Have you ever observed the married couple living the “perfect” life in the perfect neighborhood? Big, beautiful home, nice cars, all the toys, vacations and seemingly unlimited income are all the outsider can see. When the divorce is filed it is clear that the “perfect” life isn’t all that it seemed.
The couple couldn’t afford the life they lived. The family ignored all the obvious signs and chose instead to continue spending as if the problem didn’t exist. Clearly the parties stopped communicating and the bottom fell out of the relationship. Each party began to blame the other and question why. Each had their own view on the subject and mediation wasn’t an option for at least one of the parties. The short term and long term debt caught up with their dwindling income and they couldn’t earn or borrow their way out of the dilemma. Extended families on both sides weighed in and began to take positions without a clear understanding as to the real facts and reasons behind the situation. It became very personal and firm positions were taken on both sides. Bankruptcy and divorce were the final outcome.
The above scenario is little different than what the recall candidates are currently doing to the citizens of Coeur d’Alene. They are creating a bad marriage inside our city. The recall candidates’ decision not to listen to what the public was, and is, saying has caused an avoidable divorce within our city. Attempts at mediation through a public advisory vote were not allowed. Appeals for legitimate compromise were ignored. All the many attempts at communication failed and the recall candidates took an intransigent position.
It became a case of “we know what is best for the people” even though appeals to hear what the public really wanted fell on deaf ears. These candidates knew that if a public vote were to take place the project would either be canceled or clearly scaled way back. The amount of money, time and effort spent by a very few individuals and businesses to block the recall were beyond all reason.
Clearly there was a great deal more at stake than a recall. Those that were to benefit the most including the downtown businesses and their various associations, the residents of McEuen Towers and Parkside, the no-bid contractors and architectural firm, the City and its overpaid executives (19 above $100K a year), and the mayor and all her personal and professional cronies mounted a campaign to defeat the recall. Every possible political, financial and personal marker was called in and the Recall CDA campaign faced a nearly impossible task. Knowing that Recall CDA had enough signatures to put the recall on the ballot, a technicality in striking signatures whose address didn’t match the registrar’s address (even though they did live within the city) was used to keep enough votes from being counted.
The City Council is spending our tax dollars like it is their personal bank account to do with as they wish. They have and continue to do so. Contractually committing to completing phase 1 will insure their ability to continue with the additional phases and complete the master plan that is currently scheduled to cost nearly $40 million. They don’t know, nor do they care, if the public wants to spend this insane amount of money on the McEuen project, or even if the public wants the current changes proposed to the park.
The personal and professional benefits to those opposing the recall and supporting the McEuen master plan can’t be disputed. But, isn’t there more to Coeur d’Alene than just the downtown corridor? What about the rest of our city, especially when it is all our tax dollars supporting a limited number of citizens and businesses, which doesn’t seem quite fair. It isn’t their tax dollars, it is all the taxpayers’.
Sure, we will end up with a different, but not necessarily better, park without a boat launch or baseball fields. We will never get “equal to or better than” as promised. But we will end up financing and paying for a number somewhere near $40 million through our property taxes, which like the divorcing family above, we can’t afford.
If we, the people, decide to spend what we don’t have through a public vote, then so be it. But this is clearly not the case, since no public vote is being granted and we have no input into the decision. The only difference is that we, the people, get to pay for all the indulgent spending when we don’t have the discretionary income to do so. Our property taxes are going up when our property values are going down. This has been true for quite some time and there seems to be no end in sight.
The majority of our citizens chose to ignore the reality and severity of the situation and demonstrated their continuing apathy towards the system, by not getting involved in the recall. But nearly 5,500 voiced their position by standing up and signing the petition for recall. During the recall campaign a significant number of people indicated their support of the recall, but would not sign until it was in the voting booth. It was clear that many of these individuals felt they could not take a position because of the potential exposure of their names. Intimidation may be the reason, but you can make the call. Well, we will have to wait until November 2013 to vote. But, we will vote!
Forewarned is forearmed. Rest assured there will be additional phases to the McEuen project and the approved McEuen plan will be a reality. There will be increased taxes and budgeted items shifted to cover the real costs of the project. Shifting dollars for the budgeted 15th Street improvements into Front Street only means moving these costs into a different budget year and more taxes.
Hopefully we can finally engage our citizens and get them involved. Those in office count on the fact that we usually get only 20 percent of the voters to turn out to exercise their constitutional rights, so these elected officials don’t fear the backlash of the public. We need to prove them wrong! After all, the money being spent is the taxpayers’. How can we not care about how nearly $40 million of our money potentially is going to be spent?
With Coeur d’Alene having the highest unemployment rate in all the State of Idaho and an ever increasing property tax rate makes for a very unhealthy economic state. This isn’t the way to attract businesses to our beautiful city. Businesses will turn away from Coeur d’Alene due to this very unhealthy economic state and a labor pool that is being driven away, not as a result of the recall effort. The recall group was, and will continue to, support the right for a public vote when such a large commitment of public funds is at stake.
This isn’t personal and has never been. We are not a band of disgruntled individuals with a personal agenda, but a group of concerned citizens attempting to support the constitutional rights that we believe are not being granted to use in the City of Coeur d’Alene. Remember, free government requires active citizens, which right now we don’t have.
Jim Doty is a Coeur d'Alene resident and President/CEO and Managing Partner of Northern Advisory Group, Inc.