City Government

Taxpayers Fund COMPASS Legislative Party

The GUARDIAN has obtained more information about the taxpayer funded party set for Thursday evening to curry favor with legislators to advance their “agenda” in the Idaho Legislature.

While the invitation sent to COMPASS members said “We will have heavy hors d’oeuvres and a hosted bar,” we have learned from COMPASS executive director Matt Stoll that an outfit called HDR will pick up the bar tab. Stoll tells us he contacted the engineering firm in January asking them to pay the bar tab for the legislative reception, estimated to be about $235. Taxpayers will pay another $885 for food and chairs for the event.

According to Stoll, HDR has done some sub-contracting for COMPASS amounting to about $27,000 in the past 24 months and does work for various cities and counties in Idaho. HDR is a big outfit with a heavy interest in transit projects, judging from their WEBSITE.

Suffice it to say, HDR has a lot to gain if Legislators vote for transit projects or local option taxes.

To put this all in perspective. The GUARDIAN has no problem with private firms spending their private money attempting to influence lawmakers for their personal benefit. It is ironic–and revealing– that COMPASS has no compunction about hosting a party, buying nearly a $1K in party food, but gets a private contractor to pick up the booze tab.

The problem as we see it comes when the likes of COMPASS solicits money from a firm doing business with local governments. HDR is big in the train, trolley, and transit business…the prime focus of COMPASS which acts as the “Treasure Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization”…mandated by congress in order to qualify for regional funds.

Of even more concern is using public funds to schmooze with Legislators who are supposed to be working in the public interest. COMPASS pays a lobbyist to advance its agenda and the guy told a
Senator the reception provided an opportunity to make a “FORMAL presentation and hold INFORMAL discussions with legislators.” These discussions and FORMAL presentations should be conducted in open public meetings. At the very least, all citizens should be invited.

Like the recent ACHD/Boise City Council meeting where citizens were snubbed, COMPASS has its own agenda and makes no provision for citizens to join in the merriment and voice THEIR agenda with lawmakers.

Since the Senator was led to believe there would be a FORMAL PRESENTATION, the GUARDIAN thinks it appropriate that any citizen wishing to attend this meeting of government officials should drop by the Gernika Room beneath Bank of The Cascades from 5-7 p.m. Thursday.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Blazing Saddle
    Feb 17, 2009, 5:12 pm

    $235 for the bar tab? Who are they trying to fool. At $3.00 per drink, that is fewer than 80 drinks.

    Why, that is not even a decent single night bar tab for some of the legislators. Add in the the media flacks and they will be tacking zeros on the end of the $235 number.

    FREE BOOZE Boys! Belly up to the FREE bar. Watch the tab grow.

    Oh yeah, remember the password. “HDR is not trying to buy favoritism.” Say it over and over and over.

  2. Nice work Guardian!

    This certainly gives new meaning to the term public – private partnerships.

  3. Some of the sketches from HDR’s website match the sketches from the 30th Street plan. I wonder why Boise City would be using different architect/planners on the fast tracked Multi-modal center. Maybe because ZGF is CCDC’s architect of choice. From ZGF’s website ” the firm has been lead designer of a new major public open space named “The Grove,” new transit malls and a new pedestrian corridor. Most recently, ZGF has worked with the Capital City Development Corporation to develop a westward expansion of the downtown,”

    The thoughtfulness of the 30th Street Plan has been thrown out the window with the Transit Mall. Too bad Boise let CCDC dictate the new plan. HDR’s work looks to be much better.

  4. My, the pile of male bovine excrement just keeps gettng deeper and deeper, doesn’t it?
    (And The Guardian just keeps digging it up and exposing it to the light of day.)

  5. Clancy,

    The HDR sketches match the 30th St Master Plan because HDR was the company hired by ACHD/Boise City to do the plan. They put on the week long charrette thingy last February, or was it Feb 2007. Time flies when you get my age. What doesn’t get mentioned is the cost of the 30th St Master Plan, which I believe, was over $360,000. I recall reading that somewhere but that info is buried deep.

    I don’t see how the 30th St Plan has been thrown out the window with the Transit Mall. They are 2 separate things, with the only connection being the proposed street car’s eventual expansion from 16th out to 30th.

    Regarding the guardian’s comment “… meeting where citizens were snubbed,…” I sometimes don’t blame them. Honestly, I don’t know how they do their job at all. Having attended many of the 30th St planning meetings, I can tell you those meetings have at least one and sometimes several literally mentally ill people in attendance. An even larger percentage are completely or mostly uneducated about the topic at hand. Then there are the plants and trolls who come just to raise hackles. Or how about the people who take 5 minutes to explain something that should take 15 seconds.

    Want some examples? There was the guy who went on and on about how they should widen 27th instead of building the 30th extension. He’s entitled to his opinion, but, uh, that ain’t gonna happen and it’s an idea that only takes a minute or two to shoot down, such as the $millions in extra right-of-way costs. Then there was the lady who went on and on about the need for a community garden. I finally told her we had one in the neighborhood by the Salvation Army office and it ended up being a weed patch.

  6. Or should all attempt to influence legislators be open to the public…Compass is merely doing business the way it is done…and the interested company bankrolling the event is doing just what lobbyists do–maybe it’s time to change the entire system…Bob

  7. As the local rag fades, or rockets actually, into oblivion, it seems that the only print investigative reporting in this city is being done by a full time photographer,and part time forum moderator! Given that the local rag has done nothing but “rubber stamp” city/county agencies for many years, I guess it should come as no surprise that they are going broke.(The Wednesday shopper weighs more than last Monday’s edition) Citizens want the truth! Citizens want facts! That is the way they make informed decisions about their government. When the real news goes away, people quit reading. When people quit reading, businesses quit advertising. When the advertising goes away, the rag is forced to farm out the printing. When nothing changes, it just gets worse. What we are witnessing is very interesting from a journalistic standpoint. We are in a position to watch a daily newspaper commit suicide! But that’s OK for now, because the Guardian is still watching!!

  8. I read the article in today’s Statesman… it appears that you started another story for them.

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