Fame, Greed Behind Special Winter Olympics

I have lived in Boise all my adult life–38 of those 40 years in the first and only home I ever owned. There is no other place on earth I care to live. My roots go deep and I am on a first name basis with most of the movers and shakers, having known them when they were starting their careers and I reported on their progress through life. That said, I claim “standing” for the following.

Editor, Boise GUARDIAN

Times have changed since that day in 1968 when I announced to a court clerk that I–the new police reporter at the Statesman–had found an apartment and opened an account at the Bank of Idaho.

The matronly woman looked over the top of her glasses and admonished, “That bank is NOT locally owned.” Her comment spoke volumes about the city, the state, and the people. We had a good thing going, but we had one flaw: an inferiority complex. We knew Boise was a great spot, but wanted everyone else to recognize it too.

On trips “back east” we all extolled the merits of fishing for trout within the city, knowing the politicos, all the cops, and not being afraid of neighbors. We bragged of being a headquarters city for the likes of Ore-Ida, Simplot, Boise Cascade, Morrison Knudsen and the formerly upstanding Albertson Stores. But like the current Bronco football team, “we got no respect.” We wanted to be recognized as the greatest place on earth and the con men and promoters flocked in like the Music Man to River City.

Over the next 40 years of seeking “national recognition” we got BLUE TURF. We got lots of gimmicks like RIVERFEST, BIKE RACES, HUMANITARIAN BOWL, HALL OF FAME, ANNE FRANK MEMORIAL, and more which have faded from memory. None of them are bad, but their importance is/was probably overblown.

Then came the phoney concocted LISTS. We were best place to bike, to live, raise kids, lowest taxes, most secure, friendiest, fastest growing, etc. Much of this was brought about by active campaigns funded in part by local governments to plant articles in the national media. All aimed at bringing recognition–and lots of money to Boise and Idaho through GROWTH.

Meanwhile the local banks were gobbled up, the bookstores became chains, traffic is choking us and growth is sapping all our energy, air, money, and intellect. Albertson, M-K, Ore-Ida and Boise Cascade are faded memories. We still want that RESPECT and recognition, but now we want “world class,” recognition.

Bring in the President to bike at “World Class” Tamarack! Bring on SPECIAL OLYMPICS!

The Daily Paper (four chain owners since 1968) ran an honest to gosh news story Thursday on page three about SPECIAL OLYMPICS. Kate Kreller and Greg Hahn did some real reporting and guess what? Looks like another gimmick based more on greed than charity.

State legislator John McGee of Caldwell defended the finance problems saying, “But in a couple of months the spotlight’s going to be on Idaho and everything’s going to be great.”
You betcha!

At least a third of the $31 million cost ($13 million) for the Special Olympic Winter Games is coming out of taxpayer money. According to the news story, a former executive director for the event was paid in excess of $200,000 for less than a single year’s work.

A year ago the GUARDIAN questioned the MOTIVATION for the games when the first whispers of financial problems surfaced. We stand by those concerns. Special Olympians are described as having “intellectual disabilities” not to be confused with the Paralympics or Handicap Olympics for those who compete from wheel chairs.

Until we Idahoans can be confident with “who we are and where we live,” we will be subject to myriad get rich-quick-schemes and easily swayed by developers and promoters with the lure of having the “Spotlight on Idaho.”

UPDATE–We have been informed that Sen. McGee, who pushed the state funding bill in the legislature, is on the Special Olympic Board.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Holy cow, Guardian, if Mother Teresa came to Boise to feed the poor, you’d say it’s another sign we’re going to hell in a handbasket, a scheme to enrich those who live under the bridges built by greedy developers. No, I don’t have any rose-colored glasses (I find myself agreeing with you as often as not), just commenting on the relentless negativity. I hope the Special Olympics succeeds here and I support a certain amount of public funding for it.

    Aside from this blog, Guardian, do you volunteer your time or talent in any way to make this a better place? Just asking.

    EDITOR NOTE–Wonk, you know better than most that developers would never build a bridge. Just ask Avimor or Harris Ranch.

