Tracking code caldwell guardian

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mom Apple Pie And A New City Hall for Caldwell

Mayor Nancolas will present the Oppenheimer Development Groups latest effort at selling citizens of Caldwell a new city hall at the April 19th meeting of the city council.

Pretty pictures abound in this latest effort to indenture the property taxpayers of Caldwell. The Master Framework Plan does not go into much detail about how all of this is going to be paid for but there is a reference to Build America Bonds mixed in with all the other financing schemes.

THE GUARDIAN attended a service club presentation by the Oppenheimer Group on a new City Hall complex about a year ago. This iteration had a price tag of around $30 million. City Finance Director Eljay Waite disagrees with that project and the costs. So, what will it be and what will be the justification for a new city hall? The last time Mayor Nancolas was asked this question he indicated the HVAC systems in the current facilities were getting old along with some other stuff. Short answer is we really don't need a new city hall.

We now have a clearer understanding of why the downtown ordinance was changed to allow the TVCC building (cost $9.5 million) to be built next to the creek. Oppenheimer MFR shows a new city hall between the TVCC building and Blaine Street. The new and improved Master Framework Report has lots of pretty pictures and diagrams.

We are now into the 13th year of the Nancolas administration in Caldwell and downtown Caldwell is not showing many signs of life. Indeed, we are seeing an out migration of businesses falling by the wayside. King's is now closed and the South West District Health Offices looking to close in the near term and head out of downtown Caldwell. Urban renewal will expire in 2014 and just what will have been renewed. The creek got uncovered but building structures close to the creek has made the uncovering a moot issue. The view is visually obstructed with the TVCC "Big Box" and the Gazebo with more to come to obscure the view.

Stay tuned for more.... we are all in for the hard sell on a new city hall. Urban Renewal can now issue debt instruments without a vote of the people, let's see if they actually do this to property taxpayer's without their consent.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

More Money For Wall Street Bankers Bonus Programs

It's no secret our elected officials of all stripes love to keep us all in debt and here is the latest and greatest ways to make debt attractive.

Build America Bonds are fattening up the Wall Street Bankers Bonus programs. The Wall Street Journal has run a series of articles this week on the front page as well as the opinion sections about debt in America.

The first part of the week was devoted to cities who could not get enough debt before the economy tanked. Now they are sitting on high interest debts, falling assessed values, mortgage defaults and retail/commercial vacancies. Bond underwriters are unwilling to rewrite high interest bond debts.

Unlike traditional munis, Build America bonds aren't tax exempt but they do carry a federal subsidy of one-third of the interest. On a 7% bond the feds (all taxpayers) pick up 2.5% of the interest and the issuing city/county (property taxpayers) pick up 4.5% of the interest. 800 state and local governments have recently picked up $58 billion of these bonds.

Meanwhile, the average taxpayer is trying to "deleverage" themselves from all the crushing debts.
"Total credit-card debt is about 7 percent lower than it was a year ago, with Americans paying down more than $100 billion in credit-card loans since October 2008. And household "deleveraging" seems to be intensifying, not slowing down."

Cities and states who have lined up to take on more debt we all get to pay off. WSJ today cited in bond debt at $2.5 trillion since 2008 and another $2.0 trillion in 2010.

Wall Street loves Build America bonds with a underwriting cost of $8.20 per $1k of face value vs. $6.00 per $1k for tax free munis. Over the life of the bonds federal taxpayers can expect to pay $90 billion in interest charges.

In 1980 total outstanding municipal debt stood at $360 billion. In 2009 the figure is $2.8 trillion! Some of it we voted on and approved but a large percentage we got no say whatsoever.

All of this debt will be paid back by our children and grandchildren. Mr. Bernanke assures us he has a handle on the prospects of runaway inflation or devaluation of the dollar. He nor anyone in government can assure we don't see deterioration of the dollar worldwide and not accepted for repayment of debts. If this happens it will wipe out what remains of everyones retirement and personal savings. Contagious optimism will not satisfy creditors.

Wall street bankers borrow money from the federal reserve for nearly nothing. Then they loan it out at very high interest rates. They sanctimoniously give themselves billions in bonus money for doing something that takes no effort or talent.

