Friday, March 27, 2009
It looks like the efforts to incite a lawsuit from the ACLU by County Sheriff and Commishes may have backfired! ACLU is not suing for a new jail but to clean up the jail and put the right people behind bars!
ACLU Seeks Immediate Improvement To Grossly Inadequate Conditions At Canyon County Jail
BOISE, ID - The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Idaho today asked a U.S. district court judge to order officials in Canyon County, Idaho to immediately fix a number of serious problems plaguing the Canyon County Jail in Caldwell that have left a number of prisoners physically sick and that threaten the health and safety of prisoners and staff.
Today's motion seeking an immediate order comes a little more than three months after the ACLU first filed a federal class-action lawsuit challenging the indecent, cruel and inhumane conditions at the Canyon County Jail.
"The dangerous conditions that have been allowed to exist are so hazardous to human life that they must not be tolerated any longer," said Stephen Pevar, a senior ACLU attorney. "It is shameful that county officials have allowed such horrendous conditions to persist."
According to the motion, the jail has been overcrowded for more than a decade, and in 2008, more than 20 prisoners a day were forced to sleep on the floor due to lack of bed space. In addition, inspection reports from the Idaho Sheriff's Association show that the jail is poorly ventilated and unsanitary. In October 2008, Sheriff Smith notified the County Commissioners that a "large scale renovation" of the jail was needed, including "deep sanitizing and cleaning" of the housing unit, that sewer pipes inside the jail were leaking, and that the jail has a host of other problems. None of these problems were fixed prior to the filing of the lawsuit.
According to the ACLU's motion, numerous complaints about the sanitary conditions of the detention center have been submitted by prisoners in recent months, including one by a prisoner with severe asthma who said the significant mold in her housing area was placing her health "in grave danger." Another prisoner complained that there appear to be "insects breeding in the stagnant water in the bathroom from the plugged floor drains and cracked floor seals." And a third complaint from a prisoner highlighted the fact that a mattress is not sanitized before it is issued to the next prisoner. These complaints are consistent with findings of the Idaho Sheriff's Association, which has found the jail in violation of its standards.
"The law couldn't be clearer that all prisoners in this country have a constitutional right to live in sanitary conditions," said Lea C. Cooper, staff attorney with the ACLU of Idaho, who is co-counsel on the case. "Simply put, county officials are failing to uphold their constitutional obligations by forcing prisoners to live in the kind of squalor that has existed at the Canyon County Jail for years."
The ACLU filed its federal lawsuit in January, but, due to a technicality, needed to refile it earlier this month. The lawsuit charges that the jail is overcrowded and shower facilities are teeming with toxic mold and rust. The lawsuit also charges that the detention center suffers from inadequate ventilation and temperature control, inadequate sanitation, and inadequate plumbing.
"This case displays the need for us to move away from our state's over-reliance on incarceration," said Monica Hopkins, Executive Director of the ACLU of Idaho. "Implementing policies that emphasize alternatives to incarceration - especially for first-time and non-violent offenders - would be both more humane and fiscally prudent."
A copy of the today's motion for preliminary injunction is available online at: www.aclu.org/racialjustice/gen/39187lgl20090327.html
Additional information about the ACLU is available online at: www.aclu.org
Monica D. Hopkins, CFRE
Executive Director ACLU of Idaho
PO Box 1897
Boise, Idaho 83701
County Officials have offered the following response the the ACLU:
"With respect to the underlying allegations, the county disagrees with the ACLU’s contentions of cruel and unusual treatment of inmates. Many of the allegations are untrue, exaggerated, or misleading. For example, the ACLU falsely alleges that inmates are required to sleep on the floor. To the contrary, inmates are at times issued plastic cots on which to place their mattresses and bedding materials, but do not sleep on the floor.
While the jail is not always comfortable for some inmates, it nevertheless is not constitutionally deficient. Regardless of the fact that the jail is free of constitutional deficiencies, the county is making changes for improvements of the conditions in the jail. Recently, the county has installed a new fire alarm system and will begin the process of renovating the inmates’ bathroom and shower facilities next week.
Moreover, the jail population has decreased in recent months and the county is working on solutions to reduce the jail population without increasing safety risks to the citizens of Canyon County. Next week, the Commissioners anticipate considering a resolution to impose a voluntary cap on the inmate population in the Dale Haile Detention Center and jail annex based on design capacity."
