Wednesday, June 30, 2010
We were advised to have the vehicles up to operating temperature prior to the test. This was accomplished by a couple of miles on the interstate and then off to Bill's Auto Repair in Caldwell. The test took less than 10 minutes per car and $10 each for the test service. Both vehicles passed and we were back home by 8:30 AM.
Here are some tips:
1. Make sure the vehicle is up to operating temperature.
2. Your check engine light is not on
3. Your gas cap is of the proper type for your vehicle
4. All the factory emissions equipment is in place on the vehicle.
On newer cars with on board diagnostics they don't even probe the tail pipe. A connector will be hooked up to the vehicle computer port and everything is in the automatic mode after that. Older cars get a probe up the exhaust pipe.
Testing stations get $3.00 the rest goes to DEQ and others. At Bill's they indicated nearly all vehicles pass the test. Those that don't will have to be repaired and retested.
The worst part of the testing was just having to take the vehicles to the testing station. We are none the worse for wear and $20 poorer for the experience. We have to wonder how long testing station operators will put up with getting $3.00 for all the bother they have to endure. Most of the money goes to others on this deal.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 9:48 AM
Monday, June 28, 2010
Several states do not allow investors or banks to pursue deficiency judgements against first mortgages. However, these investors can usually sue for a deficiency judgement on a borrower for a second mortgage.
Another subtlety which seems to be slowing foreclosures and motivating banks and investors to relegate homes in default to the shadow inventory is the delay of the implementation of the Financial Accounting Standard Board's implementation of mark-to-market accounting for some infrequently traded assets. (see the Wall Street Journal article titled, "Congress Helped Banks Defang Key Rule" June 3,2009 by Susan Pulliam and Thomas McGinty. And see, mark-to- market accounting on wikipedia)
Completing a foreclosure would force the bank to reprice the asset (mortgage) or sell the property at true market value.
It makes one wonder about the effect of such repricing on bank balance sheets, and the true fractional reserves of banks with significant mortgage holdings. It also makes one wonder how mis-stated the financials of other big mortgage investors (like pension funds) might be.
The squatters are helping the banks and investors by preventing looting and vandalism. And, as long as they stay in the home the property taxes, homeowner fees and municipal assessments are (arguably) still their obligations. The mortgage lender isn't the property owner until the foreclosure is complete.
Banks and investors seem to have decided to wait out the bad market. But, the question is, will the market recover with the uncertainty caused the huge overhanging shadow inventory. . . .
Editor note: Mark to market means carrying an asset on the books at current market value. This means just because the wrote a mortgage at $200K and the market is now $100k for the asset, they now have to show the market value not the original mortgage amount. Another accounting standard is the
"lower of market or cost" of goods in an inventory situation. Banks and mortgage institutions have been allowed to stall a bit on valuation of mortgages and this means their balance sheet assets may not be as high as they would like us all to believe.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 9:31 AM
Thursday, June 24, 2010
It has been reported to THE GUARDIAN city management of a relocation issue on land acquired at the Caldwell Airport has resulted in a loss of $500,000 on FAA reimbursement deal at the airport. The SNAFU is the result of the former City Public Works Director bungling a relocation after a land deal near the new terminal location on Linden.
Caldwell Airport is one of the fastest growing airports in the North West when compared to six adjacent or near states. It is the second busiest airport in the State of Idaho.
The excuse circulating on the change at the airport is the the job description has been expanded and Mr. Hawkins can re-apply for his job should he be interested in the newly defined job responsibilities
A competent city manager would have more than likely been keenly aware of the FAA requirements and we would be $500,000 in the black on this episode of incompetence.
On the job training is costing Caldwell taxpayers a bundle of cash. Thirteen years of Team Garret and his administration of the city and we are still making huge blunders like this latest episode. How much more of this can we afford in this economy and scarce tax resources?
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 4:10 PM
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
We could not help but notice the cover of this weeks TIME MAGAZINE and how elected officials still do not get it. Taxpayers are already giving all they have to give and they still want more money. The lure is Build America Bonds with a subsidized interest rate on the repayment. The costs of repayment are still at or near market rates for tax free municipal bonds. It is just another debt instrument where bankers get more money for underwriting BAB's and taxpayers have to pay a high interest rate. It is a shell game where the payback is hidden from the locals and comes back to the banks with more interest paid to them and more taxes paid by federal taxpayers. BAB's are not a good deal for taxpayers. Even the IRS is questioning the slight of hand going on with these bonds. The Wall Street Journal is saying they are a bad deal.
