Last night’s City Council meeting included a couple of unexpected bombshells. Yes, in my newsletter on Monday, I predicted that the council would push through the purchase of the Cherry Hill property, so that wasn’t a shocker, even though it was a 3-3 split vote with the Mayor breaking the tie.
The surprises were tucked into the discussion about how the city could finance the land purchase. New councilman Dan Gookin really did his homework. He came prepared and asked some great questions, including those about the storm water fee problem and the appeal of the Dan Dixon lawsuit against the CdA Police Dept.
I was stunned when City Treasurer Troy Tymeson somewhat casually answered that, if the Dixon appeal is lost, and the city has to pay about $4 Million dollars, they will just take out a public bond. Troy said they’d go to a judge, get the issue declared an “ordinary and necessary” expenditure (to avoid the voters) and borrow the money from a bank. Who will pay back the bond?...get out your wallet.
The storm water fee used to be included on our utility bills until the Idaho Supreme Court said, in a case out of Lewiston, that it was an illegal, hidden tax. But the city still needs to pay for storm water maintenance. Where will that money come from? Mr. Tymeson said they don’t know yet. Rest assured, dear readers, that every dollar of government money comes from citizens, someway, somehow, so again the burden will be on the people of CdA.
In the end, the city did what all responsible home owners would never do: Got a gigantic legal cloud hanging over your head? Have a enormous upkeep commitment with no way to pay? Hey, it must be time to go out and buy a big park that we can’t afford! What the heck, if things go wrong we can always hit up the taxpayers, again.
And so it goes, people. We are all very lucky to have Dan Gookin and Steve Adams on the council. Dan asks great questions which reveal information and issues that would never previously have been discussed in public. Dan, Steve and Ron stood their ground on several items last night, forcing the Mayor to break more ties in one meeting than I bet she’s had to in her whole public tenure.
The subject of the editorial is URAs, urban renewal agencies like LCDC. I won’t go into great detail, but here are some quick points to consider after you’ve read Mike Patrick’s complete and utter endorsement of all things urban renewal.
--LCDC did not “set aside” $11.5 Million for McEuen, they went to a bank and borrowed $16.7 Million. That’s public debt. If they can’t pay, we will have to. LCDC can legally do this without a vote of the people but the city or county or schools can’t because they are prohibited by the state constitution (article 8 section 3) from going into debt beyond their one year budget. Urban renewal isn’t included, so the city can skirt the law by using LCDC.
--The Editor says urban renewal is “short term pain...” 24 years is not short term.
--He cites Riverstone as a success story. Let’s see...the theater building, the two adjoining buildings, the condos---all of them went into foreclosure. This is a role model for urban renewal?
Rep. Kathy Sims, and others, have been trying for years to get substantive, responsible changes in the old, vague Idaho urban renewal laws. The agencies, like LCDC, use tax payer dollars to hire professional lobbyists to fight AGAINST changes to the law that might limit their powers or require more accountability.
The money controlled by urban renewal in Idaho is now huge. It packs a lot of political clout. According to the Idaho State Tax Commission, as of Sept. 2011, urban renewal in Idaho controls $3.5 BILLION dollars worth of increment property value, and Kootenai County has more than any other county in the state.
With this kind of money and political power, is there any hope for responsible use? Maybe we need to accept the reality of human character flaws, scrap the whole thing, and go back to the good old system of capitalism, where private business takes on private risk and reward, and public entities have to ask the voters for major spending projects. Brilliant!
Have a great rest of the week,
PS--I’ve received many emails this morning, about both of the above items, and there seems to be a common theme: “My head is going to explode”, “My blood is boiling”, I’m going to be sick”...you get the picture. Just wanted you to know I’m not alone and neither are you!