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You asked: No, Boise didn’t repeal the requirement for a vote on a new main library

Don’t worry, Boise. You will still get to vote on a new main library if the city proposes one.

In the past two weeks, BoiseDev received several questions about why the Boise City Council voted to remove an ordinance allowing for “special city election questions” in September. This ordinance is not the ballot initiative passed by voters last November, but a different proposal from city council to give residents a vote on the controversial project.

[Boise looks at library options after initiative scuttled $100MM+ building]

Now, with the ballot initiative passed City Council repealed the “special city election question” ordinance because it is redundant.

Everyone wants a vote, but how to get there?

This comes from a particularly confusing chapter of Boise municipal history. At the tail end of 2018, citizens group Boise Working Together filed paperwork to begin collecting signatures for two ballot initiatives. These initiatives, which later passed, would give residents a choice to vote on whether they would like to vote on a main library project or the city using its government funds to build a sports park.

Once the ballot initiative organizers gathered enough signatures, Boise City Council had the choice under Idaho state code to adopt the ballot initiative and bypass a vote on it. This would eliminate a “vote for a vote” and would directly put into code a provision requiring a vote on the two controversial projects. 

Navigating legal questions

But, Boise City Council and then-Mayor Dave Bieter expressed concerns with the constitutionality of the ballot initiative language. Bieter indicated if they were to pass and he were reelected, he would support challenging it in court. 

Although they felt the ballot initiative was unconstitutional, council did support creating a legal way for residents to voice their opinion on the main library project at the ballot box. At the suggestion of City Council President Pro Tem Elaine Clegg, who is now council president, council created the “special city election questions” ordinance prior to the November election.

This ordinance, which was approved, said any capital project from the City of Boise costing more than $25 million from the general fund would have a public hearing and a vote on it. The results of the vote on the project would not be legally binding.

After the ordinance passed, the November election was held and the ballot initiatives passed and McLean became mayor after a December runoff. The ballot initiatives have not been challenged in court. Boise City Council recently voted to make a slight change to the ballot initiative language requiring a vote on the library to keep the requirement of a vote intact while making it easier for city staff to present a proposal to the public.

Bottom line: Boise still gets a vote.

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev senior reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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