Make the Idaho Legislature Feel the Bern.

Today, the Idaho Democratic Party will be holding its caucus. Senator Bernie Sanders is widely expected to win. This state went for then Senator Barack Obama by almost 80% of the vote in 2008. Boise consistently elects progressives and voluntarily taxes themselves to support local schools and the environment. Conservation enthusiasts flock to Idaho from all over the world to enjoy our pristine rivers and breathtaking peaks.

This image of Idaho may surprise most out-of-staters. Idaho always seems to go viral for the wrong reasons. Whether its anti-immigrant hatred, an intolerance for the LGBT community, or a bone-headed law.

All too often the momentum generated by a #FeelTheBern movement dies off when it comes time to elect our state representatives. Many people who caucus today will fail to realize that the real change will not come by casting your vote for in a presidential primary, but instead in local legislative races this November. Our state legislature needs to be held accountable for all the bad bills that passed this session.

Take for example, four laws that recently passed by our legislature.

Yesterday, the Idaho House of Representatives passed a bill that allows the Bible to be used for public instruction in our schools. The bible is already allowed in schools, but this bill seeks to specifically empower teachers to use the scripture to teach children about music, history, geography etc. Despite the explicit warning of the Idaho Attorney General that this measure would conflict with our state constitution, our state legislature stubbornly voted to pass this bill and role the dice on another constitutional lawsuit.

Independent of the constitutional conflicts, this bill would set a horrible precedent. Can you imagine what Idahoans would think if public teachers elected to teach the Koran or the Holy Piby (Rastafarian Bible) to our students?

While micro-managing what our children learn, our state government also plays roulette with our safety. Yesterday, Governor Otter signed into law a bill that allows permit-less carry of concealed handguns throughout the entire state. Our state previously only required a concealed carry permit in city limits. The current concealed permit carry application hardly infringed upon our 2nd Amendment Rights or creates a large burden for the applicant. And Idahoans are already allowed to open carry throughout the state.

However, despite overwhelming testimony by law enforcement officials against the measure, our overwhelming rural legislature decided to impose its will upon city residents.

Another stark example of rural legislature imposing its will upon cities is the ban on plastic bag bans. Claiming that a ban or tax on plastic bags would be “bad for business” the state legislature revoked local municipalities right to tax or ban plastic bags.

But the real slap in the face this year came from the state legislature’s ban on local municipalities ability to raise their minimum wage by voter initiative. Despite being tied for the lowest minimum wages in the nation, our state legislature revoked local municipalities ability to raise their city’s minimum wage. Consider how difficult it already is to earn a living in this state and then consider earning only $7.25 an hour in a resort town like Ketchum or Sandpoint.

These bills highlight the completely hypocritical nature of our state government. Despite being “strong” supporters of the 2nd amendment, the state legislature is quick to hobble our first amendment’s prohibition of entangling Church and State in schools. Despite rallying against federal oversight and claiming to be fiercely independent, the state legislature imposes the same heavy-handed regulation it fears upon local municipalities.

Thus, its my hope that the same enthusiasm Idahoans will show for a candidate who champions a more fair society will be maintained to hold our local legislators accountable this November.

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Unleashing your 501(c)(3)’s potential – A short refresher.

Its an election year which means that our state legislature will attempt to pass bad bills which negatively affect some local 501(c)3 efforts. Often, these organizations want to fight back against predatory legislation, but don’t know where to begin. After recently consulting with a number of 501(c)3 organizations, I’ve realized that a lot of Executive Directors and Board Members have unknowingly limited their organization’s potential.

Combating bad legislation can be a confusing and scary realm of law for many organizations. The line between 501(c)3 prohibited and non-prohibited activities can become blurred for even the most seasoned Executive Director. 501(c)(3)s may educate voters or candidates on the issues, provide opportunities for voters to hear the candidates’ positions, encourage citizens to register to vote, and get registered voters to go to the polls on election day, provided they engage in these activities without favoring one candidate over another.

Many organizations refuse to run advocacy advertisements which mentions an elected representative’s name because they believe this type of advertisement is prohibited.  This is incorrect. The IRS permits 501(c)3s to inform and mobilize constituents to oppose a proposed legislative bill regardless if a candidate’s name is mentioned. The IRS has explicitly allowed this type of activity, even during election seasons.