If our Commsihes decide to hold a special election in August for a jail bond it will cost county taxpayers between $36,000 and $60,000 depending on how many voting places are open for people to cast their votes. Add to this, it costs $84/day to keep someone in the Canyon County jail. Operational costs of a new jail will fall to property owners of the county along with the amortization costs of the bond. Last time around the costs of amortization of the bonds would be about $10,000/day or $3.6 million a year for 20 years plus the operational costs of around $20 million a year for the new jail project voters shot down.
We applaud the Commishes for allowing us to vote and not going behind our backs with the piecemeal approach they were previously using to fund a jail project out of current cash flow. Their seemingly endless flood of money ceased with the implosion of the housing and commercial real estate markets. They don't want to pull in their horns on a jail project they just want more property tax money to fund the project.
Alternative sentencing saves money on the expense side of the ledger as well as the revenue side. Pick and choose who really belongs in jail. It takes some effort to do this but it is far less expensive than locking everyone up at huge taxpayer expense. Most non-violent offenders belong in alternative sentencing options to pay their debt to the courts and society.
The Commishes have another problem besides the jail on their hands. We learned tax collections are behind by 3.5 million or 86% of what they should have by now. People can't pay their taxes and it isn't getting any better. More taxes will push more people over the edge.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 4:13 PM
THE GUARDIAN took a road trip to Helena, Montana to visit some family members and get out of town for a few days. Helena is a town of about 30,000 people and most of the economy is ranching and agricultural along with Carrol College in town.
We were most impressed with how the execution of the Urban Renewal efforts created a downtown area that the people of Helena are drawn to live, work and play.
Most of the work was done years ago but the effects of a strategically planned end result are evident today. Like Boise, Helena was a city that had to destroy itself and start over. First they did a survey of the downtown buildings and determined which were good and which had to be demolished. The used their Urban Renewal cash to buy buildings and either demolish them and practically give the land away to developers who would make the risk investment in Helena. Or they would buy the property worth salvaging and mark it to market or less to get a developer to come in and rework the building and bring it up to modern codes.
Folks in Caldwell and Nampa on the UR boards could learn from this very fine example of how Urban Renewal should be administered.
Montana Legislature meets every other year for a 90 day session. Less time and opportunity for mischief. A section in the capitol is called the wailing wall room where the lobbyists hang out.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 3:50 PM
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Canyon County Prosecutor John Bujak finds himself in a big financial mess with personal debts overwhelming his ability to repay and a murky agreement with the city of Nampa to provide private prosecutor legal services through his public Canyon County elected job.
The Nampa-Canyon-Bujak deal has caught the attention of the legal community–both public and private– and most of the lawyers the GUARDIAN has contacted tend to agree the idea of an elected official making a profit from his official position is simply not “clean.” Like EVERYTHING with the law, there is disagreement over whether or not it is legal.
We see this as just another money grubbing scheme on the part of politicos to create a “win-win” under the guise of a “public-private partnership” that saves everyone money.
Boise City “sells” police service to BSU, legal service to Meridian, and fire protection to rural Ada County. If the Firefighters had their way Boise would also sell ambulance service. Ada County is currently mulling over selling horse racing in order to sell gambling at whatever they call Les Bois Park these days.
In the Canyon County case the 2C Prosecutor appears to us to have sold a bill of goods to the Commishes that allowed him to use his county office to provide legal service to Nampa and keep some of the cash in the deal. The Commishes sent us to a private attorney for comment, but it looks like they were intending to use the Nampa funds to give raises to deputy prosecutors and allow Bujak to keep any “leftovers.”
One glaring issue for us was the plan for the county to invoice Bujak’s private firm for private (Nampa) use of county resources each month–and Bujak or his own staff would be the only ones to determine how much to invoice HIMSELF!
In fairness to Bujak we offer an explanation in his own words:
Letter from John Bujak explaining Nampa contract:
Lately, some people in the community have raised questions about my contract to prosecute cases for the City of Nampa. My presentation to the County Commissioners this morning at my preliminary budget meeting was designed to answer these questions. Since very few people attended the budget meeting this morning, I am re-presenting the highlights for consideration.
For those who do not know, approximately one year ago I became the Nampa City Prosecutor. I agreed to take on the responsibilities of this position in order to benefit the City of Nampa and Canyon County. In order for me to take on these responsibilities, I had to obtain the unanimous approval of the Board of County Commissioners and also had to be formally awarded the prosecution contract by the City of Nampa through a bidding process.
