Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Reminder that Kuna school board is meeting tomorrow

Just a reminder that the Kuna school board is scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, Feb. 1, at the district office, 711 E. Porter St.
School board members will hold an open session on school district planning beginning at 6 p.m. The school district is preparing to implement a series of measures to comply with Idaho’s “Students Come First” education reform laws, including technology upgrades and laptops for teachers and students.
In addition, at 7 p.m., board members are scheduled to approve a personnel report then take action on a bond refunding resolution.
The Kuna school district is considering refinancing a portion of a 2004 bond in order to save the district potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars.
As interest rates have plummeted, it becomes advantageous for debtors to refinance their debt, similar to a homeowner refinancing a mortgage.
The 2004 bond, passed by voters within the Kuna school district, was used to build Reed and Crimson Point elementary schools.
The original amount of the bond was $15.23 million. The current outstanding portion of the bond is $12.86 million. The district is planning on refinancing only $8.02 million of the bond. With a refinance, the district has a goal of saving at least 6 percent on the remaining life of the bond, or about $500,000. Given the current market, the district could save as much as $800,000.

Monday, January 30, 2012

City of Kuna raises irrigation rates

It will cost the typical Kuna homeowner $89 per year for pressurized irrigation this year.
That’s up 8.5 percent from $82 last year.
Owners of vacant lots, though, will pay significantly less: $33 per 10,000-square-foot lot, down from $82.
Kuna City Council members voted unanimously last week to approve a new pressurized irrigation schedule citywide:
Size Occupied Vacant Gravity
10,000sf lot $89 $33 $33
12,000sf lot $93 $34.95 $34.95
21,000sf lot $111 $44.66 $44.66
The change in fees appears to have been in an effort to be fairer to owners of vacant lots.
In the past, the city had charged owners of vacant lots the same amount as owners of occupied lots.
During a City Council meeting on Jan. 17, Kuna Mayor Greg Nelson made mention of a developer unhappy with the situation. Reference was made to a letter from the developer and potential litigation over the issue. City engineer Gordon Law declined to provide a copy of the letter after the meeting.
City Council member Doug Hoiland said during the meeting that in boom times, developers would pay the full assessment then pass along the assessment to the buyer of a lot. However, as times have slowed and lots are sitting vacant for multiple years, it wasn’t fair to charge the full amount to a landowner who is not even using the water.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Jayden Bennett spotted at Kuna boys basketball game

Jayden Bennett, a Kuna boy who has been fighting the effects of bone cancer for nearly three years, took a seat on the bench of the Kuna boys varsity basketball team earlier this month.
Jayden, a 9-year-old student at Ross Elementary, was invited by Kuna senior guard Kenny Berger, said Jayden’s mother, Boni.
Jayden, diagnosed with osteosarcoma in April 2009, was due to have surgery in October to remove a tumor from one of his lungs. When the doctor told Jayden the surgery was scheduled for a Wednesday, Jayden asked if he could delay it because he was planning on attending the Kuna varsity football game that Friday, according to Boni.
The request so moved Jayden’s doctor that he convinced the Kuna football team, where Berger was the starting quarterback, to visit Jayden in the hospital.
Berger later wrote a letter to Jayden, letting him know what an inspiration Jayden was and invited Jayden to the basketball game.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

99-year-old house in Kuna comes down to make way for new AutoZone store

A demolition crew tore down a 99-year-old house on Thursday at the northeast corner of Orchard Avenue and East Avalon Street on the 1.3-acre parcel of land where an AutoZone store is being built. ESI Construction is building the 7,147-square-foot AutoZone building, which received approval from the Kuna Design Review Committee in November. Expected completion date of the store is April, according to ESI Construction. AutoZone has three stores in Boise, one store in Meridian, as well as stores in Nampa, Caldwell, Emmett and Homedale. AutoZone joins NAPA Auto Parts, which operates a store at 279 W. Main St. downtown. All AutoZone stores are owned by the company — there are no franchises.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Want to meet the governor? Go to Murphy today

