Land Board Gets Out Of Future Commercial Deals

For the past few years the GUARDIAN has urged the Idaho Land Board to stay out of commercial real estate deals after we revealed the purchase and operation of a storage business in Boise.

They steadfastly claimed a “constitutional mandate” to get the best bang for the buck. Cathy Opp, recently resigned deputy director, was the architect of the commercial policy which had been approved by the board.

While today’s press release falls short of admitting they were wrong, the board has done a flip which we endorse. There has also been some strong arm twisting by old pols as well.

Here is the release:

The State Board of Land Commissioners (Land Board) voted unanimously today to suspend commercial property acquisitions for the portfolio of Idaho state endowment trust lands.

The Land Board’s vote suspends portions of the Asset Management Plan and Mid-term Strategy – policies that have contributed to more state endowment trust direct ownership of commercial properties.

In the interim, the Land Board will continue to consider non-commercial property acquisitions for the purposes of obtaining access for currently owned endowment lands and blocking up ownership of endowment lands.

With its vote the Land Board accepted the recommendations of a six-member working group appointed by Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and chaired by Secretary of State Ben Ysursa. The working group also includes State Controller Brandon Woolf. The group is charged with studying ways to strengthen investment decisions related to the State’s land grant endowment trust, and will play an integral role in conducting a comprehensive review of the investment strategy for Idaho’s land grant endowment assets, consisting of 2.4 million acres of land and $1.6 billion in investment funds. The lands and funds provide financial support to Idaho’s public schools and other State institutions.

“Through this working group the Land Board will be able to develop a new whole-trust management model that is consistent with modern trust management practices and Idaho’s statutes and constitution,” State Controller Brandon Woolf said.

The Land Board authorized the comprehensive review at its December 2013 meeting in response to a report from Bob Maynard, a leading member of the original endowment reform effort of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Maynard’s report offered a number of recommendations for improving oversight, including more independent review of the investment processes associated with endowment land and an increased emphasis on managing the land and fund components as one portfolio.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. chicago sam
    Feb 19, 2014, 6:24 am

    Sometimes it takes a 2X4 to get the attention of a mule and an upcoming election to get the attention of elected politicians.

  2. Retired Citizen
    Feb 19, 2014, 9:53 am

    Finally the land board does something that makes sense but keep your eye on the ball. Competing with the private sector is done in many ways. For example, the land board just completed yet another round of appraisals for Payette and Prieat lakes (roughly 340 appraisals). They used an appraisal company based in Missoula MT who works primarily in Montana and Wyoming. More importantly, they didn’t use local appraisers,one of which who has extensive experience in the area and has been used by IDL for many years. Simply put -Idaho tax payer dollars used to support Montana citizens.

  3. Robert Forrey
    Feb 19, 2014, 12:47 pm

    Dave, on the surface the suspension sounds good, however, to suspend is to interrupt,postpone,or defer.
    I believe the Board’s suspension will only last until after this year’s election. Then they will be right back at it.

  4. Maybe the city of Boise could learn from the Land Board.

  5. Grateful note to Bob Forrey:
    Hi Bob, and thank you so much for your efforts at getting the ILB to come to its collective senses and to quit competing with local businesses unfairly. They operate on a tax free basis and local businesses can’t compete when they are forced to comply with all manner of tax burdens.

    The constant pressures you put in this from every angle you could bring to bear are not fully understood by the average person. Your unrelenting trips to the Legislature, speaking out in any forum that would listen finally got the job done.

  6. OK they are out of commercial; for now. When will they take action i.e. sell or trade, the $800 million dollar asset – Grazing Land that returns less and .5% per year. AUM’s are 1/3 what they are in the private sector enabling crafty arbitrage of state endowment assets.

    If these assets were earning what the Timber and stocks & bond produce, the endowment would have another $50 to $60 million PER YEAR for the schools and hospitals. In the last decade they left half a billion dollars on the table. All I ever hear about is the 49th place ranking in Education ……. nothing about how to find the money to begin to fix the problems.

    Travesty Sham , Mockery = Triva – shaam- mockery – Time to replace each and EVERY LB member NOT only Luna and Ysursa , round em all up – Otter, Woolfe and Wasden – time to go.

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