Writings and observations

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Short line railroads in Idaho will soon be blowing their horns over a proposed taxpayer funded subsidy that will amount to more than $2 million in federal tax credits which comes out to $14,090 per railroad employee. AND, that is just for Idaho rail companies.

Short lines are the the railroads that connect to the big mainline trains like Union Pacific and Burlington Northern. The Boise Valley RR between Nampa and Federal Way in Boise is a short line.
Senator Mike Crapo and Sen. Ron Wyden are behind the scheme to make permanent what has become a regular special break for the railroads. They call it “Building Rail Access for Customers and the Economy–BRACE Act.

The GUARDIAN sees the special interest tax break as Organized Fleecing For Tax Refunds Abusing Citizen Kind–OFF TRACK.

Here is how Crapo spins his special interest tax break:

WASHINGTON – Idaho Senator Mike Crapo and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden today introduced the Building Rail Access for Customers and the Economy, or BRACE Act, which would make permanent a critical tax credit used to repair and upgrade short line railroads.

“Small business freight railroads connect Idaho’s farms to markets across the nation and around the globe. For too long, Congress has taken a short term view of these crucial economic corridors. This measure will allow short line railroads to make long-term plans for infrastructure repairs and upgrades,” said Crapo. “Short lines are a crucial economic link to thousands of railroad customers. This legislation will improve the link between our communities and the national freight railroad network.”

The short line railroad track maintenance credit provides short line and regional railroads a 50 percent tax credit for railroad track maintenance expenses, up to $3,500 per mile of track owned or leased by the railroad. The short line railroads ensure that small manufacturers’ products can get to markets in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Last December, Congress passed the Short line Short Line Railroad Rehabilitation and Investment Act of 2015, which expanded and extended the credit through 2016.

Since 2006 Congress has acted periodically to extend the credit, often retroactively and often almost a year after expiration. This uncertainty causes private investment to decline, limits investments in safety and customer service, and provides uncertainty to businesses, farmers, and employers that cannot be globally competitive without freight rail.

Meeting farm to market demands, nine small freight railroads serve the Idaho economy operating 624 miles of privately owned freight track—40% of all railroad track in the state. These railroads directly employ 155 Idahoans and serve as the crucial link to the dozens of rail-dependent businesses that employ thousands more and would not be competitive without rail access. These railroads serve as the crucial link to the dozens of rail-dependent businesses that employ thousands, and would not be competitive without rail access.

Crapo and Wyden’s bill is also cosponsored by Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., Pat Roberts R-KS, Bob Casey, D-Penn., Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

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An internal audit of the Ada County Treasurer’s office concentrating on the “Public Administrator” duties has turned up assorted critical issues. The issues all revolve around the estates of people who have died with no will and no living relatives.

A former Public Administrator and a state building security chief have been charged with assorted felonies over theft including a $31,000 check which was misappropriated. The internal audit obtained Tuesday by the GUARDIAN was performed in addition to the forensic audit.

We poked fun at the Ada Treasurer website where they sold personal items, including bras. Readers noted the web auction site probably cost more than it brought in. The auditors not only agreed with the GUARDIAN readers, they revealed that 25% of the sales were to Treasurer employees and 46% of the sales were to other county employees.

There was even an example of an employee putting a sticky note on a box of ammo to “reserve” it. Treasurer Vicky McIntyre told the GUARDIAN that all guns and ammo were sold to a registered firearms dealer, hence the note. She added, “They want the public to believe what they want to fabricate.”

Here’s an excerpt from the report: “Within the Treasurer’s Office, one of the seven Treasurer’s Office employees who purchased estate property consistently paid less than the minimum bid. This employee purchased four items for a total of $15 less than minimum bid. The same employee purchased a large display case of hunting knives that had been listed on e-Bay for $75, but was sold to the employee for $35.”

Much of the auditor’s committee report duplicated what the forensic auditor report noted previously.

The committee of five, a mix of county elected officials and department heads, noted the work load for the public administrator role had nearly doubled in the past few years and recommended that accounting practices and personnel assignments be initiated to create fiscal safeguards to prevent future problems.

The entire REPORT: Combined final report PDF (2)

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If our flat screen TV didn’t cost so much we would have tossed a shoe at it Tuesday.

KTVB Channel 7 had a “live” reporter with news from the airport. The attractive reporter breathlessly told viewers she had been at the airport most of the day awaiting the return of Boise’s famous preacher/prisoner, Saeed Abedini, who “may be arriving any minute.” Don’t forget KTVB had been sucking up to Mrs. Abedini for years awaiting a joyful tear-filled reunion.

Turns out Channel 2 KBOI had already reported the pastor’s return to Boise a half hour earlier, showing the private jet outside the Jackson Aviation facility.

Meanwhile, KIVI Channel 6 had a reporter staking out the arrival hall at the commercial terminal, but he reported no sign of the preacher/prisoner.

In case you have lived under a rock for the past few years, Abedini was one of the five prisoners held in Iran and released January 16 as part of a USA-Iranian prisoner exchange.