Murphy will be Idaho’s 51st “Capital for a Day” today, Friday, Jan. 27.
Murphy is the county seat of Owyhee County, about 17 miles south of Melba.
Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter brings state government to Idahoans living outside Boise each month by making a different town in Idaho the state’s “Capital for a Day.” The events provide local residents an all-day opportunity to have open discussions about government issues with Otter, members of his Cabinet and other senior state officials.
The open meeting is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Murphy Museum Complex, 17085 Basey St.
Otter also will join Owyhee County Commissioners Jerry Hoagland, Kelly Aberasturi and Joe Merrick, and other local leaders, for a noon luncheon at the same location.
Otter brought the Capital for a Day to Melba in February 2011.
State officials joining Otter at the Murphy Capital for a Day will include Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna; Paul Kjellander, president of the Idaho Public Utilities Commission; Nate Fisher, administrator of the Office of Species Conservation; John Chatburn, administrator of the Office of Energy Resources; Bill Deal, director of the Idaho Department of Insurance; Brian Ness, director of the Idaho Transportation Department; Colonel Jerry Russell, director of the Idaho State Police; Brian Oakey, deputy director of the Idaho State Department of Agriculture; Bob Geddes, chairman of the Idaho Tax Commission; Jeff Sayer, director of the Department of Commerce; and Brigadier General Bill Shawver, commanding officer of the Idaho Air National Guard and director of the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security.
Also on hand to help answer questions from residents will be regional staff from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“Murphy is one of America’s smallest county seats – but Owyhee County is one of Idaho’s largest counties, as well as being one of the most rural, remote and rugged. Any community that can serve as county seat to such a proudly independent and self-reliant bunch has a lot to teach the rest of us,” Otter said in a press release. “I look forward to hearing the ideas and perspectives of the folks in Murphy and Owyhee County, and we’ll do our best to address their questions and concerns with State government.”

Thursday, January 26, 2012

City of Kuna tallies up its vacant lots

The city of Kuna has 697 vacant lots, according to numbers presented to City Council last week by city engineer Gordon Law.
Of the number of vacant lots, 338 are in subdivisions with little or no activity for an extended time. In all, 224 are in the local improvement district, and 164 are using connections transferred from the LID.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Time to submit award entries

Last week, I sent off my entries in the annual Idaho Press Club awards contest. I submitted eight entries, in general excellence, agriculture reporting, business reporting, series, general column, health reporting, feature writing and general news.
This year, I’m not submitting a whole heck of a lot of entries. But what strikes me in looking through my stories for the past year is not so much a plethora of “barn-burners,” those stories that you know will win some sort of award, but a lot of “little” stories that may not be big enough for an award but still serve the community.
I’m thinking about the story of the little girl who is battling back from a brain tumor, or the Kuna man who wrote a book about his daughter and Laura Silsby in Haiti, or about the two Kuna boys who are happy to have their dad home from Iraq, or the 7-year-old girl who won the Small Fry division at the National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest in Weiser.
And then, as I look through, I see more “little” stories about the race for Kuna mayor, the Kuna Boys & Girls Club, the school district supplemental levy, the Snake River Birds of Prey Festival, the Kuna Farmers Market, urban renewal, property tax assessments, the Kuna taxicab ordinance. This list could fill this entire space.
This exercise makes me realize what we’ve accomplished over the past year. I think about all those stories that wouldn’t be shared with the community if we didn’t have this newspaper. Sure, a select group would know about the FFA nationals. Some people would hear about Boys & Girls Club progress. A few people would know the details of the taxicab ordinance.
But how many people would learn about the complexities of the school district’s request for a supplemental levy? Who would provide our readers with a detailed explanation of how tax incremental financing works? How would people find out that roundabouts are being proposed for Ten Mile Road?
If not for the Kuna Melba News, how would you know what decisions the Kuna City Council is making? Would you go online each week and pore over the City Council minutes, as has been suggested?
How would you know what provisions for a taxicab ordinance were left in and which were taken out? Would you take the word of someone who heard about it from someone else?

