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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Canyon Representatives Collins and Perry Kill Urban Renewal Reform Bills

THE GUARDIAN went to the Local Government Committee meeting today in order to testify in behalf of HB 560 and HB 580 in the hope these two bills would pass a committee vote and go to the Idaho House for a full debate and vote on the House floor.  Both measures failed to get out of committee with votes against these two bills by Canyon County Representatives Collins and Perry of Nampa.

HB 560 was a bill sponsored by Representative Bob Schaefer of Nampa and would have been the first step to terminating Urban Renewal Agencies statewide in Idaho.  It has been reported to THE GUARDIAN this is an election year and word came down from House Leadership to kill this bill in committee.  The vote was 5 to 4 to "hold the bill in committee".  Reps. Collins, Perry, Higgins, Luker and Marriott voting to kill the bill. It will take a motion and 50% plus one member to bring the bill out of committee.

HB 580 is a bill to hold URA's to the Idaho Constitutional requirement of a 2/3rds majority if URA's  want to issue bonding debt.  The Idaho Farm Bureau supported a do pass on this bill and a full floor debate and vote.  The bill was held in Committee with a unanimous vote of the Local Government Committee (pending revision).

Urban Renewal is taxation without representation and we have a plethora of monuments to the waste, fraud and abuses by URA's all over Idaho.  California has come to appreciate URA's were costing taxpayers Billions in California and had the good sense to shut down all 425 of these taxpayer abuse agencies effective February 1, 2012 and has been upheld by the Ca. Supreme Court.

Those in favor of the status quo with URA's testified that the voters recourse is the ballot box.  If they don't like the actions of  URA's they need to react at the ballot box and leave the current laws alone.  Well folks, this is an election year and if you are tired of URA's consider making a change in our elected officials at the state and local levels.

Instructions were given from on high by House Leadership and it was like watching a tragedy in slow motion when these two bills went down in flames at the Local Government Committee today.

We also learned today URA's have a statewide association headed up by the former Director of CCDC, Phil Kushlan.  He now heads up the Redevelopment Association of Idaho another arm of the pro URA lobby efforts in Idaho.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Team Tom Gives Urban Renewal $41K to Move Antenna?

It has been reported to THE GUARDIAN, Team Tom in Nampa spent $42k to move a communications antenna from City Hall to the New Police/Public Safety building. The money came from City General Fund Acct. 009-016-022-42-7780 and the check was handed over to NDC, the URA for Nampa.

There also appears to be a tussle over City money getting spent for property inside the URA boundaries.  The City of Nampa has spent a reported $4.5MM on the acquisition of various properties for NDC future projects.  NDC has not repaid this debt to the City of Nampa General Fund.  Meanwhile, the recession has put Nampa City coffers into Old Mother Hubbard's Cupboard status with Team Tom scratching their collective head for more and more money but none is there.  They spent several years ago it in anticipation of prompt repayment from NDC and didn't factor in the nasty recession we all find ourselves in today.

Also reported to THE GUARDIAN, NDC internal documents project it will require nearly $10 million/yr. in Urban Renewal property tax dollars to pay for all the grandiose plans and projects like the new library and the Pivot Block stuff on Team Toms Urban Renewal shopping list. Today, property taxes (the increment) flowing to NDC/Urban Renewal is about $3MM/year.  In order to meet the projects scheduled by Team Tom and NDC the defined area of Nampa Urban Renewal will have to increase by 300% immediately.

We're broke but Team Tom got that dang antenna off city hall property and trucked to the new Public Safety Building for a mere $41,933.01.  This must be another case of the Magic of Urban Renewal.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

County Passport Office Moves Back Into Courthouse Feb. 27

THE GUARDIAN plucked this piece off the Canyon County Website and hope it saves those seeking a new passport some time and effort.
"Effective February 27th, 2012, passport processing will move from the  
Elections Office to the Canyon County Courthouse.  Passport applications will be received and processed in the Recorders Office in Room 246.  Hours of operation will be 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.

In recent years the volume of passport applicants in Canyon County has risen dramatically. At the same time, the volume of work in the Elections Office has increased dramatically.  Election consolidation has more than doubled the number of elections conducted by this office.  Finally, the demands of redistricting and a presidential election make it impossible to continue passport processing in the Elections Office.