At the time I bid on the contract, I assumed that the contract would be between the City of Nampa and Canyon County. The original agreement contemplated that the City of Nampa would pay Canyon County directly for prosecution services. This original agreement was flawed in that it did not comply with the law. Idaho law specifically sets forth how this type of prosecution contract is to be set up (for those who are curious, it’s Idaho Code section 31-3113). Specifically, the prosecutor is to contract with cities within his jurisdiction to prosecute non-conflicting misdemeanors and infractions with the unanimous approval of the County Commissioners. Said another way, the contract to prosecute for the cities is to be a private agreement between the cities and the prosecutor. This legal flaw was brought to light when the County Commissioners indicated they would like to use Nampa prosecution money to fund things other than prosecution, and I was faced with the challenge of making sure Nampa money was being spent as intended. I was tuned in to this issue because, during the bidding process, Nampa expressed concerns about the County doing its prosecution due to historical issues related to agreements between the City and the County. Ultimately, I presented the issue to the City along with a solution. The solution was that the City pay me directly for prosecution services and allow me to square up with the County directly. The City Council agreed and directed the Mayor to sign an amendment to the contract in September of 2009, which provided for payment to be made to me directly.
My arrangement with the County Commissioners was that I would be invoiced monthly for expenses related to the Nampa contract. Specifically, I asked for raises for my employees to be funded from the Nampa money. Each pay period the Clerk would invoice me for the salary differences and I would tender payment to the County. The Commissioners and I understood that there would be an additional sum paid to the County for “hard costs” related to the contract, but we agreed that we would determine the amount of those costs at the end of the 2010 fiscal year.
There is a misconception that I am not able to benefit personally from the Nampa contract. People point to language in a Resolution and letter which, on its face, seems to dictate that neither my Chief of Staff!\ nor I would benefit from the contract. The statements were meant to memorialize my agreement with the Commissioners that neither my Chief of Staff or I would be guaranteed salary increases to be funded by the contract. So while every other employee in the prosecutor’s offce would receive a guaranteed increase in pay, we would not.
At the beginning of this project, it was my sincere desire to put together an arrangement that would result in a win-win situation for everyone involved. I believe that this goal has been achieved for the following reasons:
1.The City of Nampa saved $150,000 by accepting my bid
2.The City of Nampa received the benefit of having a paperless prosecutor’s o”ce. The paperless operation has allowed for continued savings and has fostered the development of federal grant opportunities.
3.The City of Nampa enjoys a fully functioning county prosecutor’s offce within its Family Justice Center. That means that the Nampa City Prosecutor’s o”ce can handle felony work for the city of Nampa.
4.The County funds the entire B and C budget for the prosecutor using Nampa funds. That means that all of the “hard costs:” computers, networks, office supplies, training, litigation costs, expert witness fees, lab costs, etc . . . are paid from Nampa funds and not from the County co!ers. For fiscal year 2010, it is projected that the County will receive $276,000 in income from Nampa to cover the B and C budget.
5.The County is able to better control its jail population using a “fast-track” court hearing process and Nampa City and County cases.
The bottom line is I have been able to shrink government, save the City of Nampa at least $150,000, and bring projected total income of $536,000 into the County co!ers. I was authorized to spend $4,897,473 this year. Through proper management and the benefit of the Nampa contract, the projected actual cost of running the office, both County and Nampa together is $3,976,949. That means I am projected to spend $920,524 less than I was authorized to spend this year. The most important bonus, of course, is that the quality and consistency of prosecution in Canyon County and the City of Nampa has greatly improved.
The final issue that has been raised is whether I am going to personally benefit from the contract. Through my agreement with the County Commissioners, I am able to benefit financially if there is money left over after all costs to the County have been paid. This means that if I do not spend my entire B and C budget, there will be money left over that I can do with as I please. If there is no money left over, there is no ability for me to profit. If I overspend the B and C budget, I have to make up the di!erence from my personal funds. I try my best every day to serve the people of Canyon County as their prosecutor. As I examine my contractual arrangement with Nampa, I see where I could have improved the process. I wish I would have drafted the contract perfectly the first time and that amendments were not required. I wish I would have broadcast in a greater way my agreement with the Commissioners that I could benefit pursuant to the amended contract. In the end, however, I am proud of the part I have played in improving the quality of government and saving taxpayer dollars.
