Thursday, February 24, 2011

We want solutions from the city of Kuna, not bluster

A recent editorial that I wrote about the city requiring curb, gutter and sidewalk for a community garden became the topic of discussion at the last Kuna City Council meeting. Kudos to council member Doug Hoiland for bringing it up and suggesting that the City Council should be involved in the discussion.
Unfortunately, some city officials attempted to paint my rendition of events as being only half the story. They apparently missed the point of my editorial.
Here’s the version I told in last week’s issue, and it’s based on talking to city planning director Steve Hasson: A local church wanted to put a community garden in a vacant lot along Fourth Street. This church went to the city to inquire about it and was told that it was a change of land use and that the change of land use would trigger a special use permit, design review and would require curb, gutter and sidewalk.
And so the church walked away.
Here’s the city’s version, as presented at the City Council meeting Feb. 15: A local church wanted to put a community garden in a vacant lot along Fourth Street. This church went to the city to inquire about it and was told that it was a change of land use and that the change of land use would trigger a special use permit, design review and would require curb, gutter and sidewalk.
And so the church walked away.
The city threw up a roadblock to this church building a community garden. City officials, by their very own testimony, told the church pastor that the lot would require curb, gutter and sidewalk if he were to put a community garden there.
I’m not missing any side of any story. That’s the story. Period.
Now, as I conceded in my previous editorial, this is indeed a difficult issue, and I provided a very detailed and lengthy defense of the city’s position. I appreciate it, I understand it and I respect it.
But Doug Hoiland was absolutely correct to bring this issue up, and I’d like him to bring it up again.
Because after about 10 minutes of obfuscation by Hasson and some baseless blustering by another city official that only half the story was told, everyone seemed to be in agreement that it was perfectly OK for the city to tell a local church that if they wanted to turn a vacant lot into a community garden they’d have to put in curb, gutter and sidewalk.
And so, we have a vacant lot with no curb, gutter and sidewalk instead of a community garden with no curb, gutter and sidewalk.
I know it won’t be easy to come up with a solution, but I really don’t think the solution is to just say no every time someone comes knocking on your door — particularly for a community garden.
I’d still like the city to come up with a solution to this, and a good start is by discussing it as a City Council or even the Planning & Zoning Commission. But you have to start with an honest an open discussion.
Unfortunately, in the end, the mayor’s bluster and Hasson’s circumlocution simply shut down any hope of an intelligent conversation about the matter.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Kuna will get what it deserves. Personally, I think Kuna deserves solutions to problems like this. Unfortunately, what we get is a vacant lot with no curb, gutter and sidewalk. Congratulations, Kuna.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why we're practically giving away the Kuna Melba News

Yes, we’ve gone crazy.
Next month, we’re doing something that many people think we’re crazy for trying. We are selling one-year subscriptions to the Kuna Melba News for $10.
It drives me crazy when someone calls me and says they didn’t know anything about a supplemental levy election that was on the front page of the Kuna Melba News more than a half-dozen times.
It drives me crazy when someone calls to ask me when Kuna Days is when the full schedule is in that week’s issue. It drives me crazy when a city council member says she didn’t know anything about something that was in the paper the past week.
It drives me crazy when people say they had no idea that Kuna Lumber sells hardware. It drives me crazy when a school board member “finds out” about something three weeks after it was in the Kuna Melba News.
You get the idea. It’s a whole lot of crazy stored up.
No more excuses. Ten bucks. That’s it. One year. Fifty-two issues. Delivered to your mailbox every week. Ten dollars. For the whole year.
Whenever we tell someone we’re doing this, they look at us like we’re crazy. Many people recognize that the $28 per year subscription rate is already ridiculously low. And based on the subscription rates of every other weekly paper we’ve seen, it is the lowest rate we know of.
But, apparently, that’s not enough for some people. So we are going to make it as easy as we can.
We’ve actually thought of doing something as radical as going free, but our calculations determined that our ad rates would have to be so high that it would be too much of a financial burden on our advertisers and they wouldn’t be able to afford to advertise in a product that is distributed for free to every household in the school district.
So in reality, $10 is kind of a compromise. We’re not proposing any sort of raise to our advertiser rates, but we’re hoping the advertisers will greatly benefit.
Of course, one of the biggest reasons we want more subscribers is to make sure everyone in the community is informed about what’s going on. We feel passionately that every resident in this area should be reading the Kuna Melba News every week so that they are informed about what’s happening in their community, when soccer signups are, whether their pressurized irrigation bill is going up, whether a taxi business is causing a problem in a residential neighborhood. Our mission is to be the number one source of news and information about Kuna and Melba that you can’t find anywhere else.
But we’re also making this push on behalf of our advertisers. We want more readers to see their ads and make buying decisions based on the ads they see in the Kuna Melba News.
If you are a current subscriber: Thank you, thank you, thank you. We value your loyalty and appreciate your business. So many of our subscribers tell us every day how much they appreciate the paper and can’t wait to get it in the mail every Thursday. Don’t worry, we’re going to take care of you, too. Look for details coming soon about our customer appreciation special, in which we’ll give current subscribers a special deal when they renew.
In the meantime, if you’re a subscriber, please tell your friends and neighbors and let them know about the $10 special.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The solution is more education, more time, not less

