Elected officials working
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Meeting Minutes
November 30, 2015

Attendees

  • Kelly Aberasturi
  • Dave Bieter
  • Gheen Christofferson
  • Craig Hanson
  • Bob Henry
  • Nathan Leigh
  • Greg Nelson
  • Jim Reynolds
  • Joe Stear
  • Darin Taylor
  • Rick Yzaguirre

Staff and Guests

  • Chris Atwood – Former Treasure Valley SAUSA
  • Rafael – Gonzalez – U.S. Attorney’s Office
  • Tara Malek – New Treasure Valley SAUSA
  • ElJay Waite – Finance Director, City of Caldwell
  • Mark Wendelsdorf – Fire Chief, City of Caldwell
  • Bill Larsen – Treasure Valley Partnership

Open Discussion

Mayor’s Walking Challenge

Bob Henry opened the meeting in the absence of Garret Nancolas who was under the weather. He asked Gheen how many miles he walked in the recent Mayor’s Walking Challenge. Gheen said he walked 460 miles and Bob said he walked 394 miles and came in sixth. Gheen said he came in third and the winner walked 73 more miles than he did. The winner was the Mayor of Emmett.

Consolidation of Fire Districts

Bill said that Garret wanted to lead off with a discussion about consolidation of fire districts. Mark Wendelsdorf said at this point in time, the Fire Chiefs in the valley have gotten together to try to identify areas they can enhance services and reduce costs by working together. There are a couple of different studies going on at the present for master planning as it relates to the delivery of fire services.

In addition to that, Mark said the Fire Chiefs are planning on meeting in a couple weeks to talk about issues they can work together on. In about 60 days, they will be in a better position to do a presentation to the Partnership on this issue. Right now they are doing fact-finding trying to identify the various issues involved. For example, what would happen if they didn’t have boundaries and they were one large organization? Or, what areas could they share in, for example one training department for the valley.

Bob asked if any other Partnership members have had discussions like this with their fire chiefs. Darin said the City of Middleton just annexed their first industrial area. He has spoken with their Chief and the closest fire station to this area is in the Caldwell Fire District. He said one of the discussions with the fire districts revolves around this issue and does it make sense to change district boundaries to better reflect areas of impact.

Dave said, in Ada County, they have joint reciprocal agreement among the first responder organizations. Mark said, in Ada County they have training kind of under one umbrella and they have asked the Canyon County folks if they would like to join that effort.

Bob said in Nampa 80% of their calls are EMS calls not fire calls. So the question is what does the fire station look like in the 21st century? Do they put a $450,000 fire truck at each location or do we do it with emergency response vehicles? Their Chief is behind this discussion totally. His opinion is their current way of providing services is not sustainable over the long run. We need to find a better way to provide these services.

Nathan said with Parma being clear out on the far end of Canyon County, their fire and EMS have been discussing going into Payette County, which they do now anyway. He doesn’t know what kind of agreements are in place to provide services in the nether lands between Payette and Parma, but is sure his Chief is involved with these meetings. When you are way out on the edge, sometimes your point of view is different.

Joe reiterated what Mayor Bieter said in Ada County they started working on the joint powers agreement on emergency medical services and bringing fire departments and districts into this is a natural transition. He feels they are on the way to having a format for that.

Bob asked when they are going to bring the unions into the discussion. Mark said that will be one of their big challenges as they move forward. His opinion is, this will come about this spring as they set down to renegotiate contracts. He believes they will get some pushback from the unions. But if we work together and focus on the end goal, they will be able to make the service better.

Kelly said most of Owyhee County consists of volunteer fire departments. They are a few fire districts such as in the town of Marsing. He asked how much of the fire services are paid for with tax payer dollars. Mark said that most, if not all of the fire departments are funded through tax payer dollars. This is what we have to focus on, how we are providing the value to the dollar we are receiving from the tax payer.

High Capacity Transportation

Darin said he raised this issue at the end of our last meeting. He feels we need to be informed about this issue and Compass may the correct forum. But it does need to involve all of us as we share information with our councils and commissions and are good at getting a consensus of the people. Mass transit is going to a much larger issue valley-wide in the future than it is now. Currently we have 600,000 + people in the valley today and it is projected to be at 2.2 million.

Other areas in the nation have dealt with this issue. We are no different than these other areas. Mass transit is expensive and it is all subsidized. However, it is an eventuality in one way or another.

Matt Stoll is having a mass transportation work group. Darin has asked to be a part of that group. It always comes down to financing. There is no money, so does that mean we don’t plan. When he went to the National League of Cities meeting last month, this one of the top two subjects discussed. The bigger cities have to go back and retrofit for this service. We are at the point where we can go and do this right. He proposed we have this discussion and work on it vigilantly.

