City Government

Secret Deal Puts Hammer Flat In Limbo, Public Access To Truth Denied

Sneaking around citizens has once again caused an otherwise good project to get a bad rap in Boise.

The proposed Cliffs subdivision (known as Hammer Flat) on the plateau above Lucky Peak Dam has long been a winter home to deer antelope and elk. Wildlife groups fought the developer at public hearings and the development process finally drained the financial resources of Skyline Development after more than 5 yrs. The GUARDIAN was one of those opposed to the growth.

The lender foreclosed and approached the City of Boise with an offer to sell 700 acres for $4 million. The city hastily agreed and to great fanfare announced the purchase earlier this year. At the time the GUARDIAN learned there was a “sugar daddy” in the bushes as a potential third party standing ready to reimburse the purchase costs to the city.

When talk surfaced of a new tax levy to replenish the “Foothills Fund” we informed the public that a new tax was probably NOT needed because of the impending sale of the land the City just purchased. Despite repeated attempts to confirm the pending resale, no one at Boise City or Idaho Fish and Game would tell us of the negotiations.

A factor no one has mentioned in the secret dealings is the fact Idaho’s legislature was in session at the time this was happening. Legislators who vote on F&G license fees probably wouldn’t be too eager to approve a fee hike when hunter fees are being used to purchase park land from Boise City with a hunting restriction in the deed.

Boise City withheld the information from the GUARDIAN, but notified the Statesman revealing everything we had requested. Apart from the unethical behavior of keeping the government actions secret, the city spinmeister manipulated the Daily Paper coverage into a glowing story of “win-win” for citizens, hunters, and wildlife. It was deceptive and the DAILY PAPER ran a page one piece Saturday with facts they didn’t have in the sugar coated version spoon fed from the City.

Guv Butch Otter called GUARDIAN editor Dave Frazier Thursday night on KBOI’s Nate Shelman radio show to congratulate him on 5 years of on-line publishing and dropped a bomb on the whole process when he said the deal was only a POSSIBLE deal and no state funds would be used unless hunting is allowed.

Otter also said everything between these agencies should have been done in public and hearings with “input from all parties” would have been appropriate.

We agree. An otherwise good deal stands to implode because Boise refused to do the Public’s business in public.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. Glad the spotlight is shining away from all the proposed public investment in my end of town. But, what exactly is the problem here, except for the back room dealings?

    As a far as hunting is concerned, aren’t the deer still in the higher country during hunting season? Hunting season is over when the deer are utilizing Ernie the Elk Memorial Mesa. (Thanks Bikeboy, have you ever tried standup comedy?)

    Then there’s the hang gliding commotion. If I recall, there are only a few days in any given year which have the proper wind direction and speed to fly there.

    My point, no great loss to hang gliders or hunters. Having said that, public land should remain open to the public with a minor exception; the winter closure for a deer refuge. Is this really such an onerous restriction? Like I said, hunting season is over by the time deer get to that spot.

  2. The problem isn’t with Ernie’s buddies and cousins. We are talking about all game animals and fowl. Pheasant, quail, chukar, mountain lion, coyote, etc., will all be affected by this.
    I am all for the preservation of the foothills. I believe that it is the best “picture” of our lifestyle in the valley. I also realize that no amount of game harvested from this 800 acres will contribute to any specie’s decline.
    The problem I have is the continual “backroom deals” that this city and county conduct! I am so sick of being lied to by the mayor, city council, and the county commission, I could hurl! There is no justification, on any level, for two public agencies to negotiate ANYTHING in secret! We need to put these people in jail for awhile, to warn any future officeholders that we mean business! What they are doing should be a crime!!!! (I am not so sure it isn’t already)

  3. This story line is too good to have all been intentional. It makes me wonder about all the other “careful” uses of my money. I bet that’s the reason this stuff is supposed to happen out in the open.

    I so wish we could run these towns like an efficient business.

  4. These guys give a bad name to back room deals. Don’t you think this is something that should have been discussed when the deal was being brokered to begin with?

    I’m afraid that this is what modern day politics has evolved into. Politicians so beholden to pet projects and issues that the ends always justify the means regardless of any moral or civic duty. Backroom deals, payoffs, bribes and then a slick public statement.

    What might be more frustrating is that the public is failing to see the big picture. This is not a public lands vs. private development issue. This is not a save the wildlife issue. This is a transparent government issue. These guys work for us, and they are spending our money without any regard for letting us in on the process.

  5. These are records available to the public, as well as the medial The next time BG needs records and lets us know, we can all send public records requests. Perhaps one of us with the right clout, name recognition or kiss-up status will be lucky enough to snag them. We can divvy up the cost for the cause of the public’s interest. I’m facing a similar roadblock trying to access info that would connect the dots on a project I am working on without stepping on someone’s widdle private and corrupt toesies. We will all persevere!