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 7:42 PM
The beat goes on (or doesn't) as elected officials try to wish away the lack of revenue and tax receipts all over Canyon County. Middleton is facing a 20% drop in property tax collections. Our County Commishes are meeting almost daily to try and find a way out of their financial mess without cutting staff positions or increasing the levy rate. Their no-pay holiday deal has been met with at least one letter to the editor.
Sheriff Chris Smith says he will not participate in any further budget reduction requests. Sheriff Smith handed out promotions and pay increses over the past couple of years. Administrative burden and bloat in payroll is the result here. He also has his hands full fending off lawsuits from the ACLU and Citizens over the new jail effort.
The ACLU lawsuit is mostly for poor sanitation and maintenance. Painting, cleaning and some restoration work will pretty much clear that one up. The other suit lingers in District Court for an answer from the judge.
A real estate buying binge by the Commishes, an 11% drop in assessed valuations in the county, and people just not able to pay their property taxes is causing problems all over the county.
We are getting articles every day from the county and cities for bond issues to build new stuff we can't afford or need right now. Elected officials simply do not understand the plight of working people in this economy.
Meanwhile, we all wait to hear about a new Caldwell City Hall nobody really wants or asked for in the first place. A standing room only meeting was held on this monument to glorious excess in early February. Mayor Nancolas was to give us an update sometime in March. Let's hope this simply goes away.
THE GUARDIAN thinks Caldwell citizens are in for a nasty surprise on budget issues and a huge increase in the levy rates. (I certainly hope I am wrong.) A little research today came up with Caldwell behind on their property tax collections by 9%. Caldwell collects around $18 million in property taxes and urban renewal taxes from property. Projected to the end of the year it could mean a drop of $1.62 million in property tax collections.
Mayor Nancolas and the seven local high school students spent a reported $10,113.00 for their six day/five night trip back to Washington D.C. The expense report was incomplete and did not list all expenses. THE GUARDIAN has submitted another request for an itemized report for each person, each day of the trip. More on the trip when I get a response from Mayor Nancolas.
THE GUARDIAN is taking he Mayor up on his offer to share information on this trip with anyone interested via Freedom of Information records requests.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 2:46 PM
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
The following is taken from a legislative update from Rep. Robert Schaefer from Nampa:
"I have been critical of urban renewal districts for some time, so it should come as no surprise that I am supporting legislation to bring more accountability to those agencies.
The bill calls for oversight by the State Tax Commission and establishes certain guidelines for raising revenues. These changes are long overdue.
Regardless of intentions, the bottom line with urban renewal is money...specifically property tax dollars. That money is the only property tax revenue in Idaho that is spent by an unelected board not directly accountable to the public.
While the intent of the law is to promote economic development and fight blight, the current law opens the door to questionable practices and overt abuse.
There is room for a new law that promotes transparency withing bodies that can spend money freely and without input from the public."
Representative Schaefer is a long time Conservative Nampa Legislator and we hope this bill gains traction in this legislative session. Urban renewal abuse has become endemic in this valley.
Rep. Schaefer is keeping one eye on the horizon and one on the bottom line for all of us who are paying the bills.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 9:36 AM
Monday, March 23, 2009
THE GUARDIAN has learned our County Commishes have painted themselves into a corner with respect to the current and fiscal 2010 budget years. Property assessed valuations have decreased from $9.8 Billion downward to $8.8 Billion this year. Commissioners do not want to raise the levy rate to keep the tax dollars static and also take a 3% increase in budget allowed by state law. How this will happen is a mystery at this point.
Property values and levy rates are two components multiplied together to arrive at the total property tax dollars we all get to pay for all the various taxing entities like the county, cities, highway districts and schools.
Our Commishes cleaned out and spent all the rainy day reserve accounts to pay for the Work Release Center, Crime Lab/Coroner building, Job Service building, new jail site and engineering costs for the jail and a bunch of other bells and whistles. All reserves held for tough economic times are long GONE! Cash reserves are not there generating extra cash via interest bearing demand deposits.
Two choice remain at this juncture. They can cut all departmental budgets or they can increase the levy rate and take the 3% increase in taxes. A levy rate increase of about 14% (11% decreased assessed valuation and 3% increase allowed by law) will be needed to keep the county at current budget levels. The other option is to make drastic cuts.
