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Monday, March 31, 2008

Treasurer Rescinds Resignation

THE GUARDIAN has obtained a copy of Tracie Lloyd's letter to the commissioners rescinding the resignation letter she tendered last Friday. Below is a copy of the letter obtained today by THE GUARDIAN.

March 31, 2008

Due to overwhelming support expressed by colleagues, concerned citizens and elected officials, effective immediately, I hereby rescind my intent to resign the position which I currently hold as Canyon County Treasurer.

I will continue to serve in the capacity elected to the best of my ability representing the voters and citizens of Canyon County, while continuing to protect the integrity and accountability inherently necessary to such a position.


Tracie Lloyd
Canyon County Treasurer

Friday, March 28, 2008

Work Release Fees Increased by Deciders

THE GUARDIAN has learned the commishes have engaged faulty demand curve thinking in their logic on Work Release fees. Raise the fees and more people will come to us for this sentencing option. They met this morning with the sheriff and they all entered the "CONE OF SILENCE" to confer on this matter. Nobody from the public was there so it was a slam dunk approval to move from $20/day to $25/day. They will meet Monday to ratify this cerebral decision.

You would like to think that with about 100 empty beds they would entertain lowering the cost so that more people would take advantage of this sentencing option. They have just raised the fee $150/month to a new cost of $750/month for people that are staying in the Work Release Program. Most of the people that are in that place did not get there by adhering to the law. But most of them don't make much more than $1200-$1500/month before taxes are deducted from their pay stub. It will now be cheaper for Daddy to stay in the locked down jail to serve out his sentence.

We now get to see what the impact, if any, will be on the use of work release due to the new higher fees.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Treasurer Tracie Lloyd Resignation

It appears the Manitron software problem and late tax billing the county has been dealing with has finally gotten the best of Tracie Lloyd. Inside information reported to THE GUARDIAN is that she is probably going to take a lot of institutional memory with her when she departs 1115 Albany for the last time.

The Commishes may have accepted her resignation far too quickly. Without provisions for an orderly transition do they believe the Manitron software problems are going to be magically resolved with Ms. Lloyd's departure? Do the good people on the Republican Central Committee think that they have the knowledge and skill set to interview and select three possible replacements for Ms. Lloyd.

THE GUARDIAN thinks acceptance of a resignation in haste will allow the Commishes to repent at their leisure. This is not a job that you fill with a warm body without adequate knowledge, institutional memory and skills. Tracie Lloyd replaced Zelda Nickle the previous treasurer who was elected county commissioner. That transition was seamless, this one won't be if the wrong person ends up with this job.

Lack of County Planning

THE GUARDIAN has received comments too long or in poor syntax. Below is my attempt to summarize by category what has been received:

1.Lack of a "Master Plan" on the part of our commissioners has led to poor decisions about needed office space to carry out county functions. Purchase of the Job Service building, moving the license offices and lack of courtrooms offer the best examples of poor decisions for taxpayers. Bad decisions are just about all we see anymore from commissioners.

2. Sheriff Smith did not make the decision to move license offices. The decision was made by the commissioners. He did support a move out of the courthouse. He does not support license offices in more than one central location. Office consolidation into one facility is his stated goal. He supports bond elections to build a 2,000 bed jail facility on Hwy. 20/26. He has made no mention about staffing, and operational costs once this gets built. Temporary jail beds will cost $60,000/each!

3.Work release fees were $20/day when George Nourse was sheriff. Work Release was in 50 bed facility, a "reservation system" was used by Nourse. The facility operated at 100% occupancy.

4. Work Release fee is $20/day, Sheriff Smith wants an increase to $25/day. Work Release is now in a new 224 bed facility. Every day there are about 100 empty beds. This creates a "price/demand" management opportunity. A "SALE PRICE" would create demand for empty beds. Unsold inventory is generally moved via price reductions in the real do not sell excess inventory with price increases. Fill the place and operate it at or near 100%capacity. A key Republican principle is the "free market" ultimately sets the price for everything, "it's the price stupid".

5. Job Service office purchase mirrors there is no plan in place from the self described "CEO talent" commissioners. Let's pay them more and see what happens. The IPT missed this point in the paper today. There is no substitute for good planning. Keep county functions at the courthouse. Are they going to give us all a map for where we go to conduct county business? Cheap is as cheap does, a quality decision is never a bad one.