If the purpose of an advocacy campaign is to educate constitutes on the possible impact of proposed legislation, then then a 501(c)3 may run advertisements as long as these ads does not promote “electioneering.” This includes ads specifically targeting a legislator’s constituents. 501(c)(3) organizations may also advocate through all forms of media including radio, TV, social media, and print. The key to keeping your organization compliant with the 501(c)(3) constraints is to focus on the issues and not the candidates.

But, 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity.  Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.

501(c)(3)s though may not engage in any activity which is considered a “Political Campaign Intervention.” The IRS defines this activity as “any and all activities that favor or oppose one or more candidates for public office.” Thus, a 501(c)3 cannot actively take a stand on which candidate to support in an election.

Factors in determining whether a communication results in political campaign intervention include the following:

• Whether the statement expresses approval or disapproval of one or more candidates’ positions and/or actions

• Whether the statement is delivered close in time to the election

• Whether the statement makes reference to voting or an election

• Whether the issue addressed distinguishes candidates for a given office

501(c)3s can also engage in limited lobbying. However, a 501(c)3 must properly execute and file a 5758 form prior to engaging in any lobbying activities. Once this form has been filed, the 501(c)3 may lobby as long as the organization spends less than 5-20% of the organizational budget on lobbying activities, depending on the size of the organization.

For more information on permitted 501(c)3 activity, visit: https://www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Charitable-Organizations/Political-and-Lobbying-ActivitiesBoise St Capitol Reflections HDR (4)z

Clegg’s Experience An Indispensable Asset

Two weeks ago, I profiled the Boise Mayoral race. This post highlights the only other seriously contended municipal race, Clegg v. Hawes. Although Scot Ludwig has a token challenger, Ludwig should cruise to reelection.

Council Member Elaine Clegg is seeking her fourth term. He challenger, local attorney Andy Hawes, has never run for office before.

Although Hawes appears sincere and earnest, his decision to challenge Clegg demonstrates his poor political judgment. When asked why he decided to run for City Council, specifically against Clegg, Hawes replied that he simply “answered the call to public service….wanted to give back….” and thought the council needed “new blood.” When pressed, Hawes stated he believed Clegg had served too long and felt “entitled” to her position on the Council.

Although Hawes believes Clegg is “entitled” to her position on council, her behavior and track record demonstrates the opposite.

Clegg fills an important position on the City Council. While some members of the council exhibit a certain flair for the spotlight, Clegg instead is a policy wonk who plows forward by focusing on smart growth.

Clegg combats sprawl with every vote on council. Her fingerprints can be seen all over “Blueprint Boise”, the City’s comprehensive plan.

As Todd Shallat describes,

“As Greater Boise sprawled, consuming green acres of cropland, mayors and councils prescribed high-density plans to rezone low-density sprawl. “The New Urbanism,” as the prescription came to be called, pined for the trolley village with Norman Rockwell storefronts. The new urbanists wanted band shells and bike racks. Gridded streets with alleys. Town plazas with public art. Elaine Clegg of Boise City Council said the movement was mostly about safe streets for walking and biking.  It was also about housing affordability, social connectivity and pay-as-you-go municipal planning that forced Boiseans to fully account for the cost of their cars.”

Clegg displayed her commitment to New Urbanism with the recent St. Luke’s Expansion plan. Clegg ensured that the St. Luke’s expansion did not tread upon East End’s ability to seamlessly connect to Downtown. Although she recognized the need to retain St. Luke’s in the heart of Boise, Clegg’s keen eye and smart questions held St. Lukes accountable including the city’s condition requiring St. Luke’s to reopen a portion of Bannock that has been closed since the 90s. 

Additionally, Clegg’s new position as President of a national transportation planning group, Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations demonstrates her command of public transit issues. Clegg has previously endorsed a circular system that would bring light rail transit to Boise, and believes that if reelected, she will help facilitate a streetcar that will run from Downtown to Boise State.

Ironically, Hawes’s positions do not differ from Clegg’s. As Hawes describes, the city is in good shape and the council has done a good job. Instead, Hawes points to to they city’s policy towards homelessness has a failure. Although Boise’s homeless problem is visible, the city has made leaps and bounds addressing the homeless over the past ten years. Hawes, however, has not come up with a solution and instead only offers a “new perspective.”

At its current size, Boise is at crossroads: one turn will lead to smart growth and a multitude of public transit options seen in cities like Portland and Salt Lake City; another turn leads to urban sprawl synonymous with Tuscon and Fresno.

