Growing backlash to repeal of Garden City initiative

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by Kim Fields

NWCN.com

Posted on November 27, 2012 at 6:16 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 27 at 10:54 PM

GARDEN CITY --  The Garden City City Council made a political move Monday night that doesn't happen very often in the state of Idaho.  They voted to repeal an initiative that the majority of their constituents voted into law.

Council members voted unanimously to repeal what was known as Initiative B.  The measure required a public vote by the people of Garden City any time the city wanted to restrict Greenbelt use.  Initiative B passed by a majority vote earlier this month.  But in 45 minutes Monday night, the Garden City City Council repealed it.

Attorney T.J. Angstman was a supporter of Initiative B.  He was shocked by the move.

"Even if you don't agree with bikes on the Greenbelt, you may still be concerned with a government that won't follow what the democracy, the majority of people, say.  And so that's a problem I think," said Angstman.

Garden City Mayor John Evans said Tuesday the council repealed Initiative B not as a disregard of public opinion, but because council members were concerned with its language.

"When you start saying 'any restrictions, any authority,' it's very far reaching and they simply can't operate," said Evans. "You can't run a day-to-day operation under these constraints," said Evans.  "I think the action the council took was based primarily on the fact that it compromised their ability to do their statutory mandated function."

Evans said the language was too restrictive to consider amending it.  He said that's why council members voted for a flat-out repeal.

"We've got this wide sweeping law that's hit the books and there really isn't a way to amend that without completely gutting the thing," said Evans.

David Adler, Director of the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University, said the Idaho Constitution allows city councils to make such a move.

"A referendum can't deprive the city council of the exercise of statutory authority because that would turn the concept of municipal authority on its head," said Adler.

However, Adler said city councils don't often exercise that right.

"It's not unheard of, but it doesn't happen very happen often for the simple reason that the city council is conscious of the fact that it's accountable to the public," said Adler. "Politicians often get themselves in hot water when they cross public sentiment, so it doesn't happen very often."

"People may be upset enough about this to seek a recall of city council members or the mayor.  Or people may want to seek judicial review of what the city has done in enacting the ordinance and repealing it the same day," said Angstman.

Angstman said a judicial review is essentially a lawsuit that asks a court to review the case. He said while supporters may be considering a judicial review, they realize it is costly to fight city hall.

The last highly-publicized repeal of an initiative or referendum happened on the state level in 2002 when the Idaho Legislature struck down term limits.

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