6. Judges sentence people to jail, work release is a sentencing option granted by judges and administered by the sheriff. Daily fees are paid in advance a week at a time plus any other fees that may be assessed by the sheriff. The court commit has this information listed at the time of sentencing.

If you want to submit a "GUEST OPINION", just like the paper, you sign your name along with a phone number. Length should be confined to one screen maximum. Send it to me via email. Brief comments get posted, junk gets deleted.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

How Many Jail Beds Do We Have

The following is a GUEST OPINION submitted to THE GUARDIAN by Jim Rice. (The Guardian does not endorse political candidates but welcomes guest opinions that will further the public discourse on important issues of the day. The content is solely the opinion of Mr. Rice, you can draw your own conclusions from this posting.)THE GUARDIAN welcomes opposing views.

Canyon County Jail is two jails that are attached to each other. The oldest section opened in 1950 and will house about 100 inmates. The other section is the Dale G. Haile Detention Center that came on line in 1993 and per Sheriff Smith holds 357 inmates. In addition, we have a WORK RELEASE CENTER with a capacity of 224 beds and averages 100 empty beds per day per Sheriff Smith. Based upon his opinion printed in the IPT on March 16, 2008 the Daile G. Haile jail, on any given day, exceeds the 357 rated capacity by, "100 inmates or more." So,data from Sheriff Smith our jail capacity is 457 Detention Center jail beds, add to that 224 Work Release beds for a total of 681 beds.

Average sentence time in 2005 was 28 days and is now averaging 18 days in 2007. The result is,(in spite of a 20% increase in bookings), the average number of people held per day, including Work Release, Sheriff's Inmate Labor Detail. Juveniles, and those who are booked and released, has actually decreased from 831 in 2005 to 617 for last year.
Of course, we have to remember juveniles are held in the Juvenile Detention Center. Further, Inmate Labor Detail people do not stay in jail. Instead, they check in, do their assigned work and go home. Naturally, those who bond out or cited and released, do not occupy jail beds either. We now have to consider the 124 beds out of 224 that are used in the Work Release Center. We have to deduct some unknown daily body count number in excess 124 (the average count for the work release facility) from the stated booking numbers to arrive at how many people are actually in jail beds. (Talk about hiding the ball ) In 2005, when the sheriff and commissioners first tried selling us on a brand new $80 million dollar jail, we averaged less than 707inmates per day. Today, the numbers we average are 493 inmates in jail each day. To be clear, I have deducted the number of inmates (124) Sheriff Smith has assured us are held in the Work Release Center.

We can all agree we had an overcrowding problem two years ago, but whether we have substantial overcrowding now or not depends upon the UNKNOWN inmate numbers housed in Work Release Center beds.

The best answer for the roughly 25% drop in inmates can be attributed to our legislature and courts. In 2006 our legislative delegation secured three new judges for Canyon County, two Magistrates and one District Judge. The resulting efficiency improvements in our courts allowed us to get people to trial quicker. This means indigent people who can't afford to post bond do not stay in jail as long as they did two years ago. Our judges have worked hard to develop and implement methods to reduce jail stays using drug courts, supervised probation, and other alternative sentencing options. This drop in average sentences could have been even larger, but our commissioners have utterly failed to meet the court space needs of our judges so they can work at maximum efficiency. Factually, the greatest reductions in jail needs are accomplished by improving court efficiency. Our commissioners have made only token efforts to provide adequate courtroom space. Their main priority is dedicating millions of tax dollars to force a huge new jail project down our throats.

