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Posts published in “Frazier”

Another view on Boise library

frazier

Team Dave and its leader, Mayor Dave Bieter are trying to sell the idea of “saving interest fees” by simply inserting $50 million cash for the proposed mega-library project. This after several years of economic schemes, projections, and sales pitches.

If Boise has $50,000,000 stashed away in a slush fund, we the people have been overtaxed.

We really hesitate to be this harsh, but Team Dave cannot be trusted. They are touting a plan to eliminate confusion over “voting to vote” following the successful petition drive by citizens seeking a voice in their government. The “cash scheme” may save up to $15 million in interest on an $85 million edifice, but it will also ELIMINATE CITIZEN APPROVAL of the project at an election.

Citizens need to be careful of the wording in any ordinance. Sometimes insertion or deletion of a single word tips the authority away from the citizens. Team Dave has repeatedly used public money to manipulate public opinion on street cars, airport tax exemptions, the library, the F-35, and other issues. Trust in a “public dialogue” has evaporated. Bieter is still spending to attract noisy F-35 fighters to Boise.

A GUARDIAN reader offers up this chronology of events regarding the library.

To get to a vote we have seen:

–A price tag that blew up from a $40 million remodel to a $103 million monstrosity.

–Plans to issue bonds through CCDC before the majority of the public saw the architects rendering/model.

–The dismisal of history – The Cabin. But the library minutes (4/4/18) show they will be able to save 2 light fixtures from the existing building. Great trade-off.

–First class airfare and other extravagant charges for the overpriced architect.

–A 40-year lease on the Biomark building site that was originally purchased for library expansion.

–The Civic Center For Education & Culture was scrubbed from the record and renamed “a library project.” A consultant was hired to promote it.

–The price tag has been lowered to $85 million, although most realize this lower price simply means defering some of the components of this project.

–Impacts on the nearby Anne Frank Memorial.

–Consultant fees and branding campaigns paid for with public monies to sell this idea to the audience who paid most of the public monies in the first place.

–Boise leaders signed a contract with an architect not licensed in Idaho who was fined by the state.

–The City has dropped the idea of using CCDC as the lease financing conduit, as a result of citizen outrage leading to HB 217. Now they seek to avert an election by paying cash.

–Now we read that the City has piles of cash stashed away – yet we lag on hiring the police we need, build the fire stations, expand the existing library hours, etc.

–We are now being sold the idea that we will save money by not paying $15 million in financing fees and interest by not using lease financing. This is the hidden cost that has only been recently revealed.

–City economists are projecting a downturn in the economy in the coming months – shown in library meeting minutes and city budget docs/presentations, but the insanity continues.

Meanwhile: City of Boise, please stop this insanity! We are not fooled.
 

Urban renewal under attack

frazier

Two bills before the Idaho Legislature, clearly aimed to restrain Boise City councilors and the mayor, are worthy of support from voters.

In a nutshell they seek to require citizen approval before urban renewal funds can be used for construction of either a library or sports stadium.

Urban renewal has been abused state wide with cities and the Greater Boise Auditorium District leading the way in a scheme to launder property tax money through local urban renewal agencies to avoid a citizen vote on “profound debt projects.”

Idaho’s constitution (article VIII, sec 3) mandates that local governments seek permission from voters to go into debt. Typically this would be a bond for a school, city hall, auditorium, library, sports stadium, etc. By laundering tax funds diverted to urban renewal agencies, the politicos avoid a public vote.

Here’s how it works. Once an urban renewal district is formed (a designated area within a jurisdiction), the tax on any improvements or appreciated value is diverted to the UR agency–the CCDC in Bois’s case. The original idea was to improve an area, increase the property value along with taxes, and everyone was a winner.

Somewhere along the line the crafty politicos changed the rules to allow urban renewal agencies to finance projects for 20 years without citizen approval, thus diverting the taxes while requiring cities to provide services like police, fire and schools for free. Money laundering, euphemistically termed “tax increment financing” is the method used.

Even more egregious is the practice of local governments getting the urban renewal agencies to use their bonding authority to build major structures such as auditoriums, libraries, and police stations making an end run around the constitutional mandate of citizen approval. The scheme has the urban renewal folks owning the building–even a city hall–and rending it back to the local government. The Ada Courthouse was owned for years by CCDC to avoid citizen approval of the project.

