City Government

GUARDIAN Points To Ponder

BOISE PARKS has put a proposed 163 acre park Southwest of the city on hold until annexation issues can be worked out. It is a real catch 22. The City is eager to annex the area known as the Murgoitio farm in the area of Victory Road, but lack of funds and strong anti-annexation sentiment have slowed the process. If developed, it will be Boise’s largest park but we think parks within the city should be developed before we stretch the tentacles and the budget any further outside the city.
There has been too much land speculation by Parks Dept. that refuses to open the Depot to the public.

ADA COUNTY Coroner Erwin Sonnenberg has decided to “try something different” with the investigation of two recent fatal police shootings. Instead of inquests, he is asking prosecutors in Twin Falls and Bannock Counties to handle the investigations. Both of these cases have a different wrinkle than the shooting of the 16-year-old boy in the Highlands a couple years ago. Downside is most of their info will come from the locals.

In both the Boise and the Meridian cases, police and sheriff’s deputies were on scene for at least half an hour before killing men who were brandishing pistols. The sticky question is WHY did police in each incident use BOTH deadly and non-lethal force? Reports say the victims (suspects?) were shot with bean bag rounds as well as rifle and pistol rounds. The GUARDIAN won’t question use of either weapon, but BOTH? Nearly impossible to tell which weapons were fired first, but we fear “contagious fire” may be a factor–one shoots and they all shoot.

DEVELOPERS need to post huge bonds posted before they are allowed to go forward with public involved projects. Another planned community was announced last week and the media pretty much ignored it.

We fear these developers won’t come through with the proper infrastructure and if they fail to sell as many houses as expected, it could be cheaper to walk away and leave the few homeowners–and taxpayers–to provide for sewer and water needs…the latest developer to get the CCDC nod to build a 34 story tower on the infamous “hole” has a history of bankruptcy… and a parcel intended for condos at Idaho and 16th is in foreclosure.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. The reason that police in both incidents used non-lethal, as well as lethal force is actually very simple. If you feel your life is threatened, and you happen to be holding a Taser at that moment, you will pull the trigger. Same thing if you happen to be holding a gun. When Police Officers deploy on an incident they will often have Officers present with deadly force (such as a gun) as well as non-deadly force (such as a Taser). Unfortunately Tasers are rarely effective from long distances (more than 10-15 feet) so if Officers are moving closer to a suspect who is armed with a deadly weapon, and he makes a bad choice, then both the Officer with the deadly force, as well as the Officer with the less-than-lethal force may deploy their weapons. It is always unfortunate, but one must always ask: “why didn’t the suspect just listen to the commands of the Officers?”

  2. I was in northern Mexico some years ago and saw an area with streets, street lights, curbs, sidewalks, etc., but no houses.
    I asked about it and was told that developers were required to complete those amenities as well as sewer, water and electrical hookups for each site before they could build the first house.

    C’mon, Boise, Ada County etc., your years behind our generally considered poorer and more backward neighbor to the south.

    As for The Hole; about the only thing that could look worse would be either the previously planned tower or the currently proposed power. Must we always hire architects who majored in “ugly”?

    Oh, well, odds are this developer will never get it done, either (I hope).

  3. In the section about the change from inquests to something different you said,”Downside is most of their info will come from the locals.” Where is the information about the incidents supposed to come from?

    EDITOR NOTE–I would like to see an independent investigation…Like an inquest is SUPPOSED to be. It is pretty difficult for the outsider to have authority to subpoena witnesses etc. Also, the ombudsman report cannot be used for criminal investigations since it is by law a personnel action and cops are required to talk with him as a condition of employment. That is why he waits so long to do the job–to prevent his info from becoming part of a criminal prosecution. The system still needs to be refined.

  4. As I understand it the coroners office is independant of other law enforcement agencies. Coroners determine cause and manner of death. They do not have any authority to enforce or change police procedures. I think that people do not understand this.

  5. clippityclop
    Dec 6, 2006, 1:31 pm

    I couldn’t agree with more with The Guardian’s suggestion that developers bond out for services and infrastructure. You would think that if they truly believed in their marketing, they would jump at the chance. I’m afraid that most of their tax benefit economic analysis is tied to unrealistic price/sq ft sales figures. They should be required to use the County average, AND bond out. Otherwise, as The Guardian wisely points out, we all pick up the tab.

  6. The issue of police policy always comes up in these “critical incidents.” The G has suggested and I agree we need a police commission. While the ombudsman does a fine job, he has no authority to change policy or establish training standards. Same is true for coroner and prosecutor. The story is always the same that cops followed training and procedure.

    When the officer shot the women being bitten by the escaped tiger, the police said the bullet was a “ricochet.” Poor investigation or cover up doesn’t matter. Their conclusion was simply in error and did little to instill faith in police investigating themselves.

    We need a commission of citizens to establish policy and demand the experts implement it.

  7. A performance type bond for developers would be an okay idea, if at the same time developers can create bonds/taxing districts to pay for the development cost. Instead of the subdivision infrastructure being funded by the developer and lot sales, the homeowner would pay for it through a separate tax district.

