Tracking code caldwell guardian

Friday, December 31, 2010

BOI Makes One Step Closer to Inland Air Freight Hub

It is no secret Mayor Dave Bieter has had designs on making the Boise Airport an inland freight hub.  The up side is jobs in the area, the downside will be the sounds and noises from big jet aircraft taking off and landing 24/7.

The recent changes to the Idaho Constitution approved by voters ... you know.. the ones promoted on TV that said we had to protect our rights to vote by eliminating our rights to vote on debts.  Anyway there is a big story in the Idaho Statesman today about a Chinese consortium looking to get the people at the Boise Airport to build a bunch of stuff for long term leases Chinese Looking At Boise if you want the whole story. 

The Governor and Mayor Bieter along with other assorted and sundry politicos have made it clear the door to Idaho and Boise are wide open to the Chinese.  Additionally, the Chinese are looking at building a coal fired fertilizer plant in eastern Idaho.  Of course there won't be any environmental concerns using coal.  They will ship the CO2 generated to Wyoming for injection into the ground to aid in natural gas production in Wyoming. 

Safe use of coal is like talking about safe cigarettes.  You get cheap heat from coal but there are all manner of toxic issues to deal with when coal is combusted and the stack gases exhausted to the atmosphere.  Never mind that the prevailing wind blows toward the east.

The Chinese project at the Boise Airport will be a 10, 000 to 30,000 acre fully self contained technology park similar to what is constructed in China. This will be in conjunction with the inland air freight hub. China is now the second largest world economy passing up Japan this year.

Much remains before this gets off the ground no matter which side of the issue you are on in this revelation.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Public Pays Mayor Nancolas' Parking Ticket

Caldwell’s mayor had taxpayers cover a parking ticket he got in Boise earlier this year.


Mayor Garret Nancolas, Caldwell’s mayor for the last 13 years, said he was on city business at a meeting at the Capitol when the time on his parking meter expired. The city paid the city of Boise the $17 fine in February, according to the city’s check register.

“When I’m on city business, they (the city) pay for my expenses. That’s just how it is,” Nancolas said. “Like we pay for a hotel room, or meals if on city business. It’s just that simple.”

Nancolas said on the day he got his ticket that he was stuck in a meeting regarding double taxation and couldn’t leave to recharge the meter. He said the ticket was unavoidable.

“You just can’t get up and walk out of a meeting,” he said.

Nancolas said taxpayers would pay the parking ticket any city employee gets while on city business, or possibly for damage from accidents — a couple of years ago, Nancolas submitted a claim to the city for damage his car took when hit in Boise, where the mayor was on city business.

“Just because I’m the mayor does not mean I’m not allowed to have those same (benefits) as other employees,” Nancolas said.

Unlike other employees, Nancolas receives a $10,000 annual car allowance. He said he drives about 18,000 miles per year on city business.

On his blog, caldwellguardian.blogspot.com (where the ticket payment was first reported), Paul Alldredge commented: ”We would like to think he could suck it up and pay for his parking transgressions out of the $10K he gets from taxpayers.”

The mayor said that had he been driving a city vehicle, the meter monitor probably would not have given him a ticket, but that if he had the city would have paid it without question.

“I was on city business and I just happened to be in my own vehicle,” he said. “That’s the same as paying for meals, or gasoline or any other expense, and that’s the way it’s viewed.”

Nancolas said he was not “fiddling around” when he got the ticket and that the two hours he bought usually was enough.

“In this particular instance it just didn’t work.”

The above post first appeared on the IDAHO REPORTER written by Jay Patrick on 12-22-2010 we are posting it here in case you missed it on the IR blog.

Lower Taxes by Reigning In Urban Renewal

Here is a OP-ED piece written by our friend Wayne Hoffman of the Idaho Freedom Foundation.  Mr. Hoffman has given us permission to post his work on THE GUARDIAN BLOG.

"Earlier this month, a group of city elected officials in Idaho voted to cut taxes. How did they do it? And how can state legislators apply the same strategy to cash-strapped taxpayers statewide?


By fixing the state’s urban renewal laws.

First, an explanation of how Idaho taxpayers have been robed blind by urban renewal and its higher taxes. Let’s say we have a city in Idaho called Emerald City. In Emerald City there exists an urban renewal district. That district includes an acre of bare ground valued at $5,000.

The urban renewal district encourages a developer to put a building atop the bare ground. Now that acre of land is worth $500,000. The taxes from the increase in the valuation — the $495,000 — goes to the urban renewal district to use for their “economic development” projects.

The county, highway district, city or ambulance district — none of these entities gain from the increased valuation. As far as those taxing districts are concerned, the property is still valued at $5,000. However, because the city, county, highway district and ambulance district must still provide services to the new building, those taxing districts must increase their levies in order to bring the revenue needed to account for the increased services.

Meanwhile, Emerald City’s urban renewal district sets about its urban renewal projects. So while the local taxing districts can’t afford to hire the firefighters it might need, or has to raise tax levies to do so, the urban renewal district is putting money into arts, loans and grants to private companies and into new public buildings that would normally have to be approved by voters, were it not for the fact the urban renewal district were doing the work.

There’s virtually no limit to what an urban renewal district can’t do under state law, and little oversight because urban renewal boards are not elected. Taxpayers pay for all of this spending, much without their knowledge. Construction is occurring in town, but their tax levies keep going up. Taxpayers are at a loss as to why.

The taxpayers ask the urban renewal people if they’re to blame for higher taxes, to which we’re told the answer is no.

In truth, urban renewal does cost taxpayers. It does result in higher taxes, and here’s more evidence: The Pocatello City Council voted two weeks ago to get rid of one of its urban renewal districts. That move freed $83 million in property valuation (called tax increment) that had been locked up and applied to urban renewal. Pocatello leaders said the elimination of this urban renewal district would result in a 3.5 percent cut in taxes. Tax dollars that previously went to urban renewal are now directed to city services.

Collectively, urban renewal is spiriting away $52 million in taxes for specious projects in more than 60 Idaho urban renewal districts.

Mayors across Idaho like to tell Idaho taxpayers they’re getting something for nothing with urban renewal, that no taxpayers are harmed in the making of urban renewal districts. Our experience in Pocatello tells us that such statements are pure fantasy.

Idaho lawmakers have a chance next legislative session to rein in urban renewal, to stop Idaho taxpayers from being swindled out of their tax dollars and to apply Pocatello’s experience to the rest of Idaho. If lawmakers are looking for a good way to cut taxes statewide, here’s their golden opportunity."

 Wayne Hoffman is the executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation. E-mail him at wayne@idahofreedom.net.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Government Should Not Compete With Private Enterprise

The below letter appeared in the Sunday Idaho Press Tribune and we are posting it here for you to read with the author Patty Hautzinger's permission.

The business of business is business. Governments just don’t get it.



It shouldn’t surprise us that the Boise Urban Renewal Agency, disingenuously called Capitol City Development Corp., or CCDC, is under scrutiny for its involvement in plans to build high-rise housing on property it owns in Boise. After all, they have done so well with the “Big Hole” downtown. Governmental ventures into the world of business do not have a record of success, and taxpayers are left holding the bag for their failures.

Idaho newspapers, including the IPT, published editorials questioning the wisdom of the Land Board’s recent purchase of a public storage facility, which the state apparently will also operate.

The Land Board is charged with earning the best return possible by the Idaho Constitution. Casinos are way better investments.

Over the last years, local governments have responded to crucial needs by using taxpayers’ money for a recreation center in Nampa, a YMCA in Caldwell and the biggest money pit of all, the Idaho Center. Now, Ada County taxpayers are proud owners of storage units.

Had you owned and operated these facilities in the same manner, you would be bankrupt. Today, we continue to subsidize the Civic Center, and the Idaho Center alone will require $600,000 from you to operate in 2011.

Consider the impact these projects have on private businesses. Privately-owned storage in Boise can’t compete, gyms in Nampa struggle and some have closed. Private golf courses must compete with the safety net provided by taxpayers to city courses.

Government activities should be strictly limited to those things that are critical and that we absolutely cannot do for ourselves.

