Groups file 2023 ballot petition, hope Boise will add new protections for open space

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A familiar group of Boiseans is hoping for another ballot initiative, but not until the 2023 election. 

On Tuesday, Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, activists from the citizens’ group Boise Working Together and Friends of Murgoitio Park filed the initial paperwork for a ballot initiative asking if Boise voters would like to require a public vote before the City of Boise can make changes to public land earmarked for park development. If approved, the initiative would prevent the “sale, trade, gift, or change in use” of parkland or any properties purchased with the city’s Open Space and Clean Water levy funds without a majority vote of approval from the public.

Gannon said this initiative was spurred by the now-defunct discussions about potentially trading the Murgoitio park site just outside of Boise city limits with the Harris Family for housing development and a seven-acre park. He said this initiative should “signal” to those in power that Boiseans want to keep their parks and open space as is. 

“The important thing to remember is that we have tremendous growth in Boise and with that a lot of pressures,” he said, standing in the lobby of Boise City Hall. “What Murgoitio showed is that we don’t have adequate protection for many of our parks and open space.”

Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, files paperwork to start the ballot initiative process to require a public vote before city parkland can be sold, traded or have the use changed. Photo: Margaret Carmel/BoiseDev

How will the initiative process work?

The deadline to file paperwork, thousands of signatures, and complete all of the mandatory waiting periods during the lengthy ballot initiative process for the November 2021 election was September 13. Because the group missed the filing deadline for 2021, the question cannot appear in front of voters until the next municipal election in November 2023. 

Gannon submitted the Certificate of Review to the City of Boise on Tuesday along with a few dozen signatures, beginning the initiative process. Now, staff in the city clerk’s office will review the language submitted by the activists and offer suggestions in the next 20 working days. Then, the group has the option to officially file the paperwork to start the initiative process and they will have until 180 days from that date to collect the roughly 9,000 valid signatures necessary to get it on the ballot. 

This is nearly double the number of signatures Boise Working Together was required to gather in 2019 when the group organized for the twin ballot initiatives for a public vote on the possibility of a sports park and a new library. The number of signatures required for a ballot initiative is calculated based on the turnout of the previous election. The 2019 Boise municipal election earned a higher than usual turnout with more than 43,000 ballots cast

Boise City Council candidates Greg MacMillan, Katie Fite and Steve Madden joined Gannon and Boise Working Together members David Klinger, John Bertram and Mark Baltes at City Hall on Tuesday morning when the paperwork was filed. Southwest Ada County Alliance President Marisa Keith and Friends of Murgoitio Park Board Member Estee LaFrenz were also in attendance. Former Parks and Recreation Director Jim Hall is also supporting the effort, Gannon said.

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. 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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