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Meeting Minutes
February 23, 2015

Attendees

  • Kelly Aberesturi
  • John Bechtel
  • Tammy de Weerd
  • John Evans
  • Nathan Leigh
  • Nate Mitchell
  • Garret Nancolas
  • Greg Nelson
  • Jim Reynolds
  • Steve Rule
  • Darin Taylor

Staff and Guests

  • Sherry Iverson – St. Luke’s
  • Brad Talbutt – Family Advocates
  • Pete Wagner – Regional Administrator, Idaho DEQ
  • Bill Larsen – Treasure Valley Partnership

Open Discussion

John E. said there are several things going on with the legislature that can potentially impact cities. HB 173 is a bill to disperse tax receipts from new construction to school districts to be used for bond repayment, building safety and improvements and other safety needs of the public schools. He added that charter schools will also be interested in this legislation because they have no vehicle for facilities. The argument is that new growth brings more kids into the schools and they can’t keep up. He added that not all new homes have kids, but a new home does have police, fire etc. Jim added that we have a big influx of senior citizens moving to our area and they are not bringing kids with them. John E. said it is the State Legislature’s job to fund the schools. Now they want to change the program and ask locals to help fund schools. Years ago, they wanted to move school funding into the general fund and take it off the property tax. This represents a real departure from that. John E. continued, that there is the historic horse racing bill (laughter). He feels this is a straight up constitutional issue. What they proposed and what they installed are two different things. John E. said there is a vote coming up real soon on the Eminent Domain Bill, SB 1044, which is a bill that will amend existing law to provide that eminent domain shall not be used for trails, paths, greenways or other ways for walking, running, hiking, bicycling or equestrian use, unless adjacent to a highway, road or street. It is a squeaker. Dave agreed. John E. said it seem like there is a full on assault this year on local government coming from allot of different directions. Jim agreed. With regard to transportation funding, John E said his concern is they are going to try to address this with a sales-tax component, which will have negative impacts on local governments. Steve said he was back in DC and saw all four of our congressional delegates. Simpson actually talked like they might get an increase in the gas tax at the federal level. The other three weren’t as optimistic. Simpson sits on the appropriations committee so his statement may be a little more informed. Jim asked if there is a sense this tax bill is going to pass (HB173). John E. said we have had a change in the character of the legislature over the last couple of cycles. We have a lot more folks that are willing to look at that. People don’t understand cities, counties, highway districts, etc. Now the legislature is in a position of pitting schools against transportation. Dave said that Senator Sidoway signed off on this bill. He was one backstop for this. Dave said one of Elliot Werk’s potential replacements is Mary Ann Jordan. This is a good thing as she is as versed about local issues as anybody over there. In regards to SAUSA, Bill said there was nothing new to report other than it was discovered there is no line item in the Dept. of Correction’s budget for the SAUSA Program. It is kind of a pass-through from the Governor’s Office. There is a commitment from the Dept. of Corrections Director to add $35,000 for both Northern and Eastern Idaho. Bill added that in Northern Idaho, one of our advocates for the SAUSA Program, Bonner County withdrew their support and participation. They got a lot of pressure from people that don’t want to be involved with Feds in any way shape or form.

