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Thursday, August 26, 2010

TVCC Lease or Giveaway At Caldwell Taxpayer Expense

THE GUARDIAN has calculated the costs on the low side for the new TVCC building at $15.1 million using the city finance director Eljay Waite's numbers for all the acquisitions and goodies piled into this project.  The numbers do not include the million dollar loan for furniture for the place nor the cost of 250 parking places supplied by the city of Caldwell.

A GUARDIAN reader sent us a copy of the lease agreement and we can't figure out if Caldwell taxpayers will see a dime of return on this investment or not.  It calls for $200k annually in lease payments for 20,000 square feet of the 39,000 square ft. building.  What is going in the remaining 19,000 square ft?  A coffee shop built and furnished at Caldwell taxpayer expense will take up a small part of the remaining real estate.  Will TVCC be getting a free ride on the remaing portion or will it be used for yet another purpose not known to the public.

We also heard on KBOI Saturday morning radio TVCC director Kathleen Robinson singing the praises of Mayor Nancolas and Mr. Waite for all they have done for out of state TVCC at Caldwell taxpayer expense.  Ms. Robinson is hoping to get a Nursing program up and running in the near term also at Caldwell taxpayer expense.  Oregon contributes nothing to the operation of TVCC Caldwell operation and to show their appreciation for the largess of taxpayers they send 20% of their gross revenue back to Oregon to subsidize their expenses in Oregon. 

In the lease with TVCC the good people of Caldwell will also be responsible for insuring the building, maintenance, repairs and to provide a minimum of 250 parking places within a three block radius of the building.

What is really confusing is the lease document says TVCC will be using 20,000 square feet of the building.  We were under the impression they were going to occupy the entire building save a small portion set aside for a coffee shop operation also set up and paid for by Caldwell taxpayers.

Monday, August 23, 2010

All In The Family Time

We learned today Caldwell City Councilman Rob Hopper will be the new IT manager for Canyon County.  Mr. Hopper also serves on the Caldwell East Urban Renewal Agency Board in addition to his new position with Canyon County.

We wish Mr. Hopper well in his new job with Canyon County.  The job pays $85,000 plus benefits.  New eyes on issues an opportunities to improve county services are always a welcome bit of news to all of us.

Also serving on the CEURA Board is County Commissioner Steve Rule.  This will be an interesting mix now that Mr. Hopper is a newly minted county employee.  Link to county press release  Hopper Hired

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Republican Platform Plank HJR 5 Fall Election

Here is an excerpt from the Republican Party Platform for this year for your consideration as we move toward the November election.  There are two amendments on the ballot that will further reduce or restrict voters rights to vote on debts of hospitals and airports in HJR 4 & 5.

Constitutional Amendments:

1. We have one of the most protective Constitutions in the country with regard to providing the citizens the final say before local governments can incur debt or liability beyond what can be paid for in a single year. This has protected the Idaho citizens since the founding of our state.

Recent efforts to reduce the protections of Article 8, Section 3 by local governments that seek to devise a way to remove the requirement of a public vote before long term debt or liability is incurred is one of the most alarming proposals our Constitution has ever faced. Such a change would open the floodgates of overly optimistic projects that would be paid for by escalating fees paid for by the citizens.

We oppose the incomplete ballot question on HJR005, as it is different than the text of the amendment itself. We demand that the Legislature never again present amendments to the people unless the ballot language is identical to the language of the amendment. (emphasis added)

We hold our Constitution highly, and oppose its amendment unless an     overwhelming  need is thoroughly proven."

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Team Tom Plays 3 Card Monte With Taxpayers

Mayor Tom Dale of Nampa is playing 3-Card Monte with Nampa and Canyon County property taxpayers.  The following is a quote taken from Mayor Dale's guest opinion in the local paper today:

"The property tax portion of our budget is $33 million — $27 million goes to fund the fire and police departments, $2.6 million goes toward the GO bond that built Kings Corner and Garrity Boulevard, $1.6 million goes to keep the library open, and the remaining $1.8 million is split among streets, cemetery, parks, airport, and other departments. The only place left for cuts that would significantly lower the budget is in fire and police levels, and every citizen I’ve talked with finds that unacceptable because they recognize the danger in that step backwards."