  2. Another Gimmick Event Every Minute
    Dec 4, 2008, 6:32 pm

    I don’t mind the special olympics any more than I mind the regular olympics, pro bike races, pro triathlons, etc. However, it is important to remember that things like this are for-profit businesses all dressed up to look like some sort of wonderful feel good extra special events In the process, they get people to volunteer their time which allows the people at the top to make more money than would otherwise be the case. Again, I am okay with that, as long as they don’t want to have their money making schemes subsidized by my tax dollars.

    If the politicos are really sincere about showing support for the handicapped, I would be much more impressed, and willing to provide tax support, if they did things to make the city more handicapped accessible, spent more money making sure the handicapped got a bigger slice of school sports funding, etc. In short, if we are so good minded, lets help our own handicapped before we drop a bunch of money holding a one-time event, that only helps a few handicapped, most of whom live somewhere else.

    And, Dear Wonk, before you insinuate that the Guardian doesn’t do volunteer work, I suggest you first try writing three to five significant pieces per week (2500 words) for a blog like this that addresses area issues, checking to get the facts right, on a multi year basis, for no pay, while maintaining your regular job. My guess is that you would find it to be a pretty tough haul.

    Dear Guardian, keep up the good work.

  3. The generators of the “LISTS” (no matter who publishes the “list”) know we’re all suckers to be somewhere of significance on their cheesey list. Your eye and your curiosity force you to check out the “LIST” and the wonks who publish them know it. Take a look at just about any magazine and it will have a “list” on the cover.

    What’s really bad is the people spending our money actually think the notion of publicity of anykind will cause our cities and counties to flourish with manna from the heavens and gold for our coffers.

    What were the people thinking when they put up $31MM for the Special Olympics. It is great these kids get the opportunity to feel great about themselves but the cost to the rest of us is just crazy.

  4. The taxpayer monies broken down-$3 million state and $10 million from the Feds. In the current economy, this event will be a welcome shot in the arm.

    I could care less about this putting Boise on any type of world stage. I volunteer with kids like these athletes and love to see them have fun. I encourage everyone one of you to go watch at least one event.

  5. The idea that some giant spotlight is going to be on Boise or Idaho because of this event is just comical.

    Your post reminded me of the ridiculously pointless River Festival. The marketing of that overblown celebration of nothingness was embarrassing to me as a person who has lived in the Treasure Valley since 1972.

  6. I think the idea of the Special Olympics being held in Idaho is a good thing. My problem is with the “expenses” incurred. I have a couple of acquaintances who went right down to volunteer. The “swag” they were given was unbelievable! Here’s your parka! here’s your official hat! here are your official gloves, vest, scarf, badge holder, carrying bag etc. etc. etc. The volunteers reported they received more “bling” than the athletes. After all that, the response from the S.O. event schedule person was ” we aren’t sure if we can use you, but, if so, we will be in touch” It sounds like someone needs to dig even deeper here.

  7. I am currrently very close (maybe board?, maybe staff?)to the World Games situation and I am just glad that Gary Hunter got called out (FINALLY) for being the greedy man he was. He took a huge salary and brought in little to no results. That is why he was given his “severence” and the board let him message his own departure. He also tried to pad the pockets of all of his buddies many names you will see on the 990 IRS form that was recently filed that prompted all of this media coverage. It is a public document and I’d like to see it posted on all of the media sites. The whole incident makes me sick. I do agree with one of the people posting on this site. Go watch the events. It will change your life. It’s nothing like the Boise River Festival or other feel good events. The athletes competing are the best examples of the true, purest kind of human spirit. It’s amazing.

  8. I think that the event is great. A celebration of the human spirit is always welcomed. BUT, the greed and self-serving motives behind some, not all, of the organizers is sickening. Paid salaries should be minimal; NO ONE should be getting over $40K per year. Jim Rabdau did a magnificent job of organizing and running the Women’s Challenge (the largest women’s bicycle race in the world) for 19 years, and he never got paid more than $40K, with several of his key staff getting about $30K. I am so embarassed by what has happened.

  9. Jilted.. what about a confident woman with a good heart but without good looks?

  10. I’ve already expressed my disdain at the use of taxpayer money for the Special Olympics.

    If there’s nothing we can do to stop it, the very least the management could do is take care of the grounds on which their office sits.

    But NOOOO!

    Weeds and goatheads had completely overgrown the sidewalk on 30th just north of Main. Did they not notice? Did they not care? It took me 3 phone calls before someone, probably SILD, cleaned up the eyesore. At least they’ve kept the graffiti atop the office at bay.