Spendthrift cities and states love BUILD AMERICA BONDS! These bonds are the very same type the Commishes was to issue for a jail expansion project. These bonds typically do not have a call provision on them so they can be paid off early.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Idaho Sheriff's Association Uses Deceptive Telemarketing, Plan To Drop Firm

Friday, March 19thWe all get the dinner time phone calls from someone representing the coppers asking us to donate to their “fight against drugs.”

The GUARDIAN editor hung up on them a few weeks ago and subsequently got a very official looking bill for a $25 pledge to the Idaho Sheriff’s Association with an address on State Street at one of those private mail drop places. The letter with a huge “IDAHO SHERIFFS’ ASSOCIATION” heading is couched in language aimed at the sympathies of naive citizens.

A brochure with fake “before and after” shots of models purporting to be druggies is included in the package–it reminds us of those old VD pictures we had to view in junior high sex ed classes 50 years ago in Michigan. Also in the pack was a decal for your car that some people construe as a “get out of jail free card” to show coppers they donated to the cause.
A letter uses terms like “war on crime…focus the lives of youth away from drugs and alcohol…drug eradication program…scholarships for law enforcement.” The letter also mentions the Association has, “secured the assistance of Community Safety, LLC.” In plain English that means the Association has loaned its good name to a telemarketing/direct mail scammer that keeps about 80% of the donations.The GUARDIAN contacted Vaughn Killeen, executive director of the Association who confirmed the letter and bill were sponsored by his group. He also said he was working to terminate the relationship and noted “some deceptive practices by the vendor.” He favors a directing marketing campaign for funds.Killeen went on to say the Association makes about $40,000 a year from the marketing program. Based on the discussion with Killeen that means the private marketing outfit takes close to $200,000 in the name of drugs and coppers from Idahoans.We sympathize with the purported goals of the Sheriffs’ Association, but hooking up with deceptive marketing firms only serves to undermine their cause. The Association lobbies on behalf of its members, conducts jail inspections to insure compliance with health and security standards, and serves as a legitimate forum for exchange of ideas and training standards. Hustling citizens for cash is tawdry endeavor they should avoid in our opinion.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Voters Get Chance to Abolish Their Right to Vote!


Voters Get Chance To Abolish Right To Vote

Thanks to the generosity of the Idaho Legislature, voters in November will have a chance to abolish their constitutional right to vote on public debt. Most voters probably won’t be inclined to give up rights they already hold.

Idaho’s constitution currently mandates that all public debt in excess of a single year’s revenues be approved by voters. After GUARDIAN editor David R. Frazier won an Idaho Supreme Court decision in 2006 blocking the City of Boise’s attempt to build an airport parking garage without voter approval, banks throughout the state forced cities to follow the constitution and ask voter assent prior to loaning funds. Few cities wanted voter scrutiny and they have now used public money in efforts to lobby for constitutional amendments.

They chopped up the proposals to cover hospitals, airports, and electric generating facilities owned by cities.
Here is an ASSOCIATED PRESS story by John Miller at the Statesman site that explains the issues.

The proposed amendments required 2/3 approval of both the House and Senate. Now all three will appear on the November ballot statewide

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Nampa Rep. Robert Schaefer on Urban Renewal

Representative Schaefer writes a summary of his activity and views of the legislative session each week. This week a terrible bill may make its way out of committee and may actually get passed. Here are Rep. Schaefer's comments on the legislation:

" Urban renewal: H567 affects many changes in existing law. Since the purview is quite extensive, it begs the question that perhaps we should be inquiring unto the premise behind “tax increment financing,” the improper funding method of urban renewal.

Why in 1965 did the Legislature scheme to “starve” other legitimate taxing entities so a non-taxing entity could be put in place to do things that normally would have required a vote of the taxpayers? If those legitimate taxing entities were receiving too much money from taxpayers, they should have been cut back, and the urban renewal voted on by the people who supply the money.

Now would be an appropriate time to restore propriety to the taxpayers and correct this. Idaho is among the highest-taxed states, and that is because of chicanery such as this, where citizens are taxed without having an opportunity to say yes or no.

A citizen vote on debt is a concept of government more than 100 years old, but denied in Idaho for 45 years and counting. Even the legitimate taxing entities have been relieved of the need to participate in the process because their funding is taken away without due process.

The urban renewal law actually increases taxes on every citizen in the county and disallows them to vote. This was never intended to be part of the American way."