The Statesman wisely reported on their competition with this lead:
“Pastor Saeed Abedini, imprisoned for nearly four years in an Iranian prison, returned to Boise late Tuesday afternoon in a private jet, KBOI-TV, Channel 2, reports.”

Next story to hit the airwaves was an urgent message from Boise coppers asking for help recovering a couple stolen vehicles taken nearly half a day earlier while left warming up in owner’s driveways. No description of the vehicles, no color, no license number! Just a plea to call Crimestoppers if anyone has told you they stole a vehicle.

Of course all the stations followed with twenty minutes of weather maps and promises to tell us more later in the broadcast.

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We heard an ad on the radio recently from the Community Planning Association, COMPASS, which claimed Treasure Valley comes up short $150 million each year when it comes to transportation funding.

The private agency which is funded by assorted taxpayer funded local governments explains details here. They say the big issue is growth and predict 440,000 new residents by 2040.

The COMPASS website states, “COMPASS estimates that the region will need an investment of approximately $359 million per year between now and 2040 to meet maintenance needs and the demands of growth.”

Well, the always logical growthophobes at the GUARDIAN have an answer: Quit creating and encouraging GROWTH! When you give tax breaks to outside businesses to “attract them to relocate in the valley,” that means more people and apparently $150 million in un-met transportation needs each year. It also hurts local businesses already here.

When we read of a really bad “vision” called Idaho 2020, headed up by wealthy developers who benefit from public money diverted to urban redevelopment agencies, we were disheartened to say the least. Joke of the day: they say they are not lobbyists! They claim their goal is to offer legislators information on which to base economic decisions.

Wanna bet how many of those ideas will include doing away with business tax breaks, enabling unions rather than “right to work,” and not allowing tax money to be diverted to urban renewal agencies for public works projects intended to be approved by voters at a bond election?

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Judy Peavey-Derr filed at the last minute in a bid to unseat incumbent Dave Bieter who is seeking a fourth term which could carry him to a 16 year reign as Boise’s top politico.

Peavey-Derr positioned herself as a champion of the Bench and southwest citizens. She didn’t count on Bieter standing in a new park on Federal Way announcing his dedication to residents of the Boise Bench with new playground equipment.

She advocates parks and open space, but not the proposed Foothills levy. Bieter stood before the TV cameras to break ground for a new three acre park along the Boise River.

He was joined by two incumbent councilors who are also running for re-election.

When Peavey-Derr called a press conference to perform a victory dance for the Greater Boise Auditorium District’s supreme court ruling over Dave Frazier (GUARDIAN editor), Bieter hijacked the moment and waltzed before the cameras and waved his arm with promises of “even more” construction projects, “like the one behind me.” She is a member of the GBAD board.

Wednesday, Peavey-Derr scheduled a media event to spotlight her plans to create “districts” (known as “wards” in big cities) so citizens would have councilors from throughout the city and not just north of the Boise River. Bieter and Team Dave put a big shadow over her spotlight as they broke ground across town for a 5th library at Bown Crossing in Southeast Boise.

We gotta hand it to Team Dave. They know how to play the game of politics. Amazing how all these projects just happened to come up a month before the election! Timing is everything.

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The Idaho Supreme Court in a unanimous ruling Thursday said language in a financing contract between the Greater Boise Auditorium District, Capital City Devbelopment (CCDC) Wells Fargo Bank and the Gardner Development Company complies with the constitution whether it is a lease or a purchase.

GUARDIAN editor David R. Frazier responded to the District’s petition for “judicial confirmation” in an effort to force GBAD to seek permission from voters to go into debt to expand the facility. The court said provisions for annual renewal of a lease agreement for more than 20 years with a “non-appropriation clause” was good enough to comply with Article 8, sec 3 of the Idaho Constitution which requires voter approval for debt in excess of a single year revenues.

“My big fear is that the right of citizens to weigh-in on public debt will forever be compromised by this ruling, opening the door to local governments to never seek voter approval for bonds, opting instead for “annual leases” .

THE COURT’S SUMMARY STATEMENT Greater Boise Auditorium District v. Frazier – Docket No. 43074
In a case arising out of Ada County, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed the district court’s order denying judicial confirmation of a lease the Greater Boise Auditorium District (the “District”) intended to enter into.

The District filed a petition for judicial confirmation, pursuant to Idaho Code section 7-1304, asking the district court for a determination that a lease the District intended to enter into did not violate the Constitution’s Article VIII, section 3 clause prohibiting a municipal body, without voter approval, from incurring indebtedness or liabilities greater than it has funds to pay for in the fiscal year. Respondent, David R. Frazier (Frazier), a Boise resident and property owner, objected to the requested judicial confirmation, and appeared in the case to contest it.

The lease was one part of a complex agreement by which the District intended to own a new facility being constructed. The District asserted that the lease in question does not subject it to any long-term liabilities. Frazier responded that both the lease and the overall agreement unconstitutionally subject the District to liabilities greater than it has funds to
pay for in the fiscal year.

