Council debate heats up

Christian representation, urban renewal hot topics at forum

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COEUR d'ALENE — Who would be a better Christian representative on the Coeur d'Alene City Council? What should the city do about its urban renewal agency? Would raising taxes to put more police on the streets be a good idea?

All were debated during Wednesday night's Coeur d'Alene City Council candidate forum in the Coeur d'Alene Public Library's community room. The forum was moderated by representatives from The Coeur Group, an organization for young businessmen. Only candidates from the two contested races participated.

Longtime Councilman Ron Edinger and his challenger, Toby Schindelbeck, a local businessman, contrasted their years living and working in Coeur d'Alene.

"I've lived in Coeur d'Alene for 60 years," Edinger said. "I know our community, and I know most of the people, and know the issues that Coeur d'Alene has."

Schindelbeck, who has lived outside Coeur d'Alene in larger cities, wants to prevent the city from turning into a "Spokane or Oakland."

"I have a lot more experience, having come from bigger cities, and I want to keep Coeur d'Alene the same," he said. He has been a resident of Coeur d'Alene for less than three years, he said.

Schindelbeck said the city needs to take more control and shrink its urban renewal agency, ignite cda, and ultimately phase it out. It's only good for improving blighted areas, he said.

"The government should never compete with private business," Schindelbeck said.

He would rather see urban renewal dollars spent on police.

Edinger said the urban renewal agency has done a lot of good for the city, and made a few mistakes.

"Good people have served on that board," Edinger said.

He doesn't believe ignite cda should spend money to help pay rent for a proposed Coeur d'Alene Tech Market, a facility that would in part provide education and in part help technology startups.

In the second half of the hour-long forum, incumbent Steve Adams shared the stage with challengers Dan English and Bruce MacNeil.

Adams, an independent insurance agent in Coeur d'Alene, started by saying he would work in another term to overhaul urban renewal, reduce labor costs at the city and reduce property taxes.

But it was a comment he made about religion that drew the sharpest responses from MacNeil and English, a former Kootenai County clerk.

Adams, early on, said: "I represent the constituency, the Christian conservative constituency, that desperately needs representation in this city. I don't believe Bruce or Dan have the same philosophy as I do."

"On the characterization that maybe the other two of us don't hold the same Christian values that you do ... I resent that," English responded. "I very much identify with my Christian faith."

"I applaud Dan for what he just said, and I agree, and it applies to me as well," MacNeil said.

As for urban renewal, English said he would like to see more elected officials serve on ignite cda's board of commissioners, and he wants to see urban renewal's role be better defined.

MacNeil would like to see more permanent, livable-wage jobs, paying $20 or more per hour in the city. He wants to see the city council and mayor working more to attract businesses with high-paying jobs.

"A minimum wage job, you have to work two of them, maybe three, to live," MacNeil said. "That's not right."

Adams said he doesn't support increasing taxes to add more police, while English said he would.

"I think we need to look to our own law enforcement, our own chief, and if they feel that they have an identified need — then to answer your question, yes," English said.

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