In the end, there may be some disagreement about whether I should be allowed to benefit from the contract. I hope people understand that I am keeping my promise to the City of Nampa by providing prosecution services at the bid price, and I am honoring my agreement with the Commissioners by reimbursing the County for salaries and “hard costs” in an amount that fully compensates the County for any expenditures related to the Nampa contract. In the end, hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars have been saved, government is smaller and the community has a higher quality of prosecution. This arrangement is a win-win for everyone involved.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 6:09 PM
Sunday, June 13, 2010
We don't like to see all that black gooey stuff on the beaches and on wildlife as much as anyone else. However, the tone in the media is getting ugly and taking on the form of retribution mongering. Nor will bankrupting BP fix the problem.
The facts as we see them are BP would shut the flow into the Gulf in an instant if they had the power to do so. Mr. Obama and all the other politicos will need to not bite the hand that can most quickly stop the problem. We don't think Mr. Obama or anyone in government can do much about the realities of dealing with this mess.
All this points out to just how vulnerable we all are to oil and the vagaries of getting it out of the ground (or ocean floor). The drilling moratorium the politicos are talking about have another set of problems for our dependency on oil. If the numbers we researched are true, we get about a third of our daily oil needs from the Gulf region. If the oil rigs get shut down they will be moved to places where they can drill and they won't be back for a considerable period of time.
What to do? Don't bite the hand that we need to fix the problem would seem to be first. Second, figure out the solutions to stop the flow of oil into the Gulf. Third, implement the quickest and best solutions. Next, would be to definitively figure out what went wrong and put steps in place to keep it from happening again.
We need to wean ourselves off oil to the greatest extent possible. The true costs of an oil based energy source are way more than the per bbl. costs we see posted by market exchanges.
The car in this post may be in our collective futures sooner than we planned.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 3:19 PM
Saturday, June 12, 2010
The following suggestions come from Ada County Commish, Sharon Ullman. No stranger to cutting budgets Ms. Ullman and her two colleagues on the Ada County Commissioners cut 22% out of the Ada County budget this year.
Here are suggestions made by Ms. Ullman of some other places where attention should be focused and savings methodically pursued:
•Consolidate school district administration. Currently, less than half of the public education employees in Idaho are classroom teachers.
•Reclaim durable medical equipment that has been purchased with state funds. For example, once the need is no longer there, we can reclaim and reuse $8000 scooters, provided to people who are disabled.
•Realize greater economies of scale with a consolidated purchasing department for school districts and other government agencies.
•Parole inmates on time to save money. According to a Legislative audit, it cost an estimated $6.8 Million to keep parole-eligible inmates in prison from January 2007 through September 2009.
•Increase use of alternative sentencing. Twenty-five percent of inmates are in prison for drug and alcohol offenses.
•Put the state's checkbook online and let taxpayers help find wasteful spending.
•Use performance auditors to find wasteful spending and assure that dollars are spent wisely.
•Implement a "workfare" program to replace the current welfare system.
•Reduce duplication of effort by consolidating commissions, boards, departments, agencies and districts.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 11:51 AM
Friday, June 11, 2010
The deal between Mr. Bujak and Nampa caught the eye of the outside audit of the County this time around. The fact remains the Commishes signed off on the deal and all the parties were in agreement. The issue is how much does Mr. Bujak pay himself via his private law practice to administer the deal. Check registers from Nampa for checks issued to Mr. Bujak or his firm are a matter of public record. The amount actually received by the County is also a matter of public record.
Seems like a simple exercise in grade school math to get to the answer. Or the parties involved lay their cards on thte table and put an end to the speculation and innuendo. Perhaps Mr. Bujac will use the Monday budget hearing to clear the air on this matter once and for all.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 11:02 PM
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Over the years my nightly trips to the bathroom increased to the point of 9-12 trips a night. The Doc said it was probably and inflamed prostate and gave me a round of Cipro and told me to stop drinking coffee. I followed doctors orders but it didn't work. I had the Doc prescribe some sleeping pills, the number of trips to the bathroom went down to about 4-6 and I thought this was the ticket. The help from sleeping pills didn't last but a few months before the nightly trips got higher and higher to the 9-12 range again.
The doc sent me in for a sleep study. Nice place with a big cushy bed and lots of wires hooked up to my head, torso, and legs. I went to sleep and they watched me all night long. The results: I was waking myself up as many as 90 times an hour, I never did hit REM sleep, my Oxygen saturation went down as low as 63 (normal is in the mid 90's). I was literally suffocating myself and didn't know it.
If you are up and headed to the "head" more than 2-3 times a night you need to see your Doctor right away. Before going in for the cure which entails another sleep study to determine the pressure required to push past all the throat obstructions I had a close call. I woke up gasping for air, heavy chest feelings and in a state of near panic. Sleep apnea had closed off my airway and the lack of oxygen kicked in my adrenal glands with a big shot of adrenaline and that is what woke me up.
