What the watchdogs sniffed out this week

Lindsay Atkinson Articles

Every week, as I read through the news, attend county and city meetings, and hear comments from residents, I learn more about the complicated pool of local government authority.

Local government decisions greatly affect your life. And, this can be true even for the decisions made in cities and counties that you do not reside in.

Local governments often use other local governments as policy role models. So, the choices made in one local can reverberate through cities all across Idaho, either complimenting or restricting the liberty of residents.

Below are recent noteworthy actions by local governments across the state.

  • BOISE. This week, the city council continued to develop its strategy on how to tackle the shortage of affordable housing. Some of the ideas that came up in the meeting repeated what Mayor David Bieter said in his State of the City Address, such as the formation of a Housing Land Trust and the expansion of the housing incentives program. The council also heard ideas about how to revise current city code to accommodate the creation of more accessory dwelling units (commonly referred to as mother-in-law units). Such revisions could include: increasing the maximum size of the accessory dwelling to 700 square feet, removing the on-site parking space requirement, and eliminating the owner-occupancy requirement that has prevented owners from renting out both the principal and accessory unit. The council has yet to vote on any of the proposed changes. At this same meeting, the council voted to increase the budget for Fire Station 9 renovations. Across the city, fire station construction costs have greatly exceeded projections. Now, after receiving construction bids on Fire Station 9, the price tag could total $5.3 million for the project—$465,000 more than the original $4.8 million budget.
  • IDAHO FALLS. The city council plans to consider an ordinance to outlaw the use of cell phones while driving within city limits, unless that use is hands-free. Major details of the ordinance still need to be written, but the ordinance would make cell phone use a primary offense—meaning a driver can be pulled over by police for cell phone use
  • KOOSKIA. The city has renewed its $25,000 a year contract with the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office after confusion early this summer about which entity (county or city) provided police services. The ICSO had been contracted by the city to respond to calls within city limits because Kooskia did not have a police department. But, early in the summer, city officials asked Police Officer Standards and Training if two city public works employees could retain their certification and run code enforcement. Thus, confusion was created as to whether Kooskia intended to form its own police force. But, for the coming year at least, the ICSO will still provide police services in the city.
  • CANYON COUNTY. On September 21, Canyon County Commissioners voted against a proposed $2,000 salary increase, declaring the matter had become too politicized. Commissioner Tom Dale said, “I do not want this 2 percent salary adjustment for commissioners to get in the way of the important discussion we will be having with the community over the next few months.” This proposed raise received public attention because it came one year after the commissioners approved a $9,000 raise for their positions.
  • BOISE SCHOOL DISTRICT. The district will use $175,000 for a marketing campaign during the 2018-19 school year. The campaign is an attempt to stem the flow of students to charter and alternative schools. Idaho Education News reported that the school district has committed to at least a three-year-long campaign.

What is your local government doing that should be highlighted? Please comment below and let us know. Thank you!