Friday, December 31, 2010

Kuna Cub Scouts thanks the community for its support

Thanks to Brian Shults from Den 5 for snapping and sharing this photo of Cameron Brazee of Kuna Cub Scout Pack 106 throwing a pie in the face of Cubmaster Steve Danell. Brazee received the honor of throwing the pie for being the top popcorn salesman in this year’s Cub Scout fundraising drive. Pack 106 raised a total of about $19,000. The boys of Pack 106 would like to thank the community for their support and for buying popcorn this year. This is Pack 106’s No. 1 fundraiser and helps keep Kuna’s only community pack in operation. And thanks to Steve Danell for being Pack 106's cubmaster. Steve is greatly appreciated by this pack.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wind turbine is being planned for spot just east of Kuna

A new feature is going to be dotting the skyline just east of Kuna.
Ted Wheeler this week is installing a 100-foot wind turbine on his farm near the corner of Eagle and Columbia roads.
Wheeler said that the installation planned for Thursday has been pushed by back a day or so.
The wind turbine will have a wing span of 30 feet and is expected to produce 20 kilowatt-hours of electricity. Wheeler said he will use the electricity for personal use and then sell any remaining electricity to Idaho Power, with whom he has a contract for the purchase of electricity.
“We expect a check every month,” Wheeler said.
Studies on his property show that the average wind speed is 12 mph. The wind turbine will begin generating electricity at 3 mph and top out at 50 mph, Wheeler said.
Wheeler purchased the wind turbine from Treasure Valley Wind and Solar, of Boise. He said the federal government subsidized 55 percent of the project and the U.S. Department of Agriculture kicked in a $20,000 grant. In the end, the project only cost Wheeler about $10,000 out of pocket, he said.
Wheeler said he asked his immediate neighbors if they had any objections, and none of them had any.
Ada County has ordinances regarding cell towers, but nothing about wind turbines, Wheeler said.
“Somebody’s got to be the guinea pig,” Wheeler said. “I guess I’ll be it.”

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year's resolutions for the city of Kuna from the Kuna Melba News

At this time, I thought I’d take the opportunity to make some New Year’s resolutions on behalf of the city of Kuna. I guess you’d say that this is more of a wish list of resolutions I’d like to see the city make. So here goes.
Kuna Boys & Girls Club. Whereas a Boys & Girls Club in Kuna will serve hundreds of Kuna children and have a positive effect on their lives;
Whereas one of the top priorities of the citizens of Kuna is to provide recreational opportunities, particularly for the youth of our community;
Whereas a Boys & Girls Club will provide those recreational opportunities;
Whereas a Boys & Girls Club won’t cost the city of Kuna a dime of taxpayer dollars;
Be it hereby resolved that the city of Kuna will take a leadership role in getting the necessary approvals and entitlements for the new club within the first quarter of 2011, so that the local steering committee members can begin a capital fundraising campaign by this summer.
Downtown revitalization. Whereas any city’s downtown is that city’s identity, containing therein that city’s past and history;
Whereas a city’s downtown serves as the heart and soul of a community and serves as a community gathering place for the purpose of commerce and fellowship;
Whereas Kuna’s downtown is in dire need of beautification and revitalization;
Whereas without city action, downtown will deteriorate;
Be it hereby resolved that the city of Kuna will undertake in 2011 a study of downtown, its needs and potential projects and begin a process of identifying and researching grants that could be applied for in order to accomplish such projects.

You can read the rest of my New Year's resolutions in my Editor's Notebook in this week's Kuna Melba News.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Life lesson for my boys: Do what you love

Dear Robert and Luke,
It is important that you find what you love to do in life and then do it. Unfortunately, I have found that too many people know what they love to do but they choose a career path that is different from what they love. The other unfortunate thing I have witnessed is that some people have no idea what makes them happy or what kind of career they would like to have. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have learned very early in life what I wanted to do and then I did it.
When I was in second grade, the only thing I asked for at Christmas was a typewriter. I’ve always had a love of writing. By the time I was in sixth grade, I took a career aptitude test that informed me I should look into the field of journalism. Journalism. My goodness. Just the word, “journalism,” smacked of importance and prestige. Sign me up.
When I was in junior high, I helped start our junior high newspaper, and when I was a junior in high school, I was the editor of my school paper, “The Clinton Signal.”
Around that time, my dad and I had been going around to several colleges to decide which one I wanted to attend. In my sophomore and junior years of high school, we must have visited a dozen or more colleges — Northeastern, St. Bonaventure, UMass, Syracuse University, Pace University.
It was on our visit to Pace, a quaint campus just north of New York City, that I had an important life lesson.
Read the rest in my Editor's Notebook in this week's Kuna Melba News.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Kuna, Idaho, school district seeking bids for new parking lot

Kuna school board members on Tuesday night voted unanimously to go out to bid for a new 120-space parking lot between the support services building and Teed Elementary.
The new parking lot could be used not only for staff parking at the support services building and the elementary schools, but it would come in handy for school programs, when cars line both sides of Porter Road for its entire length.
The parking lot could also be used for sporting events, particularly Friday night football games.
District project manager Layne Saxton informed school board members that he has about $380,000 in the 2007 school bond measure with which to work on the new parking lot as well as a new parking lot at the middle school.
Saxton said he estimates the Porter Road parking lot will cost anywhere from $130,000 to $170,000, leaving about $200,000 or more to redo the middle school lot.
Building a new parking lot at the support services building became more acute this year, as the school district moved several administrators, including the superintendent, assistant superintendent, business manager and human resources officer, to the support services building, which also serves as the “bus barn” and transportation center.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Let's consider sugar beet juice as a de-icer in Idaho

Here’s a little tidbit I came across when I was visiting family back in New York. The New York State Thruway Authority is using sugar beet juice as a de-icing solution. Apparently, sugar beet juice boosts the de-icing power of road salt.
The Thruway’s Syracuse Division launched a pilot program this winter to test the effectiveness of sugar beet juice mixed with liquid brine and salt, according to a story in the Oneida Daily Dispatch. The Albany area experimented with the mixture last winter with success, according to the story.
What does this have to do with Idaho?
Idaho just happens to be the No. 2 producer of sugar beets in the country, accounting for 19 percent of the total U.S. production, according to the 2009 numbers from the Idaho State Department of Agriculture. There were 163,000 harvested acres of sugar beets in Idaho in 2009, producing a total value of $235 million.
And in case you’ve never noticed those trucks carrying what looks like potatoes on steroids, those are sugar beets, and our local farmers in Kuna and Melba produce a lot of them.
An increase in the demand for sugar beets could be a huge boon to Idaho agriculture and to the local economy.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Community newspapers continue to show strong readership, community reliance

The Kuna Melba News is a member of the National Newspaper Association, a trade organization that represents the country's community newspapers, both dailies and weeklies. Nicola and I find that our NNA membership is invaluable. Below is one of the benefits of being a member. It's a story from the National Newspaper Association about a community survey of the effectiveness and importance of community newspapers.

COLUMBIA, MO — Communities served by community newspapers continue to demonstrate heavy reliance upon their local papers for news and information. Seventy-three percent say they read a local newspaper at least once a week.
Readers also say they read most or all of their community newspapers (78 percent), and of those going online for local news, 55 percent found it on the local newspaper’s website, compared to 17 percent for sites such as Yahoo, MSN or Google, and 26 percent for the website of a local TV station.
The results are reported by the National Newspaper Association, which has just completed its fifth readership survey on the patterns of community newspaper readers. Working with the research arm of the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism, NNA tests reactions of people living in smaller communities served by local newspapers.
The Kuna Melba News is an active member of the National Newspaper Association.
Since 2005, NNA has done research on how people read and what they think about their local newspapers. Results have been fairly consistent over the years, though the surveys have focused more tightly on small communities during the five years. For the 2010 survey, readership for towns with newspapers that have circulations of 8,000 or less were sampled. The community size has not significantly affected outcomes. The surveys show that community newspapers have remained popular.
The early data indicate that the positive findings are consistent with the earlier surveys:
• 73 percent of those surveyed read a local newspaper each week.
• Those readers, on average, share their paper with 3.34 persons.
• They spend about 37.5 minutes reading their local newspapers.
• 78 percent read most or all of their community newspapers.
• 41 percent keep their community newspapers six or more days (shelf life).
• 62 percent of readers read local news very often in their community newspapers, while 54 percent say they never read local news online (only 9 percent say they read local news very often online).
• 39 percent of those surveyed read local education (school) news very often in their newspapers, while 67 percent never read local education news online.
• 30 percent read local sports news very often in their newspapers, while 67 percent never read local sports online.
• 35 percent read editorials or letters to the editor very often in their newspapers, while 74 percent (nearly three quarters) never read editorials or letters to the editor online.
Public notice
Even though state and local governments are debating the best way to transmit public notice, those readers surveyed said newspapers remain the best way to receive such notices:
• 75 percent think governments should be required to publish public notices in newspapers, with 23 percent reading public notices very often in their newspapers.
• 71 percent have Internet access in the home, but 66 percent never visit a website of a local government.
• Of those with Internet access at home, 89 percent have broadband access.
The local community newspaper is the primary source of information about the local community for 49.3 percent of respondents. The next best source runs a distant second: friends and relatives for 18 percent of respondents and TV, 16 percent. Readers are nearly seven times more likely to get their local news from their community newspapers than from the Internet (7.7 percent). Less than 6 percent say their primary local news source is radio.
Established in 1885, NNA is the voice of America’s community newspapers and the largest newspaper association in the country. The nation’s community papers inform, educate and entertain nearly 150 million readers every week.
Sampling methodology
The 2010 survey was based on 670 telephone interviews completed with residents that lived in areas where the local newspapers had a circulation of 8,000 or less in the U.S. in August and October 2010. Please note that this sampling methodology differs from the survey conducted in 2009, which was based on 500 telephone interviews completed with residents that lived in areas where the local newspapers had a circulation of 15,000 or less. Because of this new methodology, the 2010 survey had the highest percentage of non-daily newspaper readers (66.2 percent), compared to previous years. This may explain the reduction in the percentage of visits to newspaper Web sites (from 63 percent to 55 percent) between the two years (2009 and 2010) as the number of non-daily newspapers that have a functional website serving small towns and cities may be lower than that of daily newspapers. Further, in the 2010 survey, cell phone numbers were included in the sample, compared to landline numbers only in the past four years. As a result, the average age of the 2010 respondents (51.2) was younger than those in previous years (56.1).