We greatly value our passport customers, but passport processing is provided as a convenience.  The remaining duties in the Clerk’s Office are constitutionally required.  Passport applications are available in the Recorder’s Office and can also be filled out on-line at    Passport agents will not be available until 10:00 a.m. and applicants must arrive by 4:30 p.m. to begin processing.  This change reduces the number of agents available...."

The phone number for the Passports Office is 208-454-7562.  Room 246 is on the second floor left side of the building.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Taxing The Tax Agencies Funds Urban Renewal

THE GUARDIAN has obtained a spreadsheet list of taxing districts and the amounts of property taxes diverted to Caldwell East Urban Renewal via a public records request.  Below is a list and the money CEURA gets from each one to arrive at $5,557,907 for 2011:


County pest control                                        $225
Ambulance District                                        $68,517
Mosquito Abatement District                         $33,035
City of Caldwell                                              $2,946,364
Notus-Parma Hwy Dist. #2                             $150
Canyon Hwy. Dist. #4                                     $459,933
Caldwell Rural Fire Dist.                               $5,261
Caldwell School Dist. #132                            $359,699
Vallivue School Dist. #139                             $278,732
College of Western Idaho                              $445,587
Flood Control Dist. #11                                 $577
Canyon County                                              $1,359,826

Total                                                               $5,557,907

This is how the "Magic of Urban Renewal" works but not well understood by most taxpayers.  URA's simply tax the taxing districts and spend the money via the "wide powers" granted to them by the Idaho Legislature.  Meanwhile, all of the above taxing districts have to make up what has been siphoned off by URA's in the form of increases in levy rates but a nasty thing called the CAP on taxes hit just about all of them this year and they can't raise the levy rates.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Caldwell Urban Renewal Will Hand Over $10.4 Million for County Admin. Bldg.

THE GUARDIAN learned today via a public records request Caldwell East Urban Renewal Agency will add another $10.4 Million debt (obligation) and hand the money over to Canyon County Commissioners to build a new administrative building.  This is an "estimated obligation" at this point in time and will start in 2015 and extend through to 2022 at the rate of $1, 300,000/year for eight years on the easy pay plan for Caldwell taxpayers.

There will be no vote of the people to authorize this obligation but Caldwell citizens will be on the hook to pay for this new county building debt created by CEURA to offset property taxes foregone to the county tax collector.

The new County Admin. Building  will be located across the street from the existing courthouse in the current parking lot.  Parking will have to be expanded on each side of the new administrative building at 12th and Albany on the east side and 11th and Albany on the west side and will eventually extend to the 10th Avenue overpass if all goes according to plan.

THE GUARDIAN learned of this expansion plan based on a $50K study done by an architectural firm hired by County Commissioners.  The plan calls for a $30 Million building but it appears the first phase will be limited to $10.4 Million from CEURA and the good people of Caldwell.  Cash from CEURA will start to flow in 2015 at the rate of $1,300,000 per year for the next eight years through 2022.

Here's a link to the Statesman article (today, 2-22-2012) by Kristin Rodine but no mention of the $10.4 MM for new admin. office space..

Friday, February 17, 2012

Bill Introduced To Repeal Idaho Urban Renewal Laws

Nampa Republican wants to repeal Idaho’s urban renewal law

By Dustin Hurst  February 16, 2012  IDAHO REPORTER ARTICLE

Rep. Robert Schaefer, R-Nampa
Rep. Robert Schaefer, R-Nampa
While other lawmakers are running legislation to put limits on urban renewal agencies, one lawmaker wants to pass a law completely removing authorization for them.
Rep. Robert Schaefer, R-Nampa, introduced a bill Thursday in the House Local Government Committee that would entirely repeal Idaho’s urban renewal law and require debts incurred by the agencies be retired.
This is the second time Schaefer has pushed a bill like this. He attempted it last year, but the measure didn’t make it out of committee.
The Nampa Republican is pushing the bill to send more money back to school districts, highway agencies and fire departments.
Urban renewal agencies are funded by increases in property taxes, money that would normally go to schools or other government entities if the agencies didn’t exist.
Schaefer said he is introducing the measure to get legislators talking about the problem he believes exists with urban renewal. “I’d like to have this printed so we can have expanded discourse about the real impact of urban renewal,” Schaefer said, adding that he believes urban renewal represents “legalized theft.”
Rep. Elfreda Higgins, D-Garden City, opposed the bill, saying her local urban renewal agency is providing a good service to her community. “In the city I live in, the urban renewal agency has done an absolutely excellent job,” Higgins said, though she acknowledged there have been problems with the entities in other areas of the state.
The measure was introduced with two lawmakers dissenting and will receive a thorough hearing in the next week.
The House Local Government Committee has considered three other bills to limit urban renewal agencies, including one to create elections for entity oversight boards