Right now Commishes are not making any decisions hoping against hope the economy will turn around and they can skip down the yellow brick road. Spendthrift actions have now come home to roost.
Spending for county real estate and buildings got completly out of control in the past four years. The cardinal rule of keeping one eye on the future and one eye on the bottom line was violated by our elected officials.
What will they do? Stay tuned for more....
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 6:49 PM
Sunday, March 22, 2009
THE GUARDIAN has become aware of a serious problem with the Boise CCDC (Urban Renewal) and the Ada County Commissioners over parking at the Ada Courthouse. CCDC has raised the parking fees charged for using the courthouse parking garage from $0.75/hour to $2.50/hour for EVERYONE. EVERYONE, means cops, judges, lawyers citizens and virtually anyone using the parking garage put up by Boise Urban Renewal Agency CCDC. CCDC is now billing ADA County around $41K/month for parking.
Team Garret and the Caldwell East Urban Renewal crew want to put TVCC in the proposed new City Hall complex (if they can ultimately have their way with all of us). TVCC students parking needs will overwhelm all the available parking in downtown and monopolize it to the detriment of local businesses. Traffic enforcement will become a nightmare. We already have limited parking opportunities in downtown Caldwell at certain times of day.
A little research has turned up the cost of high rise parking garages. The cost about $15,000 per parking stall. This costing figure came from the Idaho Business Review article on the Boise Cascade parking garage costs for downtown Boise in a 2006article.
Mayor Nancolas and the proponents of the City Hall/TVCC project reference a parking garage to be built at a "later date" but have not coughed up the costs for this facility to the taxpayers. If they build the City Hall/TVCC project we will surely get stuck for the costs of a new parking garage and the poor planning demonstrated by this project. The closure of 7th Avenue across Indian Creek is viewed as a mistake by downtown business people due to the traffic circulation and parking issues it created.
Meanwhile, CCDC is short of money to cover revenue bond debt. CCDC views the Ada Courthouse parking garage as a sitting duck for more cash to feed urban renewal revenue bond debt obligations. (This was supposed to cost taxpayer's Zero $, if you believed how the project was originally sold to Ada County/Boise taxpayers.
Caldwell is on the cusp of drinking the same Kool Aid offered up by Team Garret and the Caldwell East Urban Renewal Board as the "Catalyst Project" for downtown Caldwell. This project, as currently presented, will be a nightmare for business owners, citizens and Caldwell taxpayers. TVCC student parking demands will effectively choke commerce to a standstill in our downtown.
We can all appreciate the efforts at creating a sense of place and community but an eye to the need and bottom line are absolutely essential in our present economy. Most people will not put up with battling TVCC students to find a place to park and go elsewhere to conduct their business. All the project will accomplish is get a new structure downtown at an unreasonable cost and inconvenience to everyone.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Commissioners pass on bids for sewer and water project
The Board of Canyon County Commissioners have rejected all bids for sewer and water line construction to the new jail site, citing a lack of funds.
“The recommended bid is $1.3 million below estimates, and while we could recoup some of the money through latecomer fees, the money’s not there,” said Commissioner Steve Rule. “This is a great bid, but on the other hand, if we take this $851,000 out of the general fund, that money’s going to have to come out of other departments.”
Commissioner Kathy Alder said she has been in contact with the USDA regarding potential funding, as they have funding for rural development, which the county might be able to use for this project. However, she said, her contact was in Washington, DC until Monday, and wouldn’t have an answer before the bids for the project expired at the end of the day.
Chairman David Ferdinand pointed out that just a day ago, the commissioners and elected officials met to talk about the budget deficit, and potential ways to make up the shortfall. “The bid is $1 million under what we’d anticipated, however, we did not anticipate the dramatic downturn from State of Idaho sales tax and revenue sharing, as well as fees.” In weighing the decision, he said, commissioners “have to look at the overall good of the county.”
“This is not a decision we’re taking lightly,” Rule said. “I know all the work that goes into preparing the bid, and all the legal work that went into it. If the funds were there, we’d have done this in a heartbeat.”
The motion, which carried unanimously, included a stipulation that if the money becomes available, the commissioners could put the project out for bid a second time.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 7:52 PM
Mayor Nancolas sent me the following comment upon receipt of my public records request for the taxpayer costs of the trip to Washington DC by himself and seven local high school students.
"Another example of the great service these students provide for our community. If this isn't a public purpose, then I truly don't know what is!!!