With regard to funding, it will become a funding priority when residents start the push. The way he sees it happening is to come up with a couple of concepts and start selling it in our communities. He feels we are going to be talking about this issue for several years. Eventually the legislature is going to see that Local Option Sales tax for this purpose is good. Otherwise, there isn’t a big enough draw to get this Local Option through the legislature.

Darin continued, what we can do today, as development occurs, is develop the right-of-way for our mass transit system. If we don’t get that now, we won’t be able to buy that later.

Dave said, speaking for himself, he agrees with what Darin said. Where he has become old and crotchety is thinking the legislature will ever do anything to get Local Option a reality in Idaho. He feels the only route and a much more productive use of time is to obtain the signatures to put Local Option on the ballot. This is a big effort. But he would rather put his time into this effort than thinking the legislature will ever approve local option. This is a big effort. It requires being extremely organized and having the funding to go obtain the signatures.

Dave said in a poll a couple years ago, approximately 62% of Idahoans would favor a local option tax. They still may vote against it if it comes from the citizenry, but they won’t take it up independently. He thinks this is the only route.

There is a group going forward with an effort to change two or three aspects of public financing. One is to lower the super majority to grant a local option. Dave added he spent quite a bit of time in the legislature and has been watching them since then. He doesn’t think anything is going to happen this year. He thinks our best strategy is defense and set the bar for the legislature at do-no-harm.

Dave said you have to run an initiative on an even numbered year and thinks it is too late for 2016. You have to get the signatures to the Secretary of State by April of the year. So he believes we are looking at 2018 and will have two years to work on the effort of getting the signatures to get local option on the ballot. He would rather put the time, energy and resources into getting the signatures to get this on the ballot. At the end of the road, if you have done your homework you can get it passed.

Darin said he realizes Middleton is a different political arena size-wise compared to Boise. For the election he just went through, he knocked on almost every door in town. He feels very comfortable he can, as a city leader, come up with as many signatures needed to support a local option. Yet funding for their city is very minimal. He added he feels they can get the signatures without paying some outside entity to come in and get the signatures.

Darin asked where this effort to get the signatures to put local option on the ballot would come from. Dave said the Association of Cities has indicated they would help with this effort and is not sure where the Counties Association is on the issue. They would need a big network of individuals around the state to get the signatures. To get anything on the ballot, you have to have a certain amount of signatures per legislative district.

Dave said he has visited probably 8-10 different transit authorities around the country. Every single one of them said if they had only started sooner, they would be that much further ahead. He said he is a rail guy and a bus solution doesn’t excite him. If you put a rail system in place, investors make investments because of the system (or route) is in place and won’t change like a high speed bus route might.

Dave said because of the rules on using public funds, you would not be able to campaign to educate voters. So therefore, private funding is needed.

Bob said we would need a valley-wide plan in order to get started. Dave said VRT has a good rail plan to serve the valley. Darin asked if we could have Kelly Fairless come in and provide an update on the rail plan as not all members of the Partnership are on VRT’s board. Bill said he would talk with Kelly about coming and presenting the plan to us in an upcoming meeting.

Urban Renewal Legislation

Dave asked if anyone has been in regular contact with the Urban Renewal Interim Committee. The worrisome part for him is there has been talk about taking away the authority to use these funds for any public facility at all. Bob said he and Rick Youngblood have been talking frequently, and in Bob’s opinion most of the problems have been fixed in that you have to go to the voters to get approval. He has heard that you are not going to see the public facility issue as an issue, but we will wait and see.

Greg said as far as the problems with urban renewal being fixed, the public has a different perception of that. Especially in a district like theirs in a district right next to Nampa. You just can’t get anyone interested in using urban renewal as a tool. They had a person who was running for City Council whose main platform was against urban renewal.

Bob said he thinks they just want to get whatever they are going to do, complete, as they have been working on this for years.

Meet and Greet with new SAUSA

Rafael Gonzales said he has been on board with the gang partnership since the inception of the program. This has been a program that is near and dear to his heart. It has been a vastly successful and innovative program. As he goes around the country, there isn’t a SAUSA Program like this anywhere. The SAUSA Program has certainly benefited their office in they have hired all the attorney’s working under the program. The group has done an incredible job of hiring for this position.

The new person just hired is Tara Malek who comes to us from the Kootenai County Prosecutor’s Office. She is a graduate of the University of Arizona and the University Of Idaho School Of Law. He introduced Tara and asked her to take over.

Tara said she worked for about three and a half years with the Kootenai County Prosecutor’s Office. She did just about everything for them. She started out with misdemeanors and moved to prosecuting felonies and specialized in drug prosecutions. Before this she was in private practice.

