Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sun Valley ponders bond election loss

Consultant advises city to try again

Express Staff Writer

Last month's bond election, which would have paid for streets and paths improvements in Sun Valley, failed by a narrow margin. But that doesn't mean the City Council is ready to abandon the idea.

Representatives from Seattle-based consultant firm Strategies 360 offered perspectives at the council's Dec. 15 meeting about why the bond failed and whether the city should try again.

The general-obligation bond measure needed 66.6 percent approval to pass. It received 64 percent.

"We think you should run it again," said John Foster, Strategies 360 senior vice president from its Boise office. "The voters clearly support this."

The next election date is in May.

Foster attributed the loss to several things, including a short timeline for the voter education campaign, an "intense" campaign environment that may have taken attention away from the measure, changes to election laws and not enough urgency placed on the issue's timing.

"In retrospect, in the political climate of having all those many things happening in other areas, you really needed a little more urgency in order for our message to pop up," Foster said.

The economy and public sentiment toward spending also played a part, he said.

"It's a very difficult political environment, not only in Idaho but around the country, specifically with regard to government spending," he said. "There's austerity measures happening everywhere."

Councilwoman Joan Lamb suggested that the price tag may have prompted some "no" votes.

"I think a lot of people were frightened by the $14 million number," she said.

Not all of that would have been due at once, but Lamb said her recommendation is to come back and do it in two installments.

Council President and Mayor-elect Dewayne Briscoe said next year's budget will reflect the costs associated with the measure's failure.

"I think it will become apparent to the citizens when I have to present a budget to the City Council next spring what has to be done in (light) of the bond issue failing," he said. "It will become apparent to our citizens what the need was and what cuts might have to be made or what adjustments to the budget might have to be made because the bond issue did not pass."

Mayor Wayne Willich said the clock is ticking.

"We didn't get it passed," he said, "but the infrastructure deterioration continues."

Rebecca Meany:

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