City Council Tea Party

Streetcar, spending, values draw a crowd

by and

Three candidates for Boise City Council are running together on a ticket loosely affiliated with the national Tea Party movement. The three are taking their distaste with the federal government down to a local level, demanding tax cuts, so called "Constitutional values," and the liquidation of Boise's redevelopment agency alongside such planks as improved buses and new sidewalks.

Daniel Dunham, Lucas Baumbach and Leland Lay have endorsed one another, appear together on an absentee ballot request flier, and the three are campaigning together for the three seats up for election on Nov. 3.

All three were at a recent march in downtown Boise, organized by the 9-12 Project of Idaho, a Tea Party spinoff that aligns itself with a list of nine principles and 12 values propagated by the Fox News radio and television personality Glenn Beck. Dunham is working toward another related effort, the "Continental Congress 2009," that promises later this year a national debate on alleged abuses of the U.S. Constitution.

"I'm watching everything that's kind of socialistic in flavor and anti-American in purpose," said Dunham, a businessman with some real estate and development experience, who has returned to Boise State for a masters degree program in Health Sciences.

Lay, an excavation contractor who says he has "experience seeing and dealing with government abuses and infringements of individual liberties," wants to equalize infrastructure to create a more competitive work environment, lower taxes and bring more businesses to Boise. Lay served on the public relations committee for the 9-12 march.

And Baumbach, a painting contractor, says it was the removal of the 10 Commandments monument from Julia Davis Park in 2004 that first politicized him.

"When I first moved to the City of Boise, the first thing that happened is they ripped the 10 Commandments out of the ground," Baumbach said. "It really turned me off and tuned me in."

Council Seat 2

Dunham is running against incumbent Vern Bisterfeldt and challenger David A. "Pappy" Honey, who has sought the office three times in the past.

Dunham, who also ran for the Idaho Legislature in 2006, has been an anti-annexation activist since the city swallowed up his property five years ago. He promises to halt annexations until people already in Boise have things like sidewalks.

Bisterfeldt, who retired from the Boise Police Department, then retired from the Ada County Commission after five terms, was also angered when the city annexed him, spurring his first run for City Council.

"I'm still not no fan of annexation," Bisterfeldt said, adding that he'll approve annexation on new development, but has a high bar for taking county residents into city limits.

But Mayor Dave Bieter's proposal for a downtown streetcar is the major issue for nearly every challenger in this race.

Honey, an auto parts salesman and self-described "old, bald guy with tattoos" who counts Bisterfeldt as a friend, said many people in Boise oppose the trolley.

"He's trying to push it through without the vote of the people," Honey said. "We've already got feet, we've already got bus service, what the hell do we need a trolley for?"

Bisterfeldt, who approved the city seeking federal funding for the trolley, said he is still not sold on the plan.

Council Seat 4

Lay is in a four-way race for the open seat being vacated by Jim Tibbs, the council's most conservative member. TJ Thomson, an Idaho Power auditor and former Boise State student body president who was one of President Barack Obama's most visible supporters in Idaho, has been campaigning for the seat for months.

"I think we're on the right track, but there is room for improvement. Some areas are not getting a lot of focus," said Thomson.

David Litster, a former student body president at Brigham Young University with an MBA from Harvard Business School, is also seeking Tibbs' seat. He has worked across the country as a commercial real estate developer and feels he can assist Boise by cutting unnecessary expenditures and looking for ways to consolidate resources between the city and Ada County.

"One thing I want to take a hard look at is how the city is spending our tax dollars in these times. I feel that my business background and experience will lend itself well," said Litster.

Steven Siebers, a former military man with a degree in information systems security who became active in the Ada County Republican Party during the 2008 elections, is also fervently opposed to the streetcar, which he considers government waste.

"I don't believe Boise is big enough to support a rail system or trolley. To me, this is a big hole that we will drop money into that we don't need to in this economy," said Siebers.

Litster opposes the trolley as an unnecessary burden on local business owners. Thomson has not yet taken a stance on the trolley, and is waiting to speak with business and community leaders first, although he advocates strengthening the existing bus system and establishing a light rail system. Lay, who is strongly opposed to a trolley, proposes a different approach to regional transportation. Rather than a new light rail system, his idea is to outfit existing buses with the equipment to also run on Union Pacific train tracks, providing an alternative means between Nampa and Boise, which he says could be done at a lower cost than light rail.

Council Seat 6

Baumbach is challenging Council President Maryanne Jordan, who seeks her third term, and former small business owner and Boise State political science student David Webb.

Baumbach has already taken on the city for combining precincts in more conservative parts of town. Deputy city clerk Wendy Burrows-Johnson said that 10 precincts have been combined in order to save money.

"We've been combining precincts ever since I've been working here," she said.

But Baumbach argues the closures, including precinct 92 with 942 registered voters and 96 with 831 voters both being merged with 93, which already has 1,062 voters, were politically motivated.

"I don't think that you should save money by disenfranchising people," Baumbach said.

After Baumbach's initial complaint, which was posted on the Boise Guardian blog, the city changed its precinct list.

Baumbach challenges Bieter, and by extension Jordan, on a number of issues, chief among them the trolley.

"He's willing to stand on trolleys and all kinds of ideas that are strange for a city the size of Boise," Baumbach said.

Jordan said the streetcar will bring good development to downtown, particularly the western side of downtown. And she said the city did make cuts this year, including layoffs.

"It's always easy to just rail against something. It's another thing entirely to provide services and make it fit within a limited budget," she said.

Webb, 27, said he will represent the younger demographic, though he acknowledges he doesn't know a lot about the mayor or city policies.

"It doesn't seem like the policies benefit students," he said.