When my older son, Luke, first started playing ice hockey, I couldn’t bear to watch his practices. The basic procedure was to take about 20 kids and put them in a group for a skating drill. I would watch as Luke waited his turn in line, then skated out to do crossovers around the circles. He would do them wrong, and because one coach was trying to keep 20 kids in line, no one ever showed him how to do it right. He would go through the drill maybe twice if he was lucky, then they’d move on to the next drill, stick handling, then passing then backwards skating. And so it went for 60 minutes, drill after drill without ever mastering a skill. Even worse, they would move onto a more advanced skill, such as passing while skating, before mastering the original basic skill, passing while standing still.
This year, though, they’re doing things more efficiently. Instead of 20 kids, there are now 30 or more kids. But now they’re divided into five groups, so that each group is about six kids, each with their own coach in each station. Each station lasts about 10 minutes, so that the kids are doing crossovers over and over and over again for 10 minutes until they get it right. And because there are only six kids per coach, the coach has time to pull out a kid and show him how to do the drill correctly.
And because they’re able to get more kids out on the ice at one session, each kid gets more sessions — 50 percent more sessions, or an extra practice every other week. Needless to say, the results are noticeable. Luke is finally skating on his outside edge, doing crossovers and stickhandling properly.
The reason I mention this is because I feel the same way about his education. I fear we are simply cramming skill after skill too quickly, moving from one concept to the next too quickly in too short of a time period without properly learning the concepts. And when it comes time to layer on another concept, the original concept hadn’t been properly learned to begin with.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Kuna Farmers Market goes before City Council tonight

Reminder that the Kuna Farmers Market goes before the Kuna City Council tonight. If you support the market and want to see it move to the city park, you best show up at tonight's meeting.
Market organizers are seeking to move from the current location in the Sandstone Plaza parking lot to the Col. Bernard Fisher Veterans Memorial City Park.
Organizers hope to move to the concrete pad that fronts Main Street and serves as a basketball court. The move is intended to increase the market’s visibility and to provide more shade for market shoppers. It’s also intended to capitalize on the synergy of families using the city park on Saturday mornings.
The market wrapped up its sixth season in Kuna last year. It runs generally from May through September from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday mornings. Cheryl McCord and Bill Clark are the volunteer organizers and managers of the market. The market features local farms, such as Cabalo’s and Vogel Farms, as well as local nursery Rustic Gardens, and several other small-acreage farms in and around Kuna.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Is the city of Kuna being fair to the Old Town residents when it comes to pressurized irrigation fees?

A proposal to bring irrigation water to a group of houses in what is known as Kuna’s Old Town has come up again for consideration.
About two years ago, the city of Kuna had explored the idea of hooking up a number of houses off Fourth Street, along Franklin, Marteeson and Elm streets, into the city’s pressurized irrigation system.
Currently, those properties can use gravity irrigation by closing off a nearby irrigation canal and flooding their property according to a time schedule for their properties. Alternatively, property owners use potable water to irrigate their lawns. The city charges property owners a flat rate for potable water up to 10,000 gallons then charges users a per gallon fee afterward. Because some landowners use potable water to water their lawns, they end up paying higher water bills every month. Not only has this raised concerns of fairness but the practice also places a higher burden on the city’s potable water system.
But two years ago, when the city approached these homeowners about tying into the pressurized irrigation system, most of those who responded said, “No thank you.” That’s because the city would require a roughly $1,520 connection fee to connect into the system. That’s the same amount that everyone pays when they hook into the irrigation system. Usually, a developer will simply factor that cost into his cost of building a house, but in the case of Old Town homeowners, many have lived in these home for years, even decades in houses that were built years ago.
Still, the city says it’s a fairness issue and that everyone who connects into the pressurized irrigation system must pay the same fee.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Will the Kuna Community Auction ever come back?