Monday, March 15, 2010

2010 Legislature About to Make UR Boards City Hall Toads

THE GUARDIAN made yet another trek to the Boise Capitol Dome to hear the latest and greatest from the Revenue and Taxation Sub-committee on Urban Renewal Law changes for the 2010 session.

It's more of the same but worse! If the bill gets passed it will make the UR boards the "Toads" of the Mayor and City Councils. Here's how it will work. The Mayor appoints the boards of at least three members but not more than nine members. The Mayor can fire any board member at will every six months. Making the boards "at will" members of UR agencies is a horrible idea.

The Revenue and Taxation people have done nothing to create voter approvals of debt oversight of UR boards.

A great example of why we need voter oversight is the Boise Airport parking garage project that got a court challenge by David R. Frazier v. city of Boise. The city wanted to go into debt on a lease purchase scheme to build a $27 million parking garage at the airport. Mr. Frazier took the city of Boise on in court and got the project stopped. The courts said the project was not "ordinary and necessary" and in fact, was of such proportions voters needed to approve the project. This was in 2006. Here we are in 2010 and a study now says we don't need that parking garage after all. The overflow parking lot has been closed for months and months and cost the city of Boise $2 million to build. The Frazier Decison of 2006 has had banker and bond issuers in a tail spin. The new and improved UR law will give our bankers and bond people a virtual green light to put all of us in debt for millions without benefit of a bond election.

Here's the fix for UR. Have the boards be elected and run the cash basis projects of taking care of blight removal and some economic development. Have them function as a Capitol Budget Committee for the community and when they have a project that requires debt via revenue bonds then they go to the voters. Debts created by Urban Renewal agencies are repaid with your property taxes in. They are not a "gift, grant, or handout from from the Feds or earmark from your favorite US Senator or Congressman. Yep, good old property taxes secure the loans created buy a hand full of UR board members with no voter oversight. The legislature is loath to allow you to vote on debt you will have to repay. Your wisdom and granting of this debt will not be allowed.

The legalization of having UR boards under the thumb of the Mayor is a looming prescription for corruption and malfeasance. The sad part is it will all be perfectly legal if this set of changes to UR laws get passed by the 2010 Idaho Legislature.

Most people do not understand how UR agencies work and again we will advise you to go to the Canyon County Assessor's web page and click on the link down the left side that says URBAN RENEWAL. This is the best short explanation of how UR works and my short version is...IT IS A PROPERTY TAX SHIFT and if it went away tomorrow (won't happen) your Caldwell property taxes would go down by about 30%. All Canyon County property taxpayers get to pay for Caldwell, Nampa and Middleton UR agency projects even if you don't live in the districts. The Assessor lays it all out for you.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cycle of Transparency In Government

The Cycle of Transparency

As each element of the Cycle of Transparency moves forward concurrently, bringing about the changes we need to create a more transparent government, we also identify new needs.

At the end of the day, the process that the Cycle of Transparency describes is about creating a government more deserving of our trust, and ultimately, a government that allows its citizens to fully participate and hold government accountable as our Founders intended.

We ran across this graphic at the Sunlight Foundation website and wanted to share it with readers of this blog. The graphic is about the best we have seen on the subject of government transparency to those of us paying the bills. ( Click on the graphic for a larger view. )

Property Taxpayers foot $30K Costs For Urban Renewal Legislation

Boise's urban renewal agency used $30,000 of taxpayer funds to write and market legislation to change how urban renewal agencies are governed and operate. The revelation comes after inquiries by the Idaho Freedom Foundation to Boise's Capital City Development Corporation.

House Bill 567, which is being debated in subcommittee along with six other bills related to urban renewal and economic development, was written by lobbyist and attorney Ryan Armbruster for the Capital City Development Corporation (CCDC). The $30,000 CCDC paid is in addition to the annual retainer CCDC pays Armbruster’s firm.

Phil Kushlan, the CCDC executive director, said Armbruster’s firm has been the agency’s general counsel for years. As for how much Armbruster is paid for his services aside from HB 567, Kushlan said he didn’t know right offhand. “We have an annual amount plus on an hourly basis beyond that for specific legal issues.”

Kushlan said the agency vetted the draft legislation through other cities and urban renewal agencies before it was submitted to the House Revenue and Taxation Committee. “We sent it out to people and had them comment, and tried to respond to whatever issues they identified.”