Rafael said he wanted to turn the floor over to Chris Atwood and wanted him to talk about his new position with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Chris’s position is new to their office and across the country. It is called a Smart-on-Crime position. It will allow him to take a step back from the day-to-day functioning of the U.S. Attorney’s Office to try to put together programs so we can create a more holistic approach. This will include interacting with communities and developing community safety networks to direct at-risk youth away from crimes.

Chris said his Smart-on Crime position will have a three prong approach. Instead of just prosecuting crimes in court, it will be an effort to prevent crime as one of their prongs. They will still be identifying perpetrators that need to prosecuted but the third prong will be working with those who have been in prison and are reentering society. The goal will be to reduce the recidivism of these folks.

One of the programs they have, is they are spending time going to elementary schools and volunteering with reading programs. There is research that shows if you don’t know how to read by the third grade, you have a higher chance of coming into contact with the criminal justice system. He wanted to reiterate to the Partnership members that if anyone has ideas on how to affect crime reduction in the different jurisdictions, please contact him and he would be more than happy to listen and see if they can implement the idea into their crime prevention tool box.

Bob said his Police Chief is saying that they are starting to see people we have put away under the SAUSA Program, getting out and coming back home. What processes are there for these folks like a welcome wagon approach? Chris said the people that are coming back are supervised with a goal of keeping them from getting back into their old ways. The Bureau of Prison’s does have contracts with local half-way houses. They are going to be going to these places and work with them to avoid going back to their old ways.

Rafael said, once a person has about 15% left on their sentence they get transitioned into half-way houses in the community. This gives them the opportunity to provide education and programs to help them once they get paroled. There are a significant number of folks that are coming back so they are seeing what they need to do to help this population.

Bob asked if there is coordination with local law enforcement identifying those that have been released and are back into the community. Rafael said he is unsure how seamless this communication has been, but this will be one of the tasks Chris will take on, that is working with local law enforcement to help provide ways to keep those being released from going back to their old networks.

Joe asked if there is support for those coming out. He said he owns a machine shop and has employed folks coming out of prison. It seems as though the first couple of months they are extremely focused and doing well. Then he starts seeing a transition in these people in that they start losing their focus and end up getting back in trouble. Rafael said, there is support from the parole officer and mental health counselors, etc. But a lot of times, the living environment these folks undertake ends up not being the support they need in order to avoid going back into making the wrong choices. It is an uphill battle and hopefully through this new initiative that Chris is undertaking, we can make an impact on that.

Dave said as part of the updates we are given, he would be interested in seeing information on whether we are making inroads and is their less gang activity. He asked if this is something that could be provided as part of the regular updates. Rafael said this is hard to capture but certainly they have information on gang indicators and this has been going down. He doesn’t think they will ever see as dramatic of a decrease as we saw when we started this program, just because the problem was so huge. He said the inflow into these criminal organizations is difficult to turn off due to a variety of factors. One of the best things they can do is to support those at-risk youth so they are not turning to these organizations for whatever reason.

Rafael said they can look at preparing a more comprehensive report the next time around instead of just the productivity of the SAUSA prosecutions.

Jim asked if there was any movement on finding these people jobs with some sort of upward mobility instead of just flipping burgers and if there is any systems out there like a support group of former felons, kind of like alcoholics anonymous that would be a support. Rafael said part of the supervision involves counseling to criminological thinking. In those support groups they are much like therapy sessions that are ongoing. These sessions attempt to change the way people think to keep them from making mistakes. Talking about employment, depending on the economy, good employment can be a tough thing to find. Once they find the employment then people start spending most of their time in a positive support environment.

Idaho Youth Ranch Activities in the Treasure Valley

Bill introduced Steve Woodworth, the CEO of the Idaho Youth Ranch. Steve thanked the Partnership for the opportunity to listen to the conversation prior to his presentation. Their organization works on the front end in that they work with at-risk youth.

Steve thanked Mayor Bieter for getting him on the agenda today.

The Idaho Youth Ranch was incorporated in 1953 as a 501 c-3. Their mission is to provide troubled children a bridge to a valued, responsible and productive future by being a catalyst for positive change. They created a ranch outside of Rupert, Idaho and they are a State-wide organization and they operate an emergency shelter for boys and girls in Boise and a family counseling and resource center in Coeur d’Alene.

They operate 18 thrift stores in the valley and other businesses they use to support operations. Their total operating budget this year is $23.3 million. About 84% of their budget comes from their social enterprises which includes their thrift stores, e-commerce and through donated vehicles. They employ approximately 400 people.

They are moving their ranch to the Treasure Valley from Rupert. For most of their history, the Youth Ranch contracted with State Agencies through Health and Welfare and more recently, the Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections. Most of their kids at the ranch came through these two contracts.

In 2009, they made the decision to part ways with the Department of Juvenile Corrections and to begin to work with kids earlier on and work with parents and communities prior to their getting involved with corrections.

