City Government

Humpty and the Inept City

This is the story of Boise City Council, Humpty Dumpty, and location, location, location.

Once upon a time about five years ago Boise’s urban renewal agency the CCDC (Capitol City Development Corp.) bought land at 25th and Fairview to be used as a parking lot.

The deal had questionable legal authority since it was outside the CCDCdistrict and no one used the parking lot to shuttle 19 blocks downtown. Along came the Boise City council with lots of money they get from hardworking citizens to bail out the CCDC.

The City declared the 25th and Fairview site to be, “A perfect location for a police station” and ponied up about $2 million for the site.

A few months later the land at 2900 Fairview became vacant when the Chevy dealer headed west along with the rest of the urban sprawlers. Excited Boise officials declared that land to be, “A perfect location for a police station.” The plan was to sell the just-acquired 25th property and combine the proceeds with some excess cash from the cop’s budget and build a luxurious police palace complete with a day care for kindergarten cops and a $1 million indoor pistol range.

That extravagance hit a snag when 4th District Judge Cherie Copsey ruled against the convoluted financing scheme known as “judicial confirmation” which is simply an end run around the voters. She declared the proposed $16-18 million facility had to get voter approval and stopped the project dead in its tracks.

Not to be deterred, the council still sought to keep the voters out of the loop and hired a land agent to cut a deal that would get rid of the two Fairview Parcels and acquire the old K-Mart store on Americana which they said was, “A perfect location for a police station.” The agent got some cash, but failed to produce on the Americana site.

Meanwhile the City was saddled with acres of idle tax-free land when Humpty Dumpty in the form of a California entrepreneur showed up to build a great wall–a rock climbing wall. Humpty got a sweet deal from the city. There were no competitive bids or public notice because the city didn’t SELL–they just leased it. He is to pay $1200 a month on a 50 year lease with various rate increases over the years. Any of you ever heard of a 50 year commercial lease on half an acre of land?

The GUARDIAN contacted councilman David Eberle July 30, 2004 with some concerns about the ethics, logic, and financial wisdom of the deal. Eberle was forceful in his defense of the city’s position. Here are some excerpts from his reply:

“The 25th street site current appraisal is well below the cost basis. Selling would simply be giving away taxpayer money.” (In simple terms he means the land is worth less than the city paid for it, despite rising values throughout the city.)

He went on to explain, “leasing creates a revenue stream other than property taxes which the city needs to enhance….I am always delighted to have the public watch over us. I know no better keeper.”

Stay with us folks, it gets worse!

A mere five months later Eberle and the rest of the council voted to declare the land as “excess property” no longer in the public purpose! The plan is to sell it to the highest bidder–so much for “giving away the public’s money and enhancing revenue streams.” How they will handle Humpty’s lease is unknown. Do they keep that parcel and sell the rest or does the lease go with the sale?

The mainstream media has been alerted in detail to this real estate farce for nearly a year and has refused to tell you about it.

The saddest part of this tale of woe is the city is right now secretly looking at more land deals for, “A perfect location for a police station.” It would be prudent to include the public in any search and schedule a vote before purchases are made. Secret land deals have proven to be losers in the past.

The GUARDIAN thinks a wiser investment would be as many as three modest neighborhood stations combined with either libraries or fire stations–sort of mini city halls.

The citizens would be happy to make their sentiments known at bond elections before their hardearned tax money is spent.

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