Retiring Boise library director presents plan to ignore voters

It seems that victories in politics are short-lived. Or, more specifically, that the time to enjoy a victory is limited, until it is denied by some new threat.

The recent resident-led initiative organized by Boise Working Together, which secured Boiseans voter input on big-budget library projects, is no exception. The initiative passed on November 5. Now, just over one month later, the time to enjoy this victory has been cut short. 

At a December 12 library board meeting, outgoing library director Kevin Booe shared his vision for the future of the library system in his swan song before library trustees. Booe’s vision includes a complex way to work around the will of the voters.

Booe suggested that the board of trustees should consider creating or joining a library district.

A library district is a separate taxing entity, not part of city government. If the Boise library system were to separate from the city and operate as a library district, that would entail three things:

  1. The library system would become its own established entity, instead of being a city department.
  2. The library system would collect taxes from Boiseans on top of what the city collects.
  3. And, most importantly, the library system would be removed from the city’s regulatory authority. Thus, the main library project would not be governed by the recently passed initiative.

I will grant that it is no doubt frustrating to a public official to have their pet project remain unfinished upon retirement. It also has to be frustrating to return nearly $12.5 million in money raised for that pet project to the people who donated it. But none of that frustration dismisses the inappropriateness of Booe’s suggestion. City officials serve the public, not the other way around. But some city officials refuse to listen, even after residents took extreme measures to secure voter input on library projects.

But there is at least one good piece to this news: The suggested method to circumvent voters is complex. It would not be easy for the board of trustees, or any private citizen or group, to take Booe’s advice. 

Either of his suggested routes—creating a new library district or annexing the city library system into an existing one—would require a petition and a majority vote of city residents. Since a majority of residents just voted, only one month ago, to secure more input on big-budget library projects, it is unlikely Boiseans will readily vote in favor of taking that exact right away.

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