Nampa rakes in $33 million in property taxes but what is not mentioned is $3 million siphoned right off the top for Urban Renewal/Nampa Development Corporation to spend as they choose with no voter oversight.

Yes, Nampa will get a sparkling new building for the police department but if they had $3.56 million shifted out of the property tax it would not be necessary to increase the budget by 5%.  They would in fact be running a $1.5 million surplus. (Maybe not, upon reflection they would have found ways to spend that money and more.)

Point here is, Urban Renewal is a massive tax shift with 10% of  total property tax revenue going to Nampa's urban renewal agency.  Caldwell is even worse in their take of property taxes.  Caldwell gets $12 million in property tax and UR takes $6 million right off the top. The math here suggests a 50% take right off the top by Caldwell Urban Renewal. 
These two cities have cleverly and legally created about a $10 million a year tax shift on all county taxpayers. This money has to be made up with higher levy rates on every county resident to make up for this loss to all taxing entity budgets. Yet they tell us UR is at no cost to taxpayers.

Mayor Dale on the Nampa City website says all citizens should have a voice in their local government.  He simply is not walking the talk here with the way urban renewal is fleecing Nampa and Canyon County property taxpayers. Team Tom spent $108,000.00 to fend off a challenge to their Urban Renewal agency not allowing citizens their constitutional right to vote on debt bonding they will be using to fund a new police station and library.

Urban renewal law in Idaho needs a legislative fix and they need it now or property taxes will continue to skyrocket, even in a poor economy and declining home values.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Idaho Ranked 48th For Govt. Transparency

Gag orders, secret deals hurt confidence in our government

 Monday, August 16, 2010 by Wayne Hoffman

Government agencies that promote a culture of secrecy might think they’re doing something clever and necessary by keeping sensitive issues under wraps. But instead, all they’re really doing is breeding distrust and suspicion.

Two recent examples of government secrecy stand out. They’re by no means unique, only recent.

In July, the city of Caldwell signed an agreement with a subdivision developer that forces the city to pay $500,000 to settle a lawsuit. The settlement includes a clause that has become all too common in some cases, noting that “terms and conditions of this settlement agreement are strictly confidential.”

“The parties promise not to discuss or disclose the terms and conditions of the settlement agreement to anyone, with the exception of legally permitted or required communications with their attorney, tax advisor or as otherwise required for tax or related reporting requirements,” the settlement says.

That means anyone with the word “tax” in their title gets to know about the settlement except for the taxpayer. For the taxpayer to know about the agreement, he or she has to outfox the fox and find out about it, as was the case with Caldwell watchdog Paul Alldredge, who uncovered the super-secret deal.

Such an agreement makes a mockery out of the state’s public records law, which says deals like the one signed by Caldwell are a matter of public record, disclosure and discourse. Slapping the word “confidential” on the agreement doesn’t change that; it’s only designed to make it harder for people to find out about it.

In Pocatello, Idaho State University leaders have empanelled a committee to review faculty governing structures at the school. But the university has required each committee member to sign a confidentiality agreement.

The agreement says, “I acknowledge that my participation in the meetings of the Advisory Group on Faculty Governance Committee is done under conditions of strict confidentiality and that I will not share or discuss the discussions had, presentations made, or any materials presented or distributed with anyone not on this committee.”

I’ve been involved in government watchdog work in one form or another for more than 20 years, and I’ve never seen something as far-reaching as this. To tell government employees that they’re utterly forbidden from discussing items that are a matter of public record and are of concern and interest to faculty and students, parents and taxpayers is amazing and outrageous.

Mike Ellis, an ISU professor, correctly pointed out in a letter to ISU’s leadership that the agreement “unfortunately gives your group the appearance of a lack of transparency.”