The above is taken from "THE IDAHO REPORTER" article by Dustin Hurst here's a Link 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Credit Card Fraud Hits Home Canadian Style

THE GUARDIAN who uses his credit cards very infrequently got a call from American Express Thursday evening.  The nice person on the other end explained my AMEX number had been compromised and several charges for gasoline had been made and more attempted in Canada!  How did this happen?

It was not a scam call as I was never asked for my credit card info they guy on the phone had it all on his computer screen and was asking me to verify any charges made by me v. the ones made by the credit card thief.  We sorted through what were my charges v. the thief's, the old card number cancelled and a new card is on its way.

How does this happen?  All the magnetic strip info is kept by merchants where you do business with your card, that's how.  The numbers and data are not always under lock and key and can be hijacked fairly easily.  Card companies have algorithms for each card holder for buying patterns and when an outlier  shows up the card company gets an alarm.  The charges on my card were for $20 give or take and Canadian Shell gas stations.  Not a lot of money and the first couple of times under the radar for AMEX.

Lesson learned here is NEVER, EVER let your debit card out of your sight.  It is not protected and charges will go through until your account is drained dry or you catch the problem purchases.  That is why there is a daily limit on debit purchases.  We infrequently use credit cards and the bad charges were easy to sort out.  Pay for out of town purchases with your credit card v. a debit card. Your liability is limited and in my case the cost to me was ZERO thanks to the watchful systems and people at AMEX.

Editor note: I have been advised liability with debt cards is limited but it can be a lot more effort to untangle than a credit card due to the daily limits on debit charges...usually $300.00 before a flag is raised.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

One Trillion And Climbing- College Debt Bubble

College debt has been treated with very little regard for the day of reckoning by students and parents of college students.  Today the debt balloon stands at over $1 Trillion dollars and climbing on a daily basis. FAFSA and college is for the most part a gigantic loan program that has to be paid back.

College "aid" is not a freebie but more like a big fat line of credit that will have to be paid back upon graduation.  Interest rates run from 3.5% to 8.5% depending on where the loan came from and who the underwriter is.  Another nasty part of college debt is it can't be discharged in bankruptcy.  It will follow you to the grave unless paid off sooner.

Parents and students have bought into the nonsense that it make a huge difference where you get your degree.  The reality is it takes and education as well as someone who knows what to do with their education, good people skills and a host of other things.  The biggest factor is the course of study and will there be a demand for your degree upon graduation.  Liberal Arts may have opened a door 20 or more years ago but today it will qualify you to flip hamburgers.

The critical reality of education is High Schools are College Prep places for the most part.  Colleges have dumbed down college to accommodate and encourage all manner degree programs that have no reasonable odds of employment upon graduation.   Additionally, there are abundant for profit colleges we see on TV who accept anyone willing to sign on the dotted line for the expense of their "college".

A lot of students would be far better off to go to a trade school or community college offering a course of study with a real job waiting upon graduation.  It makes no sense to attend a well known college and come out of the experience with nothing but a huge debt and no prospect of a job to pay back the costs of attending. Two-thirds of college grads come away with a debt of $25k or more.  Many end up moving back in with mom and dad and no job.

Caveat-emptor when it comes to taking on college debt.  There are lots of colleges out there with the intent of doing little more that fleecing parents and students of their money.  $1 Trillion in college debt is the latest bubble out there about to burst.
One-third of  college grads end up taking jobs that do not require a college degree.

