Saturday, January 31, 2009

Melba Community Auction going well

We just got back from the 60th annual Melba Community Auction, where things were moving right along nicely. Organizers tell me the donations were down quite a bit from last year, but folks were still bidding well this year. One of the items that Nicola and I bought at the auction was a homemade huckleberry pie made by Madge Wylie. The huckleberries were hand-picked by her son up at Priest Lake. I'm not ashamed to admit that as soon as we got home, we dug in (at right). Delicious. Great job, Madge. No indigestion, no need for the antacid. We had to leave the auction a little early, so we missed how the classic car and pickup truck went, but the handmade Old World-style hand-carved wooden cane by Eugene Lee went for $250 to Norm and Kathy Alder. I bid unsuccessfully on a signed softball from the state champions. That eventually went for $100. Nicola and I finally successfully bid on a beautiful quilt. This one was handmade and donated by Michelle Van Schoiack and machine quilted by Homestead Quilts. We've bid on quilts many times before, including last year's Kuna History quilt by Cheryl Stubbs, but we've never come out on top. So we're pretty happy we finally took one home. Lute Greenfield's handmade metal sculpture of a moose went for $255, and a handmade birdhouse went for $250. We'll keep you updated on how the auction did and what it means to the Kuna Auction, in next week's Kuna Melba News.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

City of Kuna looking for two planning commissioners now

The city of Kuna is now looking for two new Planning and Zoning Commission members, after chairman Justin Touchstone informed the city he’s leaving the commission. Former commission member Holly Kerfoot moved to Fruitland in the fall, leaving her post open for the past couple of months. Touchstone, who has been the commission’s chairman since July, announced he is leaving the commission after serving for three years. Touchstone said he will stick around for a while until a replacement is found.
That leaves Dave Case, Stephanie Wierschem and Carl Trautman on the commission. Case has been on the commission since February 2007. Wierschem has been on the commission since March 2007. Trautman just joined the commission in July.
I know Dave Case personally, and I like him and I think he does a good job on the commission. However, Dave also serves on the school board, which meets once a month at the same time as the Planning and Zoning Commission, which creates a time conflict for Dave and causes him to miss some commission meetings.
So I hope the city finds a couple of new commission members quickly. City planning director Steve Hasson told me that just last week he received inquiries from two good candidates, which is encouraging. It’s been difficult finding folks who fulfill the requirements. Planning and Zoning Commission members must be residents of the city of Kuna (not just the surrounding area) and have lived in Ada County for at least five years.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Remembering what a big deal a mention in your local paper is

We received an email the other day from a reader who had submitted a schools-related story and photos, which I ran a few weeks ago. She wrote, "They really enjoyed seeing themselves in the paper last time. I brought each of them a copy of the paper to school, and their desks were immediately surrounded by students. The mile-wide smiles they had on their faces lasted most of the day. One of the boys said "Geez, my mom sent a copy of the paper to EVERYBODY (dripping with exasperation) we know." I think often as I get older, I forget what a big deal something like a mention in the local paper is. So thanks for printing the story, it meant a lot."
I think a lot of people have forgotten what a big deal something like a mention in the local paper is. We still think the local paper is the best way to connect with your community. Keep sending us your submissions, and we'll keep printing them.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Kuna should beat a tactical retreat in its fight with Meridian

The city of Kuna has a tremendous opportunity right now in its seemingly endless fight over land with the city of Meridian.
Last month, Ada County Commissioners, once again treating Kuna like an ugly stepchild better relegated to the hinterlands of Canyon County (or maybe even Nevada), approved Meridian’s request to extend its area of city impact down to Lake Hazel Road, over the objections of Kuna.
Kuna city officials have made the case that Kuna is best prepared to provide services north of Lake Hazel Road to Amity Road, based largely on the city’s new $30 million wastewater treatment plant that’s under construction near the southeast corner of Lake Hazel and Ten Mile roads. A 2004 wastewater master plan commissioned by the city of Kuna specifically targets the area between Lake Hazel and Amity roads as a natural development area that would gravity-feed the new treatment plant.
At the county commissioners’ Dec. 17 public hearing, however, a line of Meridian city officials and area residents, one by one, testified that the city of Meridian was better prepared to provide services to the land north of Lake Hazel Road. Although I wasn’t at that meeting, city planning director Steve Hasson tells me that the comments about Kuna were unflattering and derisive. Hasson, Kuna Mayor Scott Dowdy and one affected resident were the only ones to testify on Kuna’s behalf. “It was just a good old-fashioned butt-whooping,” Hasson told me, obviously dejected.
But there is a compelling argument to draw the line at Lake Hazel Road right now. If Kuna were to beat a tactical retreat right now, Kuna could go to the city of Meridian holding out an olive branch, saying, “OK, let’s draw that line at Lake Hazel Road and be done with the fighting. Let’s get together and do some joint planning. Let’s get together without any more baggage, without any cloud hanging over us.”
And maybe the two cities and school districts could work on that ice rink I’ve been dreaming about.
It may be difficult to swallow your pride and admit defeat, but a retreat at this point has its benefits.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Now is the time to be aggressive, not timid