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

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kuna school district to review cell phone bill

The Kuna school district will evaluate the district’s cell phone service to determine whether there may be cost savings for the 2012-13 fiscal year.
The school district spent $29,310.09 on 51 school district-funded cell phones in 2010-11.
The issue was discussed at the Jan. 10 school board meeting.
School board chairman Jim Ford said he is in favor of the school district funding cell phones for some school district employees, but he wanted to make sure the district was spending wisely.
The list of school district employees who have a district-funded cell phone includes six technology employees, nine maintenance employees, seven principals, the two deans at the high school, the high school and middle school building administrators, the middle school activities director, the district superintendent and assistant superintendent, business manager, federal programs coordinator, assessment/data coordinator, projects manager, two nurses, a substitute nurse, two psychologists, five custodians, one transportation employee, one security employee, the high school work-based learning coordinator, three food service employees, special education employee and the regional migrant coordinator.
The Kuna school district receives funding through a federal program called ERate, which reimburses 37.07 percent of the district’s cell phones charges, according to Bryan Fletcher, the district’s business manager.
Ford suggested the possibility that some district employees already have cell phones for which the district could reimburse up to a certain limit.
The school district’s technology director Devan DeLashmutt told school board members on Tuesday, Jan. 10, that it would be too convoluted and difficult to track and enforce and that the number of hours required to manage such a system might end up being more expensive in the end.
Superintendent Jay Hummel said the action on Jan. 10 was simply to explore the potential cost savings. Hummel said the district reviewed cell phone usage and made cuts about two years ago.
School board members did not discuss the possibility of cutting down the number of people in the district using district cell phones.
They unanimously agreed to direct DeLashmutt to review the district’s cell phone service.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Roundabouts being planned for Ten Mile Road corridor

Roundabouts are coming to Ten Mile Road. It’s just a question of when and where.
Officials from the Ada County Highway District held an information briefing with Kuna City Council members last month to go over their Ten Mile Road Corridor intersection analysis and planning.
Kuna city officials have expressed concern that not enough work is being done on the Ten Mile corridor in light of the opening of the Interstate 84 interchange at Ten Mile Road in May 2011.
Kuna officials asked ACHD to report back with what their plans are for the historically back-country two-lane road that promises to be a major north-south corridor in the future.
ACHD senior transportation planner Matt Edmond shared a plan that shows a north-to-south handling of the intersections along Ten Mile Road, starting at Victory Road, then moving down to Amity Road, then to Lake Hazel and Columbia, with improvements at Hubbard and Deer Flat roads a distant possibility at least 20 years hence.
ACHD’s presentation on Dec. 20 showed the following interim improvements:
• interim signal at Ten Mile and Victory in 2012.
• interim signal at Ten Mile and Amity in the 2013-17 five-year work plan.
• single lane roundabout at Ten Mile and Lake Hazel in 2014-15.
• single-lane roundabout at Ten Mile and Columbia in 2014-17.
• all-way stop at Ten Mile and Hubbard in 2023-26
• all-way stop at Ten Mile and Deer Flat at an undetermined time.
Long-term improvements for the Lake Hazel-Ten Mile and Columbia-Ten Mile intersections are double-lane roundabouts, with Lake Hazel getting one first in 2024-25 and Columbia in 2026-27.
A signal at Amity Road is contrary to the original South Meridian Transportation Plan and contrary to an earlier ACHD study of the intersection. Similarly, a signal at Victory Road differs from what’s recommended in the original South Meridian Transportation Plan.
A couple of Kuna City Council members raised objections to parts of the presentation.
“This is not based on facts,” said council member Doug Hoiland. “These are based on assumptions. … This tells me that you didn’t do your homework.”

Monday, January 16, 2012

Kuna chiropractor offers hyperbaric oxygen therapy

A Kuna chiropractor has gotten into the business of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, becoming the only provider of outpatient mild hyperbaric oxygen therapy in the Treasure Valley.
Kyle Burtenshaw, owner of Pioneer Sports & Pain Center, recently launched Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy of Idaho with the addition of a new portable hyperbaric chamber, which he uses at his office at 1619 N. Linder Road.
Patients lay down inside the hyperbaric chamber, which increases the pressure to 1.3 atmospheres, just a little bit greater than normal, or the equivalent of being underwater 10 feet. In addition, the patient is given an oxygen mask, breathing in 80 to 90 percent pure oxygen.
The idea is that under greater pressure, the cells of the body are better able to absorb oxygen, increasing the cells’ function and health.
Patients stay in the chamber for about an hour. The chamber has three windows, and the material of the chamber’s shell is translucent, so it’s bright inside. There’s enough room in the 7-foot-long, 3-foot-diameter chamber to move around a bit, read a book, listen to music or just take a nap. A parent could also go inside with a hesitant child.
Most people are probably familiar with a hyperbaric chamber as a treatment for scuba divers who suffer from “the bends,” in which too-large bubbles of oxygen get trapped in the body’s bloodstream. What a hyperbaric chamber does is get the body to absorb that oxygen once the pressure dissolves the oxygen.
The science behind it has now expanded to all sorts of treatments, from stroke patients to diabetics, traumatic brain injury, burn victims, blood poisoning, bone damage or death, among others.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Kuna teacher inspired by trip to Costa Rica