• Patty Hautzinger, Nampa

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Caldwell Mayor Dumps Parking Ticket on Taxpayers

We were rummaging through the Caldwell City check register and found the following:

"Check No: 66908 Check Date: 02/17/2010
Vendor: wells6 Wells Fargo Bank

Boise City,  Mayor's Boise Parking Ticket 01/07/2010 17.00


UnitedAL Mayor Nancolas/to Wash DC 01/07/2010 475.80

United Air MYAC/Rob Oates to Wash DC 01/07/2010 459.80

United MYAC 8 Flights to Wash DC 01/07/2010 3,246.40

United Air MYAC/Amanda Oates to Wash DC 01/07/2010 459.80

Unit Air L MYAC Chaparone. N White to Wash DC 01/07/2010 589.00

Check Total: 5,247.80"

It also appears there was urgent business for the Mayors Youth Advisory Council in Washington DC that necessitated  funding a total of 12 United Airline Tickets to our Nations Capitol.

It would be interesting to know what Mayor Nancolas got pinched for at the airport by the overly aggressive coppers and meter maids at the Airport.  We know from personal experience just how GESTAPO like things have deteriorated to at the airport for all travelers these days.  

What is really irksome here is the Mayor gets $10,000.00 a year as a car allowance paid faithfully by Caldwell taxpayers each quarter in $2,500.00 installments.  We would like to think he could suck it up and pay for his parking transgressions out of the $10K he gets from taxpayers.

Nancolas gets highest car allowance for a mayor in this valley.  Contrast this with Mayor Dave Bieter who gets nothing for a car allowance.  We did a story on this a while back and Mayor Tom Dale got around $4,500.00/year for his car allowance back when the story was written.

 Here's a link to the Caldwell City check register City of Caldwell Check Register  the above entry in this post can be found on page 287.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mayor Nancolas Called To Accountability For Caldwell

The below letter was published in today's Idaho Press Tribune and we are posting it with permission from Mr. D. L. Maitland with his permission.


Is Mayor Nancolas delusional?

Mayor Nancolas cites the Winter Wonderland lights in downtown Caldwell as one on the events of importance to the re-birth of Caldwell. The lights are nice, no question about it, however, I challenge Mayor Nancolas’ assertion about the importance of this in the re-birth of a “vibrant” business friendly downtown Caldwell. Where’s the substance with regard to economic viability for downtown Caldwell?

The sad facts are quite evident after 14 years of Mayor Nancolas’ administration we now have a more destitute and decaying downtown than we did before he took office. Nancolas brought us an Urban Renewal agency that has been very effective at shutting down struggling businesses.

A drive around downtown will not give anyone the false impression of a “revived, rejuvenated downtown Caldwell. What we do have is empty buildings and businesses. Urban renewal purchases of property for amounts way beyond any reasonable values piled on several multiples of assessed valuation and taxes on retail and commercial property are problematic in an already decaying downtown Caldwell.

We now have a TVCC building bought and paid for with Caldwell taxpayer money that does not generate a dime of tax revenue. Downtown businesses can also look forward to the exit of SW District Health offices in the near term along with 75 employees gone along with any demand for downtown business goods and services

It has been sad to watch as citizens bought into the MUSIC MAN con Mayor Nancolas has been able to sell to citizens of Caldwell over the last 14 years of his administration. Residents and business owners have been deceived by Nancolas and it is time we held our Mayor accountable for all the continued decay of Caldwell.

D. L. Maitland, Caldwell, Idaho

Sunday, December 12, 2010

City Manager Powers and Idaho Code

We found this on the Lewiston City web page and wish to share this with our readers.  More than 50% of cities in the United States have made the move to Professional City Manager Government.  Idaho has only three cities with this form of government.  City Manager government is as close as cities can get to having their city run by a trained professional v. an elected likeable person.

City Manager

Lewiston is one of few communities in the State of Idaho to operate under the Council/Manager form of government, in accordance with the provisions of Idaho Code, Section 50-811. The City Manager is appointed by the City Council solely on the basis of the Manager’s administrative qualifications and abilities. The City Manager is a trained public management professional, educated and well versed in local government and municipal operations. The City Manager position is intended to be apolitical so that the Manager may objectively discharge his or her duties on behalf of the residents and businesses in the City of Lewiston. The specific duties of the City Manager are established by ordinance and include the following:

1.  Have the general control and supervision over all business of the City.

2.  See that the provisions of the Code and the ordinances and policies of the City, and the laws of the State pertaining to the City, are faithfully executed.

3.  Attend all meetings of the City Council, unless excused therefrom by the City Council.

4.  Recommend for adoption to the Council such measures as he may deem necessary or expedient.

5.  Appoint or remove all department heads, except the City Attorney, subject to approval of the Council, supervise and control all employees of the City subject to any applicable personnel regulations and make regular reports to the Council concerning actions he has taken with respect to employees of the City.

6.  Supervise in general all departments of the City, except the City Attorney.

7.  Keep the Council fully advised of the financial condition of the City and its future needs, and prepare and submit to the Council such other reports as may be required by the Council, or as he may deem advisable.

8.  Prepare and submit to the Council the preliminary budget for each fiscal year, and administer the budget after its adoption.

9.  Investigate all complaints in relation to matters concerning the administration of the government of the City and concerning the service maintained by the public utilities of the City.

10.  Exercise general supervision over all public buildings, public parks, public streets, and other public properties which are under the jurisdiction and control of the City.

11.  Serve as ex-officio member of such boards and commissions of the City as may be determined by the Council, with the right to participate in all deliberations, but without vote.

12.  Devote his full time to the duties and interests of the City.

13.  Exercise all powers delegated to the Mayor by Idaho Code, Section 50-606.

14.  Perform such other duties as the Council may establish by ordinance, resolution or motion.

15.  The City Manager’s office is also directly responsible for supervising and administering the functions of the City Clerk’s office.

Caldwell nearly passed City Manager form of government back in the early 1990,s.  It was supported by the sitting mayor, previous mayors and a host of citizens interested in trying to get a better and more professionally managed Caldwell.  The measure lost by 19 votes.

Caldwell and Nampa are $50 and $100 Million dollar corporations.  We would think most people would want to hire the best possible professional management they possibly could to run corporations of this size and financial responsibility.  You would never think of  going out and electing a CEO for a corporation of either of these cities size, yet we give little to no thougth to electing mayors to do virtually the same job because they are "likeable" people and can get themselves elected.

Professional management is an option we have in the Idaho Code Toolbox but it will take the will of the people to make this transition.

Message Center Sign In the Offing at 10th and Blaine

It has been reported to THE GUARDIAN Caldwell city officials are investigating the erection of a big fancy message center sign at 10th and Blaine Streets, one of the busiest intersections in town. 

We have not heard about the size but rest assured it will be a big bold kitchy addition to our revitalized downtown. 

A great big Welcome to Caldwell along with paid advertising is the plan to help pay for the initial and ongoing costs of this darling of the night sky of our revitalized downtown.  We think this sparkling addition to downtown will be another project paid for with property tax dollars via Caldwell East Urban Renewal.

One reader has offered the solution to downtown that would go great with this sign would be to deed the entire downtown to a local Indian tribe.  They could add more life to our downtown with Indian Casino gaming.

Millions have been spent downtown by CEURA.  Our Mayor and City Councilors are trying hard to come up with  tax generating projects that will  help downtown resurrect itself from the current economic doldrums.

Perhaps this sign will generate some positive cash flow and tax revenue via advertising dollars this sign may generate. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

More Illegal Spending At Caldwell YMCA

More Illegal Spending At YMCA by Caldwell City Officials.

The Idaho Constitution and its pesky Article VIII, Sec. 3 has once again caused trouble for the City of Caldwell and its legal staff. The constitution bans obligations, liabilities and debts beyond a single year’s revenues without a vote of citizens.

However, at a recent City Council meeting the city entered into an illegal, unconstitutional 5 year long term lease agreement with the YMCA. The $1 million annual payment of (urban renewal) public money, combined with monthly payments for subsidized memberships is meant to bolster the coffers of the Y at public expense on behalf of Simplot and public employees apparently isn’t enough for the YMCA.

