A political action committee funded by developers and some of Idaho’s largest employers encourages voters to approve a bond funding sewer system improvements.
Yes for Clean and Affordable Water is a PAC with developer Clay Carley as its treasurer running ads on Facebook and sending mailers advocating for the bond on the November ballot. If approved, the bond would take out up to half a billion dollars in loans to cover a decade’s worth of improvements to the city’s wastewater renewal system. This includes replacing aging infrastructure, new capacity to cover the city’s growing needs, and water recycling.
Under Idaho law, the City of Boise cannot promote the bond, it can only educate residents about it. The proposed improvements are part of the city’s water renewal utility plan, which was unanimously approved by the city council in 2020. City officials say the city will go ahead with the plan regardless of if the bond is approved, but if it has to pay for the plan in cash, it will result in a roughly 50% rate increase in one year instead of a steadier, roughly 9% increase over time.
Developers say bond would alleviate longterm costs
Clay Carley told BoiseDev he agreed to become a treasurer of the PAC after Mayor Lauren McLean called him and asked if he would help raise funds for it. After a meeting with Public Works Director Steve Burgos to discuss the plan, he agreed it was a well-thought-out solution to funding the city’s needs.
“All developers have to pay sewer impact fees, and it’s expensive,” he said. “My current projects on Grove Street, we paid six figures (in) impact fees. It’s in front of us, every time we build something, there’s a sewer impact fee. Other developers like myself say we want to have the most current, long-lasting proper wastewater system we can have because our assumption is because if we (vote for the bond), like all buildings if we keep up with our maintenance, it costs less in the long run.”
The mailers for the campaign tell voters to vote yes to “protect water quality,” “ensure predictable utility rates,” and “help meet sustainable city goals.” Carley and other proponents noted spreading out the cost of the improvements over time will ensure newcomers and new developments chip in to cover the cost, not just current residents of the city.
There are several candidates running in opposition to the bond, including Luci Willits in District 1, Maria Santa Cruz-Cernik and Greg MacMillan in District 3, and Katie Fite and Steve Madden in District 5. Opponents to the bond say it’s too high a price tag and, developers should foot the bill for the entire roughly $1 billion plan through impact fees instead of asking ratepayers.
Big corporate donors
So far, the PAC has raised roughly $60,000.
Top donors include $10,000 from Micron Technology, J.R. Simplot Company, and Blue Cross of Idaho. Other donors include developer Tommy Ahlquist’s development firm BVA, ESI Construction, Idaho Central Credit Union, Carley, Conservation Voters for Idaho, and developer Roundhouse, formerly known as Local Construct. HDR, an engineering consultant in Nebraska, also chipped in with the city on the project.
City Council Member Patrick Bageant also donated $1,000 to the campaign.
The campaign finance paperwork available on the PAC only reports donations so far and no expenditures. Carley told BoiseDev that his role in the PAC has been solely raising money, and he has not been involved in creating the materials. He said it has all been handled by PR firm Strategies 360.
Strategies 360 employee Hailie Johnson-Waskow told BoiseDev the PAC paid the firm to run the campaign. She said the expenditures were not logged yet because it did not start spending money until this month, and October reports are not due until November 2.