I will post the taxpayer costs for this trip when the Caldwell City Clerk responds to my public records request for the expense reports. Clearly, the costs were not totally underwritten by local businesses, nor did the students raise the full costs of the trip based on the Mayor's response. Taxpayers paid for costs and we deserve to know to what it cost us for this unnecessary trip.
Our Singing Mayors need to take a lesson from the kids who got President Obama's attention via You Tube this past week. They got their message across and a visit from President Obama.
Secondly, in this economy people are having to tighten their collective belts just to make ends meet,this trip flies in the face of all taxpayers. We expect and demand our elected officials keep one eye on the horrizon and the other on the bottom line.
Mayors Nancolas and Dale need to think USPS, Fax, Priority Mail, FEDEX, next time to deliver a petition. You can even get a confirmation of delivery with the rather modest cost involved with these services. These students were the only ones from Idaho cities to attend the National League of Cities Conference.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 4:35 PM
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
THE GUARDIAN took the time to read the email from Senator Mike Crapo's staffer Lindsay Nothern that arrived today. Seems the "Singing Mayors" of our fair cities of Caldwell and Nampa will not be deterred on their junkets to Washington DC in these times of economic strife for the unwashed masses paying the bills.
Both Mayors took a contingent of High School students with them to our national capital to present Senator Crapo with a petition signed by 400 other high school students. The travel for this trip needs to be accounted for to the taxpayers of both Caldwell and Nampa. How many kids, who paid for the trip, how much for the whole trip and how many days?
"Caldwell Mayor Garrett Nancolas said the student advisory board has done extensive research about government spending. "They brought this issue to to us and they are concerned about what is being asked of them, "their children and their grandchildren," he said."
It is past time for some transparency and accountability with respect to taking students on these trips if they are funded in anyway by the taxpayer's of Caldwell and Nampa.
We learned today from the local IPT page 4 article the trip cost Nampa students $1,000 each for the four students from Nampa. Mayor Nancolas was less clear on how much for the seven Caldwell students saying through Tom Dale's public information officer, Sharla Arledge.. "Caldwell students received some funding from local businesses, Nancolas also said the Caldwell students raised money themselves".
What is not clear is how much taxpayer money was spent on this trip. Additionally, Caldwell and Nampa were the only Idaho cities to take students to the National League of Cities Conference. The trip was six days departure to return to Idaho.
Note to the good mayors...next time think about a fax, postage stamp, or FEDEX overnight delivery for the petition. This trip makes all the budget cutting talk look like you are not doing the walk.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 8:26 PM
I just returned from the Laguna Beach area in Southern California to deconstruct what remained of my father's life and estate. Bolg entries have not been made since my departure for this effort.
While cleaning out my Father's worldly possessions my two brothers who still reside in Southern California asked me what I like the most about living in Idaho. It gave me pause to really think about this question. The weather down there was sunny and warm and we were all in shorts and t-shirts doing the clean-out. We were inland about five miles from the ocean and the air was clear as well.
The summary is quite simple when I think about it. It is a sense of community and people knowing you and your family members when you are out and about town. Knowing the faces and names of your neighbors, elected and appointed community, county and state officials along with the ability to be involved in what is going on in my community are important to me. My brothers could not name a single elected official of their community, county or state. Amazing to me they are totally detached from what is going on around them.
I also noticed a much diminished Los Angeles Times and Orange County Register newspapers. These two papers were bigger than most Sunday papers around here on a daily basis. The local Idaho Press Tribune is the first thing I read each morning with cup of strong coffee. I get a sense of knowing just a little bit more about current events in my community and the people in the local news.
My 2002 Chevy has just over 30k miles on it. I don't drive the 80-100 miles a day they drive to sustain their lives. Think of it as two weeks a month handed back to me each month to enjoy as I choose. I like the changing seasons, the short and for the most part, mild winters along with the certain renewal spring brings to us each year.
What I don't like are the wind and dirt storms we have. Poor urban planning resulting in our roads and highways overwhelmed with way more traffic than the streets and highways were ever designed to handle. Growth not paying for the impact it creates on those already living here not getting addressed by governments at all levels in the Treasure Valley. Housing located in the middle of valuable farm land. Urban sprawl subsidized and encouraged by local cities and community planning departments.
