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Lyons

Will “good ol’ boy” cronyism make a comeback, and local government openness take a big hit, at the Coeur d’Alene urban renewal agency?

That’s the question as 20+ year urban renewal board member Brad Jordan’s current term expires on Aug. 6.

If Jordan is able to finagle an appointment to yet another 5-year term, he might as well include the board seat in his will and pass it on to his heir. That seat would sure look like his personal property.

The urban renewal agency, formed in 1997, has a rich history of long-serving insiders. A January 2015 Cd’A Press article noted “the board is comprised pretty much of the same folks, year after year after year,” and “since the agency’s inception in 1997, only 17 different people have served on the nine-person commission.”

Never forget that power is seductive and addictive. Even the most well-intended succumb. After you’ve had it for a while, few are willing to give it up.

Making decisions about millions of dollars (of other people’s money), doing it on local TV, and doing it as an appointee — so you never have to worry about facing those troublesome voters at an election — who wouldn’t love that gig?

The trouble is that the longer people “serve” (read: “have power and prominence”), the more entrenched and detached they become — the more they serve themselves, not the public. It’s human nature. “New blood” on the board keeps the agency in touch with the public.

Since his election, Mayor Steve Widmyer has made great strides in turning the urban renewal agency around — appointing several new members and curbing many of its abuses.

And in April 2017, the mayor announced a new protocol for filling board seats when an existing member’s term expires: The seat is opened up to all applicants interested in serving (including the existing board member).

So why on earth reappoint Jordan, who’s made a decades-long career out of getting appointed to numerous city boards while never actually running for public office (and facing the free-will choice of that troublesome public)?

No one else is available? Really? In the entire city of Coeur d’Alene?

Even if a “good” candidate does not immediately apply, which (despite limited publicity of the opening) is doubtful, there’s no reason the seat can’t remain empty for a while.

The board isn’t required to always have nine sitting members. The statute (“not less than 3 and not more than 9”) doesn’t require it. The agency’s “plans” don’t require it. When the urban renewal agency was originally created, its board had seven, not nine, members.

And board votes are always unanimous, or close to it — so an odd number of members is not needed to break ties.

So civic-minded members of the public — PLEASE APPLY! The deadline is July 27. You’re as qualified as most everyone sitting on the board now.

You can prevent a “lifetime” appointee like Jordan. And actually serve the public to boot.

•••

David Lyons is a Coeur d’Alene resident.

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