The YMCA, a private club, sought additional monthly payments of $575 from the Caldwell City Rec department to rent a single room for use by the recreation department–something one would think the Y would offer to the community youth since it is supported so predominately by property taxes diverted to Urban Renewal and handed over to the YMCA in the form of $1Million annual payments.  A YMCA spokesperson told the Guardian the city /urban renewal pays no money toward the $696k annual operations cost... that all comes from the YMCA.  The $1 million in urban renewal money goes toward the capital expense of the building.

When the Caldwell GUARDIAN inquired of the City about the illegal lease agreement, the City responded saying, “It will be fixed at the next council meeting” in a email response from Mayor Garret Nancolas.

We draw no conclusions with regard to the intent of the city or the expertise of its legal counsel, but citizens clearly deserve better.

No doubt Caldwell City officials will make the deal an annual agreement with renewals over the next five years or just make a lump sum payment out of the current budget. For us the issue is not so much the structure of the deal, but the nature of repeatedly using public funds–whether that of the City or Urban Renewal–for private clubs, regardless of how noble the cause.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Urban Renewal Needs Legislative Fix 2011 Session

U

Urban Renewal agencies in Idaho have been inadvertently granted dictatorial powers by the Idaho Legislature.  They have been granted "wide powers" in a number opinions handed down by courts and even a recent one by Idaho Attorney General, Lawrence Wasden.  These agencies have no citizen oversight. Citizens challenging abuses of urban renewal agencies in Idaho have no recourse from the Judicial branch of state government. Citizens concerned about property tax abuse desperately need a Legislative fix to these dictatorial agencies.
Most people have very little knowledge of how urban renewal agencies can legally form a district, divert property taxes and do virtually anything they choose with the powers they have been granted by our legislature.  They don't even have to conform to debt strictures spelled out in the Idaho Constitution that require a vote of the people for any debts beyond one budget cycle.  They can take on many millions in debt property taxpayers will have to make good without a vote of the people.

Urban renewal advocates would have you believe the money they spend on various projects are done at not cost to taxpayers.  The reality is it is a sleight of hand property tax shift that ultimately creates higher property taxes for every county property taxpayer.  Property taxes diverted to urban renewal agencies have to be made up.  Tax shortfalls to taxing districts create higher and higher levy rates to make up the the tax shift urban renewal creates for schools, streets, water, sewer, police, fire, highway districts, mosquito abatement etc. as inflation mandates higher and higher operating expenses for these taxing districts.

UR agencies in Idaho have siphoned off about $52 million property tax dollars in 2009 and the total increases every year.  Caldwell alone raked in $6 million and Nampa about $3.3 million this past year.  You can easily see Caldwell has one of the more ambitious urban renewal agencies in the state. This tax shift has to be made up by all county taxpayers not just Caldwell taxpayers.

Urban renewal advocates claim those taxes are not really lost to local taxing districts because they would not been generated without a urban renewal district.  It is called the "but for" ideology.  "But for" urban renewal tax money would never have been generated by property taxes.  In all likelihood the development in urban renewal districts would have happened with or without formation of these agencies.  They use the money as direct subsidies to developers operating inside agency boundaries. Check registers of the agencies bear out this fact.

Severely blighted Downtown Caldwell wasn't even in the original boundaries of CEURA until 2001.  Sky Ranch Business Park and Walmart (farm land) were in the original district boundaries.  CEURA boundaries were modified in 2001 to also include the YMCA project site in the CEURA district to facilitate a $10 Million subsidy to the "Y".  The "Y" gets a check for $1 million each year from CEURA from property taxes collected in Caldwell.

Nampa gave us the Idaho Center with their first urban renewal effort in the mid 1990's. Today it costs Nampa taxpayers $600k/year to keep the place open.  The latest Nampa urban renewal agency, Nampa Development Corporation is scheduled to spend about $268 Million of property taxes shifted to NDC for a plethora of public buildings without a single citizen vote.

Idaho cities routinely use urban renewal money and revenue bonding debt to make infrastructure improvements in undeveloped areas (farm land) that would have ordinarily have been financed by developers. Idaho law allows productive agricultural lands to be declared "blighted".  Think for a moment about Nampa Marketplace in Nampa and Sky Ranch in Caldwell. The property would have been developed without urban renewal subsidies due to the proximity to I-84 access on and off ramps.  These areas were not blighted and were annually renewed via new crops each year. There was no blight in either of these areas yet millions were spent via urban renewal subsidies to developers for both of these projects.

 Property taxes outside the CEURA district in Caldwell are about $300 more per $100K per year of taxable value due to CEURA confiscation of tax dollars.
Ironically, when voters approve tax levy increases for schools, they also  increase revenues to Urban Renewal agencies.  Urban Renewal agencies can't levy taxes but they automatically accept the inherent total levy rates within the boundaries of the cities where they exist for the "increment" they confiscate.  A school bond levy rate increase automatically increases revenue to UR agencies.

Citizens can not question nor can they seek legal resource to urban renewal abuses. A complaint filed with Attorney General Wasden regarding CEURA members getting free family memberships to the YMCA or subsidized memberships paid with urban renewal tax dollars was swept under the rug.

UR agencies have been granted "wide powers" under Title 50 chapter 20 of the Idaho Code.  CCDC Charmian, Phil Kushlan was getting a membership and expenses paid to the ARID CLUB in Boise until exposed by a concerned citizen.  These agencies have no oversight and are virtual dictatorships allowed by Idaho Law.  They are even exempt from the Idaho Constitutional strictures.

Last month CEURA could not find attractive financing to pay for the TVCC project.  They made a raid on Caldwell City rainy day funds invested in the LGIP (local govt. investment pool).  In yet another feat of magic CEURA had the City of Caldwell purchase the TVCC building and contents for $6million from Oppenheimer Development and then put the purchase on the easy payment plan for all of us by having the City of Caldwell sell TVCC back to CEURA.  All perfectly legal under the powers granted to urban renewal agencies.  Let's hope the reserves for water, sewer, cemetery, golf courses don't have any kind of financial emergency because the money is gone.

The Idaho Legislature owes all of us a fix to this theft of our tax dollars.  We will get to see if the legislature has the political will to do something about it this year.  Voting on debts, projects and board members would be a good start.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

How Much House Could People Actually Afford Before Bubble Broke

THE GURADIAN is constantly searching for answers and we ran across this very concise defintion of just how much house people could afford.  It seems this approach has been around for a long long time but people got greedy along with their mortgage lenders, ever eager to stretch the credit line to the max:

"A standard measure of housing affordability is the median home price divided by median family income. At a price-to-income ratio of 3, a median family could pay off a mortgage on a median home in about 15 years. At a ratio of 4, it would take more than 30 years. At a ratio of 5 or higher, it becomes almost impossible. As of 2006, the average price-to-income ratios in Hawaii and California were more than 8. Ratios in most other states with strict planning laws were between 4 and 5. Meanwhile, ratios in Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas remain between 2 and 3."

from article by Randall O'Toole

The median income of a family of four in Caldwell is around $40k depending on where you look and how current the data is.  The median prices in Caldwell for a home got to be around $160k before the bubble broke.  The ratio rounded down would have been a ration of 4.  Not over the top expensive by California and Hawaii standards but near the reasonable limits people's ability to pay off a 30 year mortgage.

What some folks were willing to pay for a home was predicated on the false belief there would be no end to increased value in homes and if they didn't buy now they might never afford a home.  It sure appears to be a buyers market at the moment and nobody is sure we are bottomed out on housing prices.  The latest Case-Shiller housing index numbers are down for yet another month.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

You Pay For Urban Renewal No Matter Where You Live In Canyon County

THE COST OF URBAN RENEWAL IN CANYON COUNTY (every property owner in the county gets to pay for urban renewal, even if you don't live in a defined UR district)

I was recently asked what the cost of Urban Renewal was in Canyon County. The results of the research are as follows:

If you are a taxpayer living in the County and not within the cities of Caldwell, Nampa or Middleton your property taxes per $100,000.00 of assessed value are *$88.41 higher than they would be if Caldwell, Nampa and Middleton were not using your tax dollars for Urban Renewal Projects.