Clegg’s knowledge and experience should be cherished, not feared. Another four years of Clegg’s leadership will help Boise reach its true potential.

Bieter Deserves Another Four Years

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Photo credit: Idaho Statesman

Its October in an odd year which means that municipal offices are up for election in Boise.

This year, Mayor Dave Bieter is running for his fourth term. Also on the ballot are Council Members Lauren McLean, Scot Ludwig, and Elaine Clegg

This post will focus on the Mayoral race. Next week I will write on the Clegg-Haws race.

The race for Mayor offers a distinct contrast between two different candidates.

Bieter has devoted his last twelve years as Mayor to making Boise the “most livable city in the Country.” He mentions it at almost every opportunity. Has Bieter been successful? What does it mean to be the “most liveable city in the Country?”

One example of liveablity is an urban environment that emphasis public transportation, pedestrian friendly streets, commercial activity, vibrance, and aesthetic appeal.

Bieter has absolutely succeeded at improving our downtown. One can cite new buildings shooting up like bamboo stalks over the past three years, each bringing another missing element to our downtown experience. One can also cite the multitude of festivals and events our city hosts with Jaialdi 2015 adding an exclamation mark.

Also, the multi-modual center being constructed under the US Bank plaza adds a nice capstone to Bieter’s emphasis on public transportation. While a light rail system would be ideal, this project has been given new life and I am encouraged by our Mayor’s constant focus on bringing rail transit to our valley.

In addition, City Hall has made affordable downtown housing a priority. The city’s plan to add 1000 new apartments by 2020 demonstrates Bieter’s understanding that adding residents to downtown will spawns commerce, development, and community. More downtown housing means less reliance on automobiles and a smaller carbon footprint for our community.

Another example of Bieter’s commitment to improving our community, is the multiple bonds proposed and passed during his watch. Although the 2013 bond measure did not pass, a majority of Boise residents voted for the measures.

Not to be deterred, the Fire Bond was again on the ballot last year and the Protect Boise campaign reaped a well deserved victory that gave our firefighter much needed facilities.

This year, the Bieter administration is again pushing an open space measure that seeks to protect our city’s gem: the Boise Foothills. The I Love Boise campaign appears to be generating enough enthusiasm to meet the high threshold required to pass municipal bonds in our state.

Bieter has also emphasized job growth and made a commitment to attracting, retaining, and engaging young professionals.

Our current mayor routinely makes a point of meeting with the Boise Young Professionals. These listening sessions allow our municipal leader to understand the concerns of 18-40 year old working professionals.

Additionally, Bieter has appointed young professionals to various different city commissions (disclosure: I am one of these appointments), and also allows high school students to serve on these commissions thereby giving them a first hand lesson in city governance.

Finally, Boise continues to bring job growth and development to our state. This year, Boise ranked number #1 on Forbes list of emerging job markets with the highest potential for job growth.  Boise also boasts an incredibly low 2.9% unemployment rate– the lowest rate out of all of our state’s major municipalities.

Judy Peavey-Derr doesn’t disagree that Bieter has done a great job.

Derr praised Bieter for championing the construction of four library branches around town, as well as his recent cooperation with the GBAD board on an expansion of the convention venue Boise Centre.

Derr touts her experience as an Ada County Commissioner, Ada County Highway District Commissioner, and Greater Boise Auditorium District member, but does not highlight any of her accomplishments as an elected representative on these governing bodies.

Derr claims Boiseans are overtaxed and that the mayor has disregarded the South and West Boise neighborhoods. However, Derr offers no solutions on where to generate additional revenue to ensure city employees earn a living wage and that essential services can be provided to all of Boise.

Regarding the purported blind eye Bieter has turned on the West and South neighborhoods, Derr only cites a lack of sidewalks but fails to mention that the 2013 bond would have built a variety of parks in the West and South Boise neighborhoods.

Derr seems to think that Boise can lower its taxes and reallocate money to these neighborhoods. But Derr can’t have it both ways. As detailed in The Legend of Two Boises, this accusation is just that: an unsupported legend.

Derr also fails to mention that current City Council President, Maryanne Jordan, is a Boise Bench resident. Jordan strongly disputes Derr’s misleading perception and has pushed back challenging critics to put up real data detailing the bias.

Derr also ignores Bieter’s recent support of the hundreds of refugees evicted in a Boise Bench apartment complex.

