Taxes Fund Chamber Business Programs

The GUARDIAN has discovered Boise and Ada County are SPENDING at least $150,000 of YOUR TAX MONEY to CREATE GROWTH.

Then they turn around and PAY $300 a head to attend a seminar in Sun Valley to figure out how to handle the massive growth problems they paid to create!

This year’s retreat at Sun Valley is set for April 22-24. Sponsorship of the event reads like a who’s who of the development community…Kastera, Hubble, KPMG, SunCor, etc.

Both Boise City and Ada County are using YOUR TAX MONEY to make substantial payments to the Chamber, a private special interest lobbying group. Their combined goal is to increase the population of our community by attracting people from outside the area to relocate here. Other cities are also buying in, but Boise pays top dollar.

Ada county has taken the deal a step further and spends $40,000 in tax money with the Chamber to plant stories in national publications.

According to the formal contract signed December 12, 2006, The Chamber is to “publish 30 to 40 articles featuring the county and the surrounding region in business publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and U.S. News & World Report to create awareness of the county as a favorable business location.

The GUARDIAN has done work for all of those publications and we can assure you they don’t like the idea of planting stories and there is no way you will see “30-40 stories” about Ada County or Boise in legitimate national business publications.

Part of the deal includes “an aggressive sales program featuring face-to-face meetings with the top 100 national business site search consultants,” presenting the area as a favorable business location.”

The GUARDIAN would like to see an audit detailing the 100 “face-to-face meetings.”

The contract runs from October 1, 2006 to September 30, 2007 and can be renewed annually four times.

The Chamber is also adept at co-opting local politicos. Both the City and County perform “live aid” speeches to detail the so-called state of the city or county.

These breakfast meetings are attended only by business or government people who don’t have to report for work and combined gross is estimated at about $45,000. We think the speeches should be made during normal meetings OR proceeds should go to needy causes like homeless and hungry rather than for the promotion and lobbying efforts of a private business organization.

In summary, the GUARDIAN thinks the majority of us suffer rather than benefit from these programs. In Michigan where auto factories are closing, population is on the decline, and unemployment is rampant, it makes good sense to attract business.

In a community overwhelmed with growth, inadequate roads, no transit system, crowded schools, property tax issues, and polluted air, it is downright insane to use the hard earned dollars of citizens to stimulate even more growth.

UPDATE BULLETIN–The Insanity Continues. Is it success or Failure?
Here is what the Chamber lobbyist is telling lawmakers:

TO: Ada, Canyon & Gem Legislators
Chamber Board of Directors and Board of Advisors
FROM: Ray Stark

On Monday, the COMPASS Board updated the population estimates for Ada and Canyon counties. On Wednesday, the U.S. Census Bureau revealed July 2006 population estimates for Idaho counties. By combining the two estimates, we have an update for the 5-county metro area. The metro area grew 3.7% this past year with an increase of 22,110 people.

2007 Boise-Nampa MSA Population Estimates

Ada County – 395,974
Canyon County – 184,251
Source: Adopted by COMPASS, March 2007

Gem County – 16,558
Owyhee County – 11,104
Boise County – 7,641
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, July 2006

MSA Total 615,528
(metropolitan statistical area)

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Grumpy Old Guy
    Mar 22, 2007, 12:32 am

    I guess I am both flabber and gasted. Governments are members of a private organization?

    My tax monies are going to pay for my city and my county to belong to an organization which stands for only one sector of the whole of the community! I would think that organizations such as the Chamber would welcome the attendance at and participation in their activities and meetings by elected officials on a pro-bono basis, under the guise of “communication” or “education”.

    Speaking of – does the School District also belong? If we’re building up the community and increasing the population I suspect the schools need to know about it, too.

    You know, my mother used to say something about setting the fox to guard the hen-house and she wasn’t being all that approving when she said it.

  2. Writing 101. State your position in the opening paragraph, justify your position in the body, and state your conclusion in the last paragraph.

    You nailed this one square to the wall Guardian. It doesn’t matter if you are for, or against growth. If we lived in an economically depressed area we should be touting our positives.

    But why in hell would we promote growth in a community that can’t handle the growth we already have? I firmly believe in managing the inevitable growth we face. I also think some pointed questions need to be asked of Dave Bieter about his positions here.

  3. It’s been going on for years….what do you think BUY IDAHO means? It does not say purchase products from Idaho, it says BUY IDAHO.

    It’s not been hidden, the tax payers have just been foolishly watching TV, riding their bikes, and enjoying the foothills, their beers, and happy about getting so much money for their homes.

  4. I’m truly astounded at the chutzpah of these govt agencies, but not shocked. The more things change around here (overcrowding, lousy traffic and
    roads, multiple greed opportunities supported by taxpayers) the more they stay the same–or get worse.