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Kuna High School to host public showing of "Laserfest" Dec. 15

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the laser and enjoy illuminating science demonstrations at "Laserfest" on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 7 p.m., at the Kuna High School auditorium, 637 E. Deer Flat Road.
Idaho State University physics professor, Dr. Steve Shropshire, will present the free show titled “Lasers, Light, and Illusions."
The show will feature multi-colored lasers, light pipes, color mixing lights, amazing illusions with smoke, reflections, and shadows, and many other demonstrations, finishing with a laser light show set to music. All ages are welcome.
There will be some loud noises, which may be startling to small children. The demonstration show is funded by the American Physical Society and Idaho State University.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A right and a need to know salaries of Kuna public employees

Like many people across the country, I read with great dismay the news story over the summer about the city of Bell, Calif., paying its city manager over $800,000, its police chief $457,000 and city council members nearly $100,000 for the part-time positions.
My very first reaction was, “They must not have a weekly newspaper keeping watch on their budget.”
Over the past four years, I’ve covered the budgets of the city of Kuna and the school district, and to a lesser extent, the Kuna Library District and the Kuna Rural Fire District. I’ve had in my possession the list of salaries of city of Kuna employees, and I’ve typically published the salaries of new employees as they’re hired. However, I’ve never run the full list of city employee salaries.
Earlier this year, when the Kuna school district was looking for $2.6 million in budget cuts, I published a list of all school district administrator salaries and a breakdown of the salaries of all the teachers in the district.
But as I read the stories about Bell, Calif., it occurred to me that I hadn’t looked at all of the salaries of every employee in Kuna, such as the library director, the police chief or the fire chief.
Of course, I wasn’t expecting anything egregious. The entire annual budget for the library district, for example, ($634,000) is less than the annual salary of Bell’s city manager.
This week's issue of the Kuna Melba News contains a story and a full list of all public employees salaries in Kuna.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Congratulations to the Kuna Middle School wrestling team

Congratulations to head coach Wade Palmer and the Kuna Middle School wrestling team for winning its 30th consecutive district championship.
The Kuna Middle School wrestling team this weekend continued its unheard-of winning streak by winning its 30th straight district championship.
Kuna competed against 12 other teams on Friday and Saturday at Kuna High School.
Kuna fought back from a loss early in the season, to not only win the district championship, but do so in convincing fashion. Kuna completed the district tournament with 24 individual placers scoring 505 points, while Mountain Home placed a distant second with 316 points.
In addition to Mountain Home, Kuna competed against East Valley (Nampa), West (Nampa), South (Nampa), Vallivue, Sage Valley (Caldwell), Lone Star (Nampa), Emmett, Middleton, TVCS, Jefferson (Caldwell), and Syringa (Caldwell).
Undefeated district champions for Kuna were Dusty Jones, Ryland Egeland, Jake Lords and Sean Wheaton (in the photo above).
Other district champions were Mikhail Kidd, Spencer Heindel, and Jonah Minnick.
Tanier Jaramillo was Kuna’s only Runner-up Champion
Placing 3rd were Brady Barosso, Kasey Fow, Jordan Wick, Zach Villanueva, and Anthony Gress.
Finishing in 4th place were Brady Davenport, Cohlton Loftis, Brayden Ball and Elijah Minnick.
Fifth-place finishers were Hunter Shull, Matt Burger, and Adres Rodriguez.
Sixth-place finishers were Jace VanAntwerp, Micheal Hudon, Zared Kile and Jesse Novak.
Head Coach Wade Palmer said he is very proud of this championship team for two reasons. One is that they completed three decades of championships. Two is how this team stayed together and battled back from a mid-season loss.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Are we spending too much on education in Kuna, Idaho?

I have been reading with great interest the fiscal travails of my former school district, the Clinton Central School District, in upstate New York. Much like everywhere in the country, schools in New York state are feeling the financial crunch of economic recession. And New York state government is about as dysfunctional and out-of-control as you can get.
Let me point out a couple of observations, as they pertain to the financial difficulties of the Kuna school district.
The Clinton school district is less than half the size of the Kuna school district, with less than half the students (1,500) and only three buildings: an elementary school, a middle school and a high school.
However, Clinton’s annual budget is about $24 million, the same as the Kuna school district’s budget. The local property tax levy is about $13 million.
Even more striking is the fact that the Guilderland school district, near Albany, for which Clinton’s superintendent left to go work, is a little bigger than Kuna (5,500 students) but has an annual budget of $88 million — more than the annual budget for the Ada County Highway District.
Now let me say that these school districts perform very well. Clinton has a nearly 100 percent graduation rate, a low student-teacher ratio at 12.4-to-1, 88 percent of students graduate with a Regents diploma, 68 percent with an advanced Regents diploma, and nearly every student goes on to either a four-year or two-year school of higher education (131 out of 142 graduates in 2006). So we’re not talking about “the failed education systems of back East that simply throw money at the problem,” as some Idaho state legislators suggest.
Yes, they’re throwing money at the problem, but apparently a lot of that money is finding the mark and sticking.
I do believe, however, that there’s a breaking point at the top end of the funding spectrum. Spending $16,000 to $18,000 per student seems excessive and I fear there is no end in sight.
But just because some school districts “back East” or in California appear to be out-of-control in their spending, let’s not therefore conclude we’re spending too much on our schools here in Idaho. By comparison, Kuna spends about $4,800 per student.
Just as I believe there’s a breaking point at the top end, I believe there’s a breaking point at the bottom end, and I believe we’ve crossed it in Idaho.
I have to scratch my head at people who suggest we should cut public education even more.
But that’s exactly what’s going to happen next year, when the state Legislature reconvenes to find nominally improved budget numbers, nearly empty rainy day accounts and dried-up one-time sources of revenue.
Last year, the state cut public education spending by $128 million, or 7.5 percent, resulting in a decrease of about $1.9 million in Kuna. Next year, it promises to be even worse, with little chance of any more federal stimulus money and a state Legislature that vows we can’t tax our way to prosperity.
Further, a $1.1 million supplemental levy passed by Kuna voters expires this year. Unless we are willing to accept a dramatic and drastic change in our school system (i.e., get rid of sports, eliminate busing, eliminate lunches, close schools), I predict we will see a request for another supplemental levy in the spring. And I suspect it might be more than $1.1 million.
My hope is that if it comes to that, the Kuna school district does a more thorough job of explaining and detailing the budget to the public. If for nothing else than to help the public understand what a dire situation we’re in.

Friday, December 3, 2010

What I did on my Thanksgiving vacation

The McIntosh family took a 10-day vacation over the Thanksgiving holiday to visit family back East. We spent a few days in Boston visiting Nicola’s family members then we drove to upstate New York to visit my family just outside of Syracuse.
During our trip, we went to my hometown of Clinton, a quaint New Englandy village of about 1,200 people that hosts a Shopper’s Stroll each year on the Friday after Thanksgiving. There’s also a night parade through the village, and an estimated 8,000 people showed up.
In the weeks leading up to our visit, I was reading in my hometown paper with great concern about the closing of McHarris Gifts, a seemingly immovable institution on one of the most iconic corners in Clinton. In particular, it has always been a don’t-miss stop on the Shopper’s Stroll. With the store closing, it seemed Shopper’s Stroll just wouldn’t be the same.
Then came the story shortly afterward that a group of 30 local artists and craftspeople decided to turn the shop into an artists cooperative, calling it Artisan’s Corner. One of those artists is Lynn Hall, or Lynn Whittemore, as I knew her when we graduated from high school together some 21 years ago. I had the great fortune of running into her on the grand opening day of Artisan’s Corner during the Shoppers Stroll (really not a difficult feat, running into people you know in a small village). She told me that each of the artists pays $100 per month toward the $3,000 monthly rent and agrees to work in the shop one day per month.
Each artist has ample space to display their work and provide racks and shelves to sell their wares. The mix of items was impressive. As expected, there were paintings and drawings and photography. But more surprising were such items as handmade soaps and candles, quilts, mittens, scarves and hats, lampshades and bases, handmade wooden anniversary banks, pottery, jewelry, glass sculpture and goblets and even locally handmade Windsor-style chairs.
Just like old times, people were streaming in and out of the store all day and into the evening, as vendors outside on the packed sidewalk provided hot cider and roasted chestnuts and a brass band played Christmas songs. I, myself, purchased a $25 print of a village scene painted by Lynn. She was well on her way to making rent that month, and that was within the first hour of the store’s grand opening.
It made me wonder if there might be a small contingent of Kuna artists and craftspeople who might be able to put together an artists cooperative in downtown Kuna.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

