Writings and observations

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Five years after the GUARDIAN first broke the story of the Idaho Land Board going into the business of running businesses, the Board has voted to divest itself of more than 20 commercial real estate parcels, most of them in downtown Boise. The big story back then was a STORAGE business.

The poster child property which was vigorously defended by land board members is Ten Barrel Brewing. The state spent millions in “tenant improvements,” even hiring a construction manager. The place is owned today by Budweiser.

For five years state officials claimed they had a “constitutional mandate” to get the best return on the education endowment funds and in their collective mind that meant owning tax-exempt property in Boise. Now, based on the advice of a consultant they will divest themselves of an estimated $25 million worth of commercial property and put cash into what sounds like Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT). We applaud the vote of the board which is long overdue.

The board is comprised of state elected officers (guv, controller, sec/state, atty/gen, sup/intstruc).

The only worry for citizens of Boise is the location of the various parcels. While the state owns them, there is no revenue generated from the tax-exempt property. However, if any of the real estate is within an urban renewal district the taxes on improvements and appreciation will go to CCDC, not the city of Boise.

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Frazier

The Idaho State Police probably were right in their conclusion that the issues surrounding the Corrections Corporation of America private prison in Idaho were not properly a subject for investigation by that agency. It was, Colonel Ralph Powell said, “This appeared to be a breach of contract dispute, and therefore a civil, not a criminal matter.” Two other issues come up from this, however. One is the reasons why so many people in state government were under the impression, for a year, that ISP was in fact investigating. An Idaho Statesman report out today says that “A state police major introduced himself to IDOC Deputy Warden Timothy Higgins as the investigator in the case, did an interview with Higgins and took IDOC’s documents about the CCA allegations.” Huh? And were there other such instances? The Statesman story adds some useful information to the background, but raises some more questions. One, just slightly farther afield but something state legislators should consider, is this: If the Idaho State Police are not the proper agency to investigate something like the CCA situation, then who is? Someone kin state government should be.

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First Take