Very true. But the policy is consistent with a university that recently shut the media out of a meeting of a parking advisory committee and then claimed it was within its rights to do so. Transparency is apparently not ISU’s strong suit.

The public has the right to know what’s going on in the halls of government, and confidentiality agreements and mandatory gag orders do nothing to boost confidence in our elected officials, their subordinates or the public policies they’re charged with executing. It makes us wonder what else we’re not being told — and why.

• Wayne Hoffman is the executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation. E-mail him at

Friday, August 13, 2010

Feds Are About To Sink All Boating At Lake Lowell

The Feds are trying to eliminate the following activities at Lake Lowell:
Non-priority Public Uses²include, but are not limited to the following:
• Biking
• Dog-walking
• Geocaching
• Horseback Riding
• Jogging
• Kite boarding
• Motorized Boating
• Non motorized Boating (canoeing, kayaking, sailing)
• Personal Watercraft (jet skiing)
• Picnicking
• Swimming
• Water skiing/tubing
• Winter activities (ice skating and other ice activities,cross-country skiing)

Lake Lowell is estimated to bring over $20 million into the local economy over the year.  Closure of all the above listed rights and activities and more, the Feds can think of, is not pleasant to think about.  This is a public resource that is in danger of being closed off to the public by the gestapo tactics of the Federal Government. 

Lake Lowell was built as an irrigation impoundment and it needs to stay that way.  Farmers depend on the water and locals like to use it as a recreation amenity for boating, picnicking and fishing.  This will be taken from us if we fail to act by voicing our collective thoughts and inputs on this Federal grab of a local resource we have had access since the place was built.

What to do now? Write our Congressional Delegation via their websites and let them know how you feel about this takeover of a recreational resource for Canyon County.  Let the people at the refuge know how you feel via an email to their website at the Deer Flat HQ. 

The Federal closure of Riverside Drive almost happened.  It was citizen outrage that put a stop to that bit of hysteria. Your opinion counts. Here is a link to the Deer Flat website  Deer Flat Link

Meet Here If You Think Urban Renewal Is Screwed Up!

Caldwell East Urban Renewal Agency met on the first Tuesday of July 2010 and agreed to purchase all the equipment for a coffee shop in the new TVCC Caldwell building at taxpayer expense for $36,000.00.  They have a hand picked operator they will install to run the place.  The operation will be handed over to this operator at no charge.  How can local food service operations compete with this?

TVCC was sold to citizens of Caldwell as a catalyst to revitalize downtown and to bring much needed foot traffic to downtown businesses.  How can downtown food service operations compete with a sweetheart deal granted to the coffee shop paid for by taxpayers? 

TVCC is getting a sweet deal as well.  They are getting a brand new Class A space and a million bucks worth of furnishings for a mere $5/sqft annual lease.  The coffee shop operator will pay a percentage of profits as his rent.  Meanwhile, Caldwell property taxpayers will have shelled out over $15 million for this project.  This total does not take in the parking lots removed from public use for TVCC students.

All of the new parking west of the train depot will be reserved for TVCC student parking along with a new parking lot in front of the Caldwell facility.  How they expect to enforce this restriction on local residents and shoppers downtown remains to be seen. 

Business and commercial property taxpayers saw a four fold increase in their property taxes last year due to urban renewal purchases of property.  An angry mob of business owners gathered at the library to hear CEURA purchases of property in downtown Caldwell was the reason property values and assessments went up so much from our County Assessor.  Mayor Nancolas expressed total surprise at this turn of events for business owners.

Urban Renewal has done little for existing businesses in downtown Caldwell but have set TVCC up in business for virtually no cost.  TVCC will take 20% of total fees and tuition and return it to the Great State of Oregon.  Not a penny will go to pay for the building they occupy other than the $200K annually renewable lease on the place.  This pittance will hardly cover depreciation and maintenance costs for the new building. 