The old jail should be torn down and replaced. This would allow us to construct and infill the courtyard with permanent courtroom facilities on land we already own.
New jail space should also be built to replace what gets demolished and attached to the Daile G. Haile Detention Center. Storage and other needed improvements to the kitchen, laundry, medical and other jail functions could be done at the same time. A more reasonable increase in jail beds would be 300 to carry us well into the future.
The Work Release Center is underutilized. Many eligible inmates simply cannot afford to pay daily fees of $20/day and still support their families. If daily fees got reduced to the point that the Work Release Facility got fully utilized, we would save far more in new construction dollars and bonding interest charges than we would seemingly lose with reduced fees. It costs no more to operate the Work Release Facility half full than it does completely full. The current daily fee of $20/day is about to increase to $25/day by the commissioners at the request of Sheriff Smith. Raising the fees will only reduce the numbers of inmates that can afford Work Release. This serves to force more inmates into the Daile G. Haile Detention Center. I guess Sheriff Smith and the commissioners would rather have more overcrowding in the jail so we citizens can pay roughly $50/inmate/day ($54 in Ada County) for the influx of inmates not able to pay higher Work Release fees. The fees for Work Release sentencing should be decreased to the point they have it operating at full capacity. Think about how many Daile G. Haile Detention Center beds it would free up. It would be more or less revenue neutral to do this for the taxpayers.
We also need to think about taxpayer benefits of drug treatment for jail inmates as well as probationers. This is important because of the sheer numbers of inmates in jail for drug and other addiction issues. Treatment for addiction addresses the root source of the problem and would reduce overall present and future jail bed needs.

Jim Rice
Caldwell, Idaho

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Court of Public Opinion

THE GUARDIAN met with Commissioner Steve Rule Friday. We discussed how the county engineered the Job Service property bid award from the Idaho State Land Board. Commissioner Rule stated his email response to the IPT was taken out of context. I maintained that no matter how legal the process was, the COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION is what matters most. Public perception on this deal is Vallivue School District was a victim in the bidding war both sides waged with our property tax dollars.

The "COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION" is how the County Commissioners and the Sheriff will be judged. Everything they have done and every decision they have made will be judged this election. The ballot box is all we have to hold these folks accountable.

In the COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION there is a lot of stuff to consider when it comes to our Commissioners and the Sheriff.

THE GUARDIAN, is very concerned with all the tax dollars spent on legal (and illegal) land purchases, million dollar plus building projects with added cost overruns and the REALLY BIG ONE costing us $12 Million for the "temporary jail".
We are now at or near $20 Million tax dollars spent without any voter approvals. They did not SAVE this money, they over-taxed us.

Next is their lack of a "MASTER PLAN" to manage and finance brick and mortar courthouse (current and future) needs. There is also the knee jerk placement of county offices and services away from the courthouse area. (Despite very generous offers from the City of Caldwell, the Caldwell School District and the Caldwell Urban Renewal Agency to grow in place).

"We are the DECIDERS" posture is also a problem when these elected officials are questioned by the public or media. The use of a "spin doctor/communications officer" to deal with the media and public is a problem. We did not hire (elect) these guys to get our stuff from anyone but them. A Communications Officer is not who we elected to face us, look us in the eye and talk to us when we have questions and want answers.

The Sheriff will have to answer for closing the old jail due to wet toilet paper on the ventilation duct work. He shut the old jail down and rented jail beds for inmates in Ada County for nearly $300,000. No calls were ever made for a professional opinion/review/or report on the old jail ventilation issues. He then reopened the old jail when the TP problem got "discovered" months and months later. Then there are the 100 or so empty jail beds in the work release tent that remain unused. The statement that Caldwell City requirements would preclude any growth of jail needs near the courthouse has no documentation to back this statement. His refusal of the Van Buren School property for use as a jail site and the $11 Million in Urban renewal monies to help with the project remain troubling and unexplained. (All the school district wanted out of the deal was enough money for a new school site, per statements made by the attorney for the school district.) Commissioner Beebe tossed out a $9 Million price tag without a challenge from anyone on the source of this figure to purchase the Van Buren property.

The May primary will be a referendum on the Commissioners and the Sheriff. THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION will officially be open for business and the verdict delivered that same day.

The Idaho Press Tribune has changed their candidate question format this election. They are now screwing down candidate positions on hot button issues. They all get the same question and 450 words to respond in the Sunday OPED pages. Not a lot of wiggle room for candidates that are empty suits full of hot air. Hats off the IPT for this valuable public service.

Read the IPT candidate positions draw your own conclusions on the issues.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Bullies at 1115 Albany Win Job Service Bldg.

The IPT will have the coverage of the bidding war for the job service building in the Good Friday edition of the paper.

