Thursday, January 28, 2010
Several Downtown Businesses have come to the conclusion they just can't make it in Downtown Caldwell. The following is from the January 26th Urban Renewal Agency meeting:
"Duston Rose, realtor, stated that several businesses are considering relocating from the downtown area, claiming that conditions created by the Indian Creek project have had a negative effect on their business. In his capacity as realtor for these properties, Mr. Rose is making an appeal to CEURA on behalf of the property owners for assistance with moving and relocation costs. Chairman Waite stated that the properties in question were given consideration offers during the creek relocation project but owners declined and decided to stay put. Chairman Waite added that CEURA is unable to offer assurance of assistance at this time as current funds are already committed to other projects, however CEURA is willing to review funding sources in future years."
Mayor Nancolas may have had it all wrong in his state of the city address about how great things are in Downtown Caldwell. It looks more like "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic" when you have people asking for financial help to close up shop.
Urban Renewal in Caldwell will have spent in the neighborhood of $70 Million by the time they dissolve the agency in 2014. What will we have to account for all the money spent by CERURA when the books are closed on this chapter of Caldwell. In Downtown we probably won't have much beyond a shiny new TVCC/City Hall building and the uncovering of Indian Creek in Downtown. And no doubt a lot of boarded up storefronts to go along with the aforementioned.
Caldwell remains "the city without a plan", regardless of the the mayoral hyperbole about all the progress laid out during the Mayor's state of the city address. When the shiny new TVCC building opens in the Fall of 2010 "critical mass" of all the students and their cars taking up all the parking will have more negative impacts on remaining downtown shops and stores. Property taxes have more than doubled on dying businesses in our downtown due to the inflated prices UR paid for property. The chickens have come home to roost and it isn't pretty to watch our downtown continue in the death spiral.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 1:33 PM
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Most homeowners with mortgages continue to make their house-payments. Some are even struggling to keep above the water line on their mortgages as the recession drags on the markets. Bankers across the country are seeing an increasingly popular method of getting out from under housing by swamped homeowners. People surrendering the keys and walking away from their homes
The latest thing in the housing market to gain steam across the country and in four of the worst housing markets (California, Florida, Nevada, and Arizona) is for homeowners to simply drop off the keys to the mortgage holders. There are even companies that will help people expedite walking away. In the worst markets people can walk away from their mortgaged property and rent the very same house for about half of what they were paying for a mortgage in their same neighborhood. Big Business does it all the time and now homeowners are walking in droves.
Bankers who got us in this mess are fearing "jingle mail" (keys getting sent to them) will become epidemic as the practice gains steam. Meanwhile, the rest of us get to watch as the Big Time Bankers reward themselves with huge bonus payouts.
We are now into our second year of this recession and the only scoundrel we have seen of any consequence end up in prison is Bernie Madoff. The question on a lot of folks minds is when do we get to see more of the crooked bankers get hauled off to prison for a long, long time.
The Banks and mortgage lenders may be in for another rough go in 2010. Housing prices continue to have downward pressures and people are surrendering the keys. There are only so many buyers for "ripe bananas" that the housing market has become.
We can all hope this turns around in the near term and all of the pessimism is unfounded. Here is a link to a story in Atlanta where $250k condos sitting empty have the foreclosure biding starting at $50k and they will probably sell for around 100K.
Working people across the country continue to patiently wait for some form of justice to be dispensed for all the incompetence we have witnessed and suffered at the hands of greedy people in high places.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 8:37 PM
Friday, January 22, 2010
THE GUARDIAN heard a very interesting segment on NPR last week about PRETRIAL RELEASE in Broward County, Florida. Broward County is the Miami area of Florida. They were faced with building yet more jail space when they decided to implement the aggressive use of pretrial release of offenders.
Their jails were full of people who were in jail for minor offenses and were waiting to have their case go to trial. The only reason they were in jail was they could not afford the bail. Jail bed costs in Broward County are $115/day and they were running out of space.
Judges wanted to keep violent and serious offenders locked up but what to do with low level non-violent offenders who were in jail for no other reason than they were too poor to make bail.
County Commissioners decided to implement pretrial release for certain offenders using GPS leg bracelets at a cost of $2/day to the county for a net savings of $113/day. The judges had three choices when offenders came before them:
1. Released on their own recognizance
2. Release on Bail
3. Remand to custody in the county jail
Now they had another tool in the tool box. Release and house arrest with the use of GPS devices. The offender could be given work release to his job and could be tracked very easily. The system worked so well entire sections of the Broward County Jails were shut down.
Bail bondsmen have now put a stop to the program as it was hurting their business. Bail bondsmen make money by issuing a surety bond for usually 10% of the bail set by the judge. The bail money is non-refundable and the offender is released from custody.