  6. Grumpy ole guy
    May 30, 2010, 2:25 am

    Poxes upon them all. Do I truly understand this correctly – Fish and Game land is ONLY for lands upon which Fishing and/or Game hunting can be practiced? Fish and Game is supposed to manage wildlife resources, isn’t it? How can it manage land only if fishing and/or hunting can take place? That’s beyond credulity. Some streams and some land areas HAVE to be closed some of the time in order for the balance to be achieved. It is just beyond comprehension that no land could be managed unless it were open to fishing and/or hunting. No wonder education is so lacking and so under funded here, anyone with an ounce of common sense would run screaming from the State if that attitude is really and truly present. Does not the State have the responsibility and the power to create preserve areas? Does not the State have the authority to manage State owned lands in the best interest of the people surrounding those lands? Does not the State have the intelligence to know when which of these things are required on which pieces of land?

    Is it any wonder we Idahoans are held up as laughing stocks when this kind of thing happens again and again and again. What a pitiful and unfunny joke.

    And then there is the whole dealing of public policy and public fund in closed door session which is contrary to all of the State’s open meeting and sunshine rules.

    May god have mercy upon us all, is there NO elected official anywhere within the state who has a POSITIVE IQ to bring to bear upon the practice of office or the integrity of conscience to do what is right and within the rules of the office(s) s/he holds?

    This teacher gives failing grades to each and every one of the City, Levy Fund and State officials for this disgusting show of cavalier disregard for both their office and the people who elect them to it.

    Remember in November, I will.

    EDITOR NOTE–F&G is a rare animal. No general fund money is appropriated to the Dept. As a GENERAL rule, they do indeed preserve resources for hunting–and regulate the “harvest” of these critters. This can include closures etc. There is a small “non-game” management function in the Dept…someone closer to the IF&G can respond further.

  7. Blaine Perkins, President, Idaho Hang-Gliding Association
    May 30, 2010, 9:02 am

    To the people who say it probably only flyable 2 to 3 times a year… The Crow gliding area has a weather phenomena that occurs (that is similar to the Columbia gorge and windsurfing) where the winds are funneled at that end of the valley straight at the ridge. With light valley winds from the west or northwest it is flyable almost every afternoon/evening of the year IF it’s not storming. It is flyable there more like 5 times a week! It is where I learned to fly 25 years ago and it is still as consistent now as it was then! It is well worth fighting for!

  8. Plutocracy is the operant word here. The unwashed masses will continue to be pawns of the glitterati as long as we maintain apathy at election time.

    Rich folks have all the gold and they have and will continue to make the rules for the rest of us.

    Critical thinking and involvement in what is going on around the local area is in short supply.

  9. Dean Gunderson
    May 31, 2010, 5:51 pm

    When I worked at Ada County, the difficulty with getting Idaho Fish Game to simply comment on a developer/applicant’s Wildlife Management Plan led many of the proposals going in front of the public without a fully vetted plan. We actually wanted more than a simple thumbs-up/thumb-down, we needed a critical assessment of whether such a plan were even feasible and the impacts on ALL threatened or endangered species (not just ungulates — or regulated game herds). The under-reviewed Wildlife Management Plans often led to confusion and members of the public arguing over what the plan really said/meant.

    This was directly attributable to an understaffed IDF&G, incapable of providing the necessary resources to planning agencies near metropolitan areas. The result was, I’m afraid, a State department that had to circle its wagons to defend a dismal record regarding its habitat preservation abilities in (and around) Boise. And Boise can’t be the only metro area in the State that has been left holding the bag.

    Almost everyone of the department’s staff wanted to provide the kind of feedback necessary to objectively assess the impacts of development, they just didn’t have the time, resources, or (in some cases) ability. This is why I’ve been skeptical of any effort to turn Hammer Flats over to IDF&G, if the hoped-for result was to see either outdoor recreation or habitat restoration on those 700 acres.

    The end-result of having a State agency funded by the issuance of hunting & fishing permits, is an agency formed around the provision of services to hunters and fishers only. In municipal areas, the department has very little resources or trained staff to provide assistance to planning departments. This narrow focus even extends to how the department maps & tracks animal activity in Idaho’s wildlife units — the municipal areas are carved out of the maps as non-existent portion of the State.

    This kind of institutionalized blind spot leads to the kinds of problems we’ve all been seeing. I, for one, would like to see some dedicated resources made available to municipal areas — even if it means making money available directly from the State’s general fund to see it happen. This fund could be augmented by a charge-for-service to land developers who are required by local land use statutes to have a Wildlife Management Plan for their development.

    The general fund allotment would fund the establishment of a metro-area wildlife office — and pay for the creation of a long-range Regional Wildlife Management Plan for the metro areas and some of the plan’s enforcement requirements — while the developer fees could pay for the full technical review of the developer’s plan, and relative compliance of that plan to the Regional Plan.

  10. Hey Paul, critical thinking is in short supply everywhere in this nation, not just in Boise.

    Critical thinking (and financial education) should be as much of the education process as the 3 Rs.

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