What do you do when you’re a small business in a recession?
Is the answer to cut back, hide and adopt a bunker mentality until the storm is over?
I don’t think so. When the storm is over and you come out of your bunker, you may find out that no one remembers who you are.
Of course, this is a good opportunity to cut out any unnecessary expenses and focus your spending so that your business is as efficient as it can possibly be.
But now is not the time to hide. If anything, in an environment of shrinking spending dollars, it’s even more important to get out there and fight for those dollars.
According to a McGraw-Hill Research study looking at 600 companies from 1980 to 1985, businesses that chose to maintain or raise their level of advertising expenditures during the 1981 and 1982 recession had significantly higher sales after the economy recovered. Companies that advertised aggressively during the recession had sales 256 percent higher than those that did not continue to advertise.
Yeah, yeah, we’re just saying that because advertising is our business. But here’s a shocker: We actually believe it. Of course, we wouldn’t have gotten into the business if we didn’t believe in it. Anyone who’s talked to us about the newspaper business and the value of advertising in your local hometown newspaper knows how passionately we believe in it. But we’re not just talking the talk. We’re walking the walk. We’re putting our money where our mouth is.
Starting today, the Kuna Melba News will have billboards along Meridian Road, next to City Hall and at Fairview and Cloverdale roads. In addition, we're launching a radio ad campaign on Mix 106, and this month, we're mailing copies of the Kuna Melba News to every household in the Kuna school district in an effort to boost our circulation. In conjunction with that, we're giving our advertisers deep discounts for the entire month, helping them reach out to every household in Kuna for a very low price. Then in March, we're launching the Kuna Melba News Roundup, a free newspaper that will go to every household in the Kuna and Melba zip codes.
We're being aggressive now because after the storm is over, we're looking forward to sunny skies.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sadly, I think that the City of Kuna should cut its donations

I suspect that Tuesday night’s City Council meeting will contain a lively debate over $36,000 of donations that the city had included in its 2008-09 budget. The donations are now in jeopardy as the city is seeking to close a nearly half-million-dollar budget shortfall. Included in the donations are:
• $10,000 for the Boys and Girls Club.
• $2,000 for the Easter Egg Hunt.
• $10,000 for Kuna Days fireworks.
• $5,000 for the Kuna Chamber of Commerce.
• $9,000 for The Zone after-school program at Kuna Life Church.
The city is poring over every detail of the city budget, cutting police services, heating and electric bills for the senior center, cutting pay for city employees and reducing the work week by one hour every week. The city has managed about $260,000 of cuts, but they still have about $230,000 to go to balance the budget. The possibility looms of laying off a city employee or two.
In light of all that, I think the city should kill all of the donations for this year. Kuna Days will have to explore the possibility of a scaled down fireworks show, the chamber will have to pore over its own budget to determine where it can cut, the Easter Egg Hunt will have to rely on business donations and perhaps scale back on the prizes awarded, and the Boys and Girls Club is going to have to work harder in its $3.5 million fundraising capital campaign. Pastor Stan Johnson of Kuna Life Church was at Tuesday night’s meeting, but I didn’t get a chance to talk to him about the $9,000 donation to The Zone, so I don’t know how vital that donation is to The Zone. I suppose the city could consider maintaining that portion or reducing it slightly.
Even with these donations cut, the city still has no hope of closing the budget gap. It’s vital that the city cut everything that is not necessary to running city government at this point. I hope City Council members see the wisdom in cutting back now so that cuts are not more drastic in the future. The economy will rebound, the funding will return, the growth will come back. In the meantime, though, we all need to scale back.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Kuna Melba News — finally — adds a history column