If you live within Caldwell your property taxes per *$100,000.00 of assessed value are $210.14 higher than they would be if Caldwell was not using your tax dollars for Urban Renewal Projects, and when the county share of the 3 districts $88.41 is added the taxes are then $298.55 per $100,000.00

If you live within Nampa your property taxes per $100,000.00 of assessed value are $37.46 higher than they would be if Nampa was not using your tax dollars for Urban Renewal Projects, , and when the county share of the 3 districts $88.41is added the taxes are then $125.87 per $100,000.00

If you live in Middleton your property taxes per $100,000.00 of assessed value are $4.75 higher than they would be if Middleton was not using your tax dollars for Urban Renewal Project, , and when the county share of the 3 districts $88.41 is added the taxes are then $93.16 per $100,000

Total of your taxes paid to Urban Renewal Agencies in Canyon County during 2010 is $9,980,268.13.

Average levies for FY 2010 were utilized in determining the tax amounts for the County and the Cities. The exact levy can only be determined by a property analysis, but would vary only slightly.

Sources are the Idaho State Tax Commission and the tax data from the Canyon County Assessors office.

EDITOR NOTE:  Here's a link to a great Our View Opinion piece in the IPT today Free YMCA passes for CEURA just look bad

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bankers and Wall Street Brokers To Face Federal Charges

It has taken nearly two years or more but we learned this weekend the federal government is going after bankers and stock brokers as early as this week for all the fraud and liar loans that nearly bankrupted our country during the past two years. 

Just like the Enron scandal and the Madoff fiasco the government has taken its sweet time to ferret out the people and charges.  This will make for some really fun stuff to watch on TV and will also be harsh enough to give other wannabes some insight into how the government may be slow but this time around the Bankers and Suits of Wall Street are finally headed to Club Fed for some serious time under lock and key.

We can't wait to see who gets swept up in this effort to give the federal courts a workout. Court TV will no doubt be covering this for those with cable TV.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sacred Cows Sacraficed Idaho Budget $300 Million Short

We read in our morning paper Idaho will face a shorfall of well over $300 Million for the next budget year. 

It doesn't take a genius to figure out a lot of "sacred cows" are going to get gored this year.  The obvious one nobody wants to talk about is education.  It is the largest part of the Idaho State Budget.  One elected representative threw out the idea that kindergarten will surely be one of the areas facing budget cuts to education this year.  I don't think property taxpayers are in any mood to pay more taxes to schools this year like they did last year.  We can expect a lot of noise over this issue.

Idaho Legislature has to come up with a balanced budget no matter how painful and how deep the cuts go this year.  Difficult choices face all areas of state government to cover the shortfall.  How this gets done will make for some great soundbites and discussion by all concerned citizens.

One section of the Idaho government THE GUARDIAN finds interesting is the State Liquor Dispensary.  The name sounds so sterile and sanitary when you say it out loud.  It is the 21st century and the name has such a antiquated ring to it.

Elected officials have to ask themselves why the state is in the retail liquor business.  All of the overhead associated with the liquor business could go away if the sales of liquor were handed over to private business.  Retail outlets could do business directly with distributors and we could eliminate the entire Liquor Dispensary, their retail operations, their staffs, warehouses and distribution vehicles.

We have never understood just how this antiquated system is a benefit of any kind to residents and taxpayers.  It is our suggestion this bit of nostalgia simply go away in 2011.  It would be a revenue neutral move to do away with this area of Idaho Government.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Reader Urban Renewal Resolution Response

Several frustrated downtown Caldwell business owners have offered up their response to CEURA's 2011-2 Resolution regarding the facade rework at 213-217 S. Kimball Avenue.

 Mayor Nancolas opined in the spring of 2008 at the dedicaton of Indian Creek, Urban Renewal Funds would be used to improve business facades in the downtown core on a matching dollar basis.

 Several business owners have tried to obtain funds for facade upgrades but ran into a brick wall and never got any funding.  Now we have CEURA funding a facade renewal on a building owned by CEURA and an extension of that work at no charge to the adjacent business owner.

Resolution 2011-2 for the facade rennovation work at 213-217 S. Kimball was passed after all the work was completed at a cost of $21,000.00 of your tax dollars.

The following resolution was a response by a downtown business property owner:

 Whereas, we purchased property on Main Street 8 years ago and whereas we have asked about improvement money several times and been told they would get back to us.

Whereas, there has there has been a mass commercial exodus from the downtown Caldwell core area.

Whereas, the city of Caldwell and the CEURA joined forces to purchase core area property at as much as twice their fair market value.

Whereas, said purchases were responsible for doubling to quadrupling property taxes on downtown Caldwell core area properties.

Whereas, the code requirements require expenditures that make it cost prohibitive to recover in rent when it is not a desirable area.

 Let it be known, that we now own property we can‘t bring up to code, can’t rent, and can’t sell….

The following is an excerpt from CEURA Minues 11.05.2010:

"#2 Consider Resolution 2011-2: Resolution #2011-2 authorizes CEURA to approve an agreement with Norman Jewelers to upgrade their commercial site in conjunction with the streetscape improvement program for downtown Caldwell. CEURA owns the building adjoining Norman Jewelers and desires to set an example to aesthetically improve the entire facilities by upgrading the exterior of the existing building by use of a new fa├žade design, signage and paint......"

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Idaho Land Board Buys Self Storage for $2.7MM

By David R. Frazier, Boise Guardian

 The national president of the Self-storage Association in Washington, D.C.has asked the Idaho Land Board to curtail future purchases of retail storage businesses, investing instead in Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) specializing in self storage.

The letter to the board is dated November 5 and includes numerous questions and concerns about the practice of state-owned and operated businesses that are normally private. The letter was prompted by the GUARDIAN STORY which was picked up by AP.

A spokesman for the association told the GUARDIAN Idaho is the only state they know of that invests in and operates tax-exempt storage businesses. The group has secured an agreement with the Department of Defense to refrain from offering storage at Base and Post Exchanges (BX/PX) in competition with private facilities nearby. They would like a similar deal with Idaho.

THE LETTER FOLLOWS:

November 5, 2010

Mr. George Bacon

Director – Idaho Department of Lands ,Idaho Board of Land Commissioners
300 North 6th Street, Suite 103
Boise, Idaho 83720-0050

Dear Director Bacon & State Board of Land Commissioners,

We are writing to you on behalf of the national Self Storage Association, representing more than 32,000 operators and more than 46,000 self storage facilities nationwide; and the Idaho Self Storage Association representing approximately 450 facilities in the state. Our organizations are very concerned about both the direct unfair competitive circumstance and the general poor precedent that your state’s recent purchase of a self storage facility presents.

As has been the case with most real estate sectors during this recession, self
storage operators currently face significant challenges and have had to adjust their business operations to compete with each other during this difficult period. They understand fair competition and recognize that all industry businesses must also make similar difficult decisions as they relate to overhead, payroll, security, marketing, regulatory mandates and taxes.

The State of Idaho’s (Department of Land) purchase for $2.7 million of Affordable Self Storage, and the subsequent management of the facility, is a direct affront to our understanding of the clear distinctions between private/public activities. It is both unfair to the Idaho citizens who have established businesses in your state, and to the many consumers who currently and in the future will rent storage units from private operators at rates established based upon uniform operating dynamics.

Fair competition between companies that provide similar goods and services usually benefits consumers through lower prices and superior products. Any government-run facility which, for example, is not required to remit property taxes, upsets this standard. Government projects that duplicate services that are readily available in the private sector not only unnecessarily increase the size of state government, but directly compete with main street businesses that pay the taxes which support that government.

Not only is the practice of your state government directly competing with private storage operators unfair to those private operators, we feel it will be unfair to the citizen/consumers of Idaho. History has clearly demonstrated that when governments enter traditionally private-sector areas the quality of those products and services deteriorate.

