Perhaps the biggest decision facing Boise voters in Tuesday’s election is not city council or mayoral candidates, but a two-year, $10 million property tax levy for open space protection and water conservation. Unlike a similar levy Boise voters approved in 2001, the latest would not limit purchases to the foothills.
In a forum for mayoral candidates held at the City Club of Boise this week, incumbent Dave Bieter called the 2001 levy one of the most successful efforts he’s seen in the city. But he said more land needs to be protected, which is why he supports the new version.
Challenger Judy Peavey-Derr expressed general support for open space preservation but was against the current levy.
Challenger Seth Holden offered varying opinions.
“It advances what Boise is: a city with great recreation opportunities,” Holden said. “It’s great for the future of the city, but I also don’t really support how vaguely it's worded.”
Vague language in the levy is one of the top objections to the ballot measure. Critics say it gives the city too much freedom on how to spend the money.
In this week's forum, Bieter explained why he thinks what’s on the ballot needs to be broad.
“You can’t identify a particular property and watch the price of that property sky-rocket,” Bieter said. “You have to be flexible. I think our citizens trust [that] what went on the first time will go again and we’ll get great leveraging of those funds.”
But critics of the levy don’t like the idea of simply trusting the city to spend the money wisely. The new levy does call for a citizen committee to monitor the fund. But at the forum, Peavey-Derr brought up another major objection from levy opponents: a similar committee created by the 2001 levy was dissolved before all purchases were made.
Bieter said that only the city council can make land purchases and suggested the committee had fulfilled its function in setting priorities for the levy fund.
Peavey-Derr also noted there's still some money left over from that previous levy.
“There needs to be a regrouping and use up the money that’s in there before we continue to ask the people for more money,” Peavey-Derr said.
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