This week, the Kuna Melba News is very excited to present yet another new feature: Looking Back, a new history column that looks back into Kuna and Melba’s history.
Over the past two years, we’ve been working very hard to respond to reader suggestions for new features: community calendar, weather, puzzles, recipe of the week. We’ve also added columns, high school sports coverage, a News of Neighbors page, a library page. We’ve also listened to reader suggestions about the police blotter. As you may have noticed, the last couple of weeks, we’ve been taking out and digesting the routine calls, such as traffic stops, security checks and property checks. It has shortened the blotter considerably, making it easier to read and allowing for more space for explanations of specific incidents.
A history column is yet another step in making us a better newspaper. Making the history column happen was perhaps more difficult than I anticipated. The only complete record, that I know of, of the Kuna Melba News and its predecessors, the Kuna Enterprise and Kuna Herald, are on rolls and rolls of microfilm at the Idaho State Historical Society on Old Penitentiary Road in Boise. What we’ve done is ordered the roll of microfilm of the Kuna Herald from 1959 — 50 years ago — and had it delivered through the Kuna Library to Kuna. With the help of the Kuna Melba News’ customer service representative Tami McCraw, we’ve been looking through the microfilm at the Kuna Stake Center of the LDS Church on West Kuna Road.
So our focus right now is on the stories and issues affecting Kuna and Melba 50 years ago. Fortunately, the Kuna Herald in 1959 also ran a “Looking Back” column that looked back at stories from 1949, 1939, 1929 and 1919, so we’ve picked those up, as well to look back 60, 70, 80 and 90 years ago.
I hope you enjoy the new feature. Let me know what you think.

Faced with potential half-million-dollar budget shortfall, Kuna makes emergency cuts

The city of Kuna is making budget cuts in anticipation of a projected half-million-dollar shortfall in the current city budget.
Without the cuts, the city faces the possibility of ending the year with only $65,000 in cash reserves.
“It’s clear that we need to take corrective action,” Kuna Mayor Scott Dowdy said Tuesday night. “The sooner we make changes, the sooner we’ll realize savings.”
City Council members Tuesday night authorized immediate cuts, including freezing the $92,000 contingency fund, canceling hiring a grant writer for $15,000, canceling a $15,000 impact fee study and putting a hold on all travel, training, uniforms and equipment upgrades.
Still up for consideration is killing $36,000 in donations that were included in the 2008-09 budget, which was approved in September. Further cuts could include a 6 percent reduction in the city’s $1.35 million contract with the sheriff’s office for police services, killing the $49,500 contract with the Humane Society for animal control and even charging for streetlights, a move that could raise $65,000. Beyond that, the city is even considering layoffs.
City Council members have called a special meeting for 6 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 13, at City Hall, 763 W. Avalon St., to consider future steps.

Friday, January 2, 2009

What e-mails are you sending out, Commissioner Rule?

Don’t you want to know what Canyon County Commissioner Steve Rule is sending out through his e-mail account that taxpayers provide him?
Apparently, Rule doesn’t want you to know.
Last month, after it came to light the Rule had sent out a joke e-mail about Michelle Obama, comparing her to a black widow spider, I got curious about what other e-mails Commissioner Rule was sending out.
As you might recall, and as you can read in this blog, I took Rule to task, not for the apparent racism of the e-mail, but for wasting taxpayer dollars on sophomoric joke chain e-mails. It got me to thinking that maybe this wasn’t the only joke email that Rule was sending out on the taxpayer dime.
So I filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act and Idaho Public Records law asking for a copy of all of Steve Rule’s sent e-mails for the months of October and November.
According to the Idaho Attorney General’s Office, “To date, E-mail (electronic mail) has not been separately addressed by the legislature. E-mail is considered a public record subject to the same laws as any other public record.”
As you may or may not know, public agencies have three days to respond to a public records request. Two days after my request was referred to the Canyon County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, on Dec. 17, I received a letter from Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Samuel B. Laugheed seeking an extension of the deadline on my request. Why, I don’t know.
On Dec. 29, I received another letter from Mr. Laugheed, denying my request for the information.
“I understand from Commissioner Rule that he does not retain sent email,” Laugheed’s letter states. “I also consulted with the County IT Department and understand that Commissioner Rule’s sent emails are not archived by them.”
Fair enough, I guess, although Mr. Laugheed’s phrasing, “I understand from Commissioner Rule,” seemed a little weak to me. Plus, it seemed odd that no one has sent emails from two months ago? My Entourage keeps sent emails as long as I want, and hotmail keeps sent e-mails from at least a year ago. Granted, aol keeps only a month’s worth of e-mail, so I guess it’s conceivable that Steve Rule’s sent emails from a couple of months ago are now disappeared and unobtainable.
So I figured sent e-mails would be kept around for a month anyway. So I filed another request on Dec. 29, asking for Commissioner Rule’s sent emails for the month of December. Quickly, I received a response from Mr. Laugheed on Dec. 31: “As previously stated in our December 29, 2008, letter responding to your request of December 15, 2008, I understand from Commissioner Rule that he does not retain sent email.”
So I’m not quite sure Mr. Laugheed did anything to fulfill my second request. I have a call into him, hoping to hear back soon.
Otherwise, it sounds like Commissioner Rule is actually actively going into his sent email folder and deleting his sent emails.
So my question is, “What do you have to hide, Commissioner Rule?”
What do you think? Don't you want to know what emails he's sending out on the taxpayer dime?