    Your article above is a case of getting worse. Boise city leaders and agencies are totally out of control. The mayor, and the rest of ’em, don’t give a hoot about the taxpayers, they just want to aggrandize more taxes and development (growth) money for the special interests they work for.

    Perhaps a counter-campaign is called for, like writing to some of these big biz and relocation mags about how our vaunted quality of life is going down the tubes fast.

  5. Jess Taylor
    Mar 22, 2007, 9:27 am

    You really should get your facts straight before posting a supposedly “fact-based” article like this.

    First of all, the Chamber is trying to attract companies, NOT PEOPLE, with higher paying jobs for skilled workers. Take a good look at the “Now Hiring” signs in town – they are all for low-paying service jobs. The Chamber is trying to attract JOBS, not more people. Site selection group move new divisions of companies into areas and bring JOBS – they don’t pay for all their workers to relocate! My son-in-law has a degree in electrical engineering and he’s working for $11 an hour at a job well beneath him.

    This city needs better JOBS and that is what the Chamber is trying to attract. We need good jobs in this area NOW – look at how the cost of living continually goes up, but wages are stagnant. Boise needs companies who will pay higher wages and keep our skilled workers here.

  6. It is nothing new for city and county governments being members of the local Chamber of Commerce. Look at the membership roles for Spokane, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas or a host of other cities.

    I do question why Ada County may use additional services of the Chamber for promotion. The Boise Chamber of Commerce mission statement already states they exist for regional development. Why pay for a job that is already being done?

    EDITOR NOTE– Clancy, we don’t question the $350-375 membership. It is the additional taxpayer funds of $30,000, 40,000, and even $50,000 cash donations to this lobbying group.

  7. Clippityclop
    Mar 22, 2007, 12:40 pm

    Excellent article, Dave. It is disturbing to many members of the public that the Sun Valley seminar/retreat is so exclusive. As per your comments about the State of the County address, this should be held locally and free of charge, or should be a fundraiser for a worthy cause.

    Why should anyone have to travel to Sun valley and pay money to discuss an Ada County issue? Add insult to injury that the City and County are using taxpayer money to promote growth these agencies already can’t handle.

  8. G-Man, how else are they going to get enough businesses and growth here so the people will roll over and let them build a real convention “centre”? Why do the deciders want us to be like Phoenix so bad?

  9. Personally, I have trouble with the membership fee as well. Like Grumpy Guy above, I don’t understand the need (or the legality) for a public agency to be a member of a private club.

    For those who think it is OK for the city or county to form bonds, financial or otherwise, with groups like the chamber, try to imagine what the response of the business community would be if the Ada County and Boise city were to be members of and spend tens of thousands of dollars each year on the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, or other environment groups. The cacophony would be deafening.

    I also have trouble with the Chamber’s April Sun Valley Leadership Conference on Planned Communities. Fred Tilman dodged at least one candidate forum on the excuse that he would be exposed to questions or and comments from citizens about a pending planned community on Hammer Flat. Fast forward to Sun Valley. The April conference is specifically focused on treasure valley planned communities. In fact, the noon luncheon focuses on at least one, perhaps two, specific planned communities that will come before the Ada County commissioners. The particulars of these communities will be presented by the owner/developers of these projects.

    Two of the Ada County Commissioners are currently scheduled to attend!

    Will this constitute an illegal meeting of the commission related to these projects? If not, do we suppose, when the time comes, that both commissioners will recuse them from the hearing on the grouds of having received ex parte communications?

    It would be so much more fair, simple, and legal, if the government would stick to governing, and leave business to the businesses.

  10. We’ve GOT to find that supplier of tar and feathers!

  11. Tony,
    You sound so…LOGICAL! The common refrain on this issue is that the Chamber and Government is working together for good causes. It would seem LOGICAL that clean air and open space would be good causes as well.

    Would love to hear what Wonk thinks about a $40,000 PR contract that can be extended to five years for a total of $200,000 with no bids or competition.

    Chamber slurping at the public trough it would seem.

  12. Jess Taylor, you don’t make any sense at all! How can you have a “company” with “jobs,” but not have “people?” You just add to the insanity espoused by the Chamber and Government. Even if they added new JOBS, the places with the help wanted signs would still be around (hopefully) and all those low income people would have to pay taxes for services of the new ones.

    Your logic is sadly lacking.

  13. I have to agree with Jess on this one. Everyone complains that wages have not gone up with the rest of the country, but no one questions why, they only balk at prices. Then when someone does actually do something about it, such as advertise to out of state companies to bring their higher paying jobs here, we complain some more.

    Then we complain when people from out of state move here to fill these jobs because no one around here is qualified. We complain even further because when all of these people move here it creates problems associated with growth.