The two proposed laws deserve public support and approval to rein-in the overzealous local governments.
 

Still charging lightweights

frazier

Despite claims that Idaho law prevented Ada County Highway District from charging fees on vehicles in excess of 8,000 lbs., the GUARDIAN learned Monday ACHD has dropped all efforts to seek legislation that would correct the omission of heavyweights.
Senate majority leader Chuck Winder told the GUARDIAN, “ACHD told us they have no plans to charge fees on the heavier vehicles and they have made no effort to seek any legislation.”

When voters learned that rigs above 8,000lbs. were exempt from the current law that has remained in effect, they soundly defeated a proposed 70% fee hike.

The existing ACHD fee structure and exemption for heavyweights can only be removed by voters. Since its unlikely the ACHD board will repeal the current fees, it looks like a referendum may be the only recourse for citizens to seek equity with the damaging big rigs.

If enough signatures are gathered, the repeal could be on the ballot. ACHD in November had publicly claimed they would seek legislation to correct the unfair nature of the law, but urged people to vote in favor of the fee hike anyway.

A source close to ACHD also confirmed Winder’s statement. We even talked to a representative at one of the largest heavyweight fleets in the county who told us the company has a policy of “paying their fair share,” and they would support legislation to allow ACHD to charge the vehicles over 8,000lbs.

UPDATE 5:30p.m. 1-28-19

Here is text of a memo from ACHD Attorney Steven Price to Rep. John Gannon which says ACHD board has supported a fee on trucks, contrary to what Sen. Winder was told by someone else.

“As I indicated this morning, ACHD is very supportive this legislation. I will review the your proposed bill with the Director and the Commission at the Commission’s next meeting. The Commission has been very supportive of a Vehicle Registration Fee for trucks over 8000 lbs.”

EDITOR NOTE–This story has been very difficult to report. We have several versions/conclusions from reliable sources. It appears there is a fair amount of maneuvering between county staff, state staff, elected officials, and trucking industry. We MAY see a bill proposing a flat fee of $75 on trucks being proposed. Even though it is a state issue, only ACHD is affected.
 

Told you so

frazier

Long time GUARDIAN readers will recall “we told you so!” when it comes to recent revelations about Boise Fire Dept. financial ineptitude disclosed by the Idaho STATESMAN.

In his Statesman Thursday piece, reporter Sven Berg said Boise officials spent twice as much as they promised four years ago in a bond proposal. The bon d passed, some of the projects were not built and the money is gone.

“The overruns are due partly to rising demand for construction crews and materials — factors that have driven up costs and slowed both private and government projects across the Treasure Valley the last few years.

But city leaders admit a bigger factor was their miscalculation of both money and time. They say they’ve learned their lesson. And they’re getting the projects — and others — built anyway, by tapping rising property-tax revenues.”

The GUARDIAN was CRITICAL of the proposal at the time. This analysis apparently fell on deaf ears.

Nearly FIVE YEARS AGO we went into great detail about the need for other departments to have “skin in the game” if they were going to use Boise’s then-proposed training facility.

The GUARDIAN also raised some important warning five years ago which have proven valid. We have included the warnings below.

–Why do we give away hundreds of thousands of dollars in free fire protection to Boise State while charging around $1 million for Boise police at the same institution? BSU and other state agencies have a huge exposure and every taxpayer in the state should pay a tiny bit to protect those assets and people. It shouldn’t rest on the shoulders of Boise taxpayers alone.

–The fire budget has been used for new construction to facilitate growth in South and East suburbs.

–All the departments in the area work together on “mutual aid” agreements (memorandums of understanding). That’s good, but they should also pony up some cash for mutual training facilities. Boise’s claim of allowing the other departments to use the proposed new training facility in exchange for use of their stuff simply falls short.

–Instead of buying new fire equipment, the department is planning to lease trucks. If the leases are true leases, that COULD be OK. However, if they try to disguise long term debt purchases as a “lease,” they could ignite a legal tinderbox.