Rules and Regulatory Environment

Jim said during the last TVP meeting we had a discussion about environmental impacts and he wanted to add some time on this subject. Julia thanked Jim for the opportunity to speak to the Partnership. She started with Idaho Power working in the State regulatory environment and over time has shifted to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and now EPA work. She has been working on one piece of regulation that is going to the energy industry, the proposed changes to the Clean Air Act. It is Obama’s plan to cut carbon production by 30% by 2030. It is a huge piece of regulation that is going to affect everyone and will be very expensive. The way it is set up is, it draws a hard line around the State boundary. The energy system doesn’t work this way. They have power plants that bring power into Idaho and when you apply the act which draws hard lines around the State, it creates some real absurd results when you apply it to electricity generation in the State. The Clean Air Act is set up to use four building blocks. The first two are intended to impact coal plants. Well, Idaho does not have coal plants and these four building blocks are intended to provide flexibility in complying with the Clean Air Act. It is assumed that every coal plant can cut heat rate output by 6%. These improvements are intended to be brought about by improving the way coal is burned at the plant. Not all plants can cut this rate by 6%. The second building block as they have proposed is that producer’s ramp down their coal output and ramp up the use of natural gas. The goal is reduce the use of coal to zero or increase the amount of natural gas use to 70%. Well Idaho doesn’t have coal so this does not apply. So the two building blocks we are left with to comply with the rule, are renewable energy generation and energy efficiency. These two building blocks don’t make a ton of sense for Idaho because we have so much renewable energy generation in the State. Their first request of the EPA is that they take away the four building blocks as they are applied to Idaho and simply set a carbon output level. There is also a problem in that they are using 2012 as a baseline. 2012 was an atypical year in it was a high water year in some areas and a low water year in other areas. If you use one year as a baseline, you are stuck making adjustments based on baseline data that historically doesn’t make allot of sense. Because we are so dependent on hydro generation in Idaho and droughts typically happen if a 5-7 year cycle, if we do have a drought, there would be no way for them to comply. Hence they have asked for a safety valve based on Idaho’s generation mix. Idaho is the second lowest emissions State, or 49th out of 50 in CO2 emissions. The only State that is lower than Idaho is Vermont. Vermont has been exempted from the rule, because they don’t have coal and they don’t have natural gas. The only generation sources in Idaho that emit carbon are two natural gas powered plants. Dave asked the percentage of power that is produced that is coal based. Julia said that it is 30% across all of Idaho Power, not just Idaho. It varies by year if we have a high or low water year. State wide, power generation is 87% carbon free because of all the hydro, solar and wind production. Both of the natural gas plants in Idaho meet what is called new source performance standards under the rule. So if these plants were built tomorrow, they would fall outside of the proposed rule and they would be able to run them at full capacity. But because they were in-place with the propose rule came out, the EPA says you need to cut output to what was generated in 2012. The Langley Gulch natural gas plant was running around 30% of capacity in 2012. EPA’s new rules mean they would have to cut this plant back to 15% capacity. This essentially throttles the output that Idaho rate payers have paid for. Jim asked if Idaho Power has translated this into dollars that it will cost the rate-payer. She indicated they haven’t at this time. At this point, the way the rule is written, the costs would be significant but they haven’t calculated the baseline costs to project out what the rule would cost if implemented. Steve said, what is even more ironic is they have identified that gas field. With a minimal amount of treatment, they can pipe that directly from the bench to the plant. This pipeline could potentially satisfy all of this plant’s natural gas needs. Jim asked if she was aware of any challenges on a national level that would curb their authority to make these kinds of sweeping changes. She said there are several states that have joined a lawsuit, but Idaho has not joined this effort as of yet. John B. asked if the Sage Grouse activity is going to mess with the power line coming down from Hemingway. Julie, said she did not have a good answer on that but there are attorney’s with Idaho Power that are working specifically on this issue.

Urban Renewal in Idaho

Jim introduced Ryan Armbruster. Ryan said when he spoke to us in September; a loosely organized working group had just come back from a trip to Salt Lake City in August. That trip was organized by Representative’s Youngblood and Amherst from Nampa after their bill last year did not make it through the process, concerning limitations on use of tax increment dollars on public buildings. They felt a more comprehensive overhaul of urban renewal should be examined. The group consisted of advisors from Boise, Meridian, Twin Falls, Pocatello, Dept. of Commerce and others. It is fair to say, the group came back with a better understanding of the Utah program. However, it also recognized that you can’t just take 100 pages of law and plop it down on an Idaho law book and call it good. The other conclusion they came back with is Utah at the local government level has many more types of resources available for economic development than Idaho. It is clear that Utah has been successful at reining back their urban renewal law because there are so many options for local government. One example is they do have sales tax increment financing, which we do not. This group did not reconvene till sometime in November. The group concluded they will work through the 2015 session and come back with an overhaul for 2016. This went by the wayside when the Speaker of the House, Representative Bedke, at the Assoc. of Taxpayers conference in December announced he would like to see a comprehensive package by March 1st of this year. As a result of this, the working group was expanded to include county assessors, the Idaho Association of Counties, developer representatives and others. They have been meeting every Thursday afternoon since the session started. The overhaul won’t happen this year. What will happen is continuing inroads into the authority and way that urban renewal and tax increment works in Idaho. He believes there will be a few bills that will be crafted to respond to some of the criticisms that have been set out. The first one is governance. Right now, the primary model throughout the state is that the urban renewal board consists of a mix of Mayors, City Council members and lay persons. A few cities have the entire city council as the board. This model has not gone through the legal challenge process up to the Idaho Supreme Court. In the previous week, a directive from the AG’s office indicates they are not too concerned about the makeup of the urban renewal board. But the AG’s opinion is not a force of law. Dave stated that compared to the other mischief they are creating, the board composition is not an issue. Ryan said that they are trying to argue is that urban renewal is a local issue and each city should have the ability to attack that issue with as many flexible powers and authorities that might be warranted. The other bill that will probably come out is a version of a bill that died in the Senate last year. That would limit the use of tax increment dollars in construction of a public building. Last year’s bill limited public buildings to city halls and libraries. This year it might include court houses and other types of facilities. There is a great agitation about using tax increment dollars on public buildings. Last year’s bill had a confusing exception to the limitation if you ran an election to provide for tax increment authority. This could create two different elections on these sorts of matters. The last issue that has been discussed is one that is hard to get a handle on. It goes back to accountability and early return of funds to other taxing entities and tax payer and close-out of project areas. He believes we will see some tightening on the annual reporting that urban renewal has to comply with. When the agency has its annual report right now, they just file it with the City Council. There may be some language inserted that the annual report must be officially reviewed and accepted at a formal city council meeting. The thought is that as projects wind down, there should be more input from elected officials on what they are going to do over the next several years and are you in a position to close out the project and when. House Bill 18 limits the use of eminent domain without consent of the city council. If we lose eminent domain authority we would be unable to issue tax exempt debt. House Bill 19 would require the consent of the city council for an agency to enter into long term debt. This bill raises alter ego issues and could potentially create liability on the part of the city. Senate Bill 1017 requires an urban renewal agency and ITD to pay the relocation costs incurred by telecommunications companies as a result of an urban renewal project or ITD project. Senate Bill 1044 eliminates the use of eminent domain for trails, greenbelts, etc. unless it is adjacent to a roadway. This one seems to be a solution trying to find a problem; however, it does have some legs. Ryan said he believes there is no one in the urban renewal or city communities that don’t agree we need some change. We need modernization as much as we need reform. We need modernization to create different rules for a straight forward economic development project vs. urban renewal, downtown slum and blight projects.