    SunCor proposed this in last years legislature with no success.

  8. Coroners don’t really determine cause of death, at least not in Ada County. The County pays a medical examiner who is actually qualified to make such determinations. The coroner is mostly just an elected figurehead and an unnecessary duplication. It would make a lot of sense to do away with the position and save money for taxpayers.

    EDITOR NOTE–Idaho Code (19-4301 and 4301A) pretty much MANDATE the coroner investigate unattended or suspicious deaths. His qualifications however are purely political.

    With regard to park impact fees, Ada County requires that fees be paid to the City of Boise in the Areas of City Impact. Presently, those fees are $801 per single family residence, but they will be going up to $1187 for applications filed after January 1.

    As far as I understand, initially, the city had ten years within which they had to spend the park impact fees they collected. The legislature then changed the law and reduced the time frame to five years, but if the city claimed to have a good reason for the delay, could take up to eight years. The legislature has changed the law yet again this year, and it now says that the impact fees must be expended within eight years, or 11 with a good reason for the delay.

    (For sewer impact fees the law allows 20 years for the money to be spent.) Boise City’s ordinance still specifies the shorter term (five up to eight years max) for the use of park impact fees, but they are apparently working on bringing it in line with the State’s latest allowable timeframes.

    Idaho Code section 67-8210 (2) also specifies, “Expenditures of development impact fees shall be made only for the category of system improvements and within or for the benefit of the service area for which the development impact fee was imposed as shown by the capital improvements plan and as authorized in this chapter. Development impact fees shall not be used for any purpose other than system improvement costs to create additional improvements to serve new growth.”

    All impact fees the City has collected in the vicinity of Murgoitio Park will still have to be spent within the allowable time frame that was in place at the time they were collected, and within the “service area” for which they were imposed. Expect to see City leaders scramble to spend that money on smaller projects if development of the big park does not get underway soon.

  9. FYI eliminating the elected office of the coroner makes little sense. If the office was to be headed by a medical examiner you would be tying up your technical expert, “the pathologist” with administrative duties. It makes more sense to have a administrative head either elected or appointed. This way you don’t waste paying a huge salary to a MD that would have to hire another MD to do the work.

    EDITOR NOTE–Coroners have a tremendous legal authority in Idaho, though seldom used. There is little correlation between being a coroner (legal administrative elected officer) and a medical examiner/pathologist who performs autopseys to scientifically determine cause of death.

    Dec 6, 2006, 9:10 pm

    The real answer is a citizen POLICE COMMISSION – -like 90% of all other cities have! Let some independent folks take a look – not just the “brethern”.

  11. Mr. Logic said, “We need a commission of citizens to establish policy and demand the experts implement it.” Isn’t that what the elected city council is supposed to do?

    Huh? said, “FYI eliminating the elected office of the coroner makes little sense. If the office was to be headed by a medical examiner you would be tying up your technical expert, “the pathologist” with administrative duties. It makes more sense to have a administrative head either elected or appointed. This way you don’t waste paying a huge salary to a MD that would have to hire another MD to do the work.”

    The Chief Deputy coroner does the admin work and the coroner mostly plays golf. The medical examiner makes a lot of money contracting with the county doing the medical work. Seems we could do away with the golfer/coroner and be no worse off.

  12. The Suncor bill could have been titled the “Developer’s Get Out of Jail Free” bill.

    The Suncor bill bonds the developer against losses, not the city or the county. When a “bonded” Suncor type development fails to build out, the developer gets paid off in full with no obligation to compensate the local government service providers. The full obligation to pay the bond premium gets piled onto the few unlucky homeowners. They are also the ones who have to pick up the tab for the care and feeding of their under funded infrastructure.

    Ultimately, the overburdened subdivision requires relief / support from, once again, the city or the county and the rest of us pick up the tab.

    The city and county building departments currently ask for bonds from every building contractor. It makes just as much sense for them to ask for performance bonds from the developers. Clippity has it nailed. The legitimate developers that do their homework would have no qualms about posting performance bonds.

  13. FYI Exactly where do you get this information because it seems you have it out for this particular coroner. I speak in general terms about the coroner system not specifically Ada County. What sort of system do you propose in its place? What about accountability to the public?

  14. Correct me if I am wrong “G” but I believe the Coroner is the only official that can arrest the County Sheriff.

    EDITOR NOTE–That is true at English Common law. (Our laws are based on common law) You need someone able to arrest bad sheriffs. The code has several provisions where the coroner has duties to replace the sheriff.

  15. Golfer, I do not “have it out” for this coroner. It is known in political circles that he does little work other than showing up for TV interviews when someone is killed. The running joke is that if he is needed for that purpose, you can usually find him on the golf course.

    As far as accountability, what accountability? Remember the Matthew Jones inquest?