On balance living here vs. there a person has some identity and you are not just another car with a driver rolling to some unspecified place. I can pick up the local newspaper and see news and articles of interest about people and places and things of a personal interest to me. Obituaries are not seen in the newspapers down there, too many people checking out of life each day to even keep up with on a daily basis. I can't recall actually seeing a cemetery in my travels down there.
I feel very lucky to have made the break with the big city life early in my life. My wife is a Caldwell native and we made the permanent return to Caldwell in 1978. My children have come to appreciate the features and benefits of small town life now that they are out of college and on their own. I am thankful for this gift in ways that are very hard to express.
I can only hope our elected and appointed people will use this pause in growth to do some serious review of how the past 15 years of growth have been handled and implement what needs to change. The past patterns and approvals of just about every project have not enhanced the quality of life in this valley. We can do better and we as residents need to insist this happen in the future.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 9:28 AM
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Caldwell Mayor Nancolas and City Councilors appear to be assuming the role of Nero in their quest to get a new city hall built despite no demonstrated need for this edifice. Add to the "not needed at this time" is "who asked for a new city hall".
The cost to build this legacy project in downtown Caldwell is at or near $15 million and you have to ask yourself are we in ancient Rome or Caldwell?
Spending $15 million property taxpayer dollars on a facility not needed, asked for nor approved by the voters makes the Mayor, City Councilors and the Caldwell East Urban renewal district look like NERO when Rome was burning.
Who will get to write the question in support of and against this project if and when we have an advisory vote? The Mayor and Team Garrett are getting a fair amount of blow-back on this particular project. The real question that needs to be answered is: Who of us in the community asked for a new city hall complex? The short answer is it came forward in much the same manner as the Gazebo without going thru the rinse cycle with the voters. It just poped up and was announced it was going to be built and it will be good for all of us.
Urban Renewal has taken over the role as the "decider" for what is good for all us taxpayers. In this economy the use of our tax dollars on a new city hall lends credence to the "greed is good" mantra of Wall Street and the debacle of the bankers of late. We get to hunker down and they still get to spend money, take trips, and get bonus money from taxpayers. A new city hall has all the same aroma.
THE GUARDIAN read the IPT article this week on the fiscal health of our fair city with some healthy skepticism. Virtually every government function in the State of Idaho is scrambling to make ends meet, cutting jobs, hours, budgets, and perks but Caldwell finds itself in the magical land of OZ with only about $20 thousand or so to make up in budget shortfalls this year. I really hope this is the factual case for the citizens of Caldwell.
A new city hall project flies in the face of every citizen in Caldwell who is currently struggling to make ends meet in this economy. Mayor Nancolas offered that the electrical and HVAC systems were getting some age on them in the current buildings and would need some updating at the public meeting held last month as justification for a new city hall. THE GUARDIAN would offer the HVAC system in my residence is over 30 years old and when it fails I will not get a new house but will replace the unit and continue to live in my beloved surroundings. Add to this, the building next to the fire station downtown used by the City Engineering and Development Services Departments has a lot of unused office space. Where is the need for a new city hall? (The Fire Dept has been denied the use of empty spaces for their needs. No real reason is known for this denial by the Mayor.)
Most everyone is having to do more with less in this economy. A new city hall flies in the face of the people paying the bills. It makes Caldwell elected officials look rather selfish and self serving spending money unnecessarily. People are starting to question just what the heck is going one with their tax money with a project that nobody asked for in the first place.
Last note on downtown redevelopment. We are being told the Mayor, Urban Renewal and Team Garrett are following the Leland Report Phase II Strategic Report. The Leland Report has a key element the City/Urban Renewal buy properties downtown and sell them at steep write downs to get private capital to invest in our downtown. And.."Re-invest in existing businesses utilizing high quality, energy efficient, sustainable development practices" are also outlined in this report.
Other key elements in the Leland Report are to keep civic functions downtown and create housing options for downtown. We will be losing the Southwest Health District out of our downtown core when the economy turns around. This move will take about 75 jobs out of downtown Caldwell when this happens. Meanwhile, the Mayor is please to tell us in public forums that he and his team are courting the Veterans Administration to locate in downtown.
Parking options for private capital businesses will be severely limited with TVCC and the VA located in Downtown. Economic growth will be severely curtailed when people can't find a place to park. The City Deciders like to call the new city hall a "catalyst project", the reality of this is highly questionable in the absence of factual data analysis to support this statement.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 9:43 AM