A New Boise Foothills Levy Could Be In the Works 

Local nonprofits create a political action committee to get the conversation started

The foothills levy passed by voters in 2001 has less than $1.5 million left. When it passed, it gave the city $10 million to acquire and maintain land in the foothills, and helped the city recently purchase almost 300 acres of land called Hillside to Hollow. Now that the funds are dwindling, foothill enthusiasts are looking for a way to replenish the fund.

An attempt to put another $10 million towards Boise’s open space was made in 2013, when voters were faced with a bond that would allocate more money to parks and foothills. It was part of the Yes! Yes! For Boise campaign, which also pushed a bond to build and renovate fire stations around the city, but the measures failed to pass by a matter of percentage points. Despite having more than 60 percent of the vote in favor of the bond, it needed two thirds and fell short.

“The question is when, not if,” said Conservation Voters for Idaho Executive Director John Reuter.

His organization, in conjunction with the Idaho Conservation League, has created a political action committee called Boise for Clean Water and Open Space. The PAC went live with the secretary of state on April 28.

“This is the kind of tool that we open when we become really serious about pushing for a local initiative, whether that’s a bond or a levy. This is the step we would take,” he said.

He said the PAC, which currently has $5,000 in it, can be used to persuade the city council for the creation of a ballot measure. Should the council decide to present a measure to the voters, the PAC can then be used as a campaign tool, encouraging voters to pass the initiative.

Reuter stressed that no action has been taken yet on the part of the city, but council member Lauren McLean said the conversations are on the horizon.

“We saw that in 2013, more than 60 percent of voters value open space,” she told Boise Weekly. “I’m committed to responding to the residents’ request, and so are other members of the council. I expect we’ll have that conversation very soon. We need to if we want to do something this year.”

McLean originally managed the campaign for the first foothills levy in 2001. At the time, her daughter was only a toddler, exploring around the office while she worked on the campaign.

“Back then, when we would hike the foothills, she was on my back in a backpack,” McLean said. “Now, she’s old enough to go hike on her own with our family dog, and it’s her own time out there. I want that for her kids and grandkids.”

Though nothing is officially slated for this November’s ballot, Reuter thinks something like this would be better passing sooner than later.

“We don’t want to wait until the bank account is empty,” he said, referring to 2001’s levy. “And look what we did with it. We had an impact of more than $30 million dollars. The sooner we act, the more impact we can have on the community.”

A levy would be more likely to pass over a bond—like the one that failed in 2013—because a levy doesn’t need a super majority. Instead it only requires 50 percent of the vote. With numbers from the vote in 2013 over 60 percent, those anxious to see a levy feel confident it would pass.

“I’m really excited about it,” McLean said. “It would be so awesome, we could do even more. We did it once resoundingly and everybody wants to do it again.”
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