City of Kuna should get the Boys & Girls Club built now

On Dec. 5, 2006 — nearly four years ago — Kuna Mayor Dean Obray said that if there were one thing he could do before leaving office to secure a legacy for the youth of the community, it would be to get a Boys & Girls Club built in Kuna.
The setting was a City Council meeting, at which about 50 people attended, many addressing the City Council on the need for a Boys & Girls Club in Kuna. Among those who spoke were Kuna schools superintendent Jay Hummel, local residents Joe Luppens, Mary Hege, Tim and Belinda Gordon, Brenda Blitman, Sharon Fisher, Colleen Braga, Mike McGuinness and Joey Schueler of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Ada County and Krista Ducharme from the sheriff’s office, among others.
It was one of the first Kuna City Council meetings I covered, and I still remember it.
“This is the first time as mayor that I’ve felt such a unity grow in this community,” Obray said at the time, somewhat emotionally.
That was four years ago.
Granted, the context of that meeting was to put the Boys & Girls Club at the southwest corner of Deer Flat and Linder roads, a location that was scuttled by an Ada County Highway District drainage easement that precluded any development on that lot.
Still, local steering committee members quickly secured a promise of a donation of land west of Linder Road, south of Deer Flat, just north of Boise Street, near Butler Park. It seemed like this project was going to happen.
And I have to take a moment to commend the city and Kuna Mayor Scott Dowdy for coming up with the novel idea of donating a sliver of city-owned land for the purpose of joining it with the donated parcel to expedite the process.
But here we are, nearing the end of another year, and still no Boys & Girls Club.
The city of Kuna should make this a top priority and get it built now.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Let's get planning for a pool in Kuna

Kuna city officials should actually feel pretty good right now following last week’s resounding failure of the proposed $5 million bond for a new city hall, land and swimming pool. A lot of good has come out of it.
First of all, the city has avoided what promised to be a costly and messy mistake that would have caused no end of headaches and unexpected costs.
Secondly, the city got what it really wanted — to put the squeeze on city hall landlord Tim Gordon. The Ada County Sheriff’s Office moved the Kuna substation out, costing Gordon about $2,835 in rent every month, and Gordon agreed to a 26 percent reduction in his rent down to $4,000 per month. So if you do the math, Gordon is actually losing about $50,000 per year. I doubt that the $4,000 per month in rent he receives from the city covers his expenses. So Gordon now can’t have much money with which he can sue the city over the local improvement district.
So let’s move on.
What I heard the loudest during the campaign to get the bond measure passed was an overwhelming agreement that city residents want a municipal pool built.
Maybe not everyone, but I’d be willing to bet that at least 66.6 percent of the residents would vote in favor of a municipal pool — if the numbers pencil out.
So here’s a start. If the city is interested in providing a recreation opportunity for its residents, keeping Kuna dollars in Kuna, I have a suggestion on how to make it happen.

You can read my ideas in this week's Kuna Melba News.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Kuna town hall meetings are a good start

A big pat on the back to Kuna planning director Steve Hasson and city treasurer John Marsh. No, I’m not kidding. Yes, seriously.
John and Steve did an admirable job at last week’s town hall meeting to go over details of a proposed $5 million bond to buy a new city hall and adjacent 11 acres of land and build an indoor swimming pool. About 50 to 60 people showed up to ask questions, show support and register complaints — some angry complaints.
I think Steve and John did an excellent job of fielding questions and responding to complaints. They were able to answer some questions and acknowledge questions that are still unanswerable.
The problem, though, is that last week’s meeting was about six months too late. The city began the planning process for a new city hall back in April — with a couple of closed-door executive sessions. What they should have done first was start with public input and questions. Doing research and crunching numbers 12 days before a major election is just too late — and their analysis a dollar short.
In my book, there are still way too many questions unanswered. In addition, as evidenced from last week’s public outcry, the city didn’t receive enough input from the public.
One of the biggest arguments in favor of a new city hall at this time is that buying something in a recession is the best time to do it, when property values are way down.
It’s just like the woman with four children and one on the way said at Thursday’s town hall meeting: “The recession has been awesome for us.” She said they have been able to buy a house at a low price at a great interest rate.
Yep, buying when the market is down is very smart indeed.
Except the city still hasn’t proven that $1.08 million for an 8,000-square-foot building shell is a depressed value. Is that a good deal? I don’t know. The city doesn’t know. And despite what Steve said at last week’s town hall, the city still has not done an appraisal on the building. They haven’t even received a real estate opinion on the price. And as far as I can tell, the city didn’t even really negotiate the price. Could we get it for $950,000? Could we get it for $750,000? After all, it’s been vacant for two years now.
Now, the city did receive a real estate broker’s opinion on the $45,000 per acre on the 11 acres of land, and the opinion says to the effect that, yeah, that’s not a totally crazy price, maybe a little high, but not out of the realm of possibility. Again, not what you’d call a snatch-it-up-in-this-depressed-market type of a price. Could we get it for, say, $20,000 per acre?
So, in my mind, the biggest argument for buying now is kind of thrown out the window.

I have more thoughts and details in this week's Kuna Melba News.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

City of Kuna used taxpayer money on bond election brochure

The city of Kuna spent $2,097 of taxpayer money to mail a “2010 Bond Election Voter Information” brochure, including to houses outside city limits.
The use of taxpayer money to fund such materials has been frowned upon by Idaho’s highest court.
In 2005, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled strongly against the Greater Boise Auditorium District, which was sued for using public money to advocate for the passage of a bond measure.
“The use of public funds to campaign in a contested election is not one of the powers expressly granted to the board of an auditorium district,” according to the ruling. “If such use is permissible, it must be within the implied powers of the board.”
On Oct. 5, Kuna City Council members, on a split vote, approved spending $2,079 to mail the brochure, moving the money from the contingency fund to the election fund. Council members Doug Hoiland and Jeff Lang voted in favor, and Lisa Bachman and Rich Cardoza voted against it. Mayor Scott Dowdy broke the tie by voting in favor of spending the money. The Kuna Melba News has filed a public records request seeking the total cost to produce, print and mail the brochure.

More details in this week's Kuna Melba News.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Attack from the government is actually pretty typical

Now more than ever, I am reminded of the importance of a strong independent press. It is not unusual (heck, it’s pretty darn common) for government officials and taxpayer-funded bureaucrats to attack the media for what they perceive to be biases and special interests.
In the current push to get voters to pass a city hall bond measure, the city of Kuna has shown itself to be no different from most government agencies that seek to perpetuate their own existence and feather their own nest. Sometimes, government agencies will even manipulate facts to dupe the taxpaying public. And when a newspaper dares to question them, the bureaucrats go on the attack.
In 16 years of newspapering, I am quite used to silly attacks from government officials and bureaucrats who don’t even want to be questioned about their decisions.
Following is the treachery and treason of which the Kuna Melba News stands accused:
• Requested that the city involve the public in planning for a new city hall.
• Asked that the city start with a city hall task force and site selection committee rather than behind-closed-doors executive sessions.
• Asked that the city of Kuna tell us how much we’ll have to pay to use an indoor pool. (“We have no idea what the fee will be,” city planning director Steve Hasson said last week.)
• Reported the real cost of the $5 million at over $9.2 million after interest payments. (It actually could go as high as $12.6 million if we get a 7.5 percent interest rate. The city is not reporting those numbers.)
• Asked that the city provide a real estate appraisal of the building for which the seller is asking $1.08 million.
• Reported that city property taxes would go up 25 to 30 percent.
I plead guilty to the above charges. Why? Because I am looking out for the taxpayer. Why? First and foremost, that is what a newspaper is supposed to do. We act as a watchdog, making sure we protect the people from a deceptive and unrestrained government.
I am reminded of a quote from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, in his majority opinion allowing the New York Times to publish the Pentagon Papers: “The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.” Sound familiar?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Eating fresh in Kuna, Idaho

Nicola and I are enjoying our lunches from the now-open Subway restaurant in Kuna, next to the Fiesta Guadalajara on Avalon Street, in front of Paul's Market. We both got footlong Italian combos. We certainly weren't the only customers today. There were customers already eating, a short line when we came in and a longer line when we left. We ran into school district employees and a city employee while there. Looks like Subway in Kuna is going to be a huge success. Welcome to Kuna.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Defending the credibility of the Kuna Melba News

Kuna City Council member Doug Hoiland is leveling some pretty serious charges against the Kuna Melba News in his guest opinion piece in this week's Kuna Melba News. I felt compelled to respond in-depth to what I consider serious accusations against the integrity and credibility of this newspaper.
The two main accusations are:
• The newspaper practices yellow journalism by distorting, exaggerating or exploiting the news to create sensations or attract readers.
• The newspaper intentionally omits background and details in an effort to mislead our readers or give them an incomplete picture of what’s happening.
First, Mr. Hoiland specifically cites my editorials accusing the city of “making decisions behind closed doors.” Mr. Hoiland is misinformed. I did not accuse the city of making decisions about city hall behind closed doors, which is a violation of open meeting laws. I took the city to task for simply meeting behind closed doors. Many times, I have recognized and even defended the city’s legal right and necessity to go into executive session. However, in this case, I made the argument that, while certainly legal, executive session was just bad government. I continue to maintain that the city should have involved the community from the beginning, with a city hall task force, a site selection committee, a real estate appraisal on the building and land, interviews with other cities and experts about how to run an indoor pool, analysis of future costs and liabilities, etc. Unfortunately, none of that took place.
I do take comfort, though, in knowing that the vast majority of our thousands of loyal readers would find laughable the notion that the Kuna Melba News distorts, exaggerates or exploits the news. If anything, the Kuna Melba News has been accused of toning down some of the divisive rhetoric of the past. In addition, the editorials to which Mr. Hoiland is referring could be found on Page 4, hardly a scream from the rooftop.