Terrorism Threats in the Treasure Valley

Jim said the next topic is something he has been concerned about for some time. He gets quarterly briefings from people that work in this field. He asked how many had seen the article in Atlantic Monthly, as of July 2014, a new caliph has been declared. This is the first one since the Ottoman Empire. The reason it might be of concern is it has no national borders. The pledge and the mission of the caliph is to bring sharia law to the rest of the world. The sharia law is a very serious thing and parts of it are already implemented in Texas and other locations. To Arabic-speaking people, sharia means the moral code and religious law of a prophetic religion. We tend to feel we are isolated here in Idaho, but Jim doesn’t believe we are. He introduced Captain Eugene Smith. Captain Smith mentioned that Mayor Reynolds wanted him to talk about terrorism and why it is important to us in the Treasure Valley. First, he never thinks in terms of terrorism, he thinks in terms of active violent incidents, which terrorism is one. Secondly, they follow a term called THIRA (Threat, Hazzard, Identification, Risk, and Assessment). This is the concept behind what all public safety organizations’ plan for the threats in their community today. This is interesting to groups such as the Partnership for a couple of reasons. From the terrorism point of view, this refers to first responders planning, training and mapping out the response to these sorts of incidents. Even today, many years past 9/11, 25% of all federal grant money that comes into our local jurisdictions, has to be spent on law enforcement and specifically has to have a nexus to terrorism. Over the previous weekend, Al Shabaab called for an attack on the Mall of America. This is the type of notices they get all the time. Some background information that has relevance to this topic is: Boise is a relocation center for refugees around the world. Unfortunately, these refugees don’t get a lot of vetting when they come here and there are cases of individuals who are subject to extortion or coercion to act on behalf of terrorists. BSU is one of the pieces they look at. This could be any university in the State. BSU is unique because they have over 1,000 foreign students. These students receive little or no vetting for their associations to terrorist organizations. Some of the locations in and around the Treasure Valley that are of concern for terrorism threats include, Albertson’s Stadium, Taco Bell Arena, Idaho Center, Gowen Field, Lucky Peak Dam, and the State Capitol Building. One of the trends has been attacks on soft-target atmospheres like malls or sports venues that may or may not have a lot of security. Going back to the beginning, we need to plan, we need to train and we need to prep for responses. But you as leaders need to know that we are prepping and are training our first responders to deal with these sorts of issues. Steve asked how eminent or likely it is that we will come under chemical or nuclear attack. Captain Smith said nuclear and chemical attacks are interesting. He felt they don’t have the wherewithal for a large-scale attack like this. However, it doesn’t take very much. The real scare behind a “dirty bomb” type incident is all the bomb has to have is some radiological particles attached to it. Dave said there has been a lot of press about the MRAP. It is a military vehicle and the City of Boise has one. It is enormous. They have used theirs twice for explosive type situations. They also have a smaller vehicle called a Bear Cat that has a little more practical use. You only use these types of equipment when the safety of the officers is threatened. Captain Smith offered to the Partnership members if any of them want to come take a look at and receive a briefing on the vehicles Mayor Bieter highlighted, feel free to contact him. Nathan said that outside of the City of Parma there is an ethnic kill farm. Apparently they butcher 150-200 animals per week. He understands from the owners, their clients come from as far away as Central Washington and Northern California. Ethnic killing requires a variety of procedures and is a religious kind of event. An incident occurred with their police department where an individual had killed a goat, had not changed his clothes and had blood all over his clothes. The police stopped him for a tail light infraction. It went downhill from there. Ultimately, he had a meeting with the business owner saying that police were harassing individuals utilizing the farm. His point is; events come from strange places.

Director’s Report

Bill stated that Steve Rule and Canyon County is hosting the next Partnership meeting. Steve said he is looking forward to it and he and Bill have been working on the Agenda. Jim moved and Steve seconded to approve the minutes and financial statement. Brad asked if the members were up to speed on what the Department of Water Resources is trying to do with regard to irrigation allotments on the Boise Project. We have a flood control agreement since 1953 that has worked flawlessly. When the reservoirs get to 78% containment, any projected flooding is mitigated by flood releases. The Department is proposing to take the flood release volume and use it against the irrigation allotment. There have been years where we released 3.1million gallons where our total storage is 1 million gallons. So under this proposal, you could end up with no irrigation assessment. John mentioned that Wilder will be having a Blue Grass Festival June 26-28. Meeting Adjourned.