The complete and utter disregard for property taxpayers is starting to surface in the legacy media. The local paper did a fine editorial on the costs of the Nampa Public Safety Building that is going up via Nampa Development Corporation issuing revenue bonds with no vote of the people.  Here is a link to that story Keep Public Safety Building Frugal

Urban renewal agencies are out of control.  Mayor Nancolas has announced a conservative budget holding the line on property taxes this year and no increase to taxpayers.  What was left unsaid is he will have around $6 million skimmed off the top of property taxes via urban renewal taxation without representation. Their is no voter oversight of these agencies and they have been granted wide powers of taxation without answering to anyone.

Taxpayers in Canyon County now enjoy the second highest combined levy rate in Idaho.  No serious employer would consider locating in Canyon County when taxes are significantly lower in Ada County.  Urban renewal laws need a legislative fix. A citizens group is forming to lobby for this fix and preliminary meetings on this effort will take place on Tuesday of next week.

Treasure Valley Property Owner's Association will be meeting at the Shilo Inn in Nampa just off I-84 at 2:00 PM in the restaurant meeting room.  The meeting is open to all interested people concerned about UR abuses.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

We The People or is it "We The Cities and Counties"

Boise city government attempts to manipulate the state constitution
July 28, 2010  by Wayne Hoffman

The state constitution, like the federal Constitution, begins with the words, "We the people." The constitution doesn't begin with the words "we the governments" or "we the cities" or "we the bureaucrats."

I point this out only because certain city government officials believe it is their responsibility to "educate" us on the constitutional amendments that are on the ballot this November.

That's not their job.

The Boise City Council voted Tuesday to spend $60,000 to educate the public on House Joint Resolution 5, which would allow cities to incur debt for airports without a vote of the public. Councilman Alan Shealy said it is the city's responsibility to make sure voters get "an unvarnished view" of the amendment.

"Some public agency must step forward to make sure accurate information is disseminated to the public," added Councilman David Eberle.

Of course, that assumes that the city can be the official arbiter of what's true and what's not. The city is incapable of this role. Boise officials lobbied the Legislature to pass HJR 5. Should we now expect that the city will provide impartial and "unvarnished" information about what HJR 5 does?

Public records obtained from the city suggest otherwise. Among the documents are notes from a March 22 meeting of city officials including Mayor Dave Bieter and top aides. According to the meeting agenda and handwritten notes from the meeting, the mayor and his staff discussed the formation of a pro-HJR 5 political action committee, fundraising for the organization and who would serve on its board.

Other documents reveal that Bieter's administration understands that the amendment takes away the right of voters to approve debt-financed airport projects. But in April, when prompted by the Legislature to develop pro and con statements regarding the constitutional amendment for the secretary of state's voters' guide, city leaders discarded statements against the amendment and claimed they couldn't think of any reason why a voter might want to cast a "no" vote.

A June 11 e-mail from Bieter to mayors and airport managers throughout Idaho clearly shows the city's interest is the passage of the amendment. In the e-mail, Bieter asks for a meeting of city leaders "so we can discuss ways to work together to pass this important amendment."

In short, the city has already invested taxpayer resources in the passage and approval of the constitutional amendment. And now we're supposed to believe that the city will tell "the unvarnished truth" about why HJR 5 should become law?

City governments have one function and one function only. They are to administer the city government. Provide resources to catch the bad guys when a crime is committed. Put out fires.

The use of government resources to manipulate a document like the constitution is extraordinarily alarming and establishes a horrifying precedent. What happens if Idaho's 115 school districts decide that it is their job to help "educate" Idahoans on the two-thirds majority needed to pass a school bond? What if the state's local governments decide that the rights enshrined in the constitution are too inconvenient for these modern times?

