'Clever Language' 

GBAD takes one more crack at finance plan rather than go to voters

The City Center Plaza construction project is under way while GBAD continues to try to find a way to pay for its part of the complex.

Harrison Berry

The City Center Plaza construction project is under way while GBAD continues to try to find a way to pay for its part of the complex.

Having had its knuckles rapped once already from an Idaho judge for making an end-run around the Idaho Constitution, the Greater Boise Auditorium District is preparing to reach out with its other hand in a continuing effort to fund the renovation of the Boise Centre, construction of a new ballroom/banquet facility as part of the City Center Plaza, improvements to the existing Grove Plaza, and the purchase of related furniture and equipment--totaling $38 million.

"The devil is in the details," wrote 4th District Judge Melissa Moody in an August ruling, insisting that GBAD was trying to circumvent the Constitution by paying the Capital City Development Corporation, which in turn would finance the project through millions of dollars in bonds. The judge ruled that the deal "violated the spirit and purposes of the [Idaho] constitutional limitation against indebtedness."

Article VIII, Subsection 3 of the Idaho Constitution reads, "no county, city, board of education, or school district, or other subdivisions of the state, shall incur any indebtedness...without the assent of two-thirds of the qualified electors."

In other words, Moody wrote, "Pay cash; otherwise, go to the people."

It is lost on no one that the City Center Plaza construction project is well under way. GBAD directors met at the Boise Centre Nov. 5—with construction crews digging and drilling right outside the window—to take another crack at crafting what they call "a development agreement" that might win Moody's approval.

"The purpose of this meeting is to hear public comments as to whether this board should author a resolution to authorize an amended agreement," said GBAD Board President Jim Walker.

In spite of its price tag and importance, no one stepped forward to speak on the matter—at least not in person. Boise Guardian Editor Dave Frazier, who successfully challenged GBAD's previous request, was out of town. But he was more than anxious to have his opinion read into the record:

"It is not the duty or purpose of either [me] or the court to help GBAD come up with some wording that will allow [GBAD] to skirt the voters. Frankly, our duty is to preserve the rights of the citizens to vote and defend that Constitution," wrote Frazier. "Most importantly, the election is a constitutional mandate. The Constitution doesn't provide for a vote 'except when clever language is used in a contract or financing scheme.'"

GBAD directors sat in silence as Frazier's objections were read into the record. Minutes later, they pushed the general public out of the room and went into executive session. For the record, as many lawyers and legal aides remained in the room as there were GBAD directors.

GBAD will need to be a lot more public about its consideration when the body reconvenes Thursday, Nov. 20, to formally vote on whether they'll once again proceed on this legal avenue rather than take the matter to voters.

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