John Livingston

The Idaho Way

At the risk of sounding provincial or even parochial I would like to share my feelings about what is going on in Garden City and specifically the Plantation neighborhood. We are trying to fight off the development of our golf course. My wife and I like 256 other homeowners are very concerned as are neighbors in adjacent neighborhoods. At least 58 have homes on the golf course via a google earth plat review, and at least another 50 will be directly impacted by giving access through the neighborhood through our development to the green Belt. The plan is to develop 22.5 acres of golf course property and build up to 750 town homes and condos. There will be two accesses to State Street and another access has been proposed through an existing Cul de Sac on Fair Oaks Place that I live on. State Street really isn’t that busy I guess, and one city employee has told us that we must all begin to adapt to the “new ways” of public transportation. The development will increase the population of Garden City by 20% in one big gulp of mercantilist greed.

There are many legal issues that have been reviewed in detail on our Web page preserveplantation but what I want to talk about is not the legal issues, but the political issues and severe distortions in “the process” that seem not to be unique to Garden City or the proposed Plantation Development but exist throughout our State.

Over the past 2 weeks I have heard of other neighborhoods in Idaho who are fighting off developers and trying to maintain the integrity of their neighborhoods. Idaho isn’t California and Garden City isn’t Boise—yet.

The access to the “system and process” that developers are given is unfair to citizens residing within a municipality. In our case neither the applicant, or the declarant or any agent acting on behalf of the developer resides in Garden City. The citizens themselves are only able to publicly engage the City Fathers either on the Planning and Zoning Board or The City Council via letters and a 5-minute timed testimony before (P&Z) or City Council. Meanwhile over a period of years the developer or their agents can engage the process by directly communicating with a City Planner. The attorney for the developer has helped write an Amendment to the City Code Special Area Permit (SAP) that is “unique to the project”. An agent in some documents identifying themselves as the “declarant” for the application has made sizeable contributions to the campaigns of the City Fathers and even used The River Club to entertain City Officials and City employees. Concerned neighbors in Garden City but also citizens from across the State are more concerned than ever about the potential for outside political leverage being exerted on City and State office holders. The City Attorney has issued a letter asking all parties to refrain from Ex Partee communications. Our side has lived up to the terms explained in that communication.

None of this is illegal as far as I understand it, but something doesn’t have to be illegal to at least give the appearance of being corrupt. Money talks. Nothing precipitates distrust in government more than when citizens see and believe that the people, they elect to represent their interests and the interests of their neighbors, allow themselves to be influenced in ways that everyday citizens cannot afford to compete against. When special interests (developers) who don’t even live in Garden City or anywhere else in Idaho are given more political leverage and access to the process of governance than citizens, and when much of what goes on is hidden behind an invisible bureaucratic “process”, then citizens will quickly lose faith not only in individual politicians who they elected but they will distrust the system that those politicians built. Certainly not all politicians expose themselves to such activities and certainly not all developers “play the game”. We remain hopeful that in our community “fairness” and even handedness will prevail.

What I describe above has never been the “Idaho Way”, but things seem to be changing in some places in our State. The merry go round of employment between government agencies and the industries that the State is supposed to regulate needs to be examined. Lobbyists in Boise have more say about what goes on in the Teton Valley and Boundary County than the local City Fathers. Power that was supposed to reside in the most local civic entity has over the years gone up to the States and then to the Federal Government that ultimately controls the purse strings via transfer payments. School funding, Health and Welfare with over 60% of the $4.6 billion coming from the Feds and think of Urban Renewal and Environmental Grants going to the local cities and developers. When impact fees are discounted as an incentive for development, citizens, neighborhoods, and businesses with deep roots in the community suffer. Please—Not in Idaho.

WE need to have a law in Idaho that states that campaign funding can only come from individuals and organizations that reside within the district—legislative, municipal, county or State depending on the office. The amount from any entity must be commensurate and not more than what an individual citizen could easily contribute. This may be hard to accomplish. It seems legislators enjoy The Governor’s Cup and Arid Club lunches and large political contributions from out of State special interests and PACs. Same with a very few local City Fathers unfortunately. A $5000 campaign contribution, dinner at “the Club” and a round of golf or an Arid Club dinner sure seems nice if you are the gal or fellow at the receiving end. Maybe the hope of a job in the private sector for a city employee may be the “pot at the end of the rainbow”. Please—not in Idaho. Citizens, neighbors, constituents, should be who the politicians are beholding to—not lobbyists, special interests or developers who don’t even reside in the places where they are trying to influence an outcome or a vote. Please— Let’s do “the people’s business” in Idaho the Idaho way.

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4 replies on “The Idaho Way”

I feel your pain and I agree that those who have been elected to give voice to the people ought not to be taking from those who have no “dog in the hunt.” Those who do not have to live under laws/rules/ordinances for which they “contribute” (wink – wink) should have NO SAY in any decision-making via contributions, gifts, etc.

As an example, many years ago in Washington State, there was an Initiative, if memory serves, I believe it was I-937– having to do with Energy use in the state. In that initiative, which was LARGELY SUPPORTED by funds from OUT-OF-STATE, Hydro-electric power was deemed “NONRENEWABLE” — This was done in order to usher in WIND developers and give them a leg-up. The MONEY poured into the pockets of those who were in strategic seats! It passed because it was somehow camouflaged as to the real plan. Then over the next decade the State was under siege with proposed and subsequently constructed “wind farms” . .. The way was paved by money to the key people in office. IT SHOULD NOT BE THAT WAY EVER! We the People NEED to contact our legislators and INSIST THAT NEXT SESSION A LAW BE PASSED TO MAKE THE INFLUENCE OF OUT-OF-STATE MONEY ILLEGAL!! In the meantime, we need to “shame” those who participate in this corrupt practice.

Amen. Thank you, Carolyn. Collusion and corruption don’t have to be illegal to cause great damage to the problems they are trying to solve and to the system itself, that no longer is credible if citizens don’t believe in the integrity of those within it.

“It passed because it was somehow camouflaged as to the real plan.”
With all due respect, it passed because the largely Democrat voters of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties came out and voted and the conservatives east of the mountains couldn’t be bothered.
That’s why Idaho is turning blue.

Wake up, John. The US Senators from Sun Valley and Simplot long ago determined the “Idaho way” and have shared this practice with the Governor and most of our state legislature.
You get the elected officials you vote for.

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