Elected officials working
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Meeting Minutes
December 9, 2013

Attendees

  • John Bechtel
  • Tom Dale
  • Tammy deWeerd
  • John Evans
  • Brad Holton
  • Greg Nelson
  • Jim Reynolds
  • Darin Taylor
  • Jim Tibbs

Staff and Guests

  • Ken Harward – Association of Idaho Cities
  • Bill Larsen – Treasure Valley Partnership
  • Seth Smith – Idaho Association of Counties
  • Bryan Taylor – Canyon County Prosecutor

Tammy welcomed everyone to Meridian and wished everyone a happy holiday season. She indicated that Ken and Seth were not there yet and asked Bryan if he would not mind going first.

SAUSA Project

Bryan Taylor briefly talked about the genesis of the SAUSA Project and indicated that Chris Atwood is the fourth person we have had in this position. Each of the previous three SAUSA employees have taken jobs with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Chris came from the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office.

What we are starting to see from the SAUSA program is a shift to major distribution of Meth and other drugs along with firearm possession. The reason is the gang activity is starting to dwindle. However, with that said, last year they finished up the BMC “Brown Magic Clica case. This gang was operating from out of the State Penitentiary and there were some street level individuals. Approximately 29 individuals were indicted both locally and federally. The ones that were in the Pen were all indicted on racketeering charges and have been sent to a federal institution. In another major gang action that was done, we indicted 23 individuals from the Aryan Knights gang. Some of these individuals were inside the State prison system as well.

Once again, the theory is if we can break them up so they are not hanging with their buddies at the State Pen, the better we all will be.

Our SAUSA has primarily been focusing on the Treasure Valley as that is the direction he has been given. Some of these individuals however have been coming from other locations such as Twin Falls. 82% have come from our valley but gang members don’t really care what the borders of our communities are.

There have been a lot of deportation charges as well. We have deported around 32 individuals once their federal prison sentence is completed. It doesn’t mean they don’t come back to our community. One of the individuals that was deported, was back in Caldwell within a week and a half.

Right now we are averaging between 30 and 40 indictments a year which is a huge number for a U.S. Attorney. These are for the most part very complex cases and it saves local resources.

Bryan said that Bill wanted to focus on the Statewide effort and how this group would like to approach the legislature and others to implement this program. The goal of this proposal is to get a SAUSA in both the Northern and Eastern regions of the State. The nice thing about this proposal is that the SAUSA is a locally-controlled individual. Mr. Atwood serves three masters. He serves the Partnership because you pay for his salary. He is a Prosecutor with Canyon County and Serves the U.S. Attorney and is housed there.

John B. asked if the Aryan Knights gang used a swastika as their symbol. Bryan said they do. Bryan said there are numerous what he refers to as hate groups. They use the swastika as their imagery and also use a clover (shamrock) which is a very strong symbol of the gangs. He indicated he would be happy to provide a whole bunch of gang identifiers and they are working with the all of the local Chief’s to develop this listing.

Jim asked about the MS13 gang. Bryan said the MS13 gang is a very violent gang but has been pushed away from our community by this project. His biggest fear with these gangs is that, since 2006 when the State Legislature passed a bunch of gang related laws, we have put a bunch of these people away. But they are coming up for parole and it will be very interesting to see how they reintegrate with our communities and our societies. His office and law enforcement in Ada County are ready for it. The good thing is law enforcement is not seeing the violent crime we have in the past. But there is still a lot of graffiti and tagging that are going on.

Another big aspect that is coming into our communities that they are intrepid about is we are seeing a much larger presence of drug cartels. This is scary and they don’t care because the mules are expendable. In a lot of the gang prosecutions we have had, the upper echelon is in prison and those that are left he refers to as young punks and they don’t have leadership.

As he was telling people before the meeting started, “knock on wood”, this is the lowest crime rates our valley has had for the last 20-30 years. It is all due to very proactive law enforcement, prosecution and elected leadership.

Tammy asked if was possible to get the savings of prosecution from a county level from the SAUSA Project. Bryan indicated he and Bill have been working at trying to come up with a number. It is tough to quantify this as it is hard to figure out how many hours you work on a case or would work on a case if the SAUSA were not in place. Bill said that we did come up with a cost of housing to the county of $44 per day that is being saved as a result of reimbursement from the Feds for people under the program.

It is real tough to quantify prosecution costs because of the complexity of cases. In addition, you look at a total of 245 people indicted under the program. This is a small number compared to the total number of prosecutions a county has in a year’s time.