If government agencies across Idaho start to follow Boise's lead, taxpayers - and freedom - don't stand a chance

Monday, August 9, 2010

City Of Caldwell Agrees To Secret Deal With Developer

City Of Caldwell Agrees To Secret Deal With Developer

August 9, 2010 by Caldwell and Boise Guardians  Paul Alldredge and David R. Frazier

A confidential agreement stemming from a lawsuit filed against the City of Caldwell by the developers of Cirrus Pointe subdivision paints a picture of secrecy and ineptitude on the part of the City.

The CALDWELL GUARDIAN obtained the settlement dated July 6 in an effort to reveal why no traffic signal was constructed at the intersection of Karcher Road and Indiana Avenue as previously agreed to in the original conditional use permit. In the course of our investigation we learned the city repeatedly changed the terms of the subdivision approval. The changes may well have been in the interest of citizens, but they came well after the original approval and should have been contemplated prior to approval.

Caldwell was originally sued by S&H Homes and Cirrus Pointe subdivision. Plaintiffs sought $3,033,519.00. in damages and five main allegations:

1. breach of developement agreements over enhanced water, sewer over size requirements

2. unjust exactments of city services to to areas not serving the project

3. Taking w/o judgement

4. Ultra Veres (latin for beyond the powers) city requirement of a traffic light at hwy 55 and indiana avenue with no approval from IDT to erect and construct a traffic signal

5. the requriement of a booster pump to facilitate water pressure for a 5-mile radius at a cost of $590,000.00 plus $$2,500 for electricity to run the pump and orelated damages.

As part of the agreement, Cirrus Pointe will unload responsibility for infrastructure items such as street lights, irrigation, sewer, water. All those items will be maintained at the expense of Caldwell Taxpayers.

The agreement is heavily weighted in favor of the developer and it made no sense why Caldwell allowed the developer to take a hike. A cursory examination of the Cirrus Pointe subdivision revealed numerous weed-strewn vacant lots and one could conclude Caldwell officials ponied up the citizen’s cash as a quasi bailout. However it was also apparent the city hadn’t done its homework prior to approving the development during the “boom” days 5 years ago.

Thanks to the Idaho Open Records law we are able to provide citizens the details of this otherwise secret agreement. The confidentiality clause agreed to by Caldwell officials provides that “The Parties promise not to discuss or disclose conditions of the Settlement Agreement…” and to “Take all reasonable steps to ensure that confidentiality is maintained by all of those parties…”

We find it disturbing and inherently deceitful for local governments to secretly dispose of public funds and agree in writing to keep their actions secret.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Commishes Should Read the Tea Leaves of Election Results

Canyon Fails Miserably On Jail Bond Vote

Wednesday, August 4th by David R. Frazier

Canyon Politicos who just wouldn’t take NO for an answer got their lunch eaten Tuesday when voters turned down yet another attempt at a jail bond.

This time around county officials and a well organized group of supporters were humiliated. When the tally ended at 10:35 p.m., jail-bond advocates had captured 43 percent of the vote – and they needed a two-thirds super-majority. The opposition finished with 57 percent of the 14,590 votes.

Dirty politics could have created a backlash among voters when the County Fair allowed PROPONENTS to have space for a booth while denying OPPONENTS at last week’s fair. It was well covered by the GUARDIANS and legacy media.

Editor Note:
 The Commissioners and Sheriff need to read the tea leaves of the election results and get the NO people into the tent.  If they simply run the same product/project in another election the results may be even more lopsided.  A lot can be said for intellectual honesty in dealing with voters.  They can smell a bad deal better than they were given credit for in this election.  

The lopsided majority who voted down this project need a seat at the table and a voice in this matter.  Commishes need to be intellectually honest about what the operational costs are and where the money will go with a well defined alternative project and site.  They ask and we get to decide, consensus building has been absent from the political process from day one in 2006 with the Jerome property project.

Hats off to everyone who made the effort to vote YES or NO despite the confusion about where to vote and the inconvenient distances this election put on a lot of voters.

Regards to all,

Monday, August 2, 2010

Raising Taxes and Spending Not Conservative

THE GUARDIAN is publishing this opinion piece published in the local paper by permission from Mr. Hoffman.