For Kuna High biology teacher Angela Hemingway, a trip to Costa Rica proved to be a rich experience full of new ideas.
It didn’t take her long to start thinking of ways to use those ideas in her own classroom back in Kuna.
“I was flying home and writing down 10,000 ideas and saying, ‘OK, here’s my priority list,’” Hemingway said.
While most Americans were watching football and eating turkey this Thanksgiving, Hemingway was in the middle of a two-week educational program in Costa Rica.
She was one of 26 U.S. teachers selected for the Toyota International Teacher Program, which took place from Nov. 19 to Dec. 3. During her time in Costa Rica, Hemingway toured sustainable agriculture projects at Earth University and engaged in service projects at La Selva Biological Station, one of the most studied tropical rain forests in the world. She also visited rural Costa Rican primary and secondary schools to observe classes and collaborate with teachers and students.
Hemingway said she removed invasive species deep in a jungle, planted trees and toured a biodigester plant.
In other words, this was not a vacation.
“It was a lot tougher than I ever imagined,” Hemingway said. “But it was absolutely the best professional development experience I have ever had in my 13 years of teaching.”
If it’s possible to imagine the already-enthusiastic teacher even more fired up about something, just ask her about Costa Rica. She clearly returned energized and full of ideas for her own teaching that promises to benefit her students.
Hemingway said she was impressed with Costa Rica’s awareness of the environment and dedication to preserving it.
“They have six different bins for recycling — there’s no trash can,” she said. “It’s just a whole different mindset. I don’t know if we would ever get to that point, but it was very eye-opening.”

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Melba celebrates its 100th anniversary

Clayton C. Todd would leave his home in California, heading for Alaska and the gold fields, when he decided to stop in Weiser, Idaho, to visit an old friend, Mr. Fuller. Fuller said, “Clay, they are selling a bunch of state land off down around Nampa. What an investment. Why don’t you check it out?”
So, with $2,000 in his pocket, Todd bought 160 acres of land on top of the rim at Rock Spur, the siding on the BNO Railroad. He laid out a town site in 25-foot lots, with prices of $100 per lot, to be paid for at $5 per month with interest. Corner lots would be $150 each. He promised that “with the railroad that was planning to go over the mountains; with the water now supplied by the U. S. Government, and with our rich lands, our dairies, our farms, and our orchards; and with through traffic finding its way to the Pacific, and the completion of the Panama canal in sight, who can foretell the future of Melba in this favored spot.”
The year was 1912, and the community of Melba was born.
In honor of the 100th anniversary of the founding of Melba, the community is planning a yearlong celebration of events.
To help kick off the celebration, this month’s issue of The Melba Herald contains a detailed history of Melba, profiles of prominent lifelong citizens and a calendar of events for the year.
You can view the special Centennial issue by clicking on "The Melba Herald" at www.kunamelba.com.
Keep reading for updates and stories throughout the year.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Hey, Kuna, let's play it again for the kids

The Kuna Middle School Music Department wants to get those instruments out of your closets and garages and into the hands of Kuna School District’s awesome students.
Play It Again Kuna is a way to of getting donations from those that might have instruments laying around so that some of our Kuna students can learn the love of music.
Any instrument, from piccolo to tuba, violin to string bass and guitars are gladly accepted. Kuna School District students love music, and we want to provide as many of them as we can with the opportunity to play.
If you have any questions, please contact KMS Band Director April Peterson or KMS Orchestra and Guitar instructor Rod Royce at 922-1002. Instruments can be dropped off at KMS or call and we can come pick them up. All donations will be evaluated and given a donation letter that can be used for your taxes. Please check with your tax consultant for the best way to use the donation.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hasson says 'it's time for me to go'

