Writings and observations

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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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Most folks are unaware that Boise City’s urban renewal agency owns the Ada County Courthouse through a convoluted “lease” agreement which was used to deny voters the right to approve or reject the debt.

Capital City Development Corp (CCDC) financed the courthouse, but now the current Commishes are aiming to pay off the thinly disguised debt with a mid-August payment within the current 2015 budget. We applaud the move and hope the current Commishes will go to the voters for approval of future “profound projects” as required by the Idaho constitution.

Here is today’s press release on the Ada budget about the lease that was really a purchase as well as an outline of the proposed 2016 budget.

On Tuesday, July 21 at 6 p.m., Ada County will be hosting a public presentation of its fiscal year (FY) 2016 proposed budget. The public and media are encouraged to attend the presentation, which will be held in the first floor Public Hearing Room of the Ada County Courthouse at 200 W. Front St. in Boise. Parking is free after 5 p.m.

The presentation will cover the proposed budget of $231,435,852 for the year beginning October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2016.

During the current fiscal year, $37 million was budgeted to pay off the lease and purchase the county Courthouse, scheduled to occur in August. As a result of this purchase, county taxpayers will save $6 million in future lease payments. Despite continued growth within Ada County, the removal of this large one-time expenditure is what causes the FY16 budget to be down from last year.

Highlights of the proposed FY16 budget include the second year funding of public safety initiatives approved last year. These initiatives include $6.9 million for construction of a new emergency 911 Dispatch Center. Of that funding, $2.6 million will be provided by the $1.00 surcharge applied to monthly telephone bills, with the remaining $4.3 million from new county property taxes. The FY16 budget also contains $4 million to cover a 27th pay period, due to a calendar anomaly which occurs once every 11 years. Fees collected from Drug Court have been saved over time to build a new Drug Court and treatment facility at a cost of $2.8 million. A 2% merit increase for the county’s 1,780 employees is included at a cost of $2 million, and $1.2 million is included to replace aging network systems throughout the county government infrastructure.

The proposed $231,435,852 budget is funded by $109,395,305 from property taxes, $95,996,814 from other revenue, and $26,043,733 in savings. A breakdown of the proposed budget will be made available Friday, July 17 on the county website at adacounty.id.gov.

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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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I have been a resident and home owner of the Vista Neighborhood for nearly 50 years. Over that half century I have watched as Boise’s city fathers and mothers–past and present–have dumped house trailers, low cost housing, sex offenders, skinny houses, refugees, and assorted “assistance programs” in our neighborhood.

To be fair, for the most part these deals were probably well intended. The latest plan is a high dollar deal to “Energize Vista.” To be realistic, most of the deals have flaws. To be cynical, there is probably little hope of any true “improvement.”

Boise City in cooperation with the Farmer’s Market downtown has begun to compete directly with Lowe in an effort to “bring nutrition” to the poor folks living in the Oak Park apartments near Cherry Lane and Vista. The City is subsidizing a refrigerated trailer stocked with fresh produce that makes stops at the apartment complex–much like the Schwan’s frozen food guy. We think a free taxi or shuttle to Lowe’s market would be cheaper.

“The city never contacted me and I will have trouble staying open if these guys from downtown come into my area with subsidized competition,” lamented Lowe.

Pointing across the street to a rental property and a pair of skinny houses he added, “Those houses have never had anyone in them more than a year. We establish a customer base and they all move away.”

There in lies the problem. Skinny houses are allowed with multiple tenants–usually college students. Granted, the structures are probably visual improvements over the original structures, but cars are parked helter-skelter along the street and the occupants are transient in nature. The houses don’t attract upscale occupants.

Meanwhile, Boise planners and politicos proudly tout their efforts at creating upscale housing in the downtown area where taxes on improvements are all diverted away from all local governments and schools to benefit CCDC and developers. – from Boise Guardian

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At the risk of yet another “negative GUARDIAN rant,” we feel compelled to comment on two developments which crossed our desk today.

The DAILY PAPER posted a story informing us the City Council approved a proposed 173-home development IN THE FOOT HILLS adjacent to the Harris Ranch subdivision east of downtown.

The current zoning is either “open space” or agricultural (grazing). Team Dave just announced a proposal to seek $10,000,000 through a serial levy to preserve open space and conservation areas.

Wouldn’t it be a lot cheaper to simply deny the development and need for more schools, roads, sewers etc.? The deer and antelope could play without a discouraging word–as they do now in that area…no need to buy foot hills land to keep developers out.

The Vista Neighborhood is subject of a “do good rescue” project on the part of our City fathers (and mothers). Seems the area has a disproportionate number of poor folks, free lunches in the schools, (“title one”) and other problems which a Federal grant will supposedly help upgrade or cure.

At the same time, a new 300-resident development with “affordable housing” (which means subsidized for low income) is about to be approved for the big vacant lot along Federal Way by the Overland Trail Post Office. If they offer housing for low income residents, it would seem logical that more low income people will move into the neighborhood, causing more free lunches at Hawthorn School, increased traffic, etc. No telling if they will include 23 sex offenders like those at Canal and Vista in the City-owned motel.