We have many questions about this immediate situation and any other future plans for the government to enter the private sector:

- Could you please describe for us the acquisition process via which Affordable Self Storage was purchased?

- Were private sector entities given the opportunity to make offers on the
Affordable Self Storage property? If so, did the state “outbid” these private
operators utilizing the considerable Idaho Endowment Trust Lands treasure chest?

- How will your new government-owned self storage facility compensate municipal governments if you are not required to pay property taxes? (Local property taxes typically account for 30% to 35% of the operating expenses for a self storage facility).

- How will the tax dollars lost to the local county, city and school district be
replaced? (Conservatively, we estimate that property taxes remitted from our
industry in your state exceed several million dollars). The government should not be in competition with its taxpayer base.

- If the state-owned facility does not pay property taxes, how will the state
establish rental rates? If these rates are based upon operating expenses that do not include the same property tax expenses as private sector owner/operators, will your pricing be discernibly cheaper, thus undercutting private competing operators?

- Does the State of Idaho plan on continuing the practice of purchasing private self storage businesses?

Our memberships are made up of honest, taxpaying businesses that do not deserve this unfair competition which could threaten their livelihood and investments. These businesses have invested in your state and should not be required to cope with unfair and unwanted government-intrusion or murky acquisition practices. We encourage the Department of Lands to divest itself of this facility in a fair process and refrain from this practice in the future.

We respectfully recommend to the state that, if it wants to invest in self storage, it should look into purchasing shares of one of the four publicly traded Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) in our industry. Thank you for your prompt response to our concerns.

Sincerely,
Michael T. Scanlon, Jr.
President & CEO
Self Storage Association

For:
Richard Church, President
Idaho Self Storage Association

License Renewal Online Cheap and Easy

The good people at ITD are sending out your renewal notices for "TOYS" and we received ours today.  The tags for your "TOYS" are annual tags and go calendar year to calendar year.

We would encourage you to check out the cheap and easy way to renew your tags online.  It is a very easy and user friendly way to take care of these and any other vehicle license tag renewals.  You will need the card ITD sent you, your drivers license number and a valid credit card to complete the process.

The really cool part of this the cost! I did two motorcycles today and the online processing fee was $0.70/each.  So, for about the price of a half gallon of gasoline I didn't have to go to the local Canyon County License Office, wait in line and kill off at least an hour of my day. Here's the link ITD DMV . You will receive your tags in short order via USPS and can print a receipt out to show payment in the meantime should the need arise.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

AG Says No Laws Violated by Urban Renewal Board and Mayor

Results of an eight month Attorney General’s investigation of Caldwell East Urban Renewal will not result in criminal charges, but it does point out serious flaws and defects in existing Idaho urban renewal laws.  Link to orininal post Audit Of Caldwell Urban Renewal Imperative


The investigation by the AG was requested by former Canyon County Prosecutor, John Bujak--before he became subject of criminal and civil investigations.  Mr. Bujak forwarded the allegations of misuse of public funds after Caldwell GUARDIAN Paul Alldredge discovered what can only be termed “irregulatiries” in the Caldwell East Urban Renewal Agency’s check register.

The AG's investigation efforts centered on three areas:

--Payment of inflated prices for property purchased by CEURA well beyond appraised value

--Payment of $150,000 to the YMCA on behalf of select employers to help fund sagging memberships at the YMCA

--Personal membership payments for CEURA board members and Mayor Nancolas in the YMCA


 AG investigators said urban renewal law does not forbid paying more than appraised value for property and "relocation costs" are expressly permitted in the wide powers granted to urban renewal agencies.  Relocation costs were paid even when there was no business relocations as happened in some cases of urban renewal agency property acquisitions.

Most glaring, was a full family YMCA membership for Caldwell Mayor Garret Nancolas.  Other board members of the urban renewal board also received YMCA membership payments. The AG, in a letter to recently appointed Canyon County Prosecutor Bryan Taylor, said the memberships appeared on the face to be criminal because use of public money for a private purpose is a clear violation of the law.

The letter went on to say that upon further inspection “there is a reasonable argument to be made that the memberships were paid in order to facilitate CEURA’s inspection of the YMCA’s facilities.”

That conclusion is absurd! It is simply beyond comprehension of any reasonable person to think the YMCA would NOT allow inspection of the private facilities which are funded by MILLIONS of public dollars without a family membership for the mayor and CEURA board members paid by the citizens of Caldwell.

The AG letter mildly chastised the board saying, “Regardless of the stated reason, CEURA’s board members should have been aware of the potential for their conduct to be illegal. Similarly, government officials should be cognizant of appearances of such relationships, and reject any “perk” offered them, particularly those offered by entities subject to their regulation.”

The AG didn’t challenge the facts of the alleged actions. The office concluded there was just no grounds for prosecution of the first two allegations, noting CEURA had a “broad grant of authority” to protect its investment in the YMCA.” Since they concluded there was no “private benefit” to a public officer, the expenditure of public funds to benefit the private club was within the law.

In summation, the AG concluded legislative relief might be appropriate to correct issues brought forth in the complaint.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Health Insurance Rises ...Again, The Great Divergence Continues to Gut Middle Class

We received our "new and improved" monthly health care insurance premium notice in the mail today. The increase came to a whopping 22% increase in one year!  This increase seems over the top given we have never filed a claim against the policy in more than sixteen years. 

We received notice the rates were going up with the billing notice from last month.  All of this makes us wonder what, if anything, is being done for cost containment.  The United States spends roughly 17% of our GDP on health care and even with that level of expense we are the only country on the face of the earth where people can lose everything they own (even with insurance) and become indigent due to medical costs. It is frightening to think a lifetime of saving and planning can be wiped out by one catastrophic illness.

Big Medicine, Pharmacy, and Insurance continue to lobby congress to protect their industries and the rights to charge citizens whatever they deem appropriate to sustain their profits and huge payrolls.

We do not have the free market working when it comes to health care in this country.  A number is written down on a bill and that is what we pay as consumers.  Medical tourism is the only weapon the consumer has at this juncture to fight rising costs and introduce some degree of competition in the quest to control medical costs.

There is another phenomenon going on in this country where the rich are getting richer and the poor getting poorer along with a gutting of the middle class in this country.  The name used by economists for it is THE GREAT DIVERGENCE. It is the moniker to describe what has been going on since 1979 in the United States.  It is nothing less than the systematic dismantling of the middle class in this country. Here's a link for more about THE GREAT DIVERGENCE TIM NOAH ON THE GREAT DIVERGENCE VIDEO

County Clerks Authorized to Open Ballots Early

We received this letter to all county clerks from a reader in North Idaho regarding opening ballots early.  Bill Hurst the Canyon County Clerk/Auditor has offered to THE GUARIDAN that there are ample safeguards to protect against any tampering of the election process.  We offer this letter as infomational should you hear about this and wonder how your ballots are protected before they are counted.  Bill Hurst also added that is is necessary to open and get these ballots ready to count in order to insure a timely result.  Idaho uses paper ballots to leave a paper trail and the paper ballots are considered the "gold standard" to protect elections and results.  Paper ballots give candidates a means for a recount if deemed necessary.

