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, (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

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


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.