Here's a link to PBS NEED TO KNOW and a very excellent segment on college debt:  young lady in the Need to Know piece ended up with $65K in college debt and the interest meter is ticking.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

West Valley Medical Center Wants Hole #3 Fairview Golf Course

Management at West Valley Hospital is putting a full court press on Team Garrett to hand over hole #3 on Fairview Golf Course for a hospital expansion project.  THE GUARDIAN was amazed at the response from Mayor Nancolas and city council for not getting to the point and telling the good people at the hospital an emphatic NO WAY! to this request.  Now it is another media event.

Fairview golf course is a community asset and  unique geographic feature of Caldwell.  It is not something to hand over to West Valley for development.  It was overheard the WV administrator said the hospital taking over that portion of the golf course would make the course "better".  The reality is it would not make the course better nor would it make the hospital expansion issues go away.  West Valley is developed on all sides except the South side and that  property is for sale but they don't want to pay the asking price.  A local dentist owns the property in question.

The real problem is previous hospital administrations gave no consideration to future expansion issues.  Now they want the citizens of Caldwell to give up a valuable community and public asset.  West Valley has taken to strong-arm tactics with the Mayor and City Council over this claiming their status as the largest employer in the City of Caldwell and they deserve this concession. (Think Urban Renewal giveaways here)

The reality is they need to take a good hard look at what St. Luke's did in Boise.  They need to pony up for the property on the south side of the hospital and start going upward with more floors in their hospital operation and build a parking garage. Destroying Fairview golf course is a slap in the face to all Caldwell citizens.

Here's the link to the IPT story in today's paper:

Here's another link to city email accounts for Caldwell City Councilors:

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Fork In Road or Poke In Eye? County Has New PIO

Canyon County Commishes have once again demonstrated their willingness to emphasize to taxpayers they are the deciders.  The Commishes have come to another "fork in the road" and have decided to take wrong direction again.  THE GUARDIAN learned from a page 2 article in the IPT today our Commishes have hired Joe Decker to be the new Public Info. Guy, his starting pay will be $40,000/year with full benefits package costs added to the base pay.

A public information officer has been a political minefield for as long as anyone has held this position.  Most taxpayers feel like it is just another layer of government limiting access to elected officials.  Those in office and in support of this position think this is a much needed person to interface with the media.  

It's no secret THE GUARDIAN'S  stand is we elected these people to stand up, look us in the eye and tells what needs to be said.  They don't have to be perfect speakers, we can figure out what the purpose and intent is without a PIO.  To that end County Clerk Chris Yamamoto and Commissioner Candidate Craig Hanson (running against incumbent David Ferdinand) have stated county officials need to speak for themselves.  Most voters and taxpayers agree with Yamamoto and Hanson.

This is just another example of not listening to folks paying the bills for county government. Another poke in the eyes of taxpayers by our county deciders. Contact with constituents and the media will not be enhanced via this latest move by commissioners.

Monday, February 6, 2012

US Car Companies Highly Profitable

You can argue if the government bail outs of the car companies was a good thing or a bad thing.  The one thing you can't dispute is the profitability of the BIG THREE, Ford, GM and Chrysler.  Ford is expecting a profit of more than $20 Billion, GM is expected to come in at $8-$10 Billion and Chrysler is showing a profit for the first time in years but unspecified in the article in today's WSJ.

Taxpayers still own about 26% of the new GM but they have hired over 13,000 workers in the last year and reopened a closed plant where Saturn's were once produced.  GM is once again the largest producer of cars in the world.

Most of you watched the Super Bowl and saw the Chrysler ad with Clint Eastwood.  THE GUARDIAN would tend to agree with the ad, we are shaking off the horrible effects of this recession and brighter days are ahead for all of us.  This has been the worst recession in my lifetime and my first recollection of the business cycle and the pain they inflict on working people goes back to the recession of 1957.

In one respect recessions can have a cleansing effect on the economy by weeding out all but financially strong companies.  This time around the depth and impact of bad banking decisions along with an overdose of just plain greed just about put us in a full blown depression.

The housing market was not sustainable for the product, pricing and financing.  People with bad or no credit were given loans on terms the could not afford and it had to implode.  The good part is people entering the housing market for the first time can actually afford a home if they have a decent job.

I found the Chrysler Ad with Mr. Eastwood a mirror for my thoughts about where we are and probably so for a lot of folks.  We are now starting to move out of the doldrums of the last four years and should pick up steam, jobs and income for a lot of people who are out of work.