There are a lot of cases you don’t recognize and don’t show up in the numbers of the SAUSA. They will get a defendant in and say, you have to plead guilty and you have to plead locally. Because if you don’t we will turn this over to the SAUSA and you will be tried in Federal court. They use the Federal hammer to get the defendant to plead guilty locally because they would rather do this than serve time in a Federal institution.

Bill said, as we are looking forward to helping to develop coalitions in Northern and Eastern Idaho into going into a partnership for this project, there are several questions he anticipates will come up. One is, when we first set the pay scale for the SAUSA he feels we might have set the pay scale too high, because we are building up quite a surplus of funds in the Project. Is $100,000 too much and could this be brought down a bit?

Bryan said the SAUSA gets paid $70,000 per year. When you add benefits and taxes, the $100,000 is close to perfect. When you consider this $70,000 figure is lower than what private attorneys are making out there. If you want to get a proper applicant pool of experienced attorneys, then you cannot lower this figure any lower. The real hook to getting experienced prosecutors in this position is the Federal experience they get under the program.

Bryan said this SAUSA program could not have been anywhere as successful as it has been without the support of the members of the Partnership. Tammy said this is a worthy investment. She continued that all of us have shared the listing of those prosecuted under the program with our city or county law enforcement personnel. The striking thing is these people that have been indicted under the program are familiar to all of our individual law enforcement personnel and they have been stirring things up throughout the valley.

Bill asked if Bryan has heard anything from his colleagues around the State in regard to the statewide proposal. Bryan indicated everyone loves the concept but it comes down to money and who is funding it. Each of his colleagues around the State would love to take on a SAUSA. But they do not have the funds for it. The proposal is nice in that there are conceived to be multiple entities covering the costs.

Bryan asked if there was anything similar to the Partnership in other parts of the State. Tom said he does know that at least the Mayors in Northern Idaho do get together on a regular basis. Tammy asked if it would be helpful if the Treasure Valley Partnership worked with AIC on the meeting at the end of January. We could hold a breakfast meeting prior to the event. She said we could get the Mayor’s to come and talk about the SAUSA and its success here and why it would make sense for them to support it in their areas.

Bryan said he felt it would be huge. Bill indicated he has talked with Ken Harward and felt we would be on the agenda sometime during the meeting. He asked if we wanted to hold a breakfast meeting and asked for consensus. Tammy said if we could get the Mayors and whoever the elected representative is, in a meeting, it would give us our biggest bang for the buck. Everyone agreed this would be a good thing.

John E. said that one thing we need to emphasize is you need a Bryan Taylor at this event because you need a local county prosecutor’s office willing to support the idea and have the position as part of their organization. Bill indicated he has talked to Barry McHugh and Bruce Pickett, County Prosecutors in both Northern and Eastern Idaho. Preliminarily, they are willing to take on the responsibility. Bryan added that he has talked to both of them as well. And both of them are very much on board.

Ken Harward came into the meeting. Tammy explained that the Partnership is trying to expand the SAUSA to both Northern and Eastern Idaho. She said the Partnership would like to host a continental breakfast prior to the meeting on January 30. She asked if this would be a possibility. Ken agreed that it would. He added that he and Bill have been talking about getting the SAUSA project on the agenda and feels it would be a good idea for the Partnership to host a continental breakfast. Tammy said, “perfect” and instructed Bill to get with Ken and coordinate the event.

Legislative Initiatives

Tammy asked Ken and Seth for an overview of some of the more pressing legislative initiatives this year. We are fresh coming off the AIC Legislative Committee discussion the previous week. She asked Tom to kick off the discussion as the Chair of the AIC Legislative Committee.

NPDES Primacy

Tom said one of the primary things that would affect the members of the Partnership is the State Primacy over NPDES permitting. The Cities went through this in 2010 but did not have any support from industry. This time Alex Lebeau with Commerce and Industry is pressing the issue. We should do anything we can do to impress upon our legislators the need for the State to have Primacy. It is a five to seven year process to get it to where EPA would sign off on it.

Tammy said she was concerned about the 30 cents a month per house-hold cost. In addition, it doesn’t buy us much as EPA could still come in and overrule decisions DEQ would make.

Tom said 30 cents a month should not be a make it or break it type of expense for any home owner. Secondly, what do we get out of it? We get the ability to work with our local folks that understand the geography and our water ways. DEQ can hold those factors into account when they are addressing the methodology that an individual entity would follow to meet the requirements. There is no guarantee that EPA is going to honor what they said Boise can do in the next five years. There are a number of things that come into play there. What if EPA all of a sudden says we are going to require year-round phosphorous removal? That would make Boise’s deal useless because six months out of the year there isn’t any water going down the Dixie Drain and there would be no flows for phosphorous removal. Or they could go to a different type of measurement system that would change the whole process.