Rep. Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, is a member of the Smith subcommittee, which is hammering out a final version of all seven bills related to urban renewal agencies and economic development. Roberts said he doesn’t like the idea of urban renewal agencies using tax dollars to lobby on behalf of their own agenda.

“It’s frustrating to me to see taxpayer dollars being used to lobby the legislature to create a path forward that makes it easier for more tax dollars to be spent. There’s a lot of circular reasoning here; these tax dollars come back to lobby themselves basically," Robert said. "Those are taxpayer dollars that could have been spent for, in this case, making improvements to the infrastructure in a blighted area, the way it was originally intended to be used.”

Former Senate Local Government Committee Chairwoman Rachel Gilbert of Boise, who is following the legislation, said, “I think it’s disgusting. My property tax dollars go to pay for their fees to promote urban renewal and expanding the law, and I don’t like it one bit.”

Roberts said the subcommittee is in the final stages of cobbling together pieces of House Bills 567, 568, 569,570, 571, 572, and 578 into one final piece of legislation to be presented to the full House Revenue and Taxation committee.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Canyon Commishes Letter to DEQ Re: Emissions Testing

We are posting the Canyon County Commissioners letter to Idaho DEQ Director, Toni Hardesty.

(It has been suggested by a Guardian reader that lieu of campaign contributions to our State Governor and other politicos who voter for this legislation we let them know we will be spending that money on mandated emissions testing.)

"February 18, 2010

Toni Hardesty, Director
Idaho Department of Environmental Quality
1410 N. Hilton
Boise, Idaho 83707

Dear Director Hardesty:

As you know, Canyon County vehemently objects to the imposition of any motor vehicle inspection and maintenance program that is not based on sound, independently verifiable, and logically valid science that can be implemented to the benefit, not just expense, of Canyon County residents.

We believe your plan fails as to these concerns, and furthermore amounts to a betrayal of the founding principle of this country: that government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. Be advised that Canyon County does not consent to your vehicle emission testing program.

After multiple conversations with Commissioner Ferdinand, we believed you had agreed to make a good-faith effort to work with Canyon county on a solution. Instead, we were locked out of the process.

We are outraged at the scope of the discretionary power Idaho Code Section 39-116B has vested in your person, as we are convinced that the best interests of Canyon County did not factor at all into your decision. In fact, it appears that the outcome you have reached was predetermined.

Although we have repeatedly requested information from you and your Department, we have not received a straight answer about many issues. Where is the science informing your decisions? How were you able to determine that air pollutants from motor vehicles constitute one of two emissions source contributing to the design value of 85%? Was there ever, in good faith, a chance for an equitable joint powers agreement? Did a legitimate likelihood ever exist that the County and its cities could propose an alternative air quality strategy which you would have found acceptable?

It doesn't appear so, as the plan you intend to implement will cost Canyon county residents approximately $750,000 annually while reducing Treasure Valley NOx and VOC by less than 0.5% each. By what measure is that a good plan? Something doesn't smell right, Director Hardesty, and it not the air in Canyon County.

We understand that DEQ has entered into a contract with SysTech International- a non Canyon County entity, selected without Canyon County input-to run your vehicle emission inspection and maintenance program in our county. It may therefore be an opportune time for Canyon County to remind you that we, as an entity, own more than 200 registered vehicles used for public purposes. We do not intend to submit any of these vehicle for testing under your proposed program. Perhaps by this small act of civil disobedience we can accomplish that which our respectful adherence to the law has failed to secure: a voice in decisions which affect us.

Abraham Lincoln said the best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly. We intend to give you that opportunity.

Sincerely, David Ferdinand, II Chairman, Steven J. Rule Member, Kathryn Alder, Member"

THE GUARDIAN looked up Idaho Code 39-116B and here is what it says:

"(a) An airshed, as defined by the department, within a metropolitan
statistical area, as defined by the United States office of
management and budget, has ambient concentration design values equal
to or above eighty-five percent (85%) of a national ambient air
quality standard, as defined by the United States environmental
protection agency, for three (3) consecutive years starting with the
2005 design value; and
(b) The department determines air pollutants from motor vehicles
constitute one (1) of the top two (2) emission sources contributing
to the design value of eighty-five percent (85%)."

