Thursday, December 31, 2009
I would assume most people with a computer have seen this photo before but for me it has to be one of the defining photos of the Afghan War. We all have it pretty warm and cozy back home while these guys are risking life and limb in a place a lot of people can't even find on a map if they had one in front of them.
As we enter the new year we need to stop and give a prayer and some kind thoughts to these men and women in our all volunteer armed forces. If you have not served in the armed forces you can't begin to understand what daily life is like for these folks.
Let's all hope and pray these young men and women stay as safe as possible in the coming year. The guy in the pink boxers and flip-flops and his buddies deserve the best we can give them to carry out their mission.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 9:56 PM
Monday, December 28, 2009
The weekend news about the Nigerian who tried to blow up a Delta/Northwest flight poses and interesting set of circumstances. The guy had no passport, bought a one way ticket with cash, and his own father reported him as a possible terrorist and he was on a "watch list" of possible suspects. In spite of all this he managed to get on an airplane bound for the USA. What happened here?
The short answer is most of us are very trusting of our fellow humans and want to be helpful. The most often heard question in security queues is ...DO I LOOK LIKE A CRIMINAL? Usually this question is proffered by annoyed and ignorant people who have no appreciation of what is going on around them. The people charged with security check points have a very difficult job of trying to get people through the check point quickly and efficiently. We need a reminder like what happened this weekend that there are people out there who wish us all harm. We need to facilitate TSA and other security people in their task to keep us all safe.
Back to the question. We don't know what bad people look like and living in a free society it is a difficult task to balance freedom, the Constitution and individual rights guaranteed to all residents. I am just happy I don't have to decide what is right and wrong with respect to balancing our rights.
Many thanks to the passengers and crew who reacted quickly to this guy as it sent a message to the people who dreamed this plot up. The message is we won't sit by and let stuff like this go down unchallenged. The story of the people who took quick and decisive action will be a good one once the details emerge. I hope this bad guy has more than a few bruises and burns for this efforts and that he provides some valuable intel when he gets run through the intellegence mill for some answers.
Next time you go through a security check point try to be as cooperative as you can and be thankful these people are there for all of us. This incident will likely cause us all more inconvenience as we travel and go through security check points. We got complacent with security checks and it almost ended in disaster. I'll take safety over inconvenice any day of the week.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 11:44 AM
Monday, December 21, 2009
By Wayne Hoffman
Canyon taxpayers may have to help fund Boise streetcar.
Last Monday, the head of Boise's urban renewal agency told taxpayers to do a reverse Fleetwood Mac — stop thinking about tomorrow — when it comes to long-term capital obligations for Boise's streetcar proposal. Then he conjured up a scenario that would require Canyon County taxpayers to share in the burden of paying the operating costs of the capital city's streetcar system.
At a meeting to pitch the Boise streetcar project to property owners, Capital City Development Corporation Executive Director Phil Kushlan was asked how long the streetcar system could be expected to last once in operation and, critically important to the landowners who are expected to subsidize it, what happens when the system depreciates and needs to be replaced.
Kushlan said the system is expected to last 50 to 60 years, and that there are no plans for system replacement once equipment reaches the end of the life cycle.
If the City Council approves the streetcar project early next year, property owners will be told to provide the front money for the capital costs associated with the $60 million streetcar system. But in 60 years, the $60 million streetcar system would cost $353 million to replace, assuming inflation of 3 percent a year.
How will the city come up with the money? Will landowners again be asked to ante up? Answer: No clue.
Is it a good idea, one participant asked, to start a project not having any idea how to pay for the basic capital replacement costs down the road? Answered Kushlan: "We do it all the time."
"We do it all the time," obviously, is not a plan.
Business owners should reasonably conclude that they'll be on the hook forever to meet the needs of "their leg" of the streetcar project.
The concern about long-term funding, by the way, is more immediate than Kushlan might convey. According to the Federal Transit Administration, it is more likely that the streetcar assets will last up to 30 years, not 60. For a look at aged public transit systems in action, one need only visit Washington, D.C., where a June 22 crash on the 33-year-old metro system killed nine people and injured 80.
