they could do. Bieter did not provide specifics, but said the information came out of conversations his staff had been having with county officials.

All Boise elections are handled by the Ada County Clerk. An email to the clerk’s office was not immediately returned late Tuesday night.

City Council President Lauren McLean seemed surprised by the news.

“This is new within the last hour,” she said, and questioned the mayor on how he found out the information. Later in the evening, McLean said she wanted to see “documentation” that stipulated why advisory votes were not allowed.

Members of the council each made remarks, and indicated support to put the stadium to a public vote.

[Library project to adapt after questions raised about Anne Frank tree, garden]

“I would say it’s been a conversation, but not all of us have been in it,” McLean said. It’s been a concept. “In my mind we can’t make a decision, and we can’t make a decision until we hear from the developer.”

There is no formal proposal to build a stadium in Boise, after developer Greenstone Properties abruptly pulled the plug on a plan to build the project at a site formerly owned by St. Luke’s Health System at Americana and Shoreline.

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Council: Library’s core to city decision making authority

As the discussion went along each member of the City Council expressed strong support for the Boise Public Library expansion project.

“I came prepared tonight to, I hope, separate these two processes,” council member Elaine Clegg said. “I feel fundamentally that libraries are core functions of cities.”

TJ Thomson said he worried putting a library project on the ballot would “set a bad precedent” that could lead to other city functions being put up for public vote. He listed items like bus routes or police precincts.

[Circulator, library, sports park: documents shed light on possible ways to pay for big Boise projects]

“The library, I believe, is one of the places here in Boise that is the center for the most diverse interactions in our community, which I appreciate,” council member Lisa Sánchez said. She also supports the library project.

Council member Holli Woodings said that during her campaign for election in 2017, she was asked numerous times about the library and stadium and candidate forums.

“Here I am, a candidate who was elected because I supported a library and supported a sports park,” she said.

Council member Scot Ludwig, who has been involved in bringing the stadium to Boise since its earliest days was not at the meeting. He told BoiseDev he had a pre-arranged travel conflict.

The discussion was held in the face of a potential ballot initiative that could put both the library and stadium projects up for a public vote.

“Having a vote will ensure a complete and thorough public discussion of the many issues involved in these two projects, from historic preservation to the intricacies of financing and use of public funds for private projects,” Boiseans Working Together board president Adelia Simplot said in a prepared statement sent before the meeting. “We aren’t against anything; we just want to hear the people of Boise speak up and agree on what kind of library or stadium they want, and we believe that discussion should be open and public.”

Several members of the public held signs that say “Let’s vote”

More feedback on The Cabin

In January, the City Council voted to move the building that houses The Cabin Literary Center to a new site in Julia Davis Park, but did not specify where.

McLean indicated there is new information about options for The Cabin, and asked city staff to hold a public hearing next Tuesday on the project.

Council members Clegg, Thomson and Woodings all weighed in saying they supported another round of feedback. Sánchez reiterated her earlier position that The Cabin should stay in place.

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