Monday, June 29, 2009

Shamrocks Are Not Always Lucky

In reviewing my ACHD correspondence this week, I was surprised to find a copy of a letter that went out to some Shamrock St neighbors. A few weeks ago we received letters from a large number of people who were opposed to the opening of Shamrock from Ustick north to McMillan. It was very strange since the letters were all dated in March and April, yet did not arrive at ACHD until 2 months later.

We've been down this road before (a little highway humor there). You can read all about it here.

The surprising thing about the ACHD response letter was that it appears that the issue is lurking once again - this for a project that is not even in the 5 year work plan.

There is some good news however. ACHD staff has informed the letter writers that the issue will first go before the Boise City Council for a decision on the configuration, including no change, and then, and only then, will come to the ACHD Commission. There is no date scheduled for such a meeting.

Sure would have been a little less disconcerting if the staff member had bothered to run his/her letter by the Commission, but on this Shamrock project it seems they don't feel we should have any input. If we had, I would have told the staff to just acknowledge the letter and say at this point in time the project is nowhere. But hey, I'm just an elected official of an organization whose commission would rather not supervise its employees.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Why no Parking on 8th St?

In a comment on my last post, Earl asked why Commissioners Huber, Arnold and Mckee voted to NOT provide an additional 4 spaces of parking on NE 8th St behind the Statehouse.

I have no idea why Commissioner McKee voted as she did. She stood, actually sat, mute and just said no.

Commissioner Huber, as best I can recollect, was very disturbed by the City of Boise making this request. She accused them, via a City staffperson, of playing the handicapped card ie, that there is a need for more handicapped parking not only in that area, but everywhere. The pleas from officeholders, merchants and a very interested and informed citizen did not hold sway with Ms Huber. She also mentioned that ACHD generally goes along with the property owner's request. In this case the property owner is the State of Idaho, which I thought meant that the property actually belongs to all of us.

Quite frankly, I cannot remember if Commissioner Arnold spoke or not.

The video from the June 24, 2009 meeting will be posted here sometime before July 1, 2009. You can watch the entire meeting or just go the 8th St agenda item and get the unfiltered skinny.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What's on Tap - Update

At the regular Commission meeting on June 24, 2009, ACHD approved the 20 year $1.116 Billion CIP. I voted for it because under state law, we have to have a Capital Improvements Plan, without which we cannot charge impact fees.

But I did point out that I think that we should go to the Legislature and have the law changed so that it isn't so burdensome and so unrealistic. Ada County will NEVER be able to afford the projects in the CIP and in fact, we acknowledge right off the bat that over 30% of the projects are not funded. I believe and stated so, that we as a County also need to have a conversation regarding our expectations v. the reality of the situation. We must tell the public that we cannot do everything and that choices must be made.

Commissioner Sherry Huber did not agree with me that we needed to make hard choices and basically said that we needed to either raise impact fees or taxes to fund the projects.

Commissioner Rebecca Arnold said that ACHD has made these choices for years and mentioned that it was done through the Alliance for Growth and the Blueprint for Good Growth. Both mechanisms were formed as ways of dealing with the issues of how we want development to occur. Laudable goals certainly, but what Rebecca failed to mention was that under the aegis of ACHD the Blueprint endeavor foundered and has been taken over by COMPASS and that as little as 2 months ago 4 ACHD Commissioners wanted to blow up the Alliance because their feelings were hurt by the cities in Ada County.


Regarding the parking on State St behind the Statehouse, the Commission decided on a 3-2 vote to disregard the concerns of businesspeople in the area and the City of Boise and only provide 4 spaces for St Michael's on the NW corner of the block. Four spaces may not seem like a lot, but when there are none, it's better than nothing. Not in this case however.

Huber, Arnold and McKee voted to not provide the parking. I and Franden voted to require the parking.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What's on Tap

At ACHD's June 24th meeting, which is in the evening so actual people can come, we will be discussing and approving or disapproving two fairly important items.

One is the proposed State St parking/no parking issue behind the Capitol building. As you remember the parking was taken away during the construction/renovations and the State of Idaho wants to keep it that way. St Michael's and the City of Boise are against it - they want parking at least on the north side of the street at the corners. If you have an opinion and want your voice heard, come on down. The meeting starts at 6PM.

The other item is the approval of the 20 year Capital Improvements Plan. This has all the wish list projects that one could ever imagine at a complimentary imaginary cost of only $1.2 Billion. It assumes that around $25 million a year will come from impact fees. Of course, even in the best of times ACHD gets around $12 to $14 million from impact fees, in 2008 we'll be lucky to get $6 million in impact fees and the impact fee fund is currently minus $27 million.

Apparently, we have to put together this CIP because of State law, what I call a "rule" that must be followed regardless of whether it makes sense or not or where there is no real rationale other than "it's the rule". Seems like a huge waste of time and paper though, to put together a plan that really has no expectation of ever being implemented.

Maybe we should redirect some of the $62,000 per year we pay our "lobbyists" and have them actually get the law changed to make it work.

Anyway, that will be on the agenda June 24th as well and your comments are welcome, at least by me.

At a 4 PM Work Session, we'll be discussing the budget and what's been done so far in terms of personnel to cut costs. Should be interesting and I'll be reporting on that.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Whoda Thunk It

I found out today that roads that have cars using them hold up much better over time than roads that sit empty. That's because apparently the weight of the car or truck kneads the road mix and brings the oil up and back into the road mix.

Go figure.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Tax Issues

We've all seen our latest property tax valuations by now and we know that in Ada County the property assessments fell by an average of 11%. In some areas they fell as much as 20%.

We've also all seen Assessor Bob's article in the newspaper and the letter in our envelopes that basically said, "here are the assessments, now if your taxes don't go down don't blame me, blame the taxing agencies" (of which ACHD is one). And that is true.

Before yesterday I thought that ACHD commissioners were on board to reduce the tax levy by some amount to acknowledge that valuations have fallen, that home equities have fallen, that people's net worths have fallen , that people are losing their jobs and that in a dismal economy it is no time to raise taxes or tax rates. But now the prospect of a decreased property tax collection by ACHD is very uncertain.

Americans pay an awful lot of taxes. For a tax list, by no means comprehensive either, go here. In Idaho we even pay sales taxes on liquor, beer and wine taxes. (Think about it - when you buy beer you pay sales tax - the liquor tax is already in the price of the beer.) Many of these taxes go to worthy endeavors and they are always pitched on the premise that "it's just a penny more per dollar" or "it's just 2 cents more at the pump" or "it's just a few dollars more a year" or my personal favorite "it's for the chillllldren".

And those statements are true. Each tax is just a little drip. However, those little drips turn into rivers for each person when they are all added up. And with the trillions in "stimulus" and the trillions in the new budget and the trillions to bail dying companies out on a national level, we will all be paying way more than little drips in the future.

I cannot in good conscience vote for a budget that does not have some cut to the property tax and the property tax rate. For far too many years, government has reaped the benefits of rising property values to suck more and more money out of people's wallets.

The budget and the taxation that goes with it should be important to every person in Ada County. Stay tuned for when the budget hearings are in August but more importantly you need to let your voice be heard. I'll post notifications for when the budget discussions are at our meetings this summer and I'll post when the main budget hearing is.

Participate or pay.