You can read the rest of this editorial as well as Hoiland's full opinion piece in this week's Kuna Melba News.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Walgreens in Kuna, Idaho, opening set for Oct. 15

The new target opening date for the Walgreens in Kuna is now Friday, Oct. 15. To celebrate, Walgreens will host a grand opening celebration from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 16, at the new store, at the corner of West Kuna Road and Kay Avenue, across from Paul’s Market. The public is invited to attend.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Idaho Central Credit Union prepping its site in Kuna, Idaho

For those of you who noticed the work being done out at Deer Flat and Meridian roads recently, it’s no cause to get too excited quite yet.
The construction is in preparation for a new Idaho Central Credit Union branch office at that location, but the building likely won’t be coming for another two to three years, said Dustee Woolstenhulme, facilities department supervisor for ICCU.
In 2008, Idaho Central Credit Union purchased a 56,000-square-foot lot fronting Deer Flat Road just west of Meridian Road.
The lot was part of the so-called 78-acre Profile Ridge development, which included plans for a big-box store, along with several commercial lots and houses. But the declining economy took its toll, and the site’s developers couldn’t find a taker for the big-box location. The development went into foreclosure, and lender Syringa Bank took over the property.
ICCU was the only one to purchase a lot on the site. Les Schwab had designs on a lot next to ICCU, but they waited to see what would happen with the rest of the property. When it became clear nothing was going to happen in the foreseeable future, Les Schwab, at the suggestion Kuna planning director Steve Hasson, changed its plans to a location on East Kuna Road near Kay Avenue, next to Walgreens. Both of those stores are expected to open for business soon.

Read the rest of this in my Editor's Notebook in this week's Kuna Melba News.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Improving Kuna Melba News sports coverage

Starting with this week’s issue, we are making some changes in the way we cover local sports. Your complaints about over-coverage of football and not enough coverage of other sports have not gone unnoticed.
From here on out, we will be featuring a different sport each week with photo(s) and a fuller story. We will still provide at least summaries of the other sports each week with game/match/meet results and as many individual statistics as possible.
When my wife and I bought the paper four years ago, there wasn’t any coverage of local sports at all. Requests for coverage of Kuna football was probably the biggest request we received back in the height of football season in September-October 2006. So I started going to the Kuna football games. To be honest, covering football games is relatively easy. Games are on Friday nights, when no public agency holds any meetings, so I’m available to go to the games. Covering football also offered the greatest bang for the buck, as generally hundreds of people show up for varsity games.
As seasons get closer to playoff time, I keep an eye out for teams that are headed to state playoffs. That first year, I wrote a front-page story about the volleyball team heading to state. I’ve traveled to Pocatello for the state softball tournament. I covered the state championship game when the Kuna girls soccer team made it. I covered the boys baseball team’s journey to the state tournament.
But I recognize that I need to do a better job of covering more sports during more of the season. I am committed to doing that.
But I am going to need help. I remember a recent phone call from an angry parent who chewed me out about not providing enough coverage. She asked me why I didn’t send one of my reporters out to more of the games.
The simple answer is that I don’t have any reporters. I’m it. I’m the only reporter on staff. Not just sports, mind you. Everything. Education reporter? Me. City government reporter? Me. Features reporter? You get the idea.
What that means is that on any given night of the week, I’m at a city council meeting, a school board meeting, a planning and zoning meeting, the Grange public speaking contest, the Kuna FFA auction, at someone’s home interviewing them for a feature story, etc. This is not a complaint. I enjoy covering this community. But I want you to know that if I’m not at the volleyball game on Tuesday night, it’s not because I hate volleyball. It’s because I’m across town at City Council or the school board meeting.
I am really honestly and truly doing my best to balance coverage of everything that should be covered in Kuna. Not to mention trying to balance a healthy work and family life.
OK, so here’s where the help comes in. I now have four easy ways that coaches — and parents, for that matter — can submit results to the Kuna Melba News:
• By phone: call 922-3008. If I’m not in, leave the results on voicemail.
• By fax: 922-3009.
• By email:
• Through our website, There is now a brand spanking new form, under “Send News Of:” labeled “Sports.” It’s an easy form to fill out and gets sent right to my inbox. There’s also a new form on the site, right under sports, to submit photos.
So I ask that you be patient with me but continue to let me know how I can improve this newspaper. If you like what we’re doing, let others know and encourage them to subscribe. Heck, if we get enough subscribers, maybe we’d be able to hire another reporter.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Kuna, Idaho, man in three-car crash on I-84

On Saturday, Sept. 11, at approximately 10:11 a.m., Idaho State Police investigated a three vehicle crash. John L. Brenton, 57, of Kuna, was driving westbound on Interstate 84 at approximately milepost 49.5, just west of the Cole/Overland exit. Brenton's 1999 Chevrolet Malibu was struck by a 2007 Kenworth semi driven by Frank Mannarino, 39, of South Lyon, Mich. After
being struck by the semi, the Malibu spun out into traffic and was struck again by a 1996 Volkswagen Passat driven by Philip Sansotta, 25, of Boise. Sansotta's car then struck the jersey barrier. Three westbound lanes of traffic
were blocked for approximately an hour and half.
Brenton was transported to St. Alphonsus where he was treated and released for minor injuries. All occupants in the three vehicles were wearing their seat belts.
The crash is under investigation by Trooper Higley, with the assistance of Master Corporal Robertson. The Boise Police Department along with the Boise Fire Department and Ada County Paramedics also assisted with the crash.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Kuna Melba News offers new way to share photos and sports results

This week, we posted two new forms to our website, One form is a form for coaches and parents alike to post sports results. It's an easy form to fill out and should take just a couple of minutes. I'm also happy to report that readers can send us their photos through the website. You can now upload photos directly through another form at These can be your classified ad photo, your sports photo, your wedding photo, etc. Both of these new forms can be found in the far left column on our website, under "SEND NEWS OF." The sports form is labeled "Sports" and the photos form is labeled "Photos."
We'll have more details in next week's issue about the Kuna Melba News sports coverage, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Downtown is the key to Kuna's future

This week’s column is going to be about downtown Kuna. Don’t roll your eyes at me. I’m going to keep writing about it until the city does something about it, or at least until they convince me why they shouldn’t do anything about it.
I’ve stated my case on the importance of downtown and why I think the city needs to take the lead on it.
For those of you who continue to argue that downtown is just fine the way it is, I’m not buying it. You can make an argument that taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be used, and I’ll respect that. But, please, don’t try to argue that downtown is just fine the way it is. It’s not, and I’m sorry if someone gets offended or hurt by that, but I’m not backing down from that pretty obvious observation.
For downtown to succeed, you need to attract people to come downtown. You have to offer a unique experience.
Let us embrace change and welcome new businesses and foster growth. Let us encourage chain stores and restaurants and service businesses. But now is also the right time to kickstart downtown revitalization.
We have come to a fork in the road. Both paths, in my opinion, lead to development of chain stores and restaurants and big-box stores in Kuna. That part is inevitable, in my view.
But one path ends with a derelict downtown and a reputation as a dump of a city. The other path, though, leads to a revitalized and vibrant downtown and ends with a reputation as a strong and beautiful city.
Which path do we want to go down?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Kuna school board to meet tonight on emergency levy

Kuna school board members will meet this evening to review this year’s enrollment numbers and to possibly vote on an emergency levy, if the district has a higher-than-expected enrollment.
School board members may also discuss exactly how to use federal stimulus money over the next two years.
Kuna school board members on Aug. 26 voted unanimously to accept an estimated $812,477 from the Education Jobs Fund, a federal stimulus bill intended to offset the potential loss of teaching jobs from the economic recession.
Kuna superintendent Jay Hummel pointed out that the Kuna school district alone has seen a more than $3 million reduction in its budgets over the past two years because of funding cuts from the state. “Personal political beliefs aside, I agree that we should accept the money,” he said.
Idaho is estimated to receive a total of $51 million in federal funding from the $10 billion Education Jobs Fund that Congress approved and the President signed into law in August.
According to the federal guidance, the funding must be spent on salaries and benefits for employees at the school building level, according to state Department of Education spokeswoman Melissa McGrath. The funding cannot be spent on district-level administration, higher education or rainy day funds. State officials are asking districts to notify them by Sept. 3 if they intend to accept the money.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Kuna High grad and Hoonah, Alaska, police officer Matt Tokuoka dies in shooting

Matthew Tokuoka, a 1989 Kuna High School graduate and police officer in Alaska, was killed in the line of duty Saturday, Aug. 28, in Hoonah, Alaska.
Tokuoka, 39, a police officer with the Hoonah Police Department, was shot and killed along with Hoonah police Sgt. Anthony Wallace when they were ambushed by a lone gunman, according to The Officer Down Memorial Page website.
Tokuoka, who was off-duty, was in his car with his family when he stopped to talk to Wallace, who was standing outside his vehicle, according to the website, Wallace was shot first, and Tokuoka went to render aid and was then shot, according to the website. Tokuoka died early Sunday at a local clinic and Wallace died during surgery in Juneau.
Tokuoka was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and had worked for the Hoonah Police Department for 18 months. He is survived by his wife, son and daughter.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

LID lawsuits against city of Kuna progressing slowly

The wheels of justice turn slowly indeed. This week, we have a minor update on the lawsuits pending against the city of Kuna brought by some of the landowners in the local improvement district that’s been billed $26 million for the construction of the new wastewater treatment plant.
Last week, the lawyers representing the city of Kuna, KeyBank and multiple LID landowners met behind closed doors for about an hour to discuss, presumably, scheduling. They then met with Fourth District Court Judge Timothy Hansen — again behind closed doors — to discuss a motion to disqualify Hansen as the judge on the case.
Hansen is still considering the motion to disqualify him, according to Fred Shoemaker, a lawyer representing a contingent of landowners who own about half of the acres in the LID.
Apparently, KeyBank, who is sitting on the side of the city of Kuna, is opposing Hansen as the judge and wants to find another judge. Shoemaker said he’s happy with Hansen, and he doesn’t see any reasonable justification to disqualify Hansen, such as conflict of interest from being related, for example, to any of the parties or having a vested interest in the LID or wastewater treatment plant.
Shoemaker said he fully expects Hansen to rule against disqualifying himself. He said he expects that ruling in the next couple of weeks.
After that, supposedly, we’ll be able to get into more of the meat and potatoes of the case. Still, even if the case goes to a trial, Shoemaker said a trial wouldn’t start probably for another year. In the meantime, both sides will do discovery and take depositions and affidavits in preparation for a trial.