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Urban Renewal Legislation Doesn't Pass Muster

Critics of Urban Renewal in Idaho have left their collective mark with the members of the House Revenue and Taxation Committee, sub committee. Nearly a week of testimony and review of proposals for changes to the draft legislation submitted by UR agency representatives and lawyers, the laws as submitted will more than likely be up for a complete rewrite of HB 567. This bill and other UR legislation was fraught with all manner of efforts to remove voter oversight of these agencies.

Critics cite a lack of public oversight of how UR agencies use property tax revenue. Testimony, emails and contacts made to legislators about how UR agencies operate by critics made their mark with the committee.

Proponents don't want any ability of voters to undermine the UR agencies ability to spend our money as they see fit for economic development and improving blighted areas. The first blush of this legislation was drafted by what we like to call the fox in the hen house and would have limited any voter oversight of big dollar projects in their communities. The draft legislation would have virtually eliminated any future need for bond elections or voter oversight of these agencies.

Lawmakers will now draft a new bill for consideration. More on this as it becomes available.

Xpress-Flex Fraud Alert to Educators

We are posting this memo sent to Nampa School District employees as a public service to alert others who may do business with Xpress Flex. No word on the scope of the damage, but certainly not good news to folks who thought they were making a wise financial decision. There will no doubt be more on this in days to come.

“From: Westfall, Allison
Subject: Problems with Xpress Flex – Please read ASAP
You are receiving this email because you participate in the flexible spending plan for medical and/or child care expenses.

We discovered late last week that Xpress Flex, the company that manages our medical and child care flexible spending accounts, appears to be no longer in business and is under investigation. In addition, some of you reported that reimbursement checks issued by Xpress Flex last week “bounced.”

Several Treasure Valley employers including the Boise School District and the College of Idaho also use Xpress Flex. The Idaho Attorney General’s Office and the State Department of Insurance have been contacted.

Fortunately, we learned of this news in time to immediately take action and “stop payment” of February’s payment to Xpress Flex. No future transfers will be made to Xpress Flex. We will be working with authorities to determine how to recover the money already sent to Xpress Flex.

In the meantime, do not submit reimbursements to Xpress Flex. We hope to identify a new plan manager quickly.

Flexible spending plans follow strict Internal Revenue Service laws that require we continue the deductions authorized by the employee.

We recognize this situation impacts each of you differently. Please feel free to contact Jane Barker at or ext. 1054 or Steve Kipp at or ext. 1042.”

UPDATE NOON TUESDAY: We contacted Boise School benefit office and they said they were “aware there are problems and we are working toward a resolution.” They had not notified their employees of the situation

UPDATE 3p.m. TUESDAY: Boise Schools administration sent a memo to employees confirming the company has gone out of business. IRS and Idaho Attorney General are involved and we are told there may be “hundreds of employers” affected by the demise of Xpress Flex.

Dear Employee,
You are receiving this e-mail because you are a participant in the District’s Section 125
medical flex plan, and/or the dependent care reimbursement plan.

Late Friday afternoon, it was brought to the District’s attention that our Flexible
Spending Account (FSA) administrator, XpressFlex, was no longer processing
reimbursement requests and that some reimbursement checks did not clear the bank.
Today March 2, 2010, we officially received an e-mail verifying XpressFlex is no longer
in business.

We want you to know that we are working with another company to assume the
administration of our plan as soon as possible, so that your claims will continue to be
processed. We will be contracting with Flex-Plan Services, (Bellingham, Washington) to
continue the administration of our former plan with XpressFlex. Flex Plan Services is a
reputable agency and has been in the business for over 20 years. Flex-Plan Services is
working with the District to gather the data in order to take over our plan. In the
meantime, we ask you do not submit reimbursement requests to XpressFlex.
We will send you an e-mail once the plan is established and Flex-Plan Services is ready
for transactions. You will also receive a welcome letter and additional information from
Flex-Plan Services in the near future.

Please understand that IRS regulations do not allow employees to discontinue
participation in our Section 125 flex plan for the remainder of the plan year – short of
experiencing a qualifying family status change. We do not yet have answers to questions
about the status of year-to-date contributions, how much flex money is available for the
remainder of the plan year, or if plan members will lose money they have already
contributed. We are working diligently to answer these questions. We continue to be in
contact with XpressFlex, the State Attorney General, legal counsel, and other Treasure
Valley employers who are in the same position as the Boise School District.
We will share with you relevant information as it becomes available.
If you have questions, you may e-mail