City Government

Boise Needs Citywide Ombudsman

The GUARDIAN has come to the conclusion we need to have a single ombudsman for all city departments to act on behalf of citizens when it comes to resolving minor disputes, providing access to knowledgable officials, and generally being a voice for citizens.

Over the years we have seen a marked disconnect between citizens and those we permit to represent us. For instance the chances of making contact with a human being when you call city hall, police, fire, or most offices is close to “0”.

Most of the time you get a recording telling you to leave a message or go to the internet. For many of us that translates to, “We can’t be bothered by you. Just go away.” Often as not calls are simply seeking information such as a phone number, name, trash policy, etc. Those calls used to be handled by a telephone operator who knew where to direct inquiries or even answer questions. Attempts to get “code enforcement” action are legendary.

Two administrations back they had the “Mayor’s Hotline” where folks could call in and alert elected councilors and the mayor about events. The summary of calls was a public record and provided great copy for the GUARDIAN.

Notable events were “strip hockey” at Ice World and driving two Zamboni ice grooming machines through the take out line at Burger King. The Zamboni story went worldwide.
After repeated stories from citizens were made public, Boise officials discontinued the hotline summary, thus depriving councilors of public concerns as well as good copy for the GUARDIAN.

Over the years we have solved many issues between citizens and officials simply by using common sense–like an ombudsman should do. When coppers smashed an apartment window during an arrest, the owner was stonewalled by a lieutenant and called the
GUARDIAN. A single phone call got the window fixed.

When multiple police converged on a house recently and left soon after, a reader complained it looked like a “wrong address drug bust.” Again the GUARDIAN learned it was a call from a frightened woman who was hiding in her bedroom after hearing what she thought was an intruder. Coppers did break down the door, but there was no intruder and the woman was relieved to have the response.

These examples should be handled by an ombudsman representing citizens who has unlimited access to city department heads and authority to be a “direct representative of the mayor.” This guy or gal could be “my contact at City Hall” for everyone.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. As long as Boise keeps it’s nincompoop mayor and the two idiots on the city council an ombudsman position would be completely inefective.

  2. Pay: 85,000/year + benefits.

    Then the citizens will complain about the salary for a person paid FT but answering a few phone calls/emails each day.

    It sounds like The Guardian is already “My Contact at City Hall.”
    Volunteer of course.

    You want the service but not the cost.

  3. western guy
    Aug 30, 2022, 2:07 pm

    Tremendous idea! I’ve tried to contact a (knowledgable) human being at City Hall many times, without success.

    And their new fancy graphic website is no help. Lots of gloss and glitter but no information or a way to find someone.

  4. Been here 30 years now,

    Rarely post…,. but this borders on absurd. Had a few years dealing with city hall people in my career. Did not hold any in high regard. Always wondered how they could get elected without any knowledge of anything.

    Realized quickly it had nothing to do with intelligence, just simply who was paying their way, with reciprocal favors (so to speak)! If you get my drift.

    Running away from responsibility of which you were duly elected. Seems like your zip code makes no difference anymore. Makes me wonder who the h*ll is electing these people? It ain’t me…

  5. You would have to be stark raving mad to take such a job.

  6. Concerned Neighbor
    Aug 31, 2022, 6:30 am

    People need to feel pain so that they vote out corrupt and useless politicians like Marxist McLean.
    After seeing the destructive results here and places like Portland and Uvalde, it’s obvious that we need common sense bans on democrats.

  7. I think the Guardian is spot on! Trying to get any contact with city departments is very difficult and sometimes impossible. Other times departments pull a power trip and stonewall the information in hopes that you will go away. It is very frustrating. That is one position in the city that I would happily support paying for.

  8. We already have ombudsmen they are called city councilors. They are elected public servants! Who’s duties include representation of the constituents that voted them into office. Over the years their focus seems to have been directed to planing for prosperity. However the prosperity has been in favor of investors and developers, mostly from out of state. At a cost to their constituents, literally. Remember the sewer hike put into place last fall?

    Are ghettos being created through out the treasure valley? Looks that way.
    Out of town investors have convinced the mayor of Boise that affordable housing for our WORKERS is building apartments on publicly owned land and renting units? The property doesn’t go back on the tax role, the tenants don’t have ownership in ware they reside and the only one prospering is the investor and probably the mayor? The investor would refer to this as workforce housing not affordable housing.
    We pay for way to many yes man and women as it is. In all our government levels.

    Concerned neighbor if we banned common sense on democrats wouldn’t they become republicans?

    EDITOR NOTE–Frank, regarding city councilors. You will soon be limited to a SINGLE representative on the council for your new district. Since you cannot currently make personal contact with your council rep, how about giving the new crop of councilors cell phones and publishing the numbers so constituents can contact them?

  9. Much of this could be automated with increased transparency via an online solution like SeeClickFix. It can be used to report issues on the ground or within city departments. It allows anyone to see reports and see how the city is handling the report with department assignment or to check the status(open or closed).

    Sandpoint is using this and while much of their reports are road department based, you can see how it works.

    ACHD could also use something like this as their system is slow and not transparent.

  10. Grass Roots
    Aug 31, 2022, 1:18 pm

    It would be great to see the city departments make their number one concern customer complaints. Then when they catch up they could do more studies. I don’t think they even get the work out to those who can resolve things until they’re sued.

  11. So Dave, if I understand you correctly I can not make contact with with our elected public servants, councilors. Although investors and developers can and do communicate with our elected public servants, daily about their plans for prosperity?

    EDITOR NOTE–Have you tried to talk to any of the councilors recently? Give me some numbers that will get a human voice. Unless things have changed, anytime you email a councilor, the mayor’s staff reads it. That was especially true when you wrote to “mayor and council.” Even if you try to send a “contact” message via the council web page, you don’t get their email address. There is nothing wrong with working together, but Boise considers mayor and council as a single entity.

  12. western guy
    Sep 1, 2022, 6:22 pm

    Frank is correct: Boise City has had this governing thing confused for quite some time. Even though the Mayor is the CEO of the city, the Council is the policy-making group.

    And the City Council should have its OWN support staff (how about cutting the ‘Outreach staff’ in half and giving the Council a handful of peeps)?

    Good luck, Boise.

  13. Boise Lawyer
    Sep 2, 2022, 10:16 am

    To amplify TFBoy: imagine if it was your job to pick up the phone every time a commenter from the Guardian had an idea or a question? Pure hell.

    Respectfully, I think Dave and others underestimate the volume of contacts the city gets, and the scope of what’s on their plate. The metro area is approaching a million people and Boise is the nerve center. My experience with city hall is that everyone is drinking from a fire hose, needs help badly, and is essentially doing two jobs at once. That’s true of (some of) of our council members as well.

    EDITOR NOTE–Lawyer, I will stipulate on the growth issue. However, the growth is promoted by the politicos and they seem to have time to make building permits an easier process, promote the city, give tax breaks, create apartments on every corner and generally accommodate zoning changes and use permits for developers. Over the years the GUARDIAN has caused crooked city workers to go to jail, prevented illegal expenditures, changed insider tool lending deals, etc. The list is huge after 15 years. If not holding councilors to account, give us an office that has authority to handle low level issues and direct citizens to a human being who can resolve questions.

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