    Oh man, then what really makes us complain is when our elected officials go to conferences to learn how to better deal with growth and bring in out of state experts. Seems like a whole lot of complaining to me and not enough LOGICAL solutions presented by most of you.

    And Mom, there will always be a help wanted sign when our unemployment rate is so low. Standard rule of supply and demand.

    Oh yeah, since when is Kastera a who’s who. They have only been in business for a little over a year and haven’t really been that successful. I guess money makes you a who’s who in the Guardian’s eye.

  14. Scoop and Jess are on target for the reasons any Chamber of Commerce exist. Without a healthy vibrant business community where would any community be?

    Note to the Boise Metro Chamber: Include some “anti growth” speakers and participants at your shindig in Sun Valley all expenses paid for. This page is a good place to find them.

    Note to Tony Jones: Thanks for giving a heads up to the BOCC so they can figure out the legalities ahead of time.

    EDITOR NOTE– Clancy, our overridding issue here is using taxmoney to fund the Chamber. How does the Chamber spin Micron’s new plant…in CHINA?

  15. If nothing else, why are the city and the county dropping money on a project that duplicates the Idaho State Department of Commerce’s activities?

    The state already buys advertisements in publications around the country. And, while people may discount advertisements for what they are, advertisements are a good deal more honest than planted stories when the truth gets out. (The fact that we are talking about them means that the truth IS out.)

    The state also does the targeted contacts, offers tax incentives, trains people, and offers other incentives. Following is a link to one of their publications. (Note to s, c, and jt, they are selling cheap business climate, not higher wages.)'s_Incredible_Business_Incentives_Brochure.pdf

    In my mind, the City and County’s continued spending at the Boise Chamber is one more missed opportunity to reduce their constituent’s tax bills.

  16. Tony you are missing the whole point. The key word in all of your thinking is STATE. What incentive do you think we get when a company relocates to Idaho Falls? Who in Ada County benefits from that?

    We aren’t just fighting to get higher paying jobs into Idaho, we are fighting to get them placed here once they decide on Idaho. The Idaho State Department of Commerce is working on getting companies to take a look at Idaho with a very limited budget compared to other states, so every county and city should be chipping in to make it more of an even playing field.

    We always complain when our government doesn’t act like they are running a business. Any business owner knows that if you want business, marketing is a key to making it happen.

    EDITOR NOTE–Government should NOT mess with business. Too many Enron, Quest, Albertson, M-K (Agee)
    involved. Government should be for, by, and of the PEOPLE. Business can do its own thing.

  17. Ackowledging growth is one thing; advertising for it is another. I have long believed that no government should spend public monies on advertisements to entice people to a place — and that includes recruiting businesses. Putting things in place that would attract business that would supply jobs at a living wage is another matter. This would include adequate infrastructure for business and residents, an educated workforce, a wide mix of housing, healthcare, open space, parks, arts, culture, and, oh yes, sports. That is what government should encourage and do its part to support.

    But wait, did someone say it was all a plot to build a real convention center? If we had a real convention center, Antiques Roadshow would come to town. Something to think about.

  18. Here’s the trouble Snoop. If I go to the Boise Chamber web site, I see a link titled, “Relocation Information.”

    That page features a link titled “Click Here for Business/Corporate Relocation Information.” It takes me to a web site titled Boise Valley Economic Partnership. That site provides, in a variety of formats, the data and folders generated by the State of Idaho Department of Commerce. For instance, That page starts with the statement, “Low Cost of Doing Business – The overall cost of doing business in Boise Valley is nearly a third lower than it is in California or Washington.” The site then reproduces the State of Idaho’s brochure referenced in my previous post.

    Footnote – The Boise Valley Economic Partnership web site lists Albertsons, now SUPEREVALUE of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, as one of the area’s success stories. Can you say, “high paying jobs going away?”

    Which brings me back to my original point. The city and county are wasting a bucket of money on a private organization that often does little more than reference and re-post the information generated by a state agency. It seems to me that it would be a lot cheaper for the city and the county to simply put the link to the state on their own web site and use the savings to lower taxes, another (and more legitimate) path to increased disposable income for area residents.

  19. Great sleuthing Tony! The only problem I see with putting more tax money back in tax payer pockets is Wal-Mart would loose customers as well as the dollar stores.

  20. What if CCDC were to contract with the Chamber to run it’s offices? Is that still a waste of taxpayer dollars? This is what they are considering over in Twin Falls according to the Idaho Business Review.

  21. Hey Tony Jones!

    I hear you have been hired as an economist/economic consultant for Kastera’s Shadow Valley Planned Community. Kastera is a sponsor of this event. Do not deny it because I know it is a fact.


    reporter of truth

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