Answering a critic's charge that there are too many unknowns surrounding the streetcar and its funding, Kushlan said that locally-generated sales tax revenues might be used to pay the operating expenses associated with the streetcar — the so-called local option tax. Of course, that's impossible under current state law, and Kushlan knows that, but he's also imagining a day when the Legislature will change its historical stance in opposition to the local option sales tax.
"But won't people just cross the county line to avoid paying the higher sales tax?" one audience member asked Kushlan. "No," Kushlan answered, "Because the tax will be in two counties," which would be used to pay for mass transit throughout the valley.
So now Boise residents are being asked to put their support behind a project predicated on the notion that it will be funded in part by federal money that hasn't been secured, a sales tax funding source that doesn't exist and Canyon County taxpayers who have yet to weigh in at all.
Here we have a string of "ifs," unknowns and a public that remains unconvinced. Still, the Boise project that was once simply called "the streetcar" is now being referred to as "Phase One," with as many as two other phases to follow. The more we don't know, the bigger this project grows.
Why? Apparently, the answer is simple: We do it all the time.
• Wayne Hoffman is the executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit, non-partisan think tank. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The above is presented in THE CALDWELL GUARDIAN with the permission of Mr. Hoffman.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 10:24 AM
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
THE GUARDIAN continues to get comments on where does urban renewal money come from. The short answer is local property taxes. The Canyon County Assessor has an excellent piece on the county website http://www.canyonco.org/assessor.aspx?id=7769 if you want to read a good explanation of how it all works. It is worth your time to read this and ask questions of people spending this money you pay out but have no say in how it gets spent.
The short version is urban renewal districts are formed by the mayor and city council where they exist. These same people can then become the governing board. Urban renewal districts are formed with no vote of the people. Their source of revenue is property taxes in the district. They take areas that are likely to be developed into houses or commercial development and call them blighted areas. Once developed all the tax revenue from the increased assessed value goes into the UR pot. Not a penny goes to dilute property taxes all over the cities and counties where they exist.
In Caldwell, urban renewal takes in about $6 million a year right off the top to spend as they choose. This translates to a tax increase of about 22% to all Caldwell residents and you can add another 3.5% to your county tax bill as well. This is due to the increased incremental value of the "blighted property" that now has houses, businesses and other new tax generating activity and not a penny goes to dilute the city/county tax burden. This also means not a penny goes to any of the taxing agencies on your property tax bill. The Urban Renewal increment is given up by these entities for urban renewal projects and outright giveaways the UR boards deem appropriate.
Please take the time to visit the Canyon County Assessor website at http://www.canyonco.org/assessor.aspx?id=7769 and read this very good explanation of how urban renewal gets their money. It is not a handout from the state nor the federal government, it is your property tax dollars. No elected body has oversight of urban renewal agencies.
The following is from the County Assessor webiste..
Urban renewal is an agency set up by a local governing body to create extra revenue. This revenue comes from property taxes.
The first step to understanding urban renewal is thoroughly understanding how property taxes are calculated in Idaho. Before proceeding on this page please read Determining Property Taxes Urban renewal is a complicated subject, if after reading this information you have any additional questions please feel free to ask at email@example.com.
History of Urban Renewal
Laws relating to urban renewal were originally created to make it easier to remedy problem areas of the community that are described in Idaho Code 50-2002. Today, urban renewal districts are typically set up in areas that are already forecasted to significantly increase in value. This is because the urban renewal district receives property taxes only on the Increment value. The more property value increases after the district is put in place, the greater the revenue that is generated by the urban renewal district. Areas that would be attractive to urban renewal districts would be farm ground that has been recently purchased for development."
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 9:49 AM
Saturday, December 12, 2009
THE GUARDIAN is concerned about the number of parking spaces that will accompany the new TVCC project in downtown Caldwell. The "city deciders" have determined the project is not a school but rather a "educational services" building and will only need to have 32 parking spaces. Numbers of students anticipated to use this facility have been estimated at a high end of 1500.
We have heard our "city deciders" at all levels tell us this project will bring CRITICAL MASS to our dying downtown. When we inquired about the parking plan and heard only 32 additional parking spaces were part of the parking plan we decided to investigate this matter further. Here is what we got:
The previous figure was based upon “public or quasi-public use” which requires 1 parking space per 300 square feet of gross floor area. However, the building is actually classified as “educational services” since the entire building will be used for the community college and none of it will be used at all, whatsoever, for city offices. “Educational services” requires 1 parking space per classroom.