Bieter pleaded with the apartment complex owners to have compassion and ease the transition for these residents stating:

“We understand they have a right to this. You buy an asset. You make improvements to add value and to your return from it. We’re asking they work as best as they can to give as much time as possible.”

This level of attention from a Mayor of Boise’s size is rare and should be cherished. Bieter’s compassion and commitment to our city shines through with every public and private conversion.

Let’s do ourselves a favor and put Bieter back in office for another four years.

What rules should I follow when remodeling in historic neighborhoods?

When building in Boise’s Historic Districts avoid costly mistakes by securing a Certificate of Appropriateness and knowing the residential building guidelines.  Boise has nine neighborhoods which have been classified as “Historic Districts.” These districts can be found in the interactive map here. 

As the City of Boise’s website explains, for most homeowners, living in an historic district has little impact on the use and improvement of their property. But under State and municipal law, property owners must secure a Certificate of Appropriateness for external alterations to houses and structures.

A Certificate of Appropriateness is not required for items such as internal alterations, general maintenance, painting any portion of a building that has been previously painted, installation of sprinklers, or decks and landscaping that are not visible from the street. However, a Certificate of Appropriateness is required for major alterations. This helpful decision matrix explains what the City considers major or minor alterations.

If the proposed change is a major alteration, then the homeowner must ensure that they and their general contractor both understand the Design Guidelines for Residential Historic Districts.

These guidelines explain how the City’s planning department and the Historic Preservation Commission determine if proposed structural changes should be accepted or rejected.

Listed below are some common mistakes which occur when building in the Historic Districts. A complete list of these guidelines can be found here.

Building Materials:

Policy: Use similar building materials as those found within the district.Prevalent styles found within the districts use a variety of common building materials. Clapboard or shiplap wood siding (two to six inches wide), brick, stucco and sandstone are dominant ex-terior materials. Sandstone blocks are generally relied upon for foundations. Stucco, rusticated concrete block, and stone were sometimes used solely as wall material or for ornamentations.

Generally Appropriate:

  • Use exterior wall materials that are commonly present in the district
  • Ensure that the predominate texture of the new building is consistent with the texture of historic materials in the district.
  • Use wood or painted, composite wood-resin, or fiber cement sidings as building material in new construction

Generally Not Appropriate:

  • Use faux wood graining in composite or artificial materiasl used to simulate woods siding.
  • Use prefacbricated or metal buildings.
  • Use vinyl and aluminum materials on new buildings.

Windows, Doors and Facade Treatment

Policy: Maintain similar solid-to-void ratios of a new building to those of buildings on adjacent sites within the block with overall proportions of windows, doors, and front facades.The front facades of buildings within the district vary in style and detail. However, certain proportional relationships exist among buildings in the immediate setting. The importance of the relationship between the width and height of the front elevation of buildings on the block has already been discussed. Beyond that, the pro-portion of openings on the street-side facade, or more specifically, the relationship of width to height of windows and doors and their placement along the facade, should reflect the same relationships along the street.

Generally Appropriate:

  • Use double or single-hung sash windows.
  • Use a ratio of wall to window or solid to void that is similar to other historic buildings within the block or district.
  • Use wood or aluminum clad materials.

Generally Not Appropriate:

  • Use in-congruous window and door types
  • Use vinyl windows
  • Use aluminum doors with mill, brush or polished finish.

Roof Forms & Material

Policy: Use similar roof forms, slope ratios, and materials drawn from historic structures in the district.Roofs are major features of most historic buildings and when repeated along a street contribute toward a visual continuity. The architectural character of older buildings is generally ex-pressed in roof forms and materials. Typical roofs in Boise’s districts are simple in form with gabled, hipped, or occasionally a combination of the two. Roofs purposely extend beyond the building walls to protect the window and door openings and provide shade. These eaves are sometimes enclosed with wood soffits (the underside of a roof overhang) which are vented.

Generally Appropriate:

  • Use gable and hipped roofs as primary roof forms
  • Maintain congruity
  • Minimize the visual impacts of skylights and other rooftop devices visible to the public; these should be located toward the rear of a house.

Generally Not Appropriate:

  • Use a roof of a size, shape, color, or slope not typically seen in the district
  • Use corrugated roof material
  • Use “non-tradiational” building and roof forms that detract from the visual continuity of the streetscape.