Monday, August 30, 2010

First day of school in the Kuna school district

Today was the first day of school — in more than one sense of the phrase. Luke, of course, is now a third-grader, so he's a veteran. But Robert went to school for the very first time today. Here they are heading out the door to Crimson Point Elementary. Luke has Mrs. Nixon, who has been teaching third grade for the past 33 years. Robert has Mrs. Patten, who has run the very popular Patten's Preschool for a number of years. Both boys had a great first day, and it was very touching to see them walking home together side-by-side chit-chatting about their days. We're all looking forward to a great year.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Kuna Planning and Zoning Commission votes to revoke permit for Ray's Dog House

Kuna Planning and Zoning Commission members voted Wednesday night to revoke the special use permit for Ray’s Dog House.
Dog House owner Ray Carrel made an impassioned though disjointed argument in an attempt “to defend myself and my business and my family.”
Carrel argued that he has been unfairly targeted over the past two years since opening his hot dog stand at 397 W. Main St., next to the 4-E’s Bar. He argued that he has been made to chase down a litany of one code violation after another for the sole purpose of attempting to shut down his business.
Carrel said he has been kept jumping from one complaint to the next, from fencing and stairs to a commercial kitchen ventilation system to metal studs in the walls to issues with his sewer hookup.
“If you could just give us a list of everything that needs to be done,” said Mary Carrel, Ray Carrel’s wife who also spoke before the commission. “Instead of having one thing come up, then another, then another.”
Both Carrels said that they would accomplish one task, at great expense, only to be told that they had another problem somewhere else.
But Kuna city building inspector Jerry Coulter told commission members that the problems started when Carrel attempted to expand his business just before Kuna Days in 2009 to include a seating area behind a fence behind the shed that served as his kitchen.
In inspecting that area, Coulter said, he noticed buckets of grease lying in the yard. He also noticed that Carrel was using a fryer for French fries and that the ventilation system was spewing grease onto the neighboring building. He required a special ventilation system, and had the support of Kuna Fire Chief Doug Rosin.
“At that point, we now have a public life safety issue,” Coulter told commission members, adding that the city “wouldn’t allow a McDonald’s to come into town” without the proper equipment.
“I’m sympathetic to Ray,” Coulter said. “I’m just not sure he fully understands everything that needs to be done.”

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Kuna school board members vote to accept federal stimulus money

Kuna school board members Thursday morning voted unanimously to accept an estimated $812,477 from the Education Jobs Fund, a federal stimulus bill intended to offset the potential loss of teaching jobs from the economic recession.
Kuna superintendent Jay Hummel, at right, pointed out that the Kuna school district alone has seen a more than $3 million reduction in its budgets over the past two years because of funding cuts from the state. “Personal political beliefs aside, I agree that we should accept the money,” he said.
Idaho is estimated to receive a total of $51 million in federal funding from the $10 billion Education Jobs Fund that Congress approved and the President signed into law in August.
According to the federal guidance, the funding must be spent on salaries and benefits for employees at the school building level, according to state Department of Education spokeswoman Melissa McGrath. The funding cannot be spent on district-level administration, higher education or rainy day funds. State officials are asking districts to notify them by Sept. 3 if they intend to accept the money.
Kuna school board members will meet again on Sept. 3 to go over exactly how to use the federal stimulus money over the next two years.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Kuna City Hall questions need to be answered

In the next few weeks leading up to the Nov. 2 election on a $5 million bond for a new Kuna City Hall, adjacent 11 acres of land and indoor pool, city officials will have their work cut out for them.
The average Kuna taxpayer is expected to pay an extra $70 per year in city taxes, if the bond receives a two-thirds supermajority on Nov. 2.
Up until then, though, the city has a lot of questions that will need to be answered in order to persuade taxpayers that this is the right thing to do at this time.
The city of Kuna should be commended for working diligently on its plans for a new city hall. I agree the city should own its own city hall, and I tend to agree that the current building doesn’t fit the bill for the future of the city. I also agree that now is probably a good time to look for something to buy.
However, one of the things I think the city needs to answer over the course of the next couple of months is whether $1.08 million for an 8,000-square-foot building is a good deal. Since the city did not analyze any other properties in terms of asking price, I would like to see some sort of cost-comparison analysis before I cast my vote on Nov. 2.
Let us also commend the city for their bold plans for 11 acres of parkland, 650 feet of Indian Creek greenbelt and an indoor pool. This is great stuff — plans that I think most residents could get behind, even for a price.
Increased parks and recreation and a community pool have most certainly been common refrains from the public, and I am overjoyed that the city is finally — finally — coming up with a way to provide it. But why did it take this flap over city hall to finally get it done? And why won’t the city consider buying just the 11 acres of land and building a pool at a lower cost while at the same time saving money at the current city hall? In the future, the city could even build a new city hall on the 11 acres of land, once they’ve saved up enough money to do so. I’ve heard a lot of people voice a desire for a community pool, but I honestly haven’t heard anyone say they want a new city hall.
Part of the answer, I think, lies in City Council member Doug Hoiland’s answer to me during a break at last week’s council meeting.

Find out what he said on Page 4 of this week's Kuna Melba News.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How a newspaper is like a farmstand

In interviewing Lee Rice a couple of weeks ago about the reopening of his Rice Family Farmstand, he asked me a question that I get a lot.
“So how’s the newspaper business?” he asked me. “It’s gotta be tough with the Internet taking away your business.”
I told him that the Internet only takes away your business if you give everything away for free on the Internet.
As we were standing in his farmstand full of fruits and vegetables, I could see the lightbulb turn on when I put it this way: Imagine taking a table of all your produce and putting it over there. When customers come in, you tell them everything in here costs money, but over there, it’s all free. What do you think would happen to your business?
And really, it’s as simple as that. Newspapers are losing a significant chunk of revenue from lost circulation because readers are getting it for free on newspapers’ websites. What’s worse, “aggregators,” or websites that “collect” information from other websites, are practically stealing newspapers’ hard work and making money off it themselves. So imagine someone coming to Rice’s farmstand, taking a bunch of melons and berries off the free table and walking across the street and selling them for 3 bucks a basket. You’d be infuriated.

I have more analogies in my Editor's Notebook in this week's Kuna Melba News.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The future of Kuna?

Here's a photo of my old stomping grounds in Carlsbad, N.M. I was referencing this a few weeks back about how Carlsbad neglected its historic downtown and turned into what you see here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Kuna police blotter

Information from previous week’s blotter.
Monday, Aug. 2
7:06 P.M.: Man With A Gun 200 Block W Silverdale Ct - a report of a woman with a gun inside a home and a possible dispute there. Deputies responded. A couple had been arguing but there was no threat or criminal issue.
9:33 P.M.: Hold-Up Alarm 300 Block E Porter St – hold-up alarm accidentally tripped.
Tuesday, Aug. 3
11:44 P.M.: Sexual Assault, 300 Block E Screech Owl Dr – child abuse report filed; case is under investigation
Thursday, Aug. 5
7:13 P.M.: Assault W/ Deadly Weapon, 700 Block W Avalon St – caller reported he was riding and jumping bikes on the side of the street when a vehicle hit his bike and nearly hit him. Deputies responded and gathered information for report.
Friday, Aug. 6
10:55 P.M.: Assault W/ Deadly Weapon, N Avenue E & W Main St – high-risk stop of an individual deputies had reason to believe was armed. He is the subject of an on-going investigation.
Saturday, Aug. 7
3:32 A.M.: Bomb Device, 200 Block W Silverdale Ct – a man reported a possible explosive device left in the residence by a roommate. Deputies responded but the device had already been dismantled by someone at the home. It was not an explosive device.
11:37 A.M.: Explosion W Boise St & N Marteeson Av – caller reported hearing “large booms” that he suspected were caused by dynamite. Deputies responded but did not find any dangers in the area.
Sunday, Aug. 8
9:27 P.M.: Armed Subject, 800 Block N White Barn Rd – calling party reported seeing man outside a home cleaning a gun. Deputies responded and talked to the man. The gun was unloaded.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Where is the city of Kuna's vision for the future?

The staff at the city of Kuna is to be highly commended for their work on the proposal to move City Hall to Lava Falls. City employees clearly spent a lot of time, energy, effort and resources on putting together floorplans, conceptual drawings and budgets for the proposal to move into a new city hall.
And based on the quality and detail of those plans, as city planning director Steve Hasson put it, there is a lot of talent among our city employees.
Frankly, I was amazed at what they were able to put together in just a couple of short months. It was clear from the presentation they made at an open house last month that this move to a city hall is something they were passionate about and classified as a very high priority.
What makes me wonder, though, is what the city could accomplish, given their currently available resources, on formulating a plan for downtown.

