City Government

City Owned Stores

Here’s a lesson in ethics and proper conduct for Boise’s Parks Department. The business of government is GOVERNMENT–not retail marketing.

Ice World indoor skating rink was donated to the city over a year ago and despite having a tax-free facility, they can’t break even financially. The city loses $125,000 a year providing an ice rink for which there obviously is not enough demand. In Minnesota or North Dakota it would be a slick move.

The previous owner, in a sound business move, donated the “cold property” to the city which has been skating on thin ice ever since. The city maintains a retail shop at Ice World investing in inventory comprised of hockey sticks, skates, etc.

A couple months ago Boise cops got a tip from a Canadian cop who got stung on an e-Bay ice skate purchase. That tip, combined with another tip from a company attempting to deliver hockey sticks purchased by the city to a third party led to the arrest of a former employee.

Had the city stayed out of the retail business and leased the store to a private concessionaire, there would never have been a problem.golfing.jpg

The City park department also sells golf clubs, bags and related “pro shop” items at the Warm Springs Golf Course. Instead of tying up the public money in speculative inventory, the citizens would be better served if the city leased the space to a sporting goods business as a concession.

While it may be potentially profitable to run a pro-shop in a tax free facility, it is hardly fair and ethical to compete with taxpaying sporting goods businesses.

Word on the street is the city plans to audit both facilities. The GUARDIAN has no info about any dishonesty at either venue. However, there isn’t a retail business around that doesn’t experience shoplifting and “shrinkage” of inventory. In private business it is considered a “cost of doing business.” At taxpayer owned public facilities you are dealing with “government property” and there shouldn’t be a cost of doing business. Best insurance is to never take the risk.

If they can justify selling golf clubs, why not soccer shoes and softball gloves?

We suspect over the years the City has simply attempted to accommodate park users. At Julia Davis Park the paddle boat and food service is a private vendor who pays for the concession. At Willow Lane the city sells government hot dogs. There is no uniformity of policy, but there is a disturbing trend of the park department getting into the retail business, with “marketing plans” to create demand for “services” which often as not compete with the private sector.

Any audit should take a look at the big picture and not just focus on proving there is no problem because none was found.

In the case of Ice World it may be a sound financial move on the part of the city to do what the previous owner did–give it away. A private non-profit foundation similar to Bogus Basin ski area would make a lot more sense than trying to maintain a business that has to be kept “on ice” 24-7 even if no one shows up to skate.

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