These are just three examples of what the guidelines consider appropriate and inappropriate. When building in historic districts, please remember the City takes these guidelines seriously. Failure to comply with them could result in a denial of a certificate of appropriateness. Its best to avoid costly mistakes and know your neighborhood before you build.

DISCLAIMER

Previously, I wrote a blog on about the “do”s and “don’t”s about making exterior changes in Boise’s Historic Districts. This post covers much of the same ground, and is intended to provide general information about the guidelines that the Historic Preservation Commission follows when deciding whether to grant or deny certificates of appropriateness for structural changes in Historic Neighborhoods. This is not a solicitation and nothing in this post specifically relates to any ongoing applications. This is simply general advice for Boise residents.

Taking Advantage of Idaho’s Speedy Eviction Law

If you’re a landlord and your tenant refuses to pay rent, you can take advantage of Idaho’s speedy eviction process. This expedited proceedings allows landlord to get a judicial decree from a court without going through the long, drawn out procedure of most court cases.

If a landlord wishes to evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent, a speedy eviction can be accomplished through the expedited proceedings described in Idaho Code §§ 6-310 through 6-311D.  A landlord must keep in mind that a speedy eviction does not provide a judgment against the tenant for unpaid rent, or damages.  All the landlord can ask of the court is a judgment for eviction and the costs associated with the eviction.  This does not preclude the landlord from filing a second complaint at a later time against the tenant to collect the unpaid rent.  I.C. § 6-311A.  The expedited proceedings require the court to schedule a trial within 12 days of the date of the filing of the complaint and summons by the landlord.  I.C. § 6-310(5).  The only requirement for the landlord is that a copy of the summons and complaint must be served on the tenant at least five days before the day of the trial.  I.C. § 6-310(5).

The content of the complaint in a speedy eviction lawsuit is simple.  A landlord must include the following: (1) describe the property; (2) state that the tenant is in possession of the property; (3) allege the reason for the eviction (i.e. default in payment of rent, or the tenant is using a controlled substance on the property, or the lease term is expired and the tenant is holding over); (4) state that all notices required by law have been properly served upon the tenant; and (5) state that the landlord is entitled to possession of the property.  I.C. § 6-310(1) through (5).  In a complaint filed by a landlord in a proceeding for both eviction and for collection of damages the landlord includes the same information and adds the facts he is alleging that would entitle him to recover money from the tenant for the damages.  I.C. § 6-311E

When can a landlord keep a security deposit under Idaho law?

The following is something I wrote for my linkedin website, and my firm’s (Angstman Johnson) blog. Hopefully this brief article will help Boise landlords and renters better understand their rights.

Security deposits protect landlords from lost revenue and damage to the rental property.But when must a landlord refund a security deposit and when is it legal for a landlord to keep the entire deposit?

Under Idaho Code section 6-320 and 6-321, any money that is deposited with a landlord that is not rent is considered a “security deposit.” Once the tenant returns the premises back to the landlord, the landlord must do one of the following: 1) return the entire security deposit, 2) give a partial refund and provide a written statement with an itemized list explaining the amounts deducted, or 3) keep the entire security deposit and provide a written statement with an itemized list explaining the amounts deducted.

If the landlord deducts any money from the security deposit, then the itemized list must be provided to tenant within 21 days after the lease ends, or within 30 days if previously agreed to in the lease. A landlord may deduct money from the security deposit for any reason agreed upon in the lease. If the lease is silent about the security deposit, however, then a landlord may deduct for any damages to the property, but cannot deduct for normal “wear and tear.”

Additionally, a landlord may keep a tenant’s security deposit if the tenant failed to give the landlord proper notice when breaking the lease. Typically, at least 30 days notice is required unless otherwise agreed to by the landlord and tenant.

If a landlord fails to return a security deposit to the tenant, then the tenant can write the landlord requesting an explanation and itemized deduction list. If, after three days of the tenant submitting this written request the landlord fails to provide this list, then the tenant may initiate suit against the landlord. If the judge finds that the landlord did not properly return the deposit, then the tenant may be awarded up three times the amount of the security deposit in damages.

Finally, landlords should also beware of the Idaho Consumer Protection Act (ICPA) when deducting damages from a security deposit. The ICPA prohibits a landlord for deducting money for unnecessary and imaginary repairs. If the landlord is found in violation of the ICPA, then they may be fined up to $5,000.00 in addition to refunding the entire security deposit.