You can read the rest of this in my Editor's Notebook in this week's Kuna Melba News.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Looks like plan to move Kuna city hall is dead for at least the coming year

It looks like the city of Kuna’s plan to move into a new city hall is dead for at least the coming year.
In going over budget numbers Tuesday night, City Council President Lisa Bachman questioned city treasurer John Marsh about not seeing increased rent or the cost of tenant improvements associated with a new city hall. Marsh said he hadn’t plugged those numbers into the working budget. Kuna Mayor Scott Dowdy then said that the city couldn’t move to a new city hall this year anyway.
And city planning director Steve Hasson said that it will probably staff’s recommendation to stay in the current city hall at least for another year.
For the past few months, city officials have been working on a plan to move city hall to a new location across town in a recently constructed building in the Lava Falls commercial complex next to the forthcoming Walgreens.
But the city is going to have to make a decision on its current lease by the end of this month, hardly enough time to make a decision and execute a major move to a new city hall. I suspect the issue will come up again. I just hope the city doesn’t put it on the back burner until it’s too late to thoroughly discuss it with the public. If the city wants to do it, start working on a plan now, not next summer.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Expect a couple of fee increases in Kuna this year

Looks like Kuna residents can expect a couple of small rate increases in the coming year in sewer and pressurized irrigation bills. Kuna city engineer Gordon Law presented his budgets to City Council Monday night and hinted that those two funds likely would need upward fee adjustments of “1 to 3 percent.”
The monthly cost for sewer services is $24.65, last raised in 2008 for the 2008-09 budget. At the time, Law had informed council members that sewer revenues were about 22 percent below expenses, necessitating a fee increase.
That was even before the city brought online the new north wastewater treatment plant last year. Law decided to forgo a sewer fee increase in the current year’s budget, when the city brought the new plant online.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Kuna school district to charge $100 per sport in "pay-to-play" plan

It will be more expensive to be a letterman at Kuna starting next school year.
In order to offset budget cuts from the state, the Kuna school district has instituted a $100 “pay-to-play” fee per sport at the high school and a $30 fee at the middle school.
That means that a student participating in three sports, such as football, basketball and baseball, or volleyball, basketball and softball, will have to pay $300 for the school year.
The move is expected to generate about $125,000 per year, which ostensibly would go toward transportation costs. The revenue still would cover only about a quarter of the costs of providing athletic programs.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Kuna Melba News wins three national awards

The Kuna Melba News has won three awards in the National Newspaper Association’s 2010 Better Newspaper Contest, including first place in the prestigious Community Service Award category.
The Kuna Melba News won:
• 3rd place for Best Feature Story, Non-daily Division, circulation less than 2,700
• 1st place for Best Serious Column, Non-daily Division, circulation less than 2,700
• 1st place for Community Service Award, Non-daily Division, circulation less than 6,000.
NNA Contest Chairman Jeff Farren, publisher of the Kendall County Record in Yorkville, IL, congratulated the Kuna Melba News in an award notification e-mail and said “[The] Kuna Melba News has been judged by its peers among other entrants and selected to join the roll of this year’s award-winning newspapers in these national contests. Winners reflect the high quality of publications represented by the association.”
There were 1,990 entries in this year’s Better Newspaper Contest and 359 entries in the Better Newspaper Advertising Contest for a total of 2,349 entries. A total of 634 awards were won by 143 member newspapers in 37 states.
California had the most combined BNC/BNAC wins with 67, followed by Texas with 66 and Wyoming with 59.
Here’s what the judges had to say about the Kuna Melba News entries:
• 3rd Place, Best Feature Story, Non-daily Division, circulation less than 2,700, “Iraqi family now calls Kuna home” (Aug. 26, 2009): “Heart-warming story that is written so very smoothly. Pleasure to read.”
This was a story about an Iraqi family who have children with a condition that causes dwarfism. A Kuna man called to serve in Iraq helped bring the family to Kuna.
• 1st Place, Best Serious Column, Non-daily Division, circulation less than 2,700, “Let's not forget open government,” (Aug. 12, 2009): “This column does a great job of using a personal example to explain the important role of newspapers as watchdogs of government. Well-written.”
This column was about a Kuna City Council meeting at which council members began to discuss an item that was not properly noted on the agenda as a public hearing and the Kuna Melba News spoke up to ensure the council did not make a decision on the matter.
• 1st Place, Community Service Award, Non-daily Division, circulation less than 6,000, “Power line issue,” (April 1, May 20, June 17, June 22, Nov. 18, 2009): “Among all the good entries in this category, the Kuna Melba News stands out because of their aggressive reporting resulting in quantifiable action: the location of a power line got changed.”
This was a series of articles and an editorial written by the Kuna Melba News shedding light on a proposal by Idaho Power to place a massive power line through parts of Kuna.
This year’s awards for the Kuna Melba News follows up last year’s showing of six awards in the 2009 NNA contest.
“What is most satisfying to me is knowing that we are providing our subscribers and readers with some of the best news stories in the country,” said Kuna Melba News editor Scott McIntosh. “Our readers can rest assured that we are delivering a high-quality newspaper, as judged by our peers on a national level.”
Judging was performed primarily by active community newspaper editors and publishers and included retired university journalism professors and retired or former newspaper men and women.
Established in 1885, the National Newspaper Association is the voice of America’s community newspapers and the largest newspaper association in the country. The nation’s community papers inform, educate and entertain nearly 150 million readers every week.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

More on downtown redevelopment

Allow me to be serious a moment about downtown redevelopment. It’s apparent that some people still don’t get it, and I will allow myself to turn blue in the face saying the same things over and over again until people understand the issue at hand.
First of all, let’s get this clear: A city’s downtown is its identity. It holds the city’s history and is often the only unique thing about its city that differentiates itself from any other town. If a city were to build row after row of fast food joints, chain restaurants and drugstores, you would not be able to tell whether you were living in, say, Meridian or Kuna.
Why is that important? Because we increasingly live in a world of detachment, decreasing civic engagement in which people do not care what town they live in, do not get involved in that town’s civic life, don’t know how much they pay in taxes and are not aware of — let alone participate in — their local organizations, such as Lions, Grange, Kiwanis, etc., that make their community better.
Does a vibrant downtown solve all those problems? No, but it helps. I absolutely believe that. A city that has a common gathering place where neighbors come together and walk among each other and say hello and commit commerce create a greater sense of cohesion and community. No doubt about it. A better downtown equals a better community. Forget nostalgia for a moment. This is a practical argument about making this community better.
Next, let’s get to this issue of improving downtown, as some people will try to argue that the property owners should make the improvements. Many point to the old argument that downtown Kuna is a mess to begin with, with dirty, vomit-encrusted sidewalks and falling-apart, unpainted facades. So this just shows that the downtown businesses aren’t responsible to begin with, so we shouldn’t help them. While some of the charges are definitely true, it doesn’t hold for everyone. See Jennifer Schmeckpepper and her business Consign & Design. Look at Harry Knox and what he’s done with the Edward Jones building. Witness Behind the Chair Salon. So shall we hold them accountable for the dereliction of their neighbors? Further, how is that an argument that we should continue to do nothing for our downtown? It’s already ugly, so we should continue to let it get worse? That doesn’t make sense to me. That said, I firmly believe that the city should hold accountable businesses that don’t take care of their environment, requiring businesses to clean the sidewalks, for example, in front of their establishments.
Next, again we have to dispel this foolish and oft-repeated myth that there’s nothing but a bunch of bars downtown. Perhaps that’s the perception of people who have never been downtown, but it’s not true. There are many, many other businesses working hard to eke out a living downtown. But the vast majority of the 15,000 people who live here erroneously believe that there’s nothing but bars, so they stay as far away as possible.
Next, let me detail some of the improvements I’m talking about and tell you why the city must get involved. I do not expect downtown building owner Lucio Prado to alter the parking pattern in front of El Gallo Giro. I do not expect Harry Knox to narrow Main Street to two lanes and double the width of the sidewalks in front of his building so that we may accommodate sidewalk seating for restaurants and cafes. I do not expect Sheri Russell to put up new streetlights along Main Street. I do not expect Larry and Arlene O’Leary to dig up and relocate trees in the public right-of-way. I do not expect Mike Fisher to go over to the Old 4th Street Gym and tear out the school district’s chain-link fence that is ever-so-nicely accented with barbed wire (although I’d like him to) and put up a village green.
Yes, I expect downtown business owners to pull up weeds, clean windows, power wash sidewalks, and paint and maintain facades. But there are some things that need to be done that individual business owners cannot and should not do. It is necessary for the city to make these improvements. Whatever form it takes, a business improvement district, a local improvement district, an urban renewal agency, I really don’t care. Just something that will get it done.
Next, to be successful and popular, downtown is experiential. Going downtown is an experience. It’s where you window-shop. It’s where you stroll, run into friends, chit-chat as you pass by on the sidewalk. It’s where you hang out and people-watch. Bars, restaurants, cafes, antique shops, real estate offices are all part of the equation.
Next, in order to convince free-market, entrepreneurial private investors to make an investment in downtown, as some of you suggest, the investor needs to know that he or she will get support and assistance from the city in which the investment is made. Yes, that includes making sure the city holds neighboring businesses responsible for maintaining their property. But it also means that the investor needs to be assured that the city itself will make the investment in necessary public improvements that will assure success for the individual investor over the course of the next 20 years.
Otherwise, it’s easier to just buy something new that has plenty of parking and lighting and healthy landscape elsewhere. And so, that’s what happens.
A city official once posited to me, somewhat in jest, whether the city should pay to fix sidewalks downtown just so some drunk wouldn’t fall down and crack his head open.
Is that what this is all about? We don’t like the bars downtown? Well, I’ve got news for everyone. By not fixing downtown, all you’re going to get are bars. And here’s a little secret that I’ll give away for free: If you want to get rid of the bars downtown, the way you do it is by making downtown so incredibly nice and attractive, some developer comes along and buys out the bar and puts in a nice restaurant or some other commercial venture.
Cities all over the country are going back to their downtowns to figure how to make them better and to figure out why they let them get to be such a mess to begin with. One need not look any farther than Nampa and Meridian to see cities now going back to fix what they broke.
Finally, we can bicker and argue the fine points all we want and we can complain and we can point fingers for the next 20 years. Fine, that’s what we’ve been doing for the past 10 years, and look where it’s gotten us. We’ll get what we deserve as a community, good or bad. I am suggesting we knock it off and get moving. Otherwise, I’m promising you, we will be here 20 years from now wondering, how did they let their downtown get to be that way? You need only look in Kuna Melba News to find out.
One more point: I’m still waiting for someone else to come up with another solution. Like I said, we can point fingers and complain about the other side all we want, but the only thing we’ll get in the end is what we’ve already got. It’s our choice. It’s up to us.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Dreams of a downtown shattered

