Local reporting confuses editorial opinion with factual reporting.
Boise NBC affiliate KTVB’s Nov. 6, 2019, report on voter approval of Propositions 1 and 2 is fraught with error and is more an editorial than a news report:
Never once does the story report that both measures were approved overwhelmingly—Prop. 1, 69.1 percent to 30.9 percent, and Prop. 2 by 75.2 percent to 24.8 percent.
The report incorrectly states that “interim city attorney Natalie Mendoza in January wrote that the propositions are unconstitutional.” In fact, in January Ms. Mendoza was reviewing an early draft of a proposed citizens’ initiative. What Ms. Mendoza actually wrote is: “The subject matter of the Initiative is likely administrative in nature, and therefor unconstitutional.” (my emphasis) To support her analysis, she cited Colorado Supreme Court findings “in a case with similar underlying facts.”
As a result of Ms. Mendoza’s critique, the initiatives were totally rewritten in order to ensure that they are legislative and not administrative. They require voter approval before the city can “directly or indirectly appropriate, spend money, incur debt or expenses for the construction of or any additional aspect of any major library project” costing $25-million or more or any stadium/sports complex costing $5 million or more. The propositions placed before voters have never been the subject of review by the city attorney or any other legal opinion.
Following certification that the initiatives had received the requisite number of signatures to be placed on the November ballot as propositions, the city council held the required hearing on whether to adopt the ordinances proposed by the initiatives outright, thus obviating the need for a “vote to vote.” During the council’s deliberation, the mayor and two council members opined on the constitutionality of the proposed ordinances. The Mendoza critique was cited without acknowledging that her analysis was of an earlier draft of the initiatives and not of the ordinance language approved by the petitioners. When asked her opinion, then city attorney Jayme Sullivan pointedly declined to offer an opinion on the measures’ constitutionality.
In the on-set closing comments on his report, Joe Parrish opines that “…knowing those challenges have been made to these propositions, it’s essentially wait-and-see; but, Kim, I know a lot of people are still confused about what the entire situation meant…we’ll find out if it’s gonna be challenged in a court of law soon.”
No legal challenges have been made! There is no evidence that “a lot of people” are confused: 51, 423 voted on Prop. 1; 51,694, on Prop. 2—nearly as many as voted for mayor: 51,842.
Kim Fields then opines: “…the question is where do we draw the line: Do we go for a vote every time the city council wants to spend $10 or $100?”
The propositions have nothing to do with city expenditures of $10 or $100. They specifically set the bars at $25 million for any library, $5 million for any stadium.
Joe: “That’s the legal issue here: This is an administrative process that the voters technically, probably, weren’t supposed to weigh in on. It’s gonna be a court decision to make, but it’s easy to forget sometimes that this isn’t a true democracy. It’s a democratic republic. You elect the people you want to represent you, and when you make those votes for any elected official, you’re also voting with confidence for them to vote the way that you would want them to in the future and handle business the way you would want to.”
This assertion is the editorial opinion of Mr. Parrish based, apparently, on the conjecture of the mayor’s spokesperson that, “there are still concerns…about the legality of those ordinances going forward.” However, no legal analysis of the now lawfully adopted ordinances has been conducted by anyone other than the attorney for Boise Working Together.
Kim: “One more quick question: Let’s say there are no more legal challenges, when would this go up for a vote for the people?”
Once again, the phrase “no more” implies there have already been legal challenges. There have not!
Joe: “Good question. I spoke with Boise Working Together today; they say we could probably see a vote as soon as next year. They actually had circled March, possibly, at the earliest. Maybe a year from now, next November we could see this on the ballot. Again, though, both propositions could be challenged in a court of law because they may be unconstitutional. If that happens this could be wrapped up for a while.”
KTVB’s reporter and anchor seem to be the ones who are “confused.” More than 35,000 voters, 69 percent and 75 percent majorities of those voting on Nov. 5, knew exactly what they were doing when they approved city ordinances mandating voter approval for large expenditures of their taxes.
Gary E. Richardson is a former reporter/producer for Idaho Public Television. He served for 15 years as a public information officer for several Idaho state agencies. In 1997-1998, he was an Ada County Highway District commissioner.