The Idaho State Lands Board awarded the Commishes the building. Too bad for the taxpayers of the county and those hoping for better service on the licensing deal. We have now gone from a horrible location at Midtowne Plazza to simply inconvenient to most everyone in the county with this non voter approved purchase of the former job service building.

It is frustrating as a taxpayer to hear this news as the highest and best use for that building should have been for a continuation school.

The "Bullies" aka our County Deciders really blew a P.R. opportunity to be gracious and back out of this deal but decided against what was the right thing to do. We will have the opportunity to voice our approval or disapproval of what these guys have done over the last couple of years come this May at the ballot box.

In the meantime, prepare yourself for some happy motoring to the Larry Miller Auto Mall area to conduct your Canyon County licensing business and whatever else they deem necessary to move out of the current courthouse complex.

In the words of BORAT......VERY NICE! and HIGH-FIVE! to the commishes.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Citizen Rights In Jeopardy

Got this from Dave Frazier at the Boise Guardian..

If a proposed amendment to Idaho's Constitution passes, citizens will be denied the right to approve certain long term debts. The constitution MANDATES that local government ask permission of voters.

The cities and counties have steadfastly refused to take ANY bond issues to the voters since this decision. I believe BLAINE County passed a bond for a new jail facility after the so-called FRAZIER DECISION came down from the supremes, but locals don't want to risk a "no" vote on pet projects.

For the advocates of the amendment to call it, "CLARIFICATION OF ORDINARY AND NECESSARY" is simply spin.

The proposal is nothing more than an end run around the voters and a blatant attempt to limit the rights of citizens to control the purse strings of government..... rights already mandated by the Idaho Constitution.

One of their arguments is that since PROPERTY taxes are not impacted, citizens have no right to approve.... or disapprove... multimillion dollar projects. If these amendments (amendment?) were to pass, it would allow local governments to literally go into business "SELLING" everything from hospital medical care to jail cells .... with no voter oversight.

(Canyon County wants to build and rent jail cells to the state, there is a county hospital issue in Pocatello that I am aware of at present which deserves citizen scrutiny. Also, Nampa is attempting to build a multimillion dollar police station and library project calling it urban renewal and get a judge to "confirm" it as an ORDINARY AND NECESSARY expense.)

All the local government folks need to do is ASK PERMISSION FROM THE VOTERS. It is the constitutional requirement and it is the law of our great state.

Important to note that I advocate only protecting the citizen's right to vote on long term debts by local government. I make no judgement on any individual projects or the need for them...the local citizens have the right and responsibility to do so.

Finally, I would be astounded and dismayed if 2/3 of our legislators chose to deny the citizens the right to vote on long term debts on the part of local governments...regardless of the revenue source.

If the legislators were to show such disregard for existing citizen constitutional rights, I can't believe the citizens of the state would pass..... by simple majority .... an amendment that takes away their right to approve major debt incurred by their local officials.

by David Frazier March 8, 2008

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Bidding war for Job Service Building

EDITOR NOTE: One reader made a great distinction between the "county deciders" and the school district:
1. The School Distirct raised their money via a super majority bond election and patron approval.

2. The "County Deciders" simply overtaxed all of us and asked no permission to spend our money on this building.

THE GUARDIAN has determined the Commishes earnest money offer and announcement they purchased the Job Service building out by Larry Miller Ford is smack in the middle of a bidding war. The purchase on this property has not been completed , nor has the illegally purchased Jerome property been sold.

The other suitor for the Job Service State property appears to be the Vallivue School District. The County Deciders have upped their offer on the Job Service Building to who knows how much more than the original $1 million. So, if the deal ever gets done, we as taxpayers will be in this one for well over $2 million by the Grand Opening Day.

Nice set of circumstances for us taxpayers...a state owned property in a frenzy of offers and counter offers by two taxpayer supported government entities. Real estate folks have to love this deal. More of your property tax dollars get spent no matter what happens when this bidding war is over.

THE GUARDIAN would like to think that the County Deciders will back off and let the school district have the site. The real need for license offices is in downtown Caldwell and Nampa.. given the long lines at the current location serving entire county. However, it looks like the "schoolyard bully boys" at 1115 Albany are going to let us have it their way.

Will they be after school kids lunch money next?