Boise FD has a You Tube VIDEO showing construction with a Chief Dennis Doan voiceover talking about the merits of the fire training center which is called a “regional facility” to be used by the department and “its partners.” We don’t know who will actually pay to use the place, nor do we know who the “partners,” may be.
 

Treating the cause

frazier

We note Mike Wetherell’s Statesman OPINION regarding planning for mass transit failed to get to the core cause of our “transportation woes”–GROWTH.

Rather than create more cancer treatments and simply concede “cancer will always be around,” let’s eliminate some of the causes.

Wetherell’s admonitions to clear freeway medians and expand rights-of-way along State Street sound reasonable at first blush, but those “mass transit” systems depend upon MASSES. Wetherell is an attorney, former judge, and former city councilor. He is a problem solver.

We are reminded of the kid who showed up at the scene of a traffic incident where an over-height truck was wedged beneath an overpass. Massive winch trucks were unable to extract the trailer, police feared the bridge would be pulled off the abutment. The kid asked, “Why not let the air out of the tires?”

The same is true for the crowded roads. Why not stop encouraging people to come to Boise and Treasure Valley? Stop paying businesses INCENTIVES to relocate their facilities here and “create jobs” which increase the population and jam not only the streets, but the schools, the sewers, etc. Stop encouraging “increased density” to justify the need for mass transit. Eliminate “economic development” schemes.

Let the air out of the tires and give us a little breathing room. Enjoy what we have and stop trying to grow.
 

Favoring business over citizens?

frazier

Our top researcher and reader, “Clancy,” gets credit for dredging up an old GUARDIAN story and a Cynthia Sewell Statesman piece from 2011 calling into question the decision to lease the Boise Library warehouse and parking area to a private company, even though future library plans were well known.

Some seven years ago the GUARDIAN let readers know of the city’s plans to severely limit any ability to expand the library, even though we citizens already owned the building and land at 705 S. 8th.

At the time we said, “The city can legally avoid the bid process through land swaps and leases, but it is a shameful practice which smells of insider trading and results in commercial use of public assets–just like in China and other communist states.”

The STATESMAN STORY was more detailed, but no less questioning. Team Dave ignored us and forged ahead with their land speculation scheme. It was ramrodded by John Brunell who worked for the mayor and is now head of CCDC.

BioMark pays no property taxes on the city-owned public property used for private purposes. Public records show they have personal property valued at a little over $100 thousand.

No value is placed on city-owned properties, but we have it on good authority the Biomark property is easily worth between $2-$3 million. Using typical levy rates that means Biomark would have to pay $34,000 to $51,000 in taxes. Their lease payments to the city alone wouldn’t even touch the tax bill.

Parking for the proposed new library has been discussed for “somewhere west of 9th Street,” away from the existing site.

We also offer the inside memo on the LEASE DEAL.
 

Cars, but not trucks

frazier

Ada County Highway District Commishes voted Wednesday 3-2 in favor of placing an open ended fee hike proposal on the November ballot which exempts vehicles over 8,000 lbs. from ANY local fees while placing the entire burden on automobile owners.

Commishes Jim Hansen and Kent Goldthorp opposed the measure while Sara Baker, Rebecca Arnold and Paul Woods voted in favor despite hearing repeated testimony from citizens seeking either a two year “sunset” limit or simply not passing the unequal fee hike at all.

The measure seeks to raise Ada County’s maximum vehicle registration fee from $40 to $70.

Ada County State Rep. John Gannon appeared to present his draft legislation and seek some sort of agreement to keep from placing the financial burden on the hood of auto owners and not share it with vehicles in excess of 8,000 lbs. In a letter to the commissioners, Gannon had suggested fees on commercial trucks be 10% of the state fee or capped at $70.

There were several pleas among folks seeking to distribute any fee hikes among safe routes, bicycles, and public transit. Most citizens acknowledged the issue of crowded streets is the product of state and local government-encouraged growth and not the fault of ACHD.

Look for a major battle in coming months between advocates and opponents of growth over this one.
 