I share this with you as something that might help improve your quality of life. Walking around during your waking hours like a Zombie due to lack of proper sleep does not have to be, there is help out there if you and your Doctor work together on the solution.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 11:11 PM
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
By Davir R. Frazier (Boise Guardian)
Using an appearance before the Chamber of Commerce as a “bully pulpit,” Boise Mayor Dave Bieter urged citizens to approve a proposed constitutional amendment that would serve only to abolish rightscitizens currently enjoy to approve bonds to pay for airport facilities.
We find it ironic the good Mayor seeks to abolish the right of citizens to vote on airport debt using public money, but turned around and begs the legislature to ALLOW a vote of citizens on the issue of a local option sales tax.
BOISE GUARDIAN editor Dave Frazier issued the following statement about the proposed amendment which will be on the November ballot.
“Cities throughout Idaho currently have the authority to issue bonds for airport projects using operating revenue to repay those bonds. Mayor Bieter and others seek to abolish the current constitutional right of voters to approve those bonds. The Idaho Supreme Court has clarified those rights in the ‘Frazier Decision,’ and Bieter’s proposed amendment would also result in loss of tax revenues for cities, counties, schools, and the state of Idaho.”
When airports build freight facilities, hangars, rental car parking ramps (or industrial park things) they collect rent to pay the bonds… meanwhile all the other taxing districts lose those revenues because the airport properties are TAX EXEMPT GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS! The major change in the proposed amendment is to eliminate the requirement of voter approval for sale of bonds.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 2:35 PM
Thursday, June 3, 2010
We have obtained a memo dated June 3, 2003 from then Chief Civil Prosecutor Chuck Saari to the Canyon County BOC. The four page memo is a legal analysis of changes to the law going into effect on July 1, 2003. Page 2, item #2 says:
"2. Based upon new legislation, effective July 1, 2003, concerning 911 fees and salaries "directly related" to an emergency communication system, it is clear that Canyon County may use received 911 fees to fund a portion of the Canyon County dispatchers' salaries."
The above quote seems pretty clear.
Canyon County is now on track to receive about $1.3 million in 911 phone and cell phone surcharges by the end of this fiscal year. This is not chump change and if the Sheriff and the BOC maintain 911 surcharge money could not be spent on salaries then where has all the money gone over the last 20 years? We will anxiously wait for the county mavens of money to answer this question.
Meanwhile, we do not share the CCBOC and Sheriff's beliefs the City of Caldwell should be on the hook for any 911 services.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 3:10 PM
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
The latest form for this has taken a nasty twist with ethical questions about the practice of short sales.
People who bought at the peak of the market in 2005 and later have come to the conclusion they are more than a little upside down with equity and while they agreed to buy the property they see very little hope of ever getting even on the deal within the life of the mortgage or horrizon of their ownership. So they simply quit making payments to the bank and put the property on the market for a short sale with agreement to do so from the bank or mortgage holder.
We know of a home not far from us that sold for $170k in 2006, it just sold this week on a short sale for $79k. The sale goes down for less than $0.50 on the dollar. The owner who still makes a decent living figured out he was paying nearly $1500/month to own and make payments on the place. He can literally move to any house in his neighborhood for around $700/month or less as a renter. No property taxes, no maintenance, no mortgage, no insurance, no painting, no anything a homeowner has to pay for on a regular basis and living at the same standard for less than half the cost. What a sweet deal! Is this a great country or what?
This guy has done just what the banks have done. He put a stop loss order on his investment of owning a home. Is this ethical? Seems the bank is OK doing these deals. The glow of homeownership has lost its lustre and people are bailing out in droves. Your home has become an albatross and a tax drain for your pocketbook but a cash cow for schools, and government who can assess taxes to your abode to the point of pain and suffering.
You will notice in your recent assessment from the Assessor your property has taken a severe hit in value from previous years. Don't bet you taxes will be going down as all the taxing agencies are going to increase the levy rate to make up the difference this year plus take 3% more than they did last year. You will have to pay more property taxes than ever this year. Don't think for an instant because the value went down your taxes will be less. Won't happen so don't get your hopes up.
The latest in housing short sale/defaults scam is only going to get worse once more people figure out this escape route on how to get out from under HOME SWEET HOME and the ugly mortgage they all signed on the line to pay.
Anyone still think Real Estate is an Investment? It may be if you are now buying on a short sale and don't pay too much when you ink the deal.
Posted by Paul Alldredge at 9:52 PM