The last Coeur d’Alene City Council election was, to many people, a referendum on McEuen Park.
That will be the case again this November, when the four incumbents — Mayor Sandi Bloem and council members Mike Kennedy, Deanna Goodlander and Woody McEvers — will be judged more on what’s happened with McEuen than any other issue.
Those four happen to comprise the voting bloc that has moved McEuen forward after 15 years of civic inertia. In addition to the millions of dollars in urban renewal funds they’ve dedicated to the project, they’ve invested every nickel of personal political capital they possessed. So it should not be surprising if tonight they remain true to their vision of what McEuen should become and they OK the commitment of several million dollars more to the park.
A positive vote would put several amenities back into the plans that were stripped from the initially approved park concept that carried an estimated price tag of $27 million. In the long process of compromising with concerned citizens, amenities like an information center with restrooms, a pavilion, an expanded grand plaza near the boat launch, and new basketball and tennis courts all fell by the wayside. City leaders have recognized that when the snow melts and spring flowers bloom, the McEuen Park that will fill the space between the public library and the Third Street boat launch will bear little resemblance to the grand gathering place envisioned by Team McEuen two years ago and approved by vote of the City Council.
Technically, these additions aren’t additions at all. They’re consistent with the council-approved plan. They would be funded by existing dollars within the mission and the wherewithal of the city of Coeur d’Alene and the city’s urban renewal agency, Lake City Development Corp. The park that could be completed by year’s end would still fall far short of the vision that included an ice rink, sledding hill, fountain and much more, but it would be closer to the earlier concept that many citizens wanted. And critics would still have won their greatest prize of preventing the boat launch from being moved.
Tonight marks the unofficial commencement of the 2013 City Council campaign season, with more than the political futures of four individuals at stake. The survival of LCDC could very well hang in the balance of a council vote just over a year from now; conceivably, the agency is being kept alive by the same 4-3 majority that has answered every McEuen question.
That could explain why there’s a sense of urgency to make McEuen remarkable. Come November, voters will decide if “remarkable” is good or bad.