These parking requirements are taken from Table 10-12-2 “Minimum Parking Standards” from Section 10-12-04(16) of City Code. Counting the classrooms, the science labs, the computer labs, and the work space rooms, there are 32 classrooms which equates, then, to 32 required parking spaces. The 32 required parking spaces can be obtained from on site or off site parking, street parking or shared parking with another use.
In this case, all parking required from the ordinance (which, again, the ordinance requires 32 spaces) will be obtained from street parking within 400 feet of the site, as per the ordinance. If you’d like to come in, I can pull the building permit application and review with you the 32 required spaces.
Please feel free to call me at 455-4662 should you have any questions regarding this matter.
Anne Marie Skinner
We did receive a call from Caldwell City Finance Director and Caldwell East Urban Renewal Agency Chairman, Eljay Waite that a parking plan with additional parking spaces would be put forth around mid-January 2010. The number was around 400 spaces in and around the area. City deciders have described this project as the critical mass that will bring economic revival to our downtown. If adequate parking is not resolved to meet the needs of existing business owners we may see a further decline in business activity.
Right now I can think of two reasons to go downtown Caldwell. My barber who is located at 7th and Arthur and the Post Office. There are two hour parking limit signs up all over downtown that are routinely ignored. We can only hope the parking problems get taken care of to the satisfaction of business owners downtown.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 10:50 AM
Saturday, December 5, 2009
While most of us are planning for the holidays and trying to finance toys for the kids, urban renewal agencies from around the state are plotting legislation that will give them unbridled control of spending public funds for projects that belong under city voter control--like sewers, transportation, and public buildings.
Their plan to get the state law revised comes at a time when citizen challenges to the authority of these agencies--which are without oversight of any elected body-- or voters are being tried in the courts at bothersome and increasingly meddlesome rates. It is just a matter of time before their unchecked spending and tax collection gets stopped by the courts. Their latest effort and possible answer is to launch a legislative solution called the IDAHO URBAN REINVESTMENT ACT.
The CALDWELL GUARDIAN obtained an "Executive Summary Bullet Point" document of a closed door meeting held recently by the powerful Capitol City Development Corporation of Boise and other interested Idaho urban renewal agency representatives. THE CALDWELL GUARDIAN formally asked to attend the meeting, but CCDC officials politely claimed the meeting was not an "official board meeting" and therefore the public was not welcome to see and hear their strategy session.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 7:07 PM
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
There have been several comments on THE CALDWELL GUARDIAN citing Commissioner Alder's comments on Canyon County jail bed costs at $84/day per bed. Here is how they are figured...as straight forward as I can make it for everyone.
Here is how you figure the cost/day for a jail bed (for those who don't already know). You take the labor budget for the year known as the "A" budget and add it to the maintenance and operations budget (all the stuff besides direct labor like water, sewer, electricity, gas, repairs etc) known at the "B" budget and it comes to $9,075,360 for the year for the Canyon County Jail. Divide that by the number of beds (296) equals $30,660 per bed per year. Divide $30,660 per bed per year by 365 days in a year and it equals $84.00 per day per bed.
The above does not begin cover the depreciation of the Jail building nor the original cost of the building, the bond underwriting costs and the interest on the bonds. If you take the $6 million the jail cost when it opened in 1993 and straight line the depreciation for 20 years you can add another $2.77 or more per day to the $84/bed per day costs.
So it might really be closer $90/day per bed with all the hidden costs figured into the equation. This amount of money to keep someone behind bars should not be taken lightly by those of us paying the bills for incarceration.
This is how Commissioner Alder arrived at the cost per jail bed per day for those of you interested in the true costs of jail ops. It costs over $100/day per bed for the IDOC.
People need to be aware of the true costs of keeping people behind bars because it is not necessarily the cheapest solution to a given problem. The recently failed jail bond interest and principle would have ran right at $10,000.00/day or $3.65 million a year for twenty years. This is why "lock them up and throw the key away" makes no sense for taxpayers who are struggling to keep the wolves away from the front door in this economy.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 7:33 PM