When I spoke to Kuna planning director Steve Hasson last week, he expressed excitement about the La Pine city manager position but remained guarded about the possibility of staying in Kuna.
As most people know by now, Hasson has butted heads with newly elected Mayor Greg Nelson, who campaigned on a platform that included getting rid of Hasson, whom Nelson said has been anti-business through overly strict planning and zoning and business regulations.
Hasson said he still hasn’t met with Nelson to discuss what problems he has. “I don’t know what he’s heard,” Hasson told me last week. “I don’t know what his case is against me or what it’s founded on.”
Hasson said if he could discuss the perceived problems with Nelson, he might be able to address them and defend himself.
Nelson told the Kuna Melba News last month that he had “a world of evidence” against Hasson that he was prepared to bring to City Council if Hasson wouldn’t resign. Nelson mentioned a requirement to put in curb, gutter and sidewalk for a community garden proposal, a requirement to put in curb, gutter, sidewalk and a paved parking lot for a business that had put up an outdoor deck, among other complaints from business owners around town.
The icing on the cake might be a $36,600 sewer and water connection bill that Hasson has said Nelson owes from the construction of the Creekside Lounge and Peregrine restaurant.
Whatever the reasons, it appeared that Hasson’s employment was about to come to a head and might have gone to the City Council for consideration. “I don’t want to battle with the guy,” Hasson said last week, before his interview in La Pine. “But I don’t want to be chased out of here either.”
Fast-forward a week, and Hasson has struck a resigned tone. “It’s time for me to go, so it’s time for me to go,” he said Tuesday. “Kuna has been a good tour of duty for me. I’ve learned a lot about myself and I think I’ve done a lot to help this city.”
Hasson said he would rather bow out gracefully than create an ugly situation with the mayor and going before the City Council. He said he has felt pushback from the community, particularly over the past year or so when it came time to enforce code.
“This is a pressure cooker situation,” Hasson said. “It’s one thing to be the person to promulgate the laws, but then it’s another matter altogether to be the person who has to enforce those laws.
“And when you go in and enforce a law, then you get a black mark against you by someone in the community. You enforce enough laws and then you’ve got a lot of black marks against you. And then they start having a necktie party for you.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Did outgoing Kuna City Council and mayor violate state law at lame duck meeting?

It appears that the outgoing mayor and City Council violated state code when they voted on a resolution and approved the publication of ordinance summaries at last week’s City Council meeting.
Last week’s council meeting, on Jan. 3, was the transition meeting, at which the outgoing officials — Mayor Scott Dowdy and City Council members Lisa Bachman and Jeff Lang — finished out their terms then handed the reins to the new officials: Mayor Greg Nelson and council members Briana Buban-Vonder Haar and Joe Stear.
The trouble is that before the outgoing officials left office, they approved a couple of things they shouldn’t have approved.
According to Idaho Code 50-702: “Councilmen elected at each general city election shall be installed at the first meeting in January following election. The manner of conducting that meeting shall be as herein set forth and not otherwise: the incumbents shall meet and conduct such business as may be necessary to conclude the fiscal matters of the preceding year; the newly elected shall then subscribe to the oath of office, be presented certificates of election, assume the duties of their position, and conduct such business as may be necessary, one (1) item of which shall be the election of a member as president of the council.”
So as I read it, the outgoing members are not authorized to conduct any business other than what is necessary to conclude the fiscal matters of the preceding year.
Once they do that, then the new officials take over.
In fact, the resolution they passed authorizes the mayor to execute the signing of an addendum to an agreement with the New York Irrigation District. The name on the signature line is “J. Scott Dowdy, Mayor.”
A message left with city attorney Richard Roats on Friday was not returned by deadline on Tuesday.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Postal Regulatory Commission supports NNA recommendations for better selection criteria for post office closings

The National Newspaper Association has been at the forefront of this battle and we are heartened to hear this most recent news. Thank you to the National Newspaper Association for their hard work on the behalf of the newspaper industry as well as the American public.