Here's a link to the IDAHO REPORTER.COM article on opening ballots early Ballots Opened Early

From: Tim Hurst [mailto:thurst@sos.idaho.gov]
Sent: Wednesday, October 27, 2010 3:20 PM

To: County Clerk-Ada-JoMeta Spencer; County Clerk-Bannock-Dale Hatch; County Clerk-Bannock-Jay Bingham; County Clerk-Bannock-Marla; County Clerk-Bingham-Marlene Jensen; County Clerk-Bingham-Sara Staub; County Clerk-Blaine-Jolynn Drage; County Clerk-Bonner-Diana Campbell; County Clerk-Bonner-Marie Scott; County Clerk-Canyon-Terry Warwick; County Clerk-Cassia-Dee Yeaman; County Clerk-Cassia-Theresa Woodbury; County Clerk-Elmore-Marsa Plummer; County Clerk-Elmore-Vivian Garcia; County Clerk-Fremont-Abbie Mace; County Clerk-Gem-Shelly Gannon; County Clerk-Gooding-Denise Gill; County Clerk-Gooding-Diane Houser; County Clerk-Jefferson-Christine Boulter; County Clerk-Jefferson-Shonna Allred; County Clerk-Jerome-Michelle Emerson; Carrie Phillips; Dan English; County Clerk-Latah-Susan Petersen; County Clerk-Madison-Marilyn Rasmussen; County Clerk-Madison-Sue Bagley; County Clerk-Nez Perce-Patty Weeks; County Clerk-NezPerce-Julie Latham; County Clerk-Payette-Luann Denney; County Clerk-Twin Falls-Larry Haycock; County Clerk-TwinFalls-Kristina Glascock; County Clerk-Valley-JoAnn Fly

Subject: Opening absentee ballot envelopes before election day

Some of you have again requested permission to begin opening the absentee ballots before election day because of the number of absentee ballots you are receiving and the need to allow the folded ballots to flatten out before being run through the tabulators. When opening absentee ballots our office has issued the following directive: · Calculate the number of absentee ballots you have received and figure out about how long it will take to open them. Then, count backwards from election day that amount of time. · After the signatures on the affidavit envelops have been verified against the scanned signature in the voter registration system and have been recorded as being received, the affidavit envelope and the ballot secrecy envelopes may be separated. Once separated, the ballot secrecy envelope may then be opened and the ballots removed to be laid out to flatten before running them through the tabulators. · In order to maintain the integrity and security of the ballots, after they are removed from the envelops, they are to be kept in a secure location with limited access. Any time those ballots are accessed, there is to be at least two individuals accessing them. Also, arrangements are to be made to have a guard (typically a deputy sheriff, police officer or private security firm) checking to be sure that the location is still secure on a regular and frequent basis during non-office hours. · Watchers, who have been certified by the parties or candidates, are to be informed of your intent to open ballot envelopes early and of your schedule, so they can be there if they choose. · The counting of absentee ballots is not to begin until election day.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call. Tim Hurst Tim HurstChief DeputyIdaho Secretary of State700 W. Jefferson, Room E205Boise, Idaho 83720phone: 208-334-2852thurst@sos.idaho.gov

Friday, October 29, 2010

David (Frazier) vs Goliath (politicians,media, money)

October 29, 2010 by David R. Frazier

As we hit the home stretch in the mid-term election campaign, the GUARDIAN position on preserving the right of citizens to vote as detailed by the constitution and the supreme court seems in jeopardy.

Local governments, hospitals, and politicians of all stripes have dumped tens of thousands of dollars and countless hours into their effort to pass the amendments. Why do they not want the voters to be heard?

Editor-activist-blogger Dave Frazier has been labeled a GADFLY, ROTUND, ANTI-TAX MAVEN by media and proponents of three amendments on the ballot, HJR4,5, and 7. A church leader in Pocatello claimed Frazier was funded by business interests aiming to take away revenue generating entities from local government. All the major daily papers in the state have endorsed the measures, often repeating statements from proponents that minimize and distort the truth.

One editor told us with regard to HJR7, the Public Utilities Commission watches over city-owned power companies. The companies are EXEMPT from PUC scrutiny. Uninformed opinion.

Hospital ads favoring HJR4 talk about Washington interference, property tax rates, and preserving your right to vote with a “yes” on HJR4. They are simply not true and none of the media will check it out or report the truth.

HJR5 makes claims of jobs, economic prosperity and the website raises the specter of a National Guard and BLM without bases to from which to operate without approval. Absurd.

We will all lose if the amendments pass

Thursday, October 21, 2010

City Now Owns TVCC Building But Is Selling To CEURA

Oppenheimer Development aka CP-1, LLC completed the TVCC project for Caldwell Urban Renewal Agency akd CEURA on schedule and wanted to get paid for their project. The selling price was $6 million.

It took several public records requests to get it all figured out and here is how it went down:

Financing terms available to CEURA were deemed less than favorable so CEURA asked the City of Caldwell to purchase the building in the amount of $6 million from Oppenheirmer's and the Urban Renewal agency would in turn buy it back from the city over a four year period with anticipated tax revenue.

The City of Caldwell used taxpayer reserve funds from "Enterprise Accounts" for various city entities such as the Cemetery, Streets, Water, Sewer etc they had on deposit with the Idaho State Treasurer in the LOCAL GOVT. INVESTMENT POOL, LGIP for short.  There are two accounts the City of Caldwell has with the State Treasurer's Office, a diversified bond investments with about $16.5 million and they had $8.5 million in the LGIP.  The TVCC purchase has reduced this reserve to $2.5 million as of yesterday.

The City pulled $6 million out of their reserve LGIP funds for the TVCC building and then resold the project to CEURA for $6 million plus interest.  CEURA will pay back the city over the next four years in annual payments of  about $1.65 million per year.  At the end of the life of CEURA in 2014 the building will get deeded back to the city.  The City of Caldwell will then be in the Landlord business with TVCC.

Meanwhile the lease payments from TVCC are annually renewable and the "suggested" lease payment this year is $200K.  This is less than a straight line depreciation schedule for the project.  No private entity can compete with this kind of a deal given to out of state TVCC at the expense of Caldwell property taxpayers.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

State Goes Into Direct Competetion With Private Enterprise

State Owns Tax-Exempt Commercial Storage, Competes With Private Business

Tuesday, October 19th by David R. Frazier

Politicos are fond of attempting to “run government like a business” in these hard economic times, but how about government flat out running a business?

The State of Idaho recently created a front company which discreetly operates a tax-exempt commercial public self-storage facility hiding behind the assumed name of “Affordable Storage” at 450 South Maple Grove in Boise.

The GUARDIAN was tipped off about the tax-exempt facility owned by the state because of our concerns with cities entering the commercial real estate speculation business at airports if HJR5–the proposed constitutional amendment–were to pass.

According to our confidential informants, the private facility was up for sale for several months and was sold in September for $2.68 million dollars. That effectively took about $40,000 out of the coffers of Boise and Ada County governments and the Boise School District. In addition, there will be a loss to the state of an estimated $16,000 in income taxes.

Jake Smith of Republic Storage said his firm owns 13,000 units at 17 locations in the Valley. “It’s damn difficult to do business when your competitor doesn’t pay income or property taxes,” said Smith.

Records at the Ada County Assessor show the current value is a mere $400, but at the first of the year it was appraised at about $2,000,000. We visited the site and it is a very modern and well maintained storage business consisting of several parcels including an office and what was once a manager’s residence.

The “True Name” of the business entity is listed at the Secretary of State as “State Board of Land Commissioners as trustee for the Idaho Endowments.” The profits from the commercial venture are destined to the state school endowment fund. Since the transaction was a “quit claim deed” and not a warranty deed, our experts figure it was some sort of land swap.

While it may be good business to diversify investments, it sure as heck isn’t good government to compete with private businessmen who are at a disadvantage coming out of the gate since they have to pay taxes and compete with their tax-exempt state government. Ironic that state wide elected officers are eager to crate jobs during this election year, but quietly start their own LLC to compete with the private sector.

They may be well intentioned, but certainly ill advised. We were told this Limited Liability Corp. (LLC) is the first one attempted by the Land Board. It will probably be the last too.

At the risk of fanning the flames, we note that Communist China, Vietnam, Cuba, and some Mideast sheikdoms are known to operate state-owned businesses. Just can’t imagine such a thing in a place like Idaho.

Do Politicians Need More Authority To Create Debt?

We are slowly working our way out of a deep recession mess created by banks and politicians. "Wreckless spending and skyrocketing debt" are at the forefront of just about every candidate running for office this election.  All of it gets back to no voter oversight with respect to debt. On November 2nd we are all going to be asked to give up our right to vote on debts created by politicians and appointed officials here in Idaho. 

The question you have to ask yourself is do we need to grant these people more authority to go into debt without our permission or not. Mr. Allred has come out in favor of these amendments and Mr. Otter has remained mum and said it is a decision for voters. 