Ken said you do gain some advantage by having some flexibility locally with DEQ. Tom said the other thing we would get is a much timelier permit process. EPA is fifteen years behind right now. The capacity of DEQ to get those permits out in a timely manner would certainly help us in our public works planning efforts.

Ken said the State budget numbers are looking pretty good. We are not back to 2008 numbers but we are getting close.

Tammy apologized for taking us down a side road. But how can we help to protect the Speaker. She knows there is some unrest in the legislature. The Speaker has brought civility and a good approach to the house. Ken agreed. Tammy said she hoped there is a role that AIC and the individual elected officials could play in helping retain him as Speaker of the House, it will be to our best interest to be a part of that.

Education

John E. said with regard to the Speaker, what was Ken’s take-away with regard to Kennedy’s question about Education. The question was in the context that we don’t spend as much on education as other States. Ken said the Speaker did a good job in regards to education. The Governor’s Task Force came up with a nice list that most people would agree with, but the price tag was $240 million. We don’t have an extra $240 million so the Speaker said we would have to do some things incrementally to get there. He also made an interesting point when he quoted the President of BYU-Idaho, a former Dean of the Harvard Business School, when they were having a discussion with him about comparing Idaho with other States and about the quality of education in Idaho. The Speaker in paraphrasing the President of BYU-Idaho said, when you take a comparable student in a comparable grade from Idaho and transplant him to Massachusetts, the student from Idaho will be one or two grades ahead of the person in Massachusetts. Obviously that is a generalization but he was saying in balance, we get a lot for our education money in Idaho.

Business Incentives

Tammy said she as we look at economic development, an educated workforce is a critical component to being competitive in the State. She said, when talking to businesses that are looking at relocating here, our corporate tax rate has never come up. Our education spending has. Time and again, it has not been about our tax structure, it has been about our workforce and what we as a State are going to do about it.

Tom said in economic development studies nationwide show the first question they ask, is this a place where my workers will want to live. Things such as quality of life issues including safety (crime rate), and third down the road comes transportation (can I get to and from), can I get my products out to the rest of the world, and way down the list is the tax structure. Right now, number one or two on the list is incentive. We need to get behind Jeff Sayer’s plan to get through the legislature the opportunity to offer performance based incentives to companies to move here. For example, there is a Project Cascade by Apple Corporation that is looking at both of the Micron buildings in Nampa to produce synthetic sapphires. We landed in the top three locations and they are going to choose two locations. One of the locations that was chosen is in the Tempe, Arizona area. The story is they received $10 million from the State of Arizona and the State of Idaho offered them $1 million.

Tom said as the Treasure Valley Partnership, it behooves us to support what is happening at the Department of Commerce. Tammy asked if Jeff’s plan would look at payroll taxes and providing a rebate on what they create. Tom said it is a performance based incentive. They look at the total tax package that the State would collect from them and offer up to a 30% rebate after they start paying taxes. Currently we have zero in the way of incentives.

Public Defense

Ken said one of the issues that will play out this year is the public defense issue. AIC recognizes on behalf of the Counties that this is a serious problem. Seth said the discussion so far has been creating a statewide public defense commission that would be charged with laying out the criteria that needs to be in place to have an adequate public defense system in the State. Seth said that as far as education goes training and development, case loads, and compensation will be the initial concerns. The commission that is created will have time to create these standards. The legislature is going to have to figure out how they are going to fund it. Counties will continue to pay, at a minimum, what we are paying into the public defense system right now. There is hope that the State will come up with some funding to assist with this. It is actually a State responsibility that has been delegated down to the counties. There is an effort to address misdemeanors to get them reclassified down to infractions. This will provide some savings. The real issue is going to be cost.

Seth continued, as Bryan was saying earlier with regard to the SAUSA Project, Prosecutor’s Offices don’t have the budget to meet what expenses should be. The whole structure that is set up in the State is archaic. At the County level we have to fund our jails, Sherriff’s Office, Prosecutor’s Office, Public Defenders, some of the District Court is funded through the justice fund, juvenile probation …. All of this comes out of the same levy. It is two tenths of a percent of the total market value for the whole County. He can say in most counties that have that levy, they are completely maxed out.