Wouldn’t it be better to put a low-income project in Harris Ranch or on the ridges off Bogus Basin Road in an effort to disperse various economic classes? Just curious.

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A recent story in the Daily paper about Boise PD creating (recreating) a downtown precinct strikes a revealing cord, not so much about crime, but about financing crime-fighting coppers.

While ALL of the tax revenue on new buildings and appreciated value on existing structures in the downtown area goes to CCDC, folks on the bench and in newly annexed areas will foot the bill for the new police district planned for downtown.

With 25% of police calls for service originating within the downtown area, a disproportionate amount of money to pay for those services comes from the taxes on property outside that downtown area. Sure, restaurants and bars pay some property tax and they contribute to a “vibrant city,” but they suck up a ton of services.

Any way you cut it, downtown Boise costs more to protect and serve than the rest of the city. We would like to see urban renewal go away and let all that valuable property pay its fair share of taxes. (The owners do pay taxes, but the money goes to CCDC, not Boise city)

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Boise
Guardian

Mary Niland, chairperson of the College of Western Idaho board, told the Idaho Statesman Thursday, “If I had it to do all over again, I would have looked at the tax assessment and would have asked for the appraisal. All I can tell you is we didn’t think about it. It was a mistake, and we are accountable for that.”

The GUARDIAN raised the issue of failure to obtain an appraisal in a Tuesday POST about purchase of land at 30th and Main in Boise. The deal calls for CWI to pay more than double the $3.6 million value set by the Ada County Assessor. CWI has agreed to pay $8.8 million, but has not released documents requested by the GUARDIAN under the freedom of information law.

The legacy media joined us in questioning CWI officials who claim the institution does not need to follow Idaho Code 33-601 which appears to REQUIRE appraisals for property acquisition.

Despite the public apology by Niland and other board members stand behind the decision to pay $5.2 million more than the assessed value. Property values are a moving target, but the Ada assessor has a record of hitting that target within a 96% accuracy, according to the Idaho Tax Commission.

We would like to see an independent appraisal of the old Bob Rice Ford lot. Had the CWI board taken the time to check the value themselves, they would have been positioned to get a much better price during their secret negotiations.

Meanwhile, the GUARDIAN awaits the documents we requested earlier in the week. When they come in, we will share any news.

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Boise
Guardian

It may not have blue turf, but CWI is moving to Boise along with about every other institution of higher learning. The school is growing faster than a seal pup and the trustees voted to buy the old Bob Rice Ford land along the Boise River at Main Street.

The financing for construction will require approval of two-thirds of voters, but given the success of the school we see it as a good bet to pass. The secret will be a straight forward proposal asking permission to sell bonds.

Here is the release from College of Western Idaho:

Today, College of Western Idaho (CWI) Board of Trustees approved entering into an agreement to purchase approximately 10 acres of land at 3150 W. Main St. which is located at the intersection of Main and Whitewater Park Blvd. adjacent to the Boise River. The site which was previously the home of the Bob Rice Ford car dealership is planned for future development of programs to support the educational needs of the surrounding communities.

Since its first class offering in January 2009, College of Western Idaho’s enrollment has skyrocketed. This fall 10,217 credit students and an additional 10,480 non-credit program students enrolled across the College’s campuses in Nampa and Boise, community locations, and online. This record enrollment included more than 7,000 students attending classes at various leased Ada County locations including the current Ada County Campus at Overland and Maple Grove in Boise.

CWI is forming a steering committee and will look to engage the community and surrounding neighbors as part of the planning discussions scheduled later this year. The intent is that the new site will enable the College to move from existing leased locations and expand the programs offered including, general academic transfer programs, business, science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and expand its workforce and technical education programs.

“We are excited to find a location that supports our student community as well as the businesses seeking a trained and well educated workforce,” said Mary Niland, board president. “From the beginning, CWI has made a promise to our community to offer affordable access to higher education and training. We are keeping that promise through investment in our young people and the future of the western Idaho region.”

College locations in Ada and Canyon County have consisted of leased, shared, and a few owned buildings that have provided short-term solutions in meeting the current educational demand of western Idaho. To help address the growing needs of the community and space shortage, CWI has leased buildings to provide needed classroom and services space ; however, even with this unsatisfactory, stop-gap solution, students still face challenges scheduling classes and accessing support services without traveling around the valley. Additionally, the cost for leasing space continues to increase and with the improving economy, costs are going higher, which does not support a long term and stable campus environment for students attending CWI.

“This land will ensure that we continue to meet the growing demand for education in Idaho,” said CWI President Bert Glandon. “Completion of degree or certificate credentials is critical to narrowing the skills gap that many of our state’s employers are facing. Higher education is the key to a strong economy; and as your community college, we intend to continue to work closely with employers to ensure they have a locally skilled workforce to hire.”

“We are pleased to know that the land which was home to our family’s business for so many years, will now provide a legacy dedicated to the educational success of people in our community,” said Fred Rice, son of Bob Rice.

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