Raising taxes, spending not conservative
by Wayne Hoffman

Only in the land of government excess could an increase in taxes and spending be deemed “conservative.” That, however, is what some city leaders throughout Idaho are trying to convince us. Because they can’t govern in a conservative manner, they’re redefining what it means to be conservative. It’s just a marketing ploy, and an unfortunate one at that.

Last month, the Sandpoint City Council unveiled a budget and hailed it as “conservative” even though it contemplated an increase in spending of 2 percent. I can’t possibly make this stuff up. And to prove it, here’s a quote from a member of the city government:

“It’s a conservative budget this year,” Councilman Stephen Snedden said last month after the increased budget was unveiled.

See? Told you.

Days ago, the Sandpoint newspaper announced that no city employees would be getting raises in the coming year, but upon further reading, it turns out public safety employees would receive “wage adjustments.” Out in the real world, we call these “raises.”

In Coeur d’Alene, the city is contemplating a 1.5 percent increase in property taxes. “We’re asking the citizens an awful lot, but this is the best balance we can come up with,” said Mayor Sandi Bloem, according to a story in the Coeur d’Alene Press.

In Nampa last week, Mayor Tom Dale said the city has put together a “conservative” budget that will raise property taxes by 5 percent. The city will accomplish this by collecting the 2 percent it could have collected last year but didn’t, and the 3 percent it can collect this year.

In reality, the people who run government — and certainly the people behind these budget proposals — don’t understand conservatism at all. The folks who get it are the people who run businesses and have to meet a payroll. As much as businesses would like to institute a tax to collect more revenue, they can’t. They’ll make the really hard choices, or they’ll go out of business. They’ll cut expenses. That means reducing benefits, getting rid of insurance coverage altogether, cutting wages and letting employees go. Indeed, people on fixed incomes understand conservatism also. They have to cut household expenses in order to meet a budget.

They have no choice.

Elected officials throughout Idaho have largely avoided these tough choices, instead throwing up their hands and saying, “We’ve done all we can. Time to raise taxes.” And in order to justify it, they’ll claim that without these tax increases, some government service will suffer — usually police or fire protection. The threat of not having a police officer come when you call is usually enough to convince the public that maybe a small increase in taxes would be OK after all. Meanwhile, city governments hang onto their high wages, their generous health insurance and vacation packages and their over-staffed agencies.

Once the budget is passed, they’ll use their publicly-paid PR firms and communications directors to tell us just how conservative they were. And then if we fail to pay their higher taxes, they’ll threaten to take our homes and businesses away. So tell me then, where’s the conservatism in that?

• Wayne Hoffman is the executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation. E-mail him at

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ask And You Shall Receive

After years of empty beds not used in the Work Release facility Sheriff Chris Smith and County  Commishes asked Caldwell City leaders to amend a special use permit (SUP) regarding the housing of inmates in this facility. 

The following is taken from the CONSENT CALENDAR  of the July 19th Caldwell City Council meeting item #5:

"5. Approve Resolution, at the request of the City of Caldwell and the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office, authorizing a waiver of the amendment application fee in the amount of $295.37 to amend a condition of approval for the county work release inmate center special use permit;"
Team Garret and the Caldwell city councilors have been brandished as uncooperative by County Commishes and our Top Copper for the County. Sheriff Smith has stated on the record the City of Caldwell refused to grant permission to use the county work release facility to incarcerate county jail inmates.  It now appears Team Garret has bent over backwards to accommodate this request and even gave them a free ride on the fees regular citizen have to pay.  All the while expediting Sheriff Smith's request to amend his special use permit.
Sheriff Smith and our County Commishes have been sitting on 165 empty jail beds and sending inmates to other counties for several years at huge costs to county taxpayers. They even closed the annex jail at a cost of $300k for several months. We taxpayers paid $2 million to renovate the annex to bring it back on line in 2000/2001. It all boiled down to ASK AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE permission to use all those idle work release jail beds as you see fit.