I have had to change this article at the last minute because the great victory that the preserve plantation legal team and our neighbors had anticipated for today was delayed for a few months and clutched from our outstretched hands by the pen of the Garden City Mayor and The Garden City Attorney. Both have been a bit too favorable as they have worked for many years behind the scenes on behalf of a large development company and their agents acting and alleging to be either “owners—applicants or declarants”. We still don’t know who they are.
Mr. David Leroy and his team of attorneys and City Planners have been magnificent. Thank you. The expertise and the valuable human capital of the neighbors in The Plantation Neighborhood have likewise been incredible. Thank you. Because of today’s events we all have more work to do, and we must remain vigilant, but our goals are in sight.
I had even made dinner reservations as promised to take the agent acting on behalf of the ownership group out to dinner later this week as I had envisioned on March 29th of this year at the end of a heated “settlement meeting”. That changed when the City Attorney for Garden City failed to put into the final directive placing a Special Area Plan (SAP) into City Code the exact words the precise intent that can plainly be seen on a video from the City Council Members from the July 14th City Council meeting.
One of only a couple of issues that the applicant team and the objector team can agree upon is the “sloppiness” of the City Attorney. His asking for input from both the applicant and the objector legal teams after a City Council vote had already been taken was consistent with his propensity for “kicking the can down the road”. After the City Council vote, the only opinion that matters should be the decision expressed in their own words of the City Council members. Their intentions were what was voted on and that should be the only concern of an attorney representing the council members and ultimately the people. Was he trying to be fair or just accommodating and courting favor? In either case he forgot who he was representing.
The reason I write about what should be a very parochial issue regarding local city government is this is an issue that is now happening at all levels of governments in Idaho from our school boards to local City Councils and especially in our own State Legislature. It is getting worse. It is caused by three problems that are interrelated:
- Process and Access
- Prolonged incumbency.
What is called the “deep state” in Washington D.C. I will call the “shallow state” in Idaho. The powerful elite working thorough the bureaucracy knows how to get things done, and much of the getting done is accomplished through informal back door dealings between lobbyists and legislators, or local developers as a hypothetical and purely theoretical example and local city council members— maybe even a mayor or two? The access to power gained through the promise of a campaign contribution—legal or not, and “dinner at the club” or a free round of golf, is something the everyday citizen, constituent, voter cannot compete against. It is a practice that over the past 34 years that I have lived in Idaho has become more common. Corruption does not have to be illegal to be corrupt. The corrupt act may benefit a hospital system, a developer, or a politician, but the ultimate effect is the demoralizing impact that it has on everyday citizens who feel that they no longer matter and that those in power may care more about themselves than they do those they are supposed to represent.
The problems with money and process are made worse with prolonged incumbency. When the function of a man or woman elected to represent the people becomes more of being an ombudsman or a facilitator instead of a representative of the voters, vendors, corporations, and outside government agencies like highway departments and school boards take an ever-increasing number of seats at the table. Voters are being pushed aside.
In my most humble opinion the job of any elected official is to represent the will of the people. It doesn’t take a flow chart to define the chain of responsibility between the people and their elected officials. It goes from the people to the representative who then votes their conscience. Once a vote is taken the only question a city attorney or a city planner needs to ask is how I can best reflect the will of the people and the vote of the council when I construct a final order to place a new law into code. The time for consulting outside agencies is long past—otherwise why have a vote? The next time around I hope that our Garden City Council remembers the stewardship responsibility they have to WE THE PEOPLE
To my friend who I was looking forward to having dinner with—it will have to wait.