Friday, October 16, 2009
The last public candidate forum was held last night at the Caldwell Police Station public meeting room and was sponsored by the Idaho Press Tribune. We will try to summarize what we got out of these forums.
1. The City of Caldwell has reneged on a promise with Caldwell Firemen to build a new fire station east of the freeway. Results of this will be insurance company ISO Fire Ratings for Caldwell will translate to a higher risk for all insurance companies. This will more than likely mean higher fire insurance premium costs in Caldwell. Too bad the Mayor and Urban Renewal board didn't figure this out and spend urban renewal funds on a new fire station. Title 50 chapter 20 of the Idaho Code under the urban renewal laws would have allowed this as it is a health and safety issue. It now takes more than 8 minutes to respond to a 911 fire call vs. 4 minutes in the past in East Caldwell. The Fire Station has been pushed back from an original completion date of 2006 to a date of 2013, if at all, with this economy.
2. There is a clear difference between the incumbents and the challengers with respect to TVCC getting built downtown. The challengers all want voter/citizen input on what will be a $10 million project funded by taxpayers and will forever change the dynamics of downtown Caldwell. Incumbents support the move sans voter/citizen input for TVCC downtown. They have referenced the ballot box as the manner in which elected officials are held accountable.
3. Incumbents defended their records and challengers raised issues about city governance and how it could be better. TVCC sends over $300,000 each year back to the State of Oregon from their Caldwell operations. Do we really need Oregon based TVCC at Caldwell taxpayer expense? Private developers have offered to build the building and lease it to TVCC on three different sites in town at no cost to taxpayers. Their offers have been rebuffed by TVCC in favor of the freebies offered by Urban Renewal.
4. Housing foreclosures from investment based purchases are going to impact property tax revenue in Caldwell. Houses that previously were purchased and rented had no tax exemptions are now getting resold to homeowners who do have exemptions, the net tax flow to the city will be cut in half when this happens. Incumbents did not have a good answer on this issue. (THE GUARDIAN would offer the levy rate will go up. City budgets are what drive the levy rate and the county assessor sets property valuations. The levy rates are then multiplied with net taxable valuations to arrive at your individual property taxes.)
5. Caldwell has the second highest levy rate in the State of Idaho, despite 15 years of unprecedented growth in tax base.
6. Two city council challengers pointed out Caldwell lost three big box stores for East Caldwell due to the cumbersome, expensive and time consuming permitting process. They contrasted it with the warp speed at which the TVCC project is getting through the permitting process. The speed of the TVCC permit process has all the trappings of political pressure related to the election and lack of economic development downtown on the parts of the incumbents.
7. A review of the questions submitted but not asked was also made available to those who attended the debate. One question in particular we noted asked why anyone should believe anything the incumbents had to say. We were promised a 300,000 sq/ft city hall complex with shops and residential condominiums. It then got shifted to a smaller city hall project and then a yet smaller city hall project with further review and finally no city hall at all. TVCC ground breaking out at Sky Ranch, TVCC downtown, TVCC built at no cost to taxpayers, TVCC at huge cost to taxpayers. Why should we believe anything based on actual performance of the incumbents.
8. The issue of critical mass downtown (people actually needing to go there) was brought out. Challengers want market driven projects that will create a need for city resident to have a reason to go downtown. Incumbents seem to think TVCC is the silver bullet for all that ails and will bring 1500 students to our downtown. Students with no money and cars to take all the available parking as rebutted by the challengers.
9. Incumbents say the only money to be spent on TVCC by Urban Renewal/City is for infrastructure. Minutes from the November Urban Renewal Agency show Oppenheimer Development wanting a letter acknowledging their part in downtown development along with acknowledgement of the costs and to be reimbursed for their costs. City Attorney, Mark Hilty, to prepare a letter of understanding per UR minutes of the October CEURA meeting.
Summary, this election will hinge on the satisfaction or dissatisfaction of the status quo and the records of the incumbents. Clearly, taking on a sitting incumbent is a daunting task for the challengers. The two public forums put on by the Chamber of Commerce and the Idaho Press Tribune were very well attended and show a great deal of interest on the part of the voters this time around. We hope this will translate to an informed electorate making the effort to show up a actually vote November 3.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 10:10 AM