Following is a story from the National Newspaper Association:

WASHINGTON—The Postal Regulatory Commission has recommended that the U.S. Postal Service take another look at its approach to closing post offices, supporting many criticisms made by National Newspaper Association in its fall 2011 testimony.
The PRC released its opinion in the USPS proposal to close retail offices, laid out in the case Retail Access Optimization Initiative. The Postal Service is required to seek the PRC’s input whenever it embarks upon major service changes.
NNA participated in the case to argue that although it did not categorically oppose small post office changes, the selection of offices to be closed and the manner in which USPS sought public feedback were flawed. The PRC agreed with NNA and strongly suggested that USPS revise its plans. PRC Chair Ruth Goldway was particularly critical in a separate opinion, saying the proposals “reveal a pattern of inaccurate and overly optimistic economic savings calculations and of careless disregard of community concerns.”
NNA President Reed Anfinson, publisher of the Swift County Monitor-News in Benson, MN, said NNA had achieved its goals through evidence offered to the commission.
“We said at the outset we were not opposing post office closings, but that we saw major gaps in the Postal Service’s approach. Through the expert testimony of our Postal Committee chair, Max Heath, we pointed out flaws. We are gratified that the commission was able to use our information in its final opinion. Now we hope to support the Postal Service in a more rational approach to this problem,” Anfinson said.
Among the problems were:
• USPS decision to count only front-counter stamp and package sales as incoming revenue when deciding whether an office is unprofitable, while ignoring the bulk business mail revenue essentially coming through that office from newspaper, shopper and direct mail business.
• Inadequate development of plans to allow newspaper mail to be entered at alternative facilities being developed as post offices closed, such as the much publicized “Village Post Offices” intended to replace some post offices in rural areas.
• Poor transparency in conducting community meetings before a closing.
Heath said the PRC unanimously found problems with the USPS analysis of the effect of closings. Among other things, USPS was charting the new distances involved for consumers to reach remaining post offices through “as the crow flies” measurement rather than driving distances.
“I was particularly gratified that the commission takes such a tough line on transparency,” Heath said. “Through NNA’s testimony and our ongoing dialogue with USPS headquarters Vice President of Corporate Communications Sam Pulcrano, we had already secured a commitment that community meetings before a closing would become open to photographers and audio recordings. The initial meetings had produced quite a few complaints from our members about poor treatment of reporters and observers who wished to record the event for stories and for historical record. As a journalist, I found the practices ill-advised, and was grateful that Mr. Pulcrano made a promise to me to reform that aspect. But there is more to transparency than allowing reporters in. These meetings need to be better publicized and more conveniently scheduled. The commission agrees, and I applaud its strong mandate for openness.”
The case formally involved only 3,750 post offices on the hit list for closure, but USPS had said it intended to close more after the current round ends. Intervention by Congress as well as the commission’s recommendations may affect those plans. The 2012 federal spending bill passed by Congress in December contains a rider prohibiting the closing of small and rural post offices.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year's resolution for the Kuna school board