A couple of weeks ago I was waxing nostalgic about my first newspaper job at The Current-Argus in Carlsbad, N.M., some 16 years ago. Maybe that jogged my memory or maybe it’s the hot weather we’ve been having, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about that time in my life.
The address for The Current-Argus was on South Main Street. Main Street. Just the words conjured all sorts of romantic notions of what my life would be like. I’d be working in a building right on Carlsbad’s Main Street. I had visions of a bustling little downtown of wide sidewalks and brick buildings, the courthouse and police station and City Hall all within walking distance of each other. Main Street. I would rush out the doors of my newspaper office building over to the courthouse for a verdict or over to City Hall for the next council meeting, rushing past people I knew, waving along the way, pointing to my watch to indicate in a hurried fashion that I couldn’t stop to chat this time. Main Street.
It took me four days’ driving from New Jersey before I pulled into Carlsbad on a sweltering summer afternoon. Highway 285 comes up on Carlsbad from the southeast on the south side of town. After checking into a motel for the night, I set out to explore my new town.
Mind you, this was all before the time of Google maps and street view. Heck, it was even before the time of the Internet, if you can believe such a time existed.
I drove into Carlsbad proper on Canal Street. I passed motel after motel, fast-food place after fast-food place, car lots, gas stations and convenience stores along with all of their accompanying plastic signs, parking lots and withering landscaping. I drove on, my hopeful eyes set on the horizon waiting for my idyllic downtown. I kept driving a couple of miles until I came to a sharp turn west. A-ha, I thought. Around the corner must be the oasis. Another two miles of strip malls and convenience stores and chain restaurants and I found myself on the edge of the desert again, leaving the city.
Wait, where was my downtown? Where was Main Street? Where were my brick buildings and bustling sidewalk traffic? Eventually, I found it. Abandoned, falling apart, vacant. Save for the beautiful historic courthouse, the downtown was dilapidated, neglected, empty. Main Street had become an industrial backage road populated by low-slung steel buildings and work yards. I was crestfallen.
Carlsbad had grown, to be sure. But it had grown into an ugly city of chain stores and restaurants, aesthetically displeasing with little to no character at all. Walking in Carlsbad was an aberration, a source of confused looks, as if the pedestrian were in some sort of distress or mental incapacity.
Is this what’s in store for Kuna? Is this what we will become? A few years ago, an urban renewal effort was nearly consummated but was quashed. Two years ago, when City Council members approved plans for a big-box store at Deer Flat and Meridian roads, there was talk about revitalizing downtown. Now again, next week, a group of community developers will offer their ideas about downtown.
Let’s get this done this time. Quit talking about it and just do it. I fear that City Council members, faced again with a tight budget, won’t budget any money for a grant writer or money for downtown renewal.
Meanwhile, locally owned businesses with character and identity close and chain stores open.
I predict that 20 years from now, with our 120,000 residents, our Wal-Mart and Fred Meyer and Walgreens and Subway, people will look around and say, “Why did they let their downtown fall to pieces like that?”

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

City of Kuna considering move to a new city hall

As first reported in last week's Kuna Melba News, the city of Kuna is considering moving city hall to an 8,000-square-foot building in the Lava Falls commercial complex across from Paul’s next to where Walgreens is building a new store.
The city currently rents space in the former Kuna Life Church building at 763 W. Avalon St., which is owned by J&M Sanitation owner Tim Gordon.
Kuna City Council members have been meeting behind closed doors the past couple of months to discuss “potential land acquisition.” The city will host a town hall style meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 21, to get feedback from residents about the potential move.
The city currently rents 8,700 square feet for city offices and the adjacent police substation, for which the Ada County Sheriff’s Office pays and partially passes along the cost to the city through the city’s contract with the sheriff’s office.
The total rental cost per month to occupy the current City Hall space, including the police substation, is $8,247 for 8,700 square feet.
Of that total amount, the city pays $7,113 and the sheriff’s office pays $1,134.
City: Directly pays $5,412.12 per month for approximately 5,648 square feet or $.96 per sq. foot per month, which equals $11.50 per square foot annually.
Sheriff: Directly pays $2,835 per month for approximately 3,075 square feet or $.92 per sq. foot per month, which equals $11.06 per square foot annually.
Total: $8,247.12 per month for approximately 8,723 sq. feet or $.95 per square foot per month, which equals $11.35 per square foot annually.
Of the Sheriff’s portion, the City pays 60 percent indirectly through its contract with Ada County. That is 60 percent of $2,835, which equals $1,701 for 60 percent of 3,075 square feet, or 1,845 sq. feet.
This amounts to $.92 per sq. foot per month or $11.06 per sq. foot annually. Thus, the City’s overall outflow is $7,113.12 per month for approximately 7,493 sq. feet or $.95 per sq. foot per month, which equals $11.39 per sq. foot annually.
That’s the total cost. Utilities, landscaping, insurance, maintenance and property taxes are all included in that price.
Questions that still remain to be answered:
• What is the asking price for the new building to buy outright?
• If the city were to rent or lease, what would the monthly rent be at the new building?
• If the city were to choose a lease to buy option, what would the monthly installment be toward purchase?
• What would tenant improvements cost at the new building?
• Would the city pay property taxes, landscaping, maintenance and utilities at the new building in addition to the monthly rent?
Mike Young, who owns the potential new building in Lava Falls, said he couldn’t talk about the details because it’s all subject to negotiation.
Similarly, still unanswered is whether the city would have to pay for tenant improvements at the new building and, if so, how much those would cost.
City planning director Steve Hasson also declined to answer questions about how much it would cost to move to the new building because the city is negotiating with both sides.
Hasson did say, though, that whether the city stays where it is or moves to the new building, the city will be getting a better deal in the end.
The city now has a survey posted on its website,, asking residents to weigh in on moving city hall.
Current City Hall owner Tim Gordon said that he has let the city know that he is willing to reduce the rent next year.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Kuna Melba News has seen a flurry of changes in three years

One of the things I disliked about my last job at a large daily metro newspaper was the glacial pace of change. I was surrounded by some of the most talented copy editors, page designers, line editors, photographers and reporters, but their ability to make changes was severely hindered by a culture of focus groups and committees.
One of the things I like about my current job is my ability to quickly make changes that I think will improve the newspaper.
It has been 44 months since Nicola and I bought the Kuna Melba News, and in that time, we have added 21 new features to the paper — that’s one new idea just about every two months. Heck, it would take me two months just to convene a committee at my last job.
Here’s a list of the new things we’ve added to the Kuna Melba News in the past three-and-a-half years: News of Neighbors page, Community Calendar page, The Ricks Report, This is the Life column, Kitchen Table Politics column, Editor’s Notebook, History page, Library page, Recipe of the Week, crossword puzzle, sudoku, Speaking of Faith column, redesigned service directory, weekly building permits, weekly real estate transactions, weekly online poll, weather, business of the month, business spotlight, high school sports coverage and Newspaper Fun children’s activity page.

You can read more about these and other changes in my Editor's Notebook in this week's Kuna Melba News.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Freedom Fitness Center in Kuna cuts ribbon on new location

Freedom Fitness Center in Kuna officially moved into its new digs on Wednesday, with a Chamber of Commerce ribbon-cutting ceremony, booths, food, jumphouses and a live music concert in the parking lot in front of their new space at 693 E. Wythe Creek Court.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Kuna City Council members should pay for security at Kuna Days

Kuna City Council members on Tuesday are scheduled to decide on a request from Kuna Days for $3,200 to pay for added police services during the two-day event.
The Ada County Sheriff’s Office is charging entities for the overtime costs of police officers during special events, such as Kuna Days.
Hoss Grigg, who was last year’s Kuna Days chairman, told City Council members last month that Kuna Days, itself, could be in jeopardy without any help from the city this year.
The city in the past has paid as much as $10,000 from city coffers to help defray the costs of Kuna Days, primarily for the fireworks show. But budget woes have made the city tight with a buck, cutting all funding to such organizations as The Zone after-school program, Kuna Days and the Kuna Chamber of Commerce.
To make matters worse, the city treasurer disclosed last month that an anticipated agreement with Idaho Power for a franchise fee that was expected to generate about $100,000 in revenue for the city is not working out. So City Council members cut their contingency fund down to $39,000 for the year, a precariously low amount.
Still, the city should pony up the relatively small amount of money for an event that benefits the city as a whole. It’s an event that deserves everyone’s support — including the City Council’s.

