Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in “Frazier”

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.
 

Attitudes on growth

frazier

In a respectful “town hall” meeting at Boise Fire Station #4 on Ustick Road Wednesday night, speaker after speaker told the Boise Mayor and Council they were tired of the growth or the rapid pace of growth.

Describing idyllic scenes of the past being blotted out with high density apartments, about 90% of those speaking complained of speeders and traffic on State Street or Hill Road, begged for slower growth, bemoaned the loss of the “character” of Boise, “cringed” at the rank of fastest growing city, complained about the high cost of housing, sought to have some restrictions on developers who are flush with money from California, and the impact of high prices in the downtown area for everything from omelets to parking.

To no one’s surprise Bill Conners of the Chamber of Commerce praised the council for all they have done to stimulate growth and attracting businesses to Boise.

There were a handful of activists outside brandishing signs urging restraint of growth.
 

Almost April, uh . . .

frazier

It looks like the local politicos have seen the light and are working quietly toward forging a strong bond with voters over local issues. The GUARDIAN is happy to report some of the developments.

Boise’s city councilors have sent a letter to the United States Air Force at Mountain Home, “Respectfully requesting,” that the city of trees not be used for war games by F-15 fighters practicing urban warfare with laser beams.

In Meridian, Mayor Tammy de Weerd was also busy at her letter writing desk. She informed the owner of the private-for-profit Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine she is withdrawing the annual $250,000 payment from the citizens of Meridian.

Ada Commissioners yielded to open space advocates around the Dry Creek area saying, “We realize the value of open space and the burden placed on the community resources such as highways, schools, and infrastructure when new homes are built far outside city limits.”

Over in Canyon County, Commish Tom Dale admitted the three-person board had been trying to figure a “work around” of voters who have repeatedly rejected funding for a new jail. The commishes are set to work with voters toward a jail expansion near the existing facility. Dale quipped, “if they were smart enough to elect us, we should be smart enough to listen to them.”

Idaho’s legislators have agreed to limit public retirement benefits for legislators based only on the stipend they get while serving. Lt. Gov. Brad Little said, “The practice of doling out political appointments for these sponges has to stop. They don’t deserve cushy $95,000 jobs for a few years just to pad their retirements.”

Even in Washington the senate and congress are working on a campaign finance law that will eliminate mega payments from special interests and limit TOTAL campaign spending to no more than $100,000 for Congressional races and $200,000 for the Senate. Sen. Mike Crapo confided to an insider, “Frankly I am ashamed to have accepted the millions of dollars in payments based on my position on the banking committee.” He is planning to donate his “war chest” to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.”

The local TV media has also jumped aboard the Ethics Train. KBOI TV 2 news staff has vowed to ignore orders from Sinclair Broadcasting to air conservative slanted segments like the “Terrorist Desk.” Over at KTVB TV 7 they have agreed to scrap plans to put a church steeple and cross atop the studio.

Finally, the IDAHO STATESMAN announced they will no longer send the daily paper in installments from Twin Falls to those few remaining subscribers.

If you believe ANY of this, consider yourself just another APRIL FOOL. Apologies for the timing due to weekend.
 

Still valid

frazier

We cannot stress it strongly enough. The citizens of in Idaho are empowered by the State Constitution to control the purse strings of public debt.

Boise City and Team Dave have once again launched a public relations blitz to create support for a $70 million edifice to replace the main Library on Capitol Blvd. near the river. The question before Boiseans is quite simply: “DO YOU WANT A BEAUTIFUL BUILDING OR GOOD LIBRARY SERVICE?”

Nearly a dozen years ago the GUARDIAN offered up a common sense plan to provide first class library service to ALL of Ada County and share the costs. We once again offer up our sound advice which includes a vote of the people for a consolidated Library to serve Boise, Meridian, Garden City, Eagle, Star, Kuna. There is an existing “consortium” of libraries which does a good job sharing assets and talent.

SEPT 2011 POST:

Before Boise Mayor Dave Bieter and his Team Dave go too far politicizing libraries, he better talk to the hardworking folks who make it all work.

The GUARDIAN has been working below the radar to come up with a plan for a county-wide system of libraries in Boise and we can assure you it involves ALL citizens who understand and value the services and rewards of a good library system.

People in Boise, Meridian, Garden City, Eagle, Star, and Kuna are all residents of Ada County. We should have just one library and Boise should NOT be the 900 pound gorilla.

Insiders at all levels–BPL staffers, Ada Community Library, and several 35 year library veterans–tell us the best thing we can do is have a COUNTY-WIDE LIBRARY. One former staffer tells us the State Library favors county libraries and they work toward such systems.

Guess what? TODAY, through a “consortium” of libraries that runs from Caldwell to Twin Falls and even to Hailey, you can use a Nampa library card to borrow a book in Boise and return it to Hailey when you are finished. Or any combination of transactions at those libraries.

If we consolidated just the Ada libraries we could have a greatly simplified system and EVERYONE would share in both the costs and the benefits.

As it is now, Boise residents are getting hit unfairly in the pocketbook and Team Dave wants to build more libraries–he just doesn’t know how to fund them. The library law provides for consolidation with–A VOTE OF THE PEOPLE! We need to get this rolling before Boise gets a debt load or committed to one program without exploring consolidation.

Because Boise annexes beyong its ability to provide services, they PAY other libraries toprovide services to Boise residents. HOWEVER, users (insiders call them “patrons”) from those districts can use their cards in Boise for free.

Without getting into a debate about what libraries should offer, we feel computer access is absolutely essential. The days of card files and 10-year-old encyclopedias are gone. Today’s libraries offer traditional printed books alongside videos and access to just about any information on earth through the internet.

While Team Dave was busy offering up an ill fated and outdated $38 million library bond, the worker bees in the library business continue their efforts at making services available to library types everywhere.

We already share the books, how about sharing the control, funding, and costs countywide and we would all pay just once?

Since the original post, Team Dave wisely opted for neighborhood libraries. Two are new stand alone buildings and two are store front remodels in shopping centers. Good effort, good results, and it was all done out of pocket change in the city budget with no bond debt or solicitation for donations.

The current $70 million plan has plenty of hoopla, a “world class architect,” the usual drawings and color photos in the Daily Paper, but no word on where the money will come from to pay for the dream.