OPINION: ignite cda is transparent as black tape

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Editor's note: Ignite cda's public hearing on its 2016 fiscal year budget is today at 4 p.m. in the Coeur d'Alene Library Community Room. The public is invited to attend.

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Tens of thousands of tax dollars don't buy much goodwill when the public is treated like a pain in the tax increment.

In a letter to the editor Sunday, Coeur d'Alene resident Amy Lyons expressed her frustration with ignite cda - Coeur d'Alene's urban renewal agency, formerly known as Lake City Development Corp. - when her request for specific information about the agency's proposed budget was given the runaround. Amy learned something The Press and others, including City Councilman Dan Gookin, have known for a long time. LCDC/ignite cda is the region's most reluctant public body when it comes to real transparency.

Last Friday, Press City Editor Maureen Dolan emailed Tony Berns, ignite cda's executive director, and respectfully asked that the newspaper be provided a copy of the proposed budget for the coming fiscal year. Berns did not comply with the request but instead emailed a pdf of the agency's public records request form and asked her to fill that out and return it.

Unlike most forms that go back and forth, the pdf had to be printed out and Dolan was then tasked with filling it out by hand. That's not just inconvenient; it also precludes the records seeker from going into as much detail as is sometimes necessary to acquire the needed information. That detail is important because it generally saves the person fulfilling the records request time and energy, which ultimately is money. The more specific the request, the easier it is to narrow the search and serve the person asking for information.

Yesterday, when The Press still had not received the information it had initially requested Friday, Dolan contacted Berns to find out why. He replied that the information had been mailed - and by that he meant the U.S. Postal Service. Not email, which would've arrived in seconds and allowed the newspaper time to give readers a preview of today's ignite cda budget hearing. While it would've shown exemplary public service, Berns also could have brought the records to The Press. His office and The Press are literally across the street from one another.

We wish this was simply a communication problem or personal dispute between a private business and a public entity or even a newspaper editor and ignite cda 's highly paid leader. But it is not. Just ask Amy Lyons or Dan Gookin. They'll tell you that by any name, Coeur d'Alene's urban renewal agency doesn't understand who's working for whom.

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