What do you think? Post an opinion below and vote in our online poll at

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Looks like ACHD will be pushing roundabouts

The Ada County Highway District appears ready to move ahead with plans for more traffic roundabouts in the county.
ACHD representatives made a presentation to Kuna City Council members last week detailing a draft policy and guidelines for roundabouts that they hope to have approved by ACHD commission members as early as this summer.
Roundabouts are intersection traffic devices in which drivers enter a traffic circle by way of yielding to traffic, if any, already in the circle. Drivers can then exit the circle in any number of directions without stopping. A roundabout is used as an alternative to stop signs or traffic signals.
Terry Little, ACHD traffic services manager, told council members that safety, relieving congestion, reducing delays and air pollution and improving aesthetics are benefits of roundabouts over four-way stops and signalized intersections.
While public attitude is generally very negative toward roundabouts before a roundabout is installed, the public’s attitude generally turns just the opposite once a roundabout is put in, Little said.

You can read more of this in my Editor's Notebook in this week's Kuna Melba News.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Next year, Kuna school board should go over budget line by line

Right after Kuna school board members voted unanimously last month to accept a series of cuts and revenue-generating measures for next year’s budget, a couple of audience members let out an enthusiastic, “whoooo!” putting a positive exclamation point on a difficult subject.
In many ways, it was fitting, as it seemed we all let out a sigh of relief at the apparent end of a difficult process of dealing with a shortfall of revenue from the state. The clouds did seem to part and it felt like a pall had been lifted from a painful weeks- long process.
The results seem fair. Everyone, it seems, bears a burden in the cost-cutting. Teachers will take a 4 percent pay cut in furlough days, some students will have to pay a very small fee to park at the high school, those participating in sports will have to come up with money to pay for travel to away games, a couple more administrators were cut and the superintendent and assistant superintendent took pay cuts in furlough days.
The pain seems to be spread around equitably and fairly.
With all that said, though, I would like to see the Kuna school board take a different approach to the budget next year. After all, I feel, it should be the school board members, not a budget reduction team, that sets and passes the yearly budget. And the school board members should have all of the information in front of them, not just a condensed version presented to them by the district administration.

You can read the rest of this opinion in this week's Editor's Notebook in the Kuna Melba News.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Kuna coaches are doing right by our student-athletes

In the opening game of the District 3 baseball tournament earlier this month, Kuna found itself down 6-4 to Emmett in the middle of the sixth inning. The boys made a short rally and scored a run to make it 6-5, but a grounder ended the inning for Kuna.
I was standing next to the Kuna dugout snapping photos. Chase Hernandez, Kuna’s left fielder, sprinted onto the field for the top of the seventh. I heard him say something to the effect, “All right, it’s going to be the seventh inning,” as if he had every confidence in what was about to happen.
What happened was Kuna came back, sure enough, in the bottom of the seventh inning to win the game. They did it again in the next game, with another walkoff game-winning run to make it to the district championship game and secure a spot in the state tournament for the first time in six years.
Coach Dale Rippy has clearly done an outstanding job with such a young team of mostly juniors and sophomores. Not just in performance, but in character, work ethic and attitude. The boys were victims of bad calls, demoralizing rallies and devastating losses. But they continued to battle back, they kept their heads up, they didn’t whine or complain or throw temper tantrums.
And they learned from their mistakes. Perhaps most telling is the number of times Kuna lost the first game of a series then turned around and won the next game against the same team, including one of the biggest wins, a 13-12 victory over Bishop Kelly, BK’s only loss of the season.

Read the rest of this opinion piece in this week's Kuna Melba News.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The state is passing the buck on public education

The argument has been made that raising taxes is a sure way to kill an already suffering economy. Our voters can’t afford to pay more taxes. We can’t simply pass along costs to our voters. So that’s why we’ve decided to cut public education funding by 7.5 percent.
What’s the effect? In Kuna, anyway, we have higher taxes in the form of a supplemental levy. Students will have to pay to park at the high school. Students will have to pay more money to take advanced placement and concurrent credit courses. Students will have to pay to travel to away sports games and other extracurricular competitions and events. Field trips will be cut drastically. We may send our students to school fewer days.
We haven’t found out yet, but teachers’ pay likely will get cut. Bus drivers already have had their pay cut and it likely will get cut more. We’ve cut administrative positions and are cutting hours next year.
In Melba, they’ve killed the music program.
Here’s the point: The costs are getting passed down, whether the state Legislature says so or not. The taxpayers are paying for this one way or the other. Cutting employee pay and taking money out of students’ families’ pockets to pay for basics, in the end, hurts the economy, whether state legislators say so or not.

You can read more of this opinion in my Editor's Notebook in this week's Kuna Melba News.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Steven Ricks withdraws from state Senate race

Steven Ricks has withdrawn from the race for the District 21 state Senate seat.
Ricks was slated to face incumbent Sen. Russ Fulcher in the Republican primary on May 25.
In a press release, Ricks cited an ongoing lawsuit stemming from his campaign in 2008. During that campaign, also against Fulcher, Ricks prepared and mailed out letters from Republican Party committee members. At the top of the letters was the Idaho Republican Party logo. The letter attacks special interest politics, good old boy politics and party politics.
Ricks lost to Fulcher in the primary. In September following the primary, Idaho Republican Party chairman Norm Semanko sent Ricks a letter chastising Ricks for using the state party logo in his campaign, stating that it might cause confusion that the state Republican Party was endorsing candidates. The letter also took Ricks to task for criticizing the party and making blanket statements about Republican legislators.
A similar letter was sent in September to all committee members.
Then in December 2008, Semanko sent another letter to every person in District 21 who had voted in the May primary election. That letter reiterated many of the same points in the previous letters.
In response, in March 2009, Ricks filed a libel lawsuit in the Fourth Judicial District against Semanko and the Idaho Republican State Central Committee, claiming the defendants made false statements about Ricks, published the false statements and “impugned the honesty, integrity, or reputation of Ricks or exposed Ricks to public contempt or ridicule.”
Ricks’ suit seeks judgment against the defendants of no less than $10,000.
The suit is scheduled to be tried in April 2011.
“Now that the case will not be resolved for almost another year, it will continue to consume a major portion of my time and focus,” according to a press release from Ricks. “The outcome of the case will be important to the operations of the Idaho Republican Party. Many questions, some with Constitutional implications, are at issue in the case.”

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Movie Gallery in Kuna appears to be closing

It would appear that the city of Kuna will soon be without a movie rental store in town.
A handwritten sign posted on the front door of the Movie Gallery in Deer Flat Crossing reads, “We will no longer be receiving new release movies. Sorry for the inconvenience. Please do not ask employees why we are closing.”
If the Kuna Movie Gallery closes, it would leave Kuna without a movie rental store, as Kuna Video closed its doors two years ago. Kuna does have a Redbox DVD rental kiosk at Jacksons on Main Street. A similar DVD vending machine operation set up shop in Super C but moved out last year.
The Movie Gallery note refers customers to a 503 area code phone number. The voicemail message from the phone number refers callers to a website information page.
The website explains that Wilsonville, Ore.-based Movie Gallery is going through Chapter 11 bankruptcy and is not going out of business but is hoping to “restructure” and emerge as a stronger company after Chapter 11.
Nothing more is said on Movie Gallery’s website regarding store closures.
But a story in the Wall Street Journal last week said the chain was closing all 2,415 of its U.S. stores.

Find out why I think we could see a competing chain move into Kuna in my Editor's Notebook in this week's Kuna Melba News.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Calling on the Kuna school board to hold open budget hearings

With the Kuna school district administration predicting $3.8 million in cuts in next year’s budget, a 14 percent reduction in revenue is a daunting task that will need everyone’s expertise and input.
I know that a budget reduction team is working on possible cuts and will be reporting back to the school board, who will then make the final decision.
My biggest concern, though, is that school board members aren’t involved enough in the process.
I would like to point out just a couple of minor items from last year’s budget as a case in point.
During last year’s budget talks, school board members voted to eliminate midday bus transportation by changing the kindergarten schedule for many Kuna kindergartners from all-day-half-day to full-day-alternate-day. The estimated savings came to about $100,000.
But now we’ve come to find out that during teacher contract negotiations last year, the district agreed to give raises to 41 teachers based on achievement of higher education. The cost of the raises was about $76,000. On top of that, as reported in the Kuna Melba News on April 14, the district also agreed to partially pay those same teachers part of their expenses to take those classes, to the tune of $140 per credit for a total expenditure of about $52,000.
If you combined those two expenses, the district spent about $128,000, more than enough to avoid changing the kindergarten schedule.
Eliminating these raises and education payments was never an option presented to the public. Changing kindergarten was a line item with an estimated saving, but there were no line items that said, “Eliminate education raises for teachers, savings: $76,000,” “Eliminate paying for teacher education, savings: $52,000.”
I don’t know whether school board members knew about the raises and the payments for the education credits, but they certainly did not come up during any budget discussions.
To the contrary, I was under the (false) impression that the school district had eliminated all raises for the 2009-10 fiscal year. Raises for experience were indeed eliminated, but apparently raises for college courses was still approved.
Changing the kindergarten schedule may have still been the right thing to do. Giving teachers raises and paying for part of their education may very well still have been the right thing to do. But these things were never discussed openly during last year’s budget process.

You can read more of this opinion in this week's Kuna Melba News.