Let me preface this column by saying that I think the Kuna school district is doing a lot of things right. We have some phenomenal teachers and administrators in the school district. In no way do I want to diminish their extraordinary efforts at educating Kuna’s students.
Second, let me say that I believe Idaho’s funding levels for public education are nearing a breaking point. What the Kuna school district is going through right now is a deep and necessary examination of what that public education system would look like once we break through that breaking point. Whether we will be able to improve education in Idaho with even less money remains a serious doubt in my mind.
With that said, the Kuna school district simply has to do a better job at transparency. School board members and district officials bemoan low turnout at public meetings and call for greater public input.
But I think I echo a widespread feeling that the school district just isn’t laying all of its cards on the table.
Readers of this column know that I have repeatedly called on the school district to post entire school board packets online. Not only has this not happened, now the district isn’t even posting the agenda anymore. The last agenda posted was in August. So how about it? Does the school district really want public participation?
With an extremely talented technology staff, I have no doubt that posting the agenda — and the school board packets — would be a relatively simple matter. After all, the district’s technology staff prioritized a redesign of the high school newspaper’s website. But we can’t get the school board packets — nay, not even the agenda — on the website.
Furthermore, the district administration routinely uses PowerPoint presentations at school board meetings. That’s all well and good and is very helpful to the school board members and the audience (if there is one). But the downside is that there’s no public record of that presentation once the presentation is over. Why not make that PowerPoint presentation available to the public before the meeting, as a link, from the agenda that’s posted on the district website?
That way, a school district voter could, if he or she wanted to, print out the presentation at home and bring it to the meeting to follow along.
I find it disingenuous for the school district to say it wants greater public involvement and yet requires the local newspaper to file a Freedom Of Information Act request just to get the school board packet every month.
A recent column about the district spending $265 on lunches for the soccer team, $7,262 on a new golf cart and $29,000 on cell phones only makes one wonder what other expenditures might be out there.
Kuna families are now paying sometimes hundreds of dollars just to send their children to school in the form of ID cards, activity cards, parking fees, participation fees, locker rental fees, etc. Is there an accounting of these funds, what’s in these funds, what these funds are spent on and who authorizes the spending?
So here’s what I’d like to see the school district start doing:
• Post the school board agenda every month on the district’s website, preferably on the Friday before the meeting.
• Post every document that is associated with that month’s school board meeting every month, preferably on the Friday before the meeting.
• Post every district PowerPoint presentation from that month’s school board meeting every month — in advance of the meeting.
If it seems like this is asking a lot, it’s not. The city of Kuna has been doing this now for the past couple of years, and the city of Kuna doesn’t have an entire technology department, like the district. If the city of Kuna can get this done, certainly the school district could get it done — if it wanted to. (You can see what I’m talking about by going to www.cityofkuna.com and pulling up any one of their City Council or Planning & Zoning agendas.)
As we enter 2012, which promises to be a potentially challenging year for the Kuna school district, I am calling on school board members Jim Ford, Ginny Greger, Kevin Gifford, Royleen Anderson and Carl Ericson to please get this done on behalf of the people who voted for you.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tonight is first Kuna City Council meeting with new elected officials

New Kuna Mayor Greg Nelson and new City Council members Joe Stear and Briana Buban-Vonder Haar will be sworn in at tonight's City Council meeting.
Nelson won a majority in a three-way race, sweeping out of office Scott Dowdy, who had been mayor since being appointed in 2007 and winning an election in that year. Also swept out of office was Jeff Lang, who ran on a ticket with Dowdy and had been elected to the City Council with Dowdy in 2003. Outgoing City Council president Lisa Bachman did not seek re-election.
It will be interesting to see how Nelson follows up on his promise to make City Council meetings tighter and more professional.
The meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 763 W. Avalon St. The public is invited.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Kuna Herald from 50 years ago offered interesting reading

A couple of items in the Dec. 29, 1961, issue of The Kuna Herald caught my eye.
"Kuna Grangers build addition to Hall: Kuna Grangers began construction of a concrete block addition to their hall this week to provide space for restrooms."
I'm not sure this addition is in existence today. Was it removed at some point, or did it become part of the addition when the Gowen Field barracks was put on the original structure? The item certainly comes at an interesting time, as the Kuna Grange struggles to assess the damage from the recent motor vehicle accident.
Here's another item that would certainly boil the blood of any card-carrying PETA member:
"Looking way back
"Fall 1927
"4,000 Jacks Jump Into Great Beyond
"In the rabbit drive through the Melba-Glendale Valley Sunday, more than 5,000 shells were fired and it was estimated that more than 4,000 bunnies were slain. A number of very good marksmen were among the hunters, and when the ammunition was exhausted, the rabbits, having been driven to the edge of the rim-rock, were slain by stones hurled into the midst."

Sunday, January 1, 2012

I will still be wearing my jeans to Kuna City Council meetings

Another change we can expect to see under Mayor-elect Greg Nelson is better-run public meetings, he said. He told me that City Council members right now don’t know how to debate each other, leaving much unsaid, mumblings, banter with staff members, painfully pregnant pauses and council members casting votes without explaining their reasons.
Nelson said he plans on much “tighter” meetings, adherence to rules of order and each council member being required to explain their reasons in contentious issues.
“Council has vast authority that they all seem reluctant to use right now,” Nelson said.
And another thing: Staff members better be prepared to come to meetings wearing something nicer than blue jeans. Nelson said staff members who will be presenting to council should come to the meeting wearing something presentable to the public.