The long-simmering feud between Boise and the Ada County Highway District reignited this month when an aide to Mayor Dave Bieter gave some lawmakers an anonymous flier questioning whether the county needs the highway district.
The flier prompted an angry response from the district, and several other Valley mayors weighed in on ACHD's side. Star Mayor Nate Mitchell said Boise city's complaints against ACHD are "pointless politics" that take time and resources that would be better spent on Valley transportation.
"Boise's mayor has a feud with ACHD and tries to draw the rest of us into, even after being told 'no' again and again," Mitchell wrote.
Bieter has in the past advocated disbanding ACHD or delegating its power to the cities and county. He told the Statesman the flier flap has been blown out of proportion: "Methinks thou does protest too much."
What brought this on?
On Valentine's Day, members of the Senate and House transportation committees visited ACHD to learn about the special-purpose countywide road district. Ross Borden, Bieter's intergovernmental affairs manager, handed some lawmakers a paper critical of ACHD efficiency, fees and adminstration. There was no indication who created the flier. Senate Assistant Majority Leader Chuck Winder, R-Boise, said he gave his copy to an ACHD official.
What did ACHD do?
ACHD Commission President Sara Baker confronted Boise City Council President Maryanne Jordan.
"It wasn't just the multiple points of misinformation contained in the flier, it was the fact that it was in effect an anonymous hit job. … If any one of ACHD's staff members had done this on my watch, I would fire them in a New York minute," Baker said in a Feb. 16 email to Jordan.
Baker said the criticism of ACHD administrative costs was "baffling" and made up from "whole cloth."
The flier said an Idaho Transportation Department study concluded that ACHD spent 19 percent of its budget on administration. But ACHD said its actual administration - commission, legal, human resources and communication departments - comprise about 8 percent of its annual $89 million budget.
Who else is involved?
ACHD alerted the mayors of Meridian, Eagle, Kuna and Star and the Ada County commissioners, all of whom backed ACHD with letters. Bieter noted that Garden City Mayor John Evans did not send a letter, and urged the Statesman to talk to Evans. Evans said Monday he had waited to learn more before writing. "It could have been handled differently," he told the Statesman Monday.
Evans praised ACHD Director Bruce Wong and the quality of work Garden City receives from ACHD, but said he does have concerns about structure: "It just creates another layer of government for our development community to go through."
Evans doesn't want Garden City to have its own road maintenance and construction department, he said, but would like his city to have more control over policies and projects.
Stuart Davis, executive director of the Idaho Association of Highway Districts, called the paper "abhorrent." He wrote to Bieter: "The amateurish method in the distribution, the half-truths, distortions and contradictions to facts are repugnant to the public's interests that both you and I serve."
Who is responsible for the flier?
Boise Mayor Dave Bieter has a personal staff of almost a dozen employees, including Borden. Bieter said the flier was a "working document" not intended to go to the committees. "That's my fault, at a certain level," Bieter said Monday. He acknowledged Borden may have handed out the document to some legislators, but would not discuss who wrote it or who authorized Borden to distribute it.
"It is an awful lot of protest for something inconsequential," Bieter said.
What's Bieter's beef with ACHD?
The issues raised about ACHD's inefficiencies "have been around for years," Bieter said.
"We have a failed model of operating highways," Bieter said. "I am for anything that brings change or reform."
Will he apologize?
Baker asked the city for a formal apology, but Bieter told the Statesman no apology was owed because the "flier is not of consequence."
What do Boise council members say?
Members David Eberle, Lauren McLean, Ben Quintana and TJ Thomson told the Statesman they had no knowledge about the document's creation or distribution. They said they wished it had been handled better, and the issue merits discussion.
Councilwoman Elaine Clegg called the memo "inartfully worded," but said the city has legitimate concerns over the way roads are managed and financed.
"They relate to economic development ... and how we are going to go forward in a way that serves all of the citizens of the city as well as we can," she said.
Jordan was unavailable for comment. Borden did not return the Statesman's call.
Why is the mayor of Star so mad?
Star's Mitchell said Bieter has several times suggested taking over ACHD, and as recently as last month Bieter asked him and other mayors to sign onto a bill to place ACHD under Ada County's Board of Commissioners.
Mitchell said he told Bieter he didn't support it. Bieter said Monday that it wasn't his idea, and that he was merely urging support of an idea that came from lawmakers.
"Boise Mayor Dave Bieter continues to blatantly misrepresent the political reality" between cities and ACHD, Mitchell said.
Cynthia Sewell: 377-6428, Twitter: @CynthiaSewell