    I tend to agree with you that there is more accountability when someone is elected rather than appointed. There are some problems with the current setup, though: 1) the medical examiner is doing the “real work” and he is not elected; 2) we don’t really have accountability, since there are few people who have the necessary skills and are willing to run for this office that deals with dead bodies; 3) the position of coroner is so far off the radar of most citizens that there is little or no oversight; and, 4) the Ada County coroner ran unopposed this year, despite bungling the Jones inquest, so we couldn’t vote against him anyway.

    Solutions? Many possibilities, some better than others. A medical examiner system to replace the coroner, either at the county level or done by the state. The coroner being appointed by the commissioners so he would have to answer to someone. Even a change in election law that would allow us to vote against unopposed candidates in the general election. In other words, if there is no opposition, it would be like voting for or against a judge: shall we retain ____ to serve as ____? If the person running unopposed couldn’t get 50 percent of the vote, then they’re out!

  16. FYI said “As far as accountability, what accountability? Remember the Matthew Jones inquest?”

    There is accountability. Elected officials are accountable. Obviously the fallout from the Jones inquest was not enough for the public to feel the need for a new coroner. Not only that but no one even bothered to run in the last election. Call it voter apathy but obviously the general public does not feel there is much need for change.

    Your suggestions for a medical examiner system would be very difficult for Idaho. This is mostly due to the sheer geographical size of the state and all of its poor north south transportation routes. Secondly a medical examiner system would be more expensive. Don’t forget most of Idaho is still rural agricultural. Despite what many think this is the State of Idaho not the Great State of Ada.

    Having a apppointed coroner is not a bad idea. However is this really better? Having a coroner answer to a commision of three or being able to be held to the voting public. My opinion is that the current system works fine.

  17. Inquest, you sure have low standards, Dude! You must be one of the wackos that thinks W is doing a good job too. Do you work for the coroner or the prosecutor or something?

    The general public felt there was a need for a change on the commission and voted out miss Judy and Freddy would have probably gone that way too, if he had had a challenger back in May. Don’t you suppose the same might have happened with Erwin if he had had a challenger? Like I said before, not too many people are willing to sign up to deal with dead bodies but that doesn’t mean he is doing a good job.

    Since we have a medical examiner now and are paying a coroner to play golf, how could we be any worse off just paying the guy who is doing the work? This might not be the Great State of Ada, but why should we keep a system that doesn’t work because the rest of the state is still rural? They can all do whatever they want. We should do better.

  18. FYI–
    I think if you refer to the top of the article it says that inquest is being done away with. Where do you get your information? Do you work for the coroners office? I have found in my expierence that most public officials have been the target of the types of accusations you are making. I suspect the office of coroner is a very difficult position. It’s not like they only deal with dead bodies. As a nurse I have seen the important role they play in helping families in times of tradgedy. It is easy to sit back and evaluate a public official based on what you hear in the media and from gossipers. I would like to see how well you do in a difficult position.

  19. In regard to the coroners deciding not to hold an inquest on the two recent BPD shootings.
    First;as some readers have mentioned ,Boise needs a citizens Police review board similar to what mst other american cities have.

    There are many sticky issues related to the two recent shootings.
    Why didn’t the polioce use non-lethal weapons ,first and solely, to try to de-fuse the situation?
    Who fired the first shot,in other words ,was it a case of contagious firing of weapons ?

    Can bullets be traced back to the weapons that fired them?

    How many times was each suspect hit by a bullet and which shots were lethal?

    A coroners inquest is a time tried and proven segment of the american legal system because it gives the citizens a chance to hear the facts and make decisions based on them. For The County coroner and other county officials to decide that an inquest won’t work in Ada county is similar to saying our legal system is not good enough for Boise.

    I could mention the fact that our attorney general is no longer the primary law upholder in our state. That was changed so COUNTY OFFICIALS could interpret the law, unlike most other states who always have and will continue to rely on their AG as the primary upholder of state law.

    The county basically,is telling the citizens of this area that the standard practices of the American judicial system are not good enough for ADA county. I wonder why?

  20. I recently made a comment on the guardians article ” Points to ponder” concerning the Ada coroner’s not holding an inquest on the two most recent police shootings.I refered to the fact that upholding the law is now ( since 1993) in the hands of The County attorneys of idahio while the State Attorney general is no longer primarily responsible for seeing state law is observed. I asked why, as this is unlike most other states. well don’t believe me folks .. read an article about the Kootenai county attorney’s chief deputy,Rick Baughman in Sunday’s statesman of 12-10-06 on page 7 of the main section.

    We are told about the use of County computers by numerous individuals in the Kootenai county prosecutors office for” displaying graphic sexual images and videos” along with sexual harrassment in the department. This was published in the Statesman and is a copy of an associated press article.

    I ask you again , citizens of Idaho,why are county Attorneys in this state now primarily responsible for upholding the law in this state and not the Attorney general ? by the way , the law was changed during the Kempthorne administration by a case Al lance took to the Idaho supreme court.

    EDITOR NOTE–Primary responsibility for enforcing Idaho Code rests with the prosecutor of each county. The attorney general has a “support role” when asked to assist local jurisdictions, with some exceptions.

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