Law Enforcement

Council & Cops Indecisive On Space

It is high time the Boise City Council and Cops get serious about providing facilities for the department. And they need to be open about it.
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Instead of involving the citizens who consume the services and pay the bills, both the BPD and Team Dave have been dancing around trying to cut land deals, do studies, assessments, plans, and they haven’t gotten their act together any better than the past administration. This should have been done years ago.

The track record of this Chief and City Administration hasn’t been much better than the last one. Nearly six years ago the city obtained about five acres at 25th and Fairview from CCDC–and paid a realtor a commission on the deal which is absurd. It was the “ideal location” for a police headquarters.
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A few months later they bought eight acres at the old Larry Barnes car lot at 2900 Fairview–another “ideal spot.” Then they ran afoul of the law when the former councilors voted to go around the citizens on the financing. Judge Cheri Copsey said the city had to let the people vote on long term bond debt in 2003.

Mayor Terteling-Payne got the council to authorize even more money for a realtor to make offers on the old K-Mart property at Shoreline and Americana and sell the other two “ideal locations.” That deal never happened either.

More than three years later the city is STILL trying to subvert the will of the people and has not scheduled an election. Instead, they are overtaxing the citizens each year and creating a $10 million “slush fund” which is “earmarked” for police facilities, but there is no legal obligation to spend the cash for BPD buildings. They call it “savings”, but it is truly an attempt to spend without citizen permission–as a bond election would do.

We are working on the third police chief now and he has to be frustrated as well. He has voiced a desire to have several smaller police stations (precincts) located throughout the city while maintaining the HQ at Barrister with the Sheriff, but we don’t know much else about his ideas.

The GUARDIAN says it is time to make a decision PERIOD. The cops are crowded. They are also in rented space at several locations which in itself is inefficient. The councilors keep growing the city–both in residents and area– and the chief can’t do much until he gets some direction from the council. Seems they all have different views on what to do with their vast real estate speculation holdings.

This lack of progress in a basic city service points out the need for a POLICE COMMISSION of citizens who can advise the chief and the council on what is needed AND what the citizens are willing to fund.

Give us a proposal and we citizens will gladly tell you if we want to fund it at specific locations or areas. JUST DO IT!

NOTE TO COPS AND CITY HALL–Watch what just a handful of GUARDIAN readers can offer up in the way of sound proposals in the next few days.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Guardian says, “They call it “savings”, but it is truly an attempt to spend without citizen permission—as a bond election would do.”

    Guardian essentially argues – incorrectly – that we should equate saving money with going into debt. The Idaho Constitution does not prohibit a local government to save money to splurge on a large project. It does require a 2/3 vote in favor if the expenditure will require indebtedness for an ordinary and necessary expense. Banking the money until there is enough is a pretty good idea and the Idaho Constitution and laws do not stand in the way of that approach, nor require a vote of the public.

    Plus you save $30,000 for not having to put on an election.

    Not only that, it buys time to pick the best location for a police station and to determine if the properties the city owns ought to be put to a higher and better use. I have heard there will be some master planning for the area around 30th Street extention and some better ideas for that Roundtree property may manifest. Now is not the time for a rush to judgement.

  2. OSPREY– Your savings scenario clearly goes around the voters. Instead of getting permission for spending, your gang takes the money up front LONG TERM and spends it without voter approval. Perhaps Sisy can find the code that requires budgets to be balanced without slush funds. Don’t be surprised if the G is right on this one–again.

    No elected body can obligate a future elected body to spending either–unless there is a bond election which provides full faith and credit of the citizens (funding).

  3. In The Know
    Nov 26, 2006, 8:48 am

    Dear Osprey,
    I can’t trust the city myself. All the land you describe has been declared surplus and ordered to be sold at auction–by council resolution and they have failed to act. They purchased for a cop shop TWICE, voted to sell, and now you say they want some sort of masterplan. Whatever they do is suspect and COSTLY. Why not “get er done” as Larry the cable buy says? Meanwhile the slush fund grows.