One of the solutions could be to create an independent levy for prosecution. He doesn’t think there is much hope of getting this through the legislature.

John E. asked if there are any Counties that are upside down on this. Meaning they are actually exceeding their levy. Seth said he didn’t know the exact data, but he is positive that just about every county they have additional funds coming in. For example some Federal funds come in to help with some of those costs. John E, asked if there is any thought through the IAC to give up this levy amount to the State and have the State take over the program. Seth said they recognize the State is not going to take over, they don’t have the money. They are contracted, so to speak, to pay what they are paying into the system now. They know it is going to take another 10+ million dollars to fund the system statewide. The hope is the State can come up with that additional amount.

He said he believes that is what happened in the State of Montana. Montana was sued by the ACLU several years ago. Their legislature, in reaction to the lawsuit, created a new public defense system in the State. He said when you look at some of the rural counties, there is no way Owyhee County or Oneida County can have a full-time public defender. They don’t have an extra $80-$90,000 sitting around to fund this. So regionalization is something to look at in these rural areas of our State.

Tom asked, what is the case-load for a county like Owyhee? Do they have enough to fund a full-time public defender? Seth said probably not. The problem is the structure of the public defense contracts. Sarah Thomas did a good job pointing out the problem. Your paid $2,500 a month to defend maybe 10 one month and maybe 60 the next month. If they were to go to a flat hourly rate, it would be different. But then this would create a problem being able to budget for the months where there is a lot of public defense work.

Seth said the issue of the role of Cities and where the funding should come from, actually came from the interim committee. He doesn’t know if they want to actually fight 200 plus Mayors from around the State. Right now, he thinks they are just looking at all options.

Seth said when you look at the State and how the State funds government in a republican dominated legislature. We have cut taxes significantly. We have reached a point where if you cut taxes any more, you are going to affect services. You throw in public defense and other systems where costs are increasing; he doesn’t know how you can do it all.

Tom said he remembers from Sarah’s comments, it is not just an issue of funding but there are some legal issues in regards to constitutionality. To him, this is the bigger issue. Seth said there is no question the system we have in place right now is constitutionally deficient. Because we have a contract based system and it is a flat based system. In Oregon, they have a contract based system. But it is more of an hourly rate system and it is all funded by the State.

John E. asked what would happen in Owyhee County if they were to come upon a capital case. Seth said that capital cases are kind of unique in their nature. We have a statutory fund called the Capital Crimes Defense Fund. It is kind of an insurance fund for counties. Counties pay like an insurance premium into the fund. If they have a capital case, they are entitled to receive funding for the case.

John B. asked if we took some misdemeanors down to infractions, is there a figure out there on what that would save. Seth said they are looking at that right now. They have a list through ISTARS. They are able to print out all the misdemeanors in the State that have been charged. You can tell by the listing whether it is a municipal, county or State infraction. In the grand scheme of thing it is not going to be a big saving but it will be some.

There were a few cases they found where in Idaho Law a certain crime was an infraction, but at the city or county level it was a misdemeanor. Ken said that one of the things that have to happen is a thorough analysis on what is an infraction. Tammy added that most all cities have out of date ordinances and it would help to do a review.

Tom said they went through that process in Nampa last year. They moved a number of things from a misdemeanor down to infractions.

Local Option Tax

Tom mentioned that Senator Chuck Winder has a bill that is going to be introduced based on the Oklahoma City model where a local option would pass on a 50% vote. Seth encouraged everyone to look at this legislation. Glancing through this on the surface it sounds great. But there is some language in there that is concerning. If a county goes out and enacts a local option, then a city in the county could no longer do that until that local option is expired. Tammy said that another thing is it would have to pass in every single jurisdiction, not just an overall vote.

Director’s Report

Bill said the unusual expenses for the month are the quarterly SAUSA payment. In addition, we paid to have our tax filing done by our accountant. These are the only expenses outside of what we normally incur.

Farewell to Tom Dale

Tammy presented Tom with a token of her appreciation for all his years of service and his leadership for the City of Nampa as well as the Partnership.

Tom said it has been an incredible honor to be a part of the Partnership. This group is unique in the State and unique in the country. Brent Coles, Garret Nancolas, Vern Bisterfeldt and others got this thing going. He feels this Partnership needs to continue. It gives County Commissioners and Mayors the forum to create relationships and mutually solve problems we all face. The Partnership has taken on some projects but we are not project driven. The key role for the Partnership is the creation of relationships among jurisdictions that can support one another.

Meeting Adjourned.