  11. Another Gimmick Event Every Minute
    Dec 5, 2008, 10:29 am

    Note on Rabdeau and the Womens Challenge. I don’t know his pay on a year to year basis, but with inflation from 1992, $40k equates to more than $60k in today’s dollars. Not bad for a part time gig, especially when you consider it was on top of full pensions from Ore-Ida and the military.

  12. Tom Anderson
    Dec 5, 2008, 11:46 am

    If this thing was regional, instead of international, the participants would have just as much fun and it would cost half as much.

  13. I love Canyon County Republican Sen. John McGee “It’s all good” picture on the sleazy story. Why is it that Republicans can seem to swallow impropriety so easily especially when it comes to bad bookkeeping and big money to their friends. McGee is a product of the old Canyon County Apple Corps. Most of you probably don’t remember that. Does it ever show.

  14. Who's Fault
    Dec 5, 2008, 5:02 pm

    Bill Smith says:
    Dec 4, 2008, 10:53 pm
    I am currrently very close (maybe board?, maybe staff?)to the World Games situation and I am just glad that Gary Hunter got called out (FINALLY) for being the greedy man he was. He took a huge salary and brought in little to no results. That is why he was given his “severence” and the board let him message his own departure. He also tried to pad the pockets of all of his buddies many names of which you will see on the 990 IRS form that was recently filed that prompted all of this media coverage.

    Wait a minute Bill? You are blaming Gary Hunter for taking a salary that was offered to him? Maybe you should point the arrow of blame at the person(s) who offered him the job and the salary. Now if you want to say that he should have done more, okay, but don’t blame him for taking the money. I don’t think you would have turned down that salary would you?

  15. To: Who’s Fault

    Yes, I would have taken the salary. But, I might have done my job too. And, when I got canned I don’t think I would have bilked the organization for $100,000 more dollars (the last half of the year I did not work). I would have had some class and thought about how I had helped bleed the orgnaization dry, raised little to no money and maybe needed to just walk away. I would have thought about the cause first, not about making myself and my buddies rich. Which, by the way, was stopped once Mr. Hunter was gone with the exception of Gary Beck who stepped up in the end and did the right thing for the organization. And, who is still there by the way. The others are not.

  16. All of this reminds me of an episode of the Soprano’s where the mob extorts huge sums of money from a Catholic Church festival of some obscure saint.

    The only difference here is that it is real and not fiction. $31 million is not chump change.

  17. Yeah, putting tax bucks into this is questionable, but it doesn’t bother me nearly so much as giving discounts, kickbacks, tax exemptions and whatever all else to big businesses, developers and suchlike.
    See, the difference is: While this may be a rip-off, it at least does something really good for these “special” kids, whereas the other (the ones I really object to) do nothing but mess up what’s left of our area with more big-box stores, unneeded crappy subdivisions, traffic, etc.

    And, the legislature says it approves tax money for the S.O. because it cares about these kids — while H&W cuts services for our own local “special” kids (see story in Statesman in the past couple of days).

    Also, I do wonder how this event can cost quite so much, when a lot of the workers are volunteers. Would be interesting to see someone with CPA-type knowledge track the dollars and pennies!

  18. This event will attract no attention whatsoever from the media, other than local, and the only non-local people that will even know about it are the competitors and their family and friends.

    Tax money should not be spent on this.

  19. Somehow I think the developer folks at Hidden Springs were invloved in this fiasco. Does anyone have some insight on this?

  20. You mean the Grossmans? Yes, they helped bring the event here. They got hood-winked by Mr. Hunter and his gang of merry bandits, too. Sadly, they footed the intital payroll as I understand it. They have sunk millions into this effort, so I don’t think blaming them is really fair.

  21. Sorry Grossmans. It’s probably OK to rob Californians in Idaho. Welcome to Idaho, a state of State sponsored corruption.

  22. Dog, I don’t think the Grossman are Californians. Jim Grossman was raised in Idaho and I believe he has lived here all of his life. I could be wroing.

  23. Your really are a ” the cup is half empty” kind of a guy.

    EDITOR NOTE–Half full or half empty is a matter of perspective–depends whether you are pouring or drinking. You need to check the links in the story. Our position is “do the right thing because it is RIGHT, not to make a profit off intellectually disabled kids.

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