citydesk (3/25/09) 

Streetcars and cable

Boise to consider streetcars by end of summer

Boise City and Capital City Development Corp., the city's redevelopment agency, are circulating a timeline and letter to downtown property owners and other stakeholders updating them on plans for a streetcar line.

According to CCDC Executive Director Phil Kushlan, who stopped by the BW offices last week, the Boise City Council could vote on a streetcar plan, including a new downtown taxing district, as early as the end of this summer.

A March 9 letter to "downtown stakeholders" indicates that a detailed feasibility study is underway and will be shared with the public upon completion. If the City Council approves the plan—and the new taxing district—the cars could be ordered as soon as this winter with construction underway through summer 2011.

The timeline matches calls by Mayor Dave Bieter for a streetcar rolling in Boise by 2011.

Some 1,200 downtown properties could be included in the streetcar district, meaning property owners along the route (down Main and up Idaho, between 16th and Broadway) would foot the bill for its construction. Kushlan said they are still calculating the costs and trying to make the assessments as fair as possible. Properties that front the rail line would contribute more than outlying blocks.

The city is not seeking any federal or state money for this first phase of development.

Along with Kushlan at BW HQ was Cece Gassner, the city's economic development adviser; Clay Carley, whose family owns several blocks along the route; and Joanne Taylor, PR director at Drake Cooper, who is advising CCDC on how to spin the streetcar plan.

S1100 stalled

A plan to establish statewide authority over cable television franchises has stalled in the House State Affairs Committee.

Providers of public access television in Boise, Pocatello and other regions of the state rose in opposition to the Idaho Video Service Act after it passed the Senate unanimously on Feb. 26.

The bill would have authorized the Secretary of State to give new franchise licenses to companies that want to provide video services in Idaho; cities currently have that authority, as well as the ability to negotiate on behalf of communities for public access programming and other community benefits.

"This benefits no one but the cable and telephone companies," said Jim Philpott, a Treasure Valley Community Television board member.

Philpott said public access broadcasters understand that video delivery is changing rapidly and would like a seat at the table in order to preserve some community benefits if the bill is renegotiated.

Ron Williams, lobbyist for the Idaho Cable Telecommunication Association, told citydesk that he pulled the bill after some cities and broadcasters objected. He brought the bill on behalf of cable operators, who had made several similar efforts in recent years.

"What they want is, if there is going to be state franchising of video, it has to treat all competitors fairly," Williams said.

—Nathaniel Hoffman

war in Iraq

U.S. CASUALTIES: As of Tuesday, March 24, 2009, 4,261 U.S. service members (including 31 Idahoans) have died since the war in Iraq began in March 2003: 3,425 in combat and 836 from non-combat-related incidents and accidents. Injured service members total 31,131. In the last week, one U.S. soldier died.

Since President Barack Obama was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 32 soldiers have died.

Source: U.S. Dept. of Defense

IRAQI CIVILIAN DEATHS: Estimated between 91,297 and 99,679.

Source: iraqbodycount.net

COST OF IRAQ WAR: $607,516,861,743

Source: costofwar.com

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