  4. A couple of observations about the “slush fund”. If the “extra” money is coming from tax revenue, the City needs to send the money back to the taxpayer (i.e. reduce the mill levy that the excess money is coming from). If the money is generated from some other source, such as development or building fees, I think it is quite appropriate that they “slush fund” the money and use it to mitigate some of the impacts that the development/building creates. Excess development fees paying for necessary new life safety services might almost be growth paying some of its own way. As for Osprey’s comments about this process giving Boise more time to figure out the appropriate placement of such new buildings needs some attention. If Boise weren’t so busy under Team Dave trying to control the decisions of all the other government agencies in the valley, they would have had ample opportunity to plan for these and other necessary servicies. To the original point, I would rather Boise “slush fund” their monies for a new police station instead of spending it recklessly sueing any other agency they can find.

  5. Is there any “guideline” regarding slush funds? Size as a percentage; length of time such a fund may exist? Does such a fund appear in the budget as a part of the money carried forward; may money be carried forward for more than one purpose, and, if so, does each purpose have to be identified, or is all slush lumped together.

    EDITOR NOTE–I have seen reference to “contingency” funds. The city is on thin ice when they collect revenues and fail to appropriate them. Here is the state code regarding municipal budgets:

  6. Has the city been forced to EXPLAIN WHY the two properties were purchased and then not used for the intended purpose? Deep Throat taught us all to follow the money, but in this case, the logic behind the actions needs to be explained, in detail.

  7. Land speculation by our mayor and city council seems to be a large part of the problem. Another is the fact that Team Dave is searching for a way to get around Judge Copsey’s ruling that the people have to vote on any long term bond debt by establishing this 10 Million dollar slush fund.

    The Police need better facilities so that they can do their job of protecting the public. So far the mayor and council have purchased lots of very valuable property with taxpayer funds but have done nothing with it, such as building new Police station sub-divisions.
    The Mayor, council and Police Chief need to get together on this right now and city government has to stop catering to land speculators to enlarge their personal kitty.

    A police Commission of interested Citizens would be a solid step forward towards accomplishing what the police need, such as the best facilities and the best equipment and what the People want … a City government and police department that is totally responsive to the needs of the Community .

  8. The mayor and council are just waiting for another developer “friend” to come along and ask for a land swap that costs the city even more money – like the goofy library deal.

    This group of city leaders know little about leading and even less about sound fiscal policy. They seem to be very good at acting like they involve the public but then set the agenda and the outcome – like the Blueprint to goofy growth and the “let’s-grab-even-more-money” billion dollars regional transit tax increase.

  9. Osprey said it well. We elect these people expressly to make decisions like this for us. I’m glad the city has been frugal enough to salt away $10 million for a police station. I don’t expect a vote on buying new police cars or paper clips. Just get the job done.

    I agree with G that it would be good to have a commission – either temporary or permanent – to give the city some direction on this. I don’t like the apparent indecision.

  10. Mr. Wonk–YOU may have elected councilors to ursurp the constitution, but I most certainly did not. No one has mentioned police cars or paper clips, although I do think 150 cars driven to and from work is a bit much.

    This slush fund G has revealed goes beyond a single year budget because it is long term “spending, debt,” and with no specific appropriation for a specific project or cost. Anyway you cut it sir, it is a slush fund.

  11. I kinda wish they would return the slush fund to the property owners if nothing will be done as A-Team 88 said. The voters of Boise have proven at the polls what they think is necessary. Let’s put a police station to the test and see where voters place priorities. An election would probably be wasted as the current admin. did not show the voters why a library was necessary and ordinary.

    Maybe Team Dave should hire Stan “the man” Olsen to pass bond elections.

  12. Perhaps we need a real estate oversight commission for the City. Sounds like someone is making some money off of this and I’m pretty sure it’s not Josephine Taxpayer in the short or long term.

    What were or are the roadblocks to building on the currently held properties? I think people would support a bond issue for an appropriate facility, but sitting an vacant land and waiting to build later can’t be saving any money. The prices of construction materials go up almost every day (we’re blowing a lot of stuff up in a few places, and the consumer culture has gone global) so the price of the project will continue to climb with unnecessary delays.