Bail bondsmen efforts to eliminate or curtail pretrial release has taken on national efforts. They dismantled the program by severely restricting who could qualify for pretrial release with the tacit approval of the county commishes. Broward County Jails are once again full to capacity and voter face the prospect of paying for more $115/day jail beds either by renting jail space from other counties or building new jails.
Here is the link to the NPR story:
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 7:02 PM
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
The Idaho Statesman ran a piece on Capitol City Development Corporation Chairman Phil Kushaln wanting the legislature to overhaul Urban Renewal Laws on January 18th.
In a December 2009 closed door meeting not open to the public with "peers" from other UR agencies from around the state, Mr. Kushlan (etal) want the UR laws amended to allow urban renewal agencies to not only take our money for questionable projects already allowed but to increase their take on scarce property tax revenues. He now wants the authority to let Urban Renewal to have dual legal authority see themselves as "engines of economic development and blight removal."
Ada County Commissioner Sharon Ullman has come out swinging against Urban Renewal agencies stating:
"incremental tax revenues earmarked for urban renewal districts siphon money that would go to counties, highway districts, school districts and to police and fire protection.."
Ms. Ullman is the sole elected official we know of to come out with a public statement like this against the abuses of Urban Renewal agencies in Idaho.
You can read the entire Statesman article at the following link:
(copy and paste link to your browser search box... highlight with left mouse key then hit Ctrl C to copy and Ctrl V to paste for those of you who are not familiar with this procedure.)
Sorry for the length of this link but it is what it is. Mr. Kushlan is feeling the heat of people starting to figure out UR agencies are in reality the "alter ego" of cities and he does not like the moniker.
For those of you who do not understand how Urban Renewal is a TAX SHIFT please go to http://www.canyonco.org/assessor.aspx?id=7769 to get the Canyon County Assessor tutorial on the subject. Knowledge is power.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 9:18 PM
Sunday, January 10, 2010
The Idaho Legislature has a terrible job ahead of them in 2010 trying to decide what gets cut and what gets saved this year. All manner of sacred cows requiring public spending get their turn under the budgetary knives and axes this year. Lawmakers are facing $52 million in cuts to what most people would already perceive as a bare bones budget. Governor Otter may have more bad news when he delivers his state of the State address that will require even more cuts not already anticipated by legislators.
THE GUARDIAN could not help but note the proposed changes to the constitution that will more than likely get through the legislative session without much scrutiny under the guise of "ordinary and necessary expenses". Various challenges to public spending without a vote of the people have put a virtual stop to "gold card" purchases by cities and counties without voter approvals. This all started in 2006 with the Frazier v. City of Boise decision when the city of Boise wanted to build a parking garage at the airport without a vote of the people. Mr. Frazier took them on all the way to the Idaho Supreme Court. The Supreme Court agreed with Mr. Frazier that $27MM in debt was way over the top without a vote of the people. We now have a situation where bankers and lending institutions will not issue debt to Idaho cities and counties without voter approvals due to the court defining what ordinary and necessary really is.
Now we have a full on well funded legislative attack on the Idaho Constitution Article VIII sec. 3 to allow cities and counties to incur long term debt sans a vote of the people via the following taken from the Sunday IPT:
"Public debt: A proposed constitutional amendment making it easier for local governments and publicly owned hospitals to take on debt if no taxpayer money is used for payments was beaten down in 2008 and 2009. The timing in 2010 could be right for a compromise, Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis said."
Lobbyists have all done their homework this time around and have convinced legislators this change to our Idaho Constitution is vital to cities and counties. A similar effort failed to get past a floor vote of the State Senate in 2008. Look for this amendment to be on the November general election ballot. It will allow cities and counties to declare just about any expense "ordinary and necessary" and to sign taxpayers up for the easy payment plan for just about anything the deciders want to spend our money on. The bankers and credit people can't wait to extend credit to the people we have in elected office.
If this change makes it out of both houses of the legislature and goes to us for a vote you need to be aware of the implications of this Constitutional change and vote your informed decision in this matter. It will only take 50% plus one vote to make the change to something that has stood the test of time for 100 years.
The main thrust will be that county hospitals can't lease the latest technology for their patients due to the restrictions of the Idaho Constitution. Not true, they can't enter into long term debts beyond one budget cycle without a vote of the people. The people wanting to spend your money do not trust you with making an informed decision at the ballot box and want the Idaho Constitution changed to facilitate backroom deal cutting we will all get stuck paying for if this becomes the law of the land in Idaho.
Idaho finances have remained under control mainly due to the strictures of the Constitution that do not allow for long term debt sans voter approvals. We all need to be aware of what is going on here and who is supporting the changes to the Idaho Constitution. THE GUARDIAN does not think our Constitution needs revision or changes to accommodate the "GOLD CARD" approach to spending our money.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 2:04 PM