Boise Mayor Dave Bieter had a now-familiar "I told you so" look on his face. And with good reason: He told us so.
"We had a pretty good idea of where ACHD was likely to go on this," Bieter told Boise Weekly. "It's almost sad."
The mayor's borderline anger/sadness was targeting the Ada County Highway District's decision to deconstruct buffered bike lanes on Capitol Boulevard, Idaho and Main streets; and while no one is accusing ACHD of breaking a promise, some say that the organization bent it.
"I think within 30 to 60 days, we'll find the information we need to see if the pilot is successful," ACHD Vice President Mitchell Jaurena told BW, just days before the bike lanes were constructed. But Jaurena's tune was a bit different on June 4, when he said 30 days were more than enough reason to pull the plug on the pilot project. In fact, Jaurena insisted that he had made up his mind after reading results from an online survey and hearing from citizens at the June 4 public hearing (almost all of whom were in favor of keeping the lanes). He even pushed back against Boise City Council President Maryanne Jordan, who, in a last minute plea, begged Jaurena to reconsider.
"I have heard nothing new," said Jaurena. "With [Jordan's] inability to reach the basic requirement for reconsideration of the motion, to do so would clearly be arbitrary and capricious."
But Bieter saw it coming, arguing April 23 that the ACHD pilot was being set up to fail.
"I have learned, over time, to be careful about pilots," he told a sold-out Idaho Environmental Forum.
"This is not being set up to fail, by any means," Jaurena told BW when we asked him to comment on Bieter's comments.
But Bieter argued later that 30 days works against human nature, which is naturally inclined to push back against change.
"This pilot had just enough time..." Bieter paused for a moment. "You know what? It had just enough time for people not to get used to it. That's why a pilot wasn't the right way to go. You do the leg work ... and then you make a decision. And if you feel that you have to, at some later time, you can make another decision. But you don't just put your finger to the wind and do things like this."
City officials have expressed their increasing frustration over the unique way ACHD manages Boise streets. While the mayor and City Council govern nearly all of the city, they have little, if any, say over what happens from curb to curb on city streets--that's the ACHD's authority.
"El alcalde sin calles," said Bieter, sharing part of a conversation with an elected official from the Basque Country who was astounded that Bieter was indeed, "the mayor with no streets."
The story got a good laugh at the April 23 Idaho Environmental Forum, but there has been little to laugh about since.
"We'll know more in the coming months," said Bieter. "There is an ACHD election coming up."
And that's about as serious as it gets when Bieter refers to the city's frustration with ACHD commissioners. Indeed, on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 4, two seats on the five-member ACHD board of commissioners will be up for grabs.
"Elections matter, absolutely," said Bieter. "And this [bike lane controversy] is going to be part of that discussion."
Come November, Jaurena will be up for re-election, seeking a return to his seat representing ACHD District No. 4, which includes much of the southern portion of Ada County.
Also up for grabs will be the seat representing District No. 3, which covers a large swath of land from Boise's North End, toward the Foothills, and then west to Eagle and Star. The seat is currently held by John Franden (a supporter of extending the pilot), who said he'll be retiring from the post.
The seat currently held by Rebecca Arnold (District No. 2) may soon be in play as well, as Arnold will be on the ballot this November as a candidate for 4th District Judge.
Meanwhile, ACHD didn't waste any time in dismantling the lanes. Some literally disappeared overnight (BW, Citydesk, "ACHD Bike Removal Begins," June 9, 2014). An ACHD electronic reader board sitting alongside the now-defunct lanes read: "Bike Lane Demo Project" but "Demo" could have been confused for demolition as much as demonstration.
"These lanes were just starting to work," Bieter told BW. "I hope that, with them going away, an effort to do it again isn't hurt. So, we'll see."
ACHD commissioners promised to discuss the issue later this summer, but by then the public may begin seeing the names of other citizens who may want to hold sway on such an issue. The deadline for those wishing to file to run in the November election for a seat on the ACHD Board of Commissioners is Wednesday, Aug. 6.