    Seems like the City, CCDC, BGAD, etc. always spend more time marketing Idaho than simply providing basic services and really improving the quality of life. Adequate police facilities, code enforcement and animal control are always tops concerns identified by neighborhood association and City surveys, yet these services are obviously underfunded and otherwise not adequately supported by the administration. Some of the most cost effective (in terms of neighborhood contact) strategies for community policing were abandoned by the City. Many neighborhood annex stations were closed and neighborhood officers reassigned or had positions consolidated. We had to get rid of the horse patrol ‘cause it’s too dang spendy. But the City is hiring eight new officers to deal with non-emergency complaints, so that’s something.

    The current situation seems pretty messed up. But it’s probably not totally due to shifty deals on behalf of prior or current City officials. We the people often want it all, now, and for free. And frankly, this state beats all for the trait of being tight fisted for basic services.

    Certainly more transparency is in order, but here are the numbers from the 2006 State of the City report. Not sure where the slush fund fits into this, but you can see that police services already get a big chunk of the pie. Perhaps those funds could be better utilized, but we often get what we pay for.

    Boise By Numbers
    • Fiscal Year 2007 general fund budget:
    • Fiscal Year 2007 total budget:
    • General fund expenditures by department:
    – Police: 29%
    – Fire: 23%
    – Parks & Recreation: 12%
    – Intergovernmental: 10%
    – Planning and Development: 6%
    – Library: 4%
    – Contracts: 3%
    – Finance and Administration: 3%
    – Legal: 3%
    – Public Works: 3%
    – Information Technology: 2%
    – Human Resources: 1%
    – Mayor and City Council: 1%

    It certainly is a big enough problem though, that the Mayor and Council should have a concrete proposal and be at least working towards a solution. It wasn’t identified as a priority in the SOC report, but rightly should have been

  13. Idagreen says:”We had to get rid of the horse patrol ‘cause it’s too dang spendy. But the City is hiring eight new officers to deal with non-emergency complaints, so that’s something.”

    The Horse Patrol was ENORMOUSLY expensive. It was a pet project and lasted because it was high profile (used mostly only during big public events)and great for PR. The costs associated with horses, feed, officers who ONLY did horse work, a Sgt. to oversee ONLY horse work, veterinarian contracts, trailers, saddles, tack, barn, trucks to pull the trailers, oodles of training, etc. and over the years, I don’t think anyone could justify keeping the unit in use.

    Add too, that the horses, bought and paid for by the City, were GIVEN to the officers who rode them upon time to retire the animal. Cha-ching and it keeps on going.

    The Sergeant and officers involved in the Horse patrol unit didn’t leave the dept. They went right on doing police work. See, they weren’t deemed to be expensive….just the horse accoutrements.

    My understanding of the 8 new employees hired to deal with non-emergency complaints is that they are NOT officers, but civilian employees. This is significantly less expensive than hiring sworn personnel.

    I disagree that police is underfunded. They could have had a new facility more than a decade ago, IF they had been willing to settle for something less than the Taj Mahal. In hindsight, what was proposed at that time (the purchase, reconfiguration and remodel of the old Ada Court facility at Barrister)probably looks like a good thing. They wanted something more and better and bigger and grander. I don’t necessarily think that is the situation now, present administration considered. However, indicision is expensive. Sometimes even a bad decision is cheaper than the lack of any.

  14. The recent Zamboni incident at Idaho Ice World is just another example of why Boise needs a million dollar downtown indoor shooting range and a bigger, better cop shop. Preferably with an intimidating exterior. If the Guardian gets his way, crime wins. If the word gets out that Boise is going soft on crime, our vibrant economy will fail and all you growthaphobes will “cut and run”.

  15. Guardian raises a good point in his response to Old Guy about state law requirements for city finances and he includes a link to 50-1002, Idaho Code. But the section in Idaho Code that is on point with this discussion is actually 50-1005A:

    “50-1005A. ACCUMULATION OF FUND BALANCES. Cities may accumulate fund balances at the end of a fiscal year and carry over such fund balances into the ensuing fiscal year sufficient to achieve or maintain city operations on a cash basis. A fund balance is the excess of the assets of a fund over its liabilities and reserves.”

    As you can see, there is no requirement for a plebicite. Nor are there limitations or prohibitions to accumulating funds for a capital project such as a new headquarters for the BPD.

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