The Kuna Community Auction has been cancelled for the second year in a row. These community auctions started in the 1950s as a way to raise money for polio research. They were so successful, though, they continued even after polio vaccines eradicated the disease. The smaller communities have held onto the tradition. Marsing (population 979) reportedly raised $95,000 this year, and Melba (population 569) raised $39,000. Interest and participation in the Kuna Community Auction has waned as Kuna (population 15,000) has grown.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Take your sweetheart out to Indian Creek Winery in Kuna this weekend

Take your sweetheart out for a ride to Indian Creek Winery (whether that be your wife, boyfriend, dog, best friend). A good time is to be had! You really can’t go wrong with wine, food and friends (and chocolate!) It’s all happening from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., this Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 12 and 13. Free wine tasting, appetizers, local chocolate samples, couples photo booth, sweet sales and the release of our new 2008 Star Garnet.
Indian Creek Winery is at 1000 N. McDermott Road, just north of West Kuna Road.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Enjoy some live jazz and a great dinner tonight in Kuna

Kuna High School Jazz Dinner Show Featuring Jazz Choir and Jazz Band will be Friday, Feb. 11. Dinner will be at 6:30 p.m., show and dance will be 7:30-9:30 p.m.
Dinner provided by KHS Culinary Arts. Event is sponsored by the Meridian Kiwanis Club.
Tickets: Dinner and Show $25 per couple. Show and Dance only $5 per person
Tickets may be purchased at They may also be purchased at Kuna High School.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Best Bath owner hints at future in Kuna

Best Bath owner Gary Multanen offered a tantalizing hint of the future, saying, “I am looking for something to manufacture in Kuna. We’re working on it. But we want to make sure it’s something where there’s a market for it.”
Multanen would not offer any details but said he is pursuing options not necessarily related to Best Bath. He said he has a very nice manufacturing facility in Kuna and he wants to use it.
“You know, some day, that industrial park there is going to be a thriving industrial park,” he said.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Curb, gutter, sidewalk for a garden in Kuna?

A proposal to turn a vacant lot into a community garden is dead on arrival because the city of Kuna would require curb, gutter and sidewalk at the site.
New Beginnings Christian Church was hoping to turn a quarter-acre vacant lot at the corner of West Fourth Street and Avenue C into a community garden.
But the city said changing the vacant lot into a community garden would require a special use permit, have to go through design review and would require curb, gutter and sidewalk.
And so the plan is dead and the lot shall remain a vacant lot.
The city has got to figure this out — and they have to get this situation fixed.
City officials, primarily planning director Steve Hasson, need to just take a step back, assess the situation and try to apply some common sense.
West Fourth Street, according to the city’s own comprehensive plan, is targeted to be central business district, part of the Main Street corridor envisioned as a mixed-use area with entertainment, dining, cultural venues, offices, etc.
Now, I’m not saying the city is wrong in demanding curb, gutter, sidewalk and parking lots when someone turns a formerly residential house into a commercial business.
Here’s the argument, and it’s a good one: When someone like Mike Young builds a group of new commercial buildings out along Avalon Street, he’s required to put in not just curb, gutter, sidewalk and parking lots, he is also responsible for dragging out sewer and water and installing those utilities already available to these residential properties along Fourth Street. Same thing for Larry Hansen, or Walgreens, Les Schwab, Chad and Marissa Queen. So why should the city go ahead and willy-nilly let other business owners off the hook to put in improvements?
But the city really needs to be able to apply some common sense and discretion to these decisions. Requiring curb, gutter and sidewalk for a community garden just isn’t a reasonable thing to expect or demand. And just look at the end result: a vacant lot. Is that really what the city wants? Would they rather have a vacant lot (without curb, gutter and sidewalk, mind you) than a community garden (without curb, gutter and sidewalk)?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Boise Valley Economic Partnership director Clark Krause to speak at Kuna Chamber of Commerce meeting

Clark Krause, executive director of the Boise Valley Economic Partnership, will be the featured speaker at the February meeting of the Kuna Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber meets from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17, at Kuna City Hall, 763 W. Avalon. Lunch is $10 for members, $15 for nonmembers. Please call or email Mary Anne at 922-9254 or to RSVP by Monday, Feb. 14.
Krause joined BVEP in August 2010, and his goal is to continue to bring attention to the Boise Valley. During the next five years, his team’s effort is focused on making sure that existing businesses are treated well, as well as attracting jobs and capital investment in to the Valley.
BVEP’s plans include accountable and measurable goals that narrow in on targets that truly fit the workforce, culture, infrastructure and location of the Valley. The new Sales Mission Program is targeted to reach out and visit over 150 out-of-region corporate decisionmakers that have influence when movement and change take place in their company.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Good luck to Jessy Forsmo-Shadid in Poetry Out Loud contest

Good luck to Jessy Forsmo-Shadid, 15, a sophomore at Kuna High, who will again be representing Kuna High at the State Poetry Out Loud finals to be held in Nampa in February.
Poetry Out Loud: National Recitation Contest was created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. Poetry Out Loud is administered in partnership with state arts agencies of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.
Each winner at the state level will receive $200 and an all-expenses-paid trip with an adult chaperone to Washington to compete for the national championship. The state winner’s school will receive a $500 stipend for the purchase of poetry books. The first runner-up in each state will receive $100, with $200 for his or her school library. A total of $50,000 in awards and school stipends will be awarded at the National Finals.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