Budget and tax hikes never ending

frazier

As the budget season reaches full swing it is downright frightening how local officials are conditioning folks for tax and budget hikes. It is also a bit frightening how glibly the legacy media offers reports like this one from the Idaho Press and Idaho Statesman regarding the proposed new Boise Library:

“On top of the city funding, the project is proposed to be funded with donations, debt and urban renewal revenue.”

To his credit, the Statesman’s Sven Berg noted the available parking spaces will be reduced from about 100 to 50 after the expansion. Team Dave eliminated any chance of expansion when they leased the city-owned warehouse space behind d the library to a tech company making chips to track migrating fish.

Any debt in excess of a single year’s revenues has to be approved by two-thirds of the voters. Logically that approval should come BEFORE city councilors approve the $85 million project. They also have had no appropriation from the CCDC urban renewal agency. The GUARDIAN finds it a questionable practice to spend hundreds of thousands for design on such a vague funding formula.

The same vagueness has been used for the proposed ball park on Americana near the Boise River. In that scheme they often cite the Greater Boise Auditorium District as a source of funds along with annual budget appropriations from Boise City. GBAD has not even considered any spending and annual city funding would be non-binding and very risky. Boise State also just announced plans to build a baseball field on campus after a previously floated joint use dream evaporated.

Other recent attempts to get their hands in our pockets come from ACHD which wants to increase vehicle registrations for autos, but NOT go after the trucks that tear up our streets. Anything over 8,000 lbs is exempt. They are bound by a state law which applies only to ACHD and was lobbied on behalf of ACHD.

The Ada Sheriff wants more staff for the jail. The jail is big business on behalf of the feds and State Dept. of Corrections. The previous jail expansion, funded in part with a federal grant, needs to be staffed. Boise is looking for more coppers, and fees for everything from water to trash are set for increases.

AND … it can mostly be chalked up to this “fabulous growth” that is encouraged by state and local “economic development and tax incentive” efforts. The median price for a house in San Francisco’s Bay area is right at $1 million and in Ada it is just over $300,000. Those techie folks (from Cali and Seattle) are cashing in their equity and moving to Idaho in droves where they can buy three homes and have leftover cash. All we have to do is pay their way.
 

Observations across Idaho

frazier

The GUARDIAN has returned to duty and unfortunately we don’t have a lot of cheery news to report after covering 1300 miles of Idaho, Yellowstone, and vicinity.

Great time spent with 14-year-old grandson and a chance to learn the addictive qualities of those “smart” phones. Amazing how fast and readily available information can be obtained. Sad to see how much of the info is dispersed.

With no particular judgements and full understanding of cultural differences, geographic challenges, and generational voids, I will offer the following observations for all to comment upon.

–When you have lived ONLY in metro Hillsborough County, Florida where the population is the same as the entire state of Idaho it is understandable how awkward it is to pee in the aspen grove along Highway 20.

–The significance of Arco being the first town in the world to have nuclear power is lost after 65 years.

–The gigantic trout at Big Spring near Island Park are gone! Don’t know if the nearby massive construction projects have had any impact, but the world famous fishery has attracted a lot of people and money to Fremont County.

–Yellowstone is overrun with Asian tourists. At one hotel breakfast buffet we observed a shoving match when an Asian guest hijacked an entire tray of scrambled eggs for his table. Those not in tour groups and renting autos were obvious due to their lack of driving skills.

–Questions as simple as, “what do you want to study in school,” were answered after consulting the Smart Phone for salary surveys. (neurologists earn $600,000 a year and electrical engineering profs bring in $90,000).

–Freeway drivers are totally out of control, mean, aggressive, and a danger to everyone. We were just ahead of fatality crashes on both I-15 and I-84. At the time we commented that death was inevitable with such behavior.

–Idaho is still a vast “Gem” with scenic vistas and good people. Upper Mesa Falls on Henrys Fork of the Snake is spectacular, Craters of the Moon is unique, but barren. The Swan Falls Canyon (Birds of Prey) is an under appreciated Ada County natural attraction

–Promontory Point in Utah is amazingly close to Idaho and they reenact the Golden Spike ceremony daily in the summer to commemorate the Transcontinental Railroad which opened the West to settlement. Orbital ATK rocket manufacturing (formerly Thiokol) is very near the Golden Spike site.