Debating the issues

Cd'A City Council Seat 5 candidates take part in forum

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COEUR d'ALENE - Coeur d'Alene City Council challenger Steve Adams thinks City Hall could have up to 100 jobs too many.

The ratio of 350 city employees to 46,000 residents is too many based on more conservative ratios of privatization of services in an article published by Ludwig von Mises Institute.

The Austrian school of economics and libertarian political and social theory studied the subject a couple of years ago, and using that, Adams said Coeur d'Alene just has too many public employees.

"That doesn't mean my top priority is going to be to chop 100 jobs right away, but it's something to look at," said Adams, following a Seat 5 candidate debate Friday morning, where he announced his stance. "Maybe we could trim 25 or 50 (positions.)"

The forum, hosted by the North Idaho Pachyderm Club Friday at Jonsey's' cafe in Coeur d'Alene, gave the Seat 5 candidates a chance to square off on city issues. It's sure to be the first of many times before the Nov. 8 election.

While Adams is campaigning on, among other things, reducing city jobs and wages, incumbent John Bruning is running on keeping the city moving ahead, as big projects and changes lay ahead.

Attracting new, clean industries are key for the city's future, such as Kootenai Health's plan to open a doctor residency program that was just approved by the city council in part, Bruning said. He also pointed to the expansion of the Education Corridor near the North Idaho College campus, and redevelopment of McEuen Field as prime examples of helping attract businesses in the future. Industries looking to move consider two things above all else, he said, quality of life and educational opportunities.

"We have to keep that, we have to protect that at all costs," Bruning said of Coeur d'Alene's "City of Excellence" title. "It's for our children and our grandchildren."

The session was scheduled to pair off Bruning and Adams on 13 minute time limits, and questions and answers at the end. But Amber Copeland, the third candidate in the three-horse race, also showed up, and Adams gave her his rebuttal time for her to give her stump speech.

She said that while urban renewal is well-intentioned, the local agency has executed its duties poorly, and would push for tighter oversight on the agency as a council member. The 30-year-old single mother said she's not the typical candidate, but that representation from different ages and social brackets is key to representative government.

She said she would want to implement term limits on the council, as well as student representatives.

"Different perspectives are key to a vital democracy," she said.

Adams, also a strong opponent of urban renewal, took a swipe at union representation during the debate, and city administrator Wendy Gabriel corrected his statement afterward.

Earlier in the year, Adams attempted to join city staff meetings as they were preparing department budgets for the city's 2011-2012 budget but was told via email those meetings weren't open to the public as they involved personnel questions that must first go through the affected parties, especially those who could be laid off.

"It is appropriate that any potential resolution or discussion regarding these matters are first shared with city officials, union and association leadership, and most certainly, in the case of a reduction in force, the affected employee, prior to the general public," Gabriel wrote Adams then.

He told the group Friday he was told he couldn't attend because it was only open to the union.

After the meeting, he said he was being a little "snide" as he paraphrased the note.

He added that it would be unpleasant to lay off up to 50 employees, if everything were to go that way, but it would be the responsible thing to do.

"It's not the government's job to be the biggest employer in the city," he said. "Definitely, there would be (heartache over it), still my obligation is to the taxpayer."

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