This week's history page in the Kuna Melba News shows a familiar sight: The Kuna Post Office

Did you see this week's history page in the Kuna Melba News?
This week's "A Look Back...." takes us to February 1961, when the brand new Kuna post office was getting ready to open to the public.
Here's what the Kuna Herald wrote about it at the time: "Workmen are installing the glass in the Post Office building which will practically complete work on that building. Fixtures are on hand but installation will wait on instructions from the Post Office department. The doorstep and walks around the building have yet to be constructed. Mud caused by rains this week has made it difficult for workmen to get in and out of the building."
As it turns out, local resident and Kuna history buff Chuck Crowe brought in a postcard he had dug up from 1961. It's a postcard invitation to the opening of the post office.
The sad thing is that it's the exact same building the post office is in today. Even though back in 1961 Kuna had maybe 500 residents. Today, we have 15,000 residents.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

I'll be the guest speaker at the next meeting of the Kuna Democrats

Yes, that's me who will be the guest speaker at the March meeting of the Kuna Democrats.
I'll be speaking at the next monthly rendezvous for rank-and-file Democrats in Kuna at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 2, at Moxie Java, 1575 N. Linder Road in Kuna.
I plan on talking about the importance of letters to the editor and some of the newspaper’s editorial policies, particularly around elections. But I expect the conversation to be wide open, and I'm open to holding forth on on the future of newspapers in a digital age and why newspapers are important.
For more information about the meeting or the Kuna Democrats in general, contact John Henry Cornett, Democrat Precinct 122 Committeeman, 571-2839.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Help support a Falcon Ridge building with fundraiser next week

Falcon Ridge Charter School will host a dinner and silent auction fundraiser from 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 12, at the Kuna High School Commons, 637 E. Deer Flat Road.
“Date Night at the Commons” will be a fundraiser to benefit the school’s building fund.
Falcon Ridge, opened in 2005 at the southeast corner of South Ten Mile and West Kuna roads, has been housed in temporary “portable” classrooms since opening. Falcon Ridge, Kuna’s only charter school serving students in kindergarten through 8th grade, is hoping to build a permanent standalone school at the site in the future.
The fundraiser will cost $25 per person and includes dinner catered by Kuna’s El Gallo Giro Mexican restaurant. You can purchase tickets at Falcon Ridge Charter School, 278 S. Ten Mile Road.
The evening will also include a silent auction of donated items.
To donate items, contact the school at 922-9228. Donations will be tax-deductible.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Live jazz and dinner in Kuna on Feb. 11

Nicola and I went to this event last year, and we had a great time. Dinner was terrific.
Kuna High School Jazz Dinner Show Featuring Jazz Choir and Jazz Band will be Friday, Feb. 11. Dinner will be at 6:30 p.m., show and dance will be 7:30-9:30 p.m.
Dinner provided by KHS Culinary Arts. Event is sponsored by the Meridian Kiwanis Club.
Tickets: Dinner and Show $25 per couple. Show and Dance only $5 per person
Cut off for Dinner order is Monday Feb. 7.
Tickets may be purchased at They may also be purchased at Kuna High School.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Taxpayer-funded laptops is a bad idea

State Superintendent Tom Luna’s education reform proposal to give every Idaho high school student a laptop is a bad idea for a number of reasons.
While some have raised issues of safety, damage, Internet access and extracurricular use, I believe those issues can indeed be worked out and shouldn’t be a reason to not move forward.
But the Legislature should really look hard at whether we should use $5 million of taxpayer money to buy every freshman a laptop and another $2.4 million to maintain them — especially for families who can afford their own laptop or already have one. For such a conservative state, this sounds like a socialist idea.
I appreciate and respect Luna’s passion about delivering a 21st century education, and I’m glad that he recognizes most young people are already learning and communicating with instant messaging, handheld devices, tablets and laptops. But translating that into buying every student a laptop and letting them keep them after graduation just doesn’t make sense.
Perhaps the state could supply laptops just to students who need them. Already, the state is talking about giving districts the option of limiting laptop use to the school day, checking them out in the morning and returning them at the end of school. In other words, these laptops would become in-school computers.
But schools already have many computers at school, and they probably have the best computers in town. I know Kuna does. So what’s the point of simply adding to a school’s cache of in-school computers? It’s simply wasteful and redundant.
It’s wasteful, particularly because the money for the purchase and maintenance of these laptops comes from cutting the amount of money the state would spend on the number of teachers in schools.
“In one sentence, you’re saying a laptop is more important than teachers,” Kuna Superintendent Jay Hummel told me last week.

You can read the rest of this opinion, and what I think about mandated online courses, in this week's Kuna Melba News.