They target five kinds of kids. They include the outwardly defiant, the dejected loser, the attention seeker, those fleeing or running from issues and abused/neglected youth. They typically receive 1,600 calls a year from typically moms, grandparents and even social service agencies with concerns over children. He provided a handout that describes these children and the characteristics they typically see. In addition, they operate on a sliding scale and never turn away a child because of the inability to pay.

They offer services from a very intense residential treatment program to what they call their Ranch Reader’s program where kids can come into one of their locations and get a book for free. Since February of 2013 they have given away 153,000 books. The whole idea is to help children with literacy and is one of their prevention programs.

He wanted to share why they are moving their ranch from Rupert to Boise. The original idea was to isolate kids out in the middle of nowhere to eliminate the distractions. They have had a number of problems with this. One of the problems was the kids were so far away from their families, with a lot of times no family resources to easily visit. There was a need to be close to community colleges and also a university so they could more easily work toward that aim with the kids they serve. Also they had a number of aging structures and they had to make the decision to utilize their resources on the aging structures vs. finding something closer so they could continue to provide the level of services necessary for the kids.

So, the Board made the decision to move about three years ago. They needed about 130 acres and wanted it near one of the population centers in the Treasure Valley. They found this facility between Middleton and Caldwell that used to be a private estate with a nine-hole golf course. This is a beautiful property and fits their needs perfectly. It is 260 acres and they ended up purchasing it for around $6,000 per acre which was quite a bit cheaper than the other properties they had looked at.

The Youth Ranch has been working with other organizations and has welcomed their use of the new facility. For example, the Boy Scouts have utilized their space for some of their activities.

In total, this is a $22 million project that they will complete in phases. There is a canal running through the property that they will tile. They have been working with the irrigation district to solve this problem.

One of their main goals is to work with other organizations that serve kids. They try to work in collaboration with these organizations to catch these at-risk youth early on so they can do the most good. They encourage these other organizations to utilize their resources to have the maximum impact. This new facility will enhance that ability to collaborate with other organizations to provide the best services possible.

Bob asked what percentage of the Youth Ranch revenues come from the thrift stores. Steve said that the thrift stores provide about 84% of their revenues. Bob said that thrift stores seem to be quite the rage now. In Nampa the Rescue Mission just opened a nice one and Deseret Industries have opened a new thrift store. Has the Youth Ranch seen any impact from this competition?

Steve said it is a competitive market and all these organizations have great visions. They do see some impact. The biggest impact they have seen from this competition has come from one of their for profit organizations. That is in the area of their recycled clothing enterprise. These competitors have taken thousands of tons of clothing out of the system.

Steve said it is not that easy to run a thrift store. You see a lot of them come and go. Many of them come down and shop at our stores and then sell their items for more than what the Youth Ranch is. Every now and then, they have half-price sales out of their Youth Ranch warehouses. They have thousands of people show up and this is a way they can sell items that are not selling in the thrift stores.

These other thrift stores haven’t really dented the donation side of their business. He attributes this to the Youth Ranch is an Idaho business that is home grown and they have been around for a long time.

Dave said if you get a chance to go see this property, take it. It is amazing. It is like nothing else he has seen. This is a good thing for our valley because not only is it located in Canyon County but it is serving the whole valley. Our awareness of what is going on there is important. It is the front end of service toward these at-risk youth and it will serve to steer kids away from gang activity.

Steve said the thing he has found is, people out there have the resources and they are going to give those resources to a cause that is dear to them. That is why it is important to them to have established relationships with other organizations that serve youth. For example, when the Boy Scouts utilize their facility, they bring in their own port-a-potty’s and the Youth Ranch doesn’t have to come up with that. Part of this is coordination and joining forces to reach the end goal.

Director’s Report

First, Bill asked for a motion to approve the minutes and financial report. Rick moved to approve the minutes and financial report. Darin seconded. Motion approved.

Bill said, in the past we have gone out and welcomed our new members. This time around we have five new members that are coming on-board in January. They are Eagle, Kuna, Star, Wilder and Marsing. Joe Stear from Kuna has been coming to our last couple of meetings. He called for volunteers to go meet with Stan Ridgeway – Eagle, Chad Bell – Star, Alicia Almazan – Wilder and James Ferdinand – Marsing. Bill said he will invite these Mayor’s elect to our next meeting. Beyond that he will set up meetings with those that do not come to our December meeting and would like to have volunteers when those meetings have been scheduled.

Bill showed a listing of the proposed 2016 meeting dates. Based on a previous conversation, he would like some feedback with regard to holding our annual strategic planning meeting to the 24th and 25th of March. He hasn’t checked on a location yet, but will have something put together soon.

Bill reported in Southeastern Idaho, they have gone through an interview for their new SAUSA. They have made an offer and this person is in the middle of the background check process.

Meeting adjourned.