I know this is the second letter this week, but I’m furious. My head is spinning at the behavior of our City Council last night.
I watched their regular meeting on Channel 19, just to see if anyone would talk about the McEuen plan. Some folks from the public did, but that’s not why my hair is on fire. The problem is this:
Last night’s meeting happened to be the annual report to the council from LCDC, our urban renewal agency. (The guys with the big bucket o’ cash skimmed from all the property taxes downtown.) Tony Berns gave his pretty dog & pony show, touting all the fabulous things LCDC has done for this city. (he failed to mention the many empty condos, vacant storefronts, the unemployment rate of almost 11%, and continuously increasing taxes and fees) It was his usual presentation; big on generalities, light on actual information.
What makes me crazy is that our Mayor and City Council did not ask Tony any questions. Not one.
Tony didn’t report how much property tax money LCDC has received this year or how much they’ve spent or how much they hold in reserve. And no one asked!
There were no questions about the “tucked away” money the Mayor said LCDC has for the McEuen plan, even though the lack of cost and funding information is a hot topic right now.
No questions were voiced about the seven new bills introduced in the legislature to constrain urban renewal in Idaho. The hearings on the bills start today, and LCDC has used our tax dollars to hire a lobbyist to work against any changes, so don’t you think the council would make some inquiries? Nope.
LCDC is the oft referenced ATM machine for the Education Corridor plan as well. Have they amassed enough of our tax dollars to do both McEuen and the Ed Corridor without our vote? Our city council didn’t want to know.
But our city council did do one thing last night...they raised our fees! We will now pay more to use a park pavilion or rent a gym, more for dog licenses or if your pet gets loose, more for some water fees, more for almost all parking and more for every kind of garbage pick up.
Remember all the big money that LCDC siphons off of the property taxes on every single building in their downtown district and their Seltice area district? That’s all money that should be going to the city. If it was, the rest of us would not have to see our taxes go up every year. And we wouldn’t have our fees pumped up too.
If the property tax money from downtown was going to the city as it should, we’d have much lower commercial tax rates, we’d be attracting more businesses and thereby we’d have many more jobs.
But did our Mayor and City Council talk about this connection? No. Sadly, they resemble a highly practiced theater group following a script.
In their role as the elected officials in charge of a city with a frail budget, they did not dare to question the very highly paid Executive Director of the unelected LCDC that holds the fat purse. Who’s running the show? Watch their behavior, then follow the money.