Idaho is a very conservative state and as such is not mired down in debt to the extent a lot of other states find themselves today.  The cold hard facts are most elected officials would not make it to the interview for the jobs they hold with the credentials they have going into office.  Not to say they aren't well meaning but the only criteria for most elected jobs is meet an age requirement, be an elector in good standing and last get yourself voted into office one way or another.

We are not in a constitutional crisis, Idaho Republican Platform is against the amendments, and last, the framers of the Idaho Constitution deliberately made debt a high bar for elected officials to cross.  Article 8 section 3 has been under attack by those who would like to remove citizens from oversight of debt creation just about every year with all manner of excuses and bluster.

 Advertisements for HJR4 are about as blatant as it gets for outright deception and lying.  Your YES vote will eliminate your rights to vote on debt.  Their ads say a yes vote will protect your rights to vote

The only amendment that makes sense is the U of Idaho deal to allow student fees to become tuition.  This will allow the fees to be used in any manner necessary to budget writers for the U of Idaho. 

We encourage you to make an informed decision about giving up your rights to vote on debts created by elected and appointed officials.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Amendments An Assault On Voter's Rights

October 7, 2010
By Tom Grote, Editor and Publisher
The Star-News

“Amendments an assault on voter’s rights”
Three proposed amendments to the Idaho Constitution to be placed before voters on Nov. 2 would deprive citizens of their basic right to tell government what it can do and cannot do. This is an attempt by bureaucrats to wrest away the decision-making process from the people who pay their salaries.
The proposed amendments, called HJR 4, HJR 5 and HJR 7 on the general election ballot, are an hysterical reaction by cities, counties and public hospitals to a reasonable ruling by the Idaho Supreme Court in 2006. That ruling confirmed that state laws said exactly what they seemed to say – which is that cities, counties and hospitals must receive voter approval before going into debt to expand airports, enlarge hospitals, build new sewer plants, construct police stations or otherwise expand their basic infrastructure.
The ruling has been widely misinterpreted and deliberately twisted to make it sound as if local governments cannot buy a ream of copy paper without holding an election. Dire warnings of government being “shut down” because of the ruling have been tossed about, but those warnings are groundless.

The supreme court ruling did not say large infrastructure projects could not be built, only that they must first pass muster by the people. Proponents of the amendments note that a vote would still be required if a government wanted to pay back a bond issue with property taxes, and the amendments would only apply to projects paid by fees. That is a bit of semantic sleight of hand that is an insult to anyone who pays a monthly sewer or water bill. Fees are just another name for a tax, in that they must be paid or else someone’s freedom or property will be sacrificed as a result.
Holding an election is a horrifying prospect for most government officials because they must then justify the need for a new airport parking garage, expanded water plant or new library wing. They must admit they do not have the ultimate wisdom to make decisions on behalf of the people and must accommodate the nuisance of public assent to their schemes. If a project is needed and the government agency does an adequate job of stating its case, then the projects will move forward. But if the taxpayers suspect a project is premature, too large or too fancy, they just might send the agency back to the drawing board to come up with a more responsible proposal.
That’s the way democratic government is supposed to work. But there will be a tragic disconnect between the people and their government if the constitutional amendments on the Nov. 2 ballot are approved.

Tom Grote, Editor and Publisher
The Star-News
1000 First St. McCall, ID 83638
(208) 634-2123
starnews@frontier.com
www.mccallstarnews.com

Patients Are Deserting Prescription Drugs At Counter

It now costs employers an average of $13,000 to provide health coverage to employees and their families with the latest round of price hikes from insurance companies.  Higher copays are now routinely moved down onto employees are having an impact on the ability of drug companies to simply name their price for brand name as well as generic drugs.  The phenomenon is called Deserted Drugs.

We all know drug companies have been milking the American drug market and consumers for all it is worth for years. Old people are regularly shook down at the Canadian border for drug buying out of the country.  Now we have working people paying higher co pays for their prescription drugs and they are paying attention to the costs.  We also have a lot of folks who have lost their jobs and having to cough up the money or forgo their meds.

The Wall Street Journal today has a very good article on this latest noteworthy trend.  MORE BALK AT COST OF PRESCRIPTIONS Deserted Drugs. Nearly 10% of prescriptions for branded drugs and 5% of generics are being left at the pharmacy counter due to the high costs for medications.  It appears the recession has finally hit drug manufacturers and their never ending price increases for both branded and generic drugs when folks have to actually dig into their limited funds to shell out for drugs prescribed by their medical providers.  The laws of supply and demand are now coming into play at the pharmacy county.

Patents are running out on a lot of branded drugs and BIG PHARMA is now rushing to buy up all the generic supply they can to keep prices high for consumers.  Next trip to Costco or Walmart take a look where the generic over the counter stuff is made.  India is a big supplier as are other countries in the generic business.  Yet if you go to Canada to buy drugs you have to get a Canadian Doc to prescribe the meds all courtesy of BIG PHARMA and the strangle hold they have on US consumers.  The "free market" is not permitted by law in the "land of the free and the home of the brave."

As more and more baby boomers move into retirement they will surely have a profound impact on the delivery of medical services and the pharmaceutical industry.  Drug desertion at the pharmacy counter may be the first blush of this wave of discontent with drug pricing. 

Perhaps the next wave of note will be a decrease in the ads we see on television for drugs to treat all the ailments all those smiling people in the ads suggest we might have.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Let The Finger Pointing Begin In The Bujak Debacle

Despite warnings about public money and the need to put it in a public treasury the Canyon County Commishes are now trying to download all the responsibility for the Bujak debacle onto Bill Hurst.

 The layers of this onion will start to get peeled back over the next few months. All the written documents will surface around the Bujak-County Prosecutorial contract with Nampa will slowly become public record.  We will get to find out who is responsible for this debacle.  We can only hope a Forensic Audit will take place.

Nampa City Councilors won't take any responsibility for their less than stellar actions.  Canyon County Commishes are pointing their collective fingers at Bill Hurst and they won't "MAN-UP" for their ineptitude.  They all need to resign and let taxpayers have a do-over with new people in these positions of responsiblity and trust.  How can they justify continuing in their jobs with the huge salaries they make at our expense? 

The Guardian is wondering out loud if any of our elected officials who approved this funny business with public money gave any thought to making Mr. Bujak pony up a Surety Bond for all this cash.  Probably not if my guess is correct.  This means taxpayers will be left holding the bag on this one.  The contract was outside Mr. Bujak's county fiduciary responsibility as a county employee when they ran the money through his private law firm.  This means the County will have no recourse to collect from a person who is obviously broke and has no money.  He will discharge all this in bankruptcy court if he isn't found guilty of any criminal activity.

The only thing that will set this straight with the public is for all the County Commishes to tender their resignations and same goes for the Nampa City Council except for Mr. Kren who was against this goofy arrangement.

A last point here is why Mr. Hurst would have any loyalty to the Canyon County Republican Party is beyond our ability understand.  Mr. Hurst has a  clear paper trail of his concerns, the outside auditors expressed concerns, Dan Chadwick of the Idaho Assoc. of Counties expressed concerns but all the people agreeing to this deal now want to hold Hurst responsible.  This is truly laughable. The meeting minutes and recordings of the Commishes will be a telling public record as all this gets taken apart a layer at a time starting with the June 14th minutes of this year.

 It really is time for people to start to consider a City/County Manager form of government given the ineptitude and irresponsibility of all this business.  None of the elected officials involved would make it to the interview process if they had to apply for the jobs they now hold. We have bought and paid for competent management of our cities and counties but we don't get what we've paid for with what we are getting.
We have a right to expect HONESTY, INTEGRITY AND FIDUCIDARY RESPONSIBLITY from our elected and appointed officials.

Valley Mayors Seek To Spend $738,000,000 With No Public Vote

Treasure Valley Mayors from Boise To Wilder signed a letter published in the IDAHO BUSINESS REVIEW Monday supporting passage of HJR5–the constitutional amendment seeking to abolish the constitutional rights of citizens to vote on public debt at airports.