The district court denied the Petition for Judicial Confirmation and the District appealed. The Supreme Court held that the district court erred in denying the District’s request for judicial confirmation because the agreements into which it entered satisfied Article VIII. section 3 of the Constitution.

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Neighbors from the Hillcrest Place Homeowners Association, Vista Neighborhood Association sounded off over a noise survey conducted by the Boise Airport, but with very little notification of homeowners.

It looks like the 75 property owners who attended the meeting at Whitney Community Center Thursday night were roused to action by social media posts on the internet. One owner told the GUARDIAN a “neighborhood” site was buzzing with folks who feared their homes would be purchased out from under them or severely devalued following a noise survey conducted by the airport.

In a nutshell it is a continuation of the quest by Boise’s City fathers and mothers to get the U.S. Air Force to base high powered fighter jets at Gowen Field when the A-10 is eventually phased out of service. The big fear is having the thundering roar of F-35 or F-15 fighters rattling windows and making life south of Overland nearly “unlivable.”

Henry Wiebe appeared to ramrod the meeting. He created a playground-type confrontation with area resident Elliot Werk (former state rep) at one point when he interrupted a presentation by BOI airport manager Rebecca Hupp with a noisy battery powered electric drill–a stunt to emphasize the annoyance of military fighter jets.

Werk demanded that Weibe stop the noise, jumped out of his seat and rushed Weibe. Weibe shouted, “Don’t touch me,” and they eventually parted. The incident was indicative of how upset the neighbors are over the city efforts to justify the noise through an expensive survey which they claim could qualify some residents for “mitigation” or even purchase of their homes. They claim the Federal Aviation Administration would provide financial grants following the noise study. It is all aimed at expansion of the airport and retaining a military presence.

The simple solution was voiced by many of the folks attending. They favored having quieter military aircraft or moving the Air Guard to Mountain Home.

City Councilor Elaine Clegg promised to call for more citizen comment for the noise survey in an attempt to calm the audience, but most were unconvinced.

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The office of the Community Ombudsman that did so much to restore community faith and pride in the police department has been reduced to a part-time position, it was announced today. No official word, but it is probably the only city department to have its staff cut in half in recent years.

The new person in the renamed “office of police oversight” is Natalie Camacho Mendoza, an attorney. Mayor Dave Bieter said the position, which has been without a permanent employee for more than two years, was made part-time because the number of complaints about police misconduct has dropped.

The GUARDIAN sees the position much like that of a fire department. If the city had fewer fires, you wouldn’t see a reduction in the number of firefighters. The ombudsman office served as an insurance policy to promote good law enforcement.

Here is the official announcement:
Mayor David Bieter today named Natalie Camacho Mendoza, a Boise attorney with 26 years of broad legal experience, including civil rights, as director of the City of Boise’s Office of Police Oversight.

In her new role, Camacho Mendoza will take a central place in the City of Boise’s continuing success in building public confidence in the professionalism and accountability of the Boise Police Department and its employees. She will serve as the part-time lead of the city office, which includes a full-time staff member, responsible for investigating critical incidents and complaints of misconduct brought against police and law enforcement officers.

The Office of Police Oversight was formerly known as the Office of the Community Ombudsman. The Boise City Council approved the name change earlier this month to better reflect its purpose and duties. Camacho Mendoza’s appointment will be considered by city council members at their noon meeting on July 28.

“This office has played an important role in improving the transparency of our police operations and building strong community trust between the police department and the public,” said Mayor Bieter. “Natalie’s experience and perspective will help us build on that success by deepening accountability and establishing herself as a robust partner in our law enforcement effort.”

Mayor Bieter pointed to the deep decline in complaints and inquiries into police actions since the office’s creation as evidence of the success of city’s policing strategy. In 2014, the office conducted just six inquiries into complaints about police actions compared to 76 when the office was opened in 2000. In that time, complaints about police actions consistently dropped from year to year.

“Building trust and accountability in the important work of our police officers has never been more important,” said Camacho Mendoza. “I hope to build upon Boise’s progressive and successful community policing efforts and further deepen the strong ties between the department and the community.”

Camacho Mendoza, the founder and owner of Camacho Mendoza Law in Boise, has deep experience as a litigator in the areas of worker’s compensation defense and civil litigation, as well as experience in governmental relations and policy analysis. She also has deep experience as a leader and manager communicating and interacting across different communities of color, ethnic origins, cultures religions and socio-economic status.

Camacho Mendoza earned her law degree in 1989 from the Washburn School of Law in Kansas and has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Idaho State University. She has been an attorney and partner at law firms in Texas and Idaho, including work related to tribal law, migrant farm workers, immigration, insurance defense, business law, employee relations and criminal justice handling criminal defense and Tribal prosecution cases.

Camacho Mendoza’s appointment process included interviews with Mayor Bieter, Boise City Council members, community members and city staff. Because of the position’s law enforcement role, the process also included an extensive background check.

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