In their letter, the seven mayors said, “Our airports need the tools to finance the estimated $738 million of infrastructure improvements they will require over the next 20 years – financed not by taxpayers, but by airport customers themselves. We need this tool just to catch up with our neighboring states, all of which already use bonds to build their airports and their economies.”

The GUARDIAN is opposed to allowing politicians the luxury of spending nearly three quarters of a BILLION dollars in public money with not a single vote from the citizens who own these airports. They can sell bonds, but need to ask permission.

A major risk factor in their attempt to abolish the vote of citizens lies in another area of the law. A current elected body does NOT have the authority to obligate a future elected body. Only the people have that right. Even though our property taxes may not be used to repay a debt, incurring that debt must be approved by 2/3 of the voters. Otherwise a city council or county commission could change their mind 10 years into a project.

Same holds true for laws of the state. While a legislature can pass a law, the next session can repeal it. HOWEVER, when it comes to the constitution, a 2/3 vote of the legislature AND approval of at least half (+1)of the voters in the entire state is required to change it.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Merchants of Debt Want You To Give Up A Constitutional Right

Idaho Merchants of Debt are trying get three constitutional changes passed by voters this November.  All three are asking you to give up your rights to vote on debts created by Hospitals, Airports, and Counties generating Electrical Power.  The claims by these debt merchants is the thousands of jobs depending on the ability to go into debt quickly and without your vote.

These Merchants of Debt are spending a bundle of cash on Television, Radio and any other means they can to get you out of the debt oversight for these boards and agencies.  "We need to act quickly" to save taxpayers money is the claim.

Here is the deal.  The Idaho Constitution requires a balanced budget and no public agency can go out beyond one budget year for any debts or liabilities without 2/3rds assent of voters.  Pretty simple, if they want to spend more than they take in they have to ask permission of "We The People".  The Republican platform has even come out against these changes.

The ability to act quickly is a red herring.  A few years back Meridian School District bought the JABIL property along the freeway in a very quick and businesslike manner for $19 million and they did it with all the strictures of the Idaho Constitution followed to the letter of the law.  They secured the terms and price of the property with the seller subject to a bond election that would require a 2/3 super majority of the voters.  The voters recognized the need and the good deal negotiated and passed the bond measure by a wide margin.

The GOLD CARD people pushing these changes are trying to convince you to give up a constitutional right to voter oversight of debt.  They are also asking to let boards and commissions put public assets up for collateral without your oversight.  We have enough voter abuse with Urban Renewal agencies circumventing voters and going into debt with no vote of the people of Idaho.

The three amendments to the Idaho Constitution deserve your NO VOTE.  There is a tremendous amount of money getting spent for you to give up a constitutional right we have all had for the past 110 years here in Idaho.  Follow the money on this one as it is just another MERCHANT OF DEBT EXERCISE. 

Keep Idaho debt under taxpayer control and oversight with your NO Vote November 2nd.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Nobody Wants to Talk About the High Cost of Death and Dying

It has taken about a year and a half to bring the final chapter of my father's life to a close. I filed his last IRS tax return a week ago.

 As trustee for his estate a full and complete picture of what is ahead for me and most people for that matter, came to the fore. You really can't escape death and taxes! My Father's estate matters have had a profound impact on me as this all draws to a close.  It has forced me to think logically about my own demise and how best to deal with this issue.

I watched the deterioration of my father as he made his trek to the end of life.  He was a Senior Research Engineer for Hughes Aircraft at the peak of his career.  He died at the ripe old age of 92. He survived two rounds of brain surgery, two rounds of heart bypass surgery, colon cancer but dementia moved in and robbed him of the ability to think clearly the last five years or so of his life.  In retrospect it was probably not a good thing he lived that long.  The main reason he did live that long is modern medicine and Medicare paying the bills.  There are no built in checks and balances with Medicare that would have intervened to shut off the flood of taxpayer dollars that went to keep him alive for so long. 

A review and reflection of his final years has led me to believe he lived about five years too long at a very high cost to taxpayers.  Costs for the medical heroics to keep him alive the last year was astronomical. The bills to his insurance company, Medicare and bank statements were very revealing as I sorted things out as the agent to take care of his estate.

The reasons is he opted for medical heroics up until the last day of his life remain a mystery to me, his oldest son and to my two younger brothers.  His quality of life and the pain and suffering he endured are hard to imagine.  He "fired" his cardiologist because the good doctor told him there was nothing more that could be done for him.  Yet the insurance and medicare systems continued to pay tens of thousands of dollars to keep him alive. Hospice care was out of the question at his insistence.  Nobody interveined to make the right end of life decision because the money kept flowing to keep him alive.

Hospice care would have been a much more dignified way to make the final exit in his case.  However, there is the reluctance in most cases for people and families to seize this opportunity.  We are buying into the hope there is a cure for not having to face death.  People and families are not willing to put a stop loss order on the costs inherent with keeping terminal familiy members alive. 

At some point in time the reality of just how much it costs to keep me alive will have to be dealt with by me and my family members.  I can only hope I have my mind intact and still capable of recognizing  the finite limits to life and make the decision to take advantage of hospice care.  The average age to death statistics are artificially high due to medical heroics. And for the most part do not offer any quality of life information or data to people prolonging the finality of death.

Old age and dying is a huge business in this country.  At some point an honest discussion of the costs of keeping terminal people alive will have to be made. The current state of denial is not sustainable. What is going on now is not a good thing for the people doing the dying or their family members.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Urban Renewal Is A Massive Property Tax Grab

URBAN RENEWAL IS A MASSIVE PROPERTY TAX GRAB! There is no such thing as free money, the tooth guy or the jolly guy in the red suit. All the lipstick in the world will not make urban renewal pretty.  It is, and remains, taxation without representation for property taxpayers.

 Nampa Development Corporation spent $108,000 to prevent a vote of the people when a legal challenge was made regarding their spending $68 million for a new police station and library without a vote of the people.

Caldwell East Urban Renewal has spent, borrowed and promised to pay $16.1 million for the new digs for Oregon Based TVCC and no vote of the people or taxpayer oversight.

Here, once again, is the deal on Urban Renewal Funding.  It is not free money, it is not federal funds returned to the local government.  It is a massive property tax grab (shift) put in place by the Idaho Legislature to circumvent voter approvals of pork barrel goodies property taxpayers all over the county get stuck paying..LIKE IT OR NOT:

You pay property taxes to Urban Renewal Agencies whether you live in the District or not. Urban Renewal is a massive property tax grab and has to be made up by higher levy rates for all property tax payers.

Prime agricultural lands are routinely included in Urban Renewal Districts.

Urban Renewal Agencies can condemn property via the “Power of Eminent Domain” and transfer it to private ownership.

Urban Renewal Districts issue Revenue Bond debt without voter approval or taxpayer oversight. It eliminates your Idaho Constitutional rights to vote on debt.

Urban Renewal Districts siphon off millions of property tax dollars from local taxing districts every year, increasing everyone’s property taxes.

Urban Renewal commissioners are appointed by Mayors; they are not elected by voters. There is no voter oversight of Urban Renewal Agencies and commissioners.

Urban Renewal Agencies can legally become developers and construct commercial projects for lease in direct competition with the private sector.

IDAHO URBAN RENEWAL LAW NEEDS TO BE AMENDED OR REPEALED.

Let your Legislators know you want this abuse of taxpayers to stop. Most Legislators do not know how UR works against property owners.

The fix is simple:
1. Voter approval in a county wide election to approve formation of UR agencies due to county tax impacts
2. UR Boards stand for county wide election due to county tax impacts
3. Life of the agencies to be no more than 10 years and a defined project plan with no changes to include additions not covered in original plan
4. Debt bonding to stand for county wide elections due to county tax impact 
5. UR agencies confined to blighted downtown areas and are prohibited by statute from inclusion of ag land in the district.

Pretty simple fix to a pork barrel program that  is totally out of control in Idaho. Most Legislators do not understand how UR agencies are pilfering the pockets of all county property tax payers and this needs a legislative fix.

It takes no talent to spend other people's hard earned money!  We are not taxed too little, our elected officials spend too much of our money without our approval.