If you take the candidates at their word, there's no chance Coeur d'Alene's urban renewal agency is headed for the guillotine.
That doesn't mean a close shave isn't in store.
As they march down the campaign trail, including a televised forum last week, all but one of the candidates for Coeur d'Alene council and mayor say Lake City Development Corp. needs to sharpen its focus on economic development, with creation of good jobs at the head of the to-do list. While economic development has always been part of LCDC's mission, it hasn't taken center stage. In all likelihood, it will now.
Immediately, a deeper shadow is cast on LCDC investing all or almost all of its River District assets in one project that would create very few good, high-paying jobs. That's the proposed event center at or near Riverstone.
The impetus for supporters to get the event center show on the road pronto has been the uncertain future of LCDC. Their reasoning has been this: LCDC has put $10 million on the table for the center, a fortune that likely would vanish if LCDC is banished. Use it now or lose it, they've contended, and there has been some logic behind that urgency.
Supporters of the event center say sporting, entertainment and other events will primarily boost tourism, but what candidates for mayor and council are seemingly like-minded on is working harder to diversify the local economy and make it less reliant upon tourism. Oft-cited as a community to emulate is Twin Falls, which is seen as the state's most electrifying job generator over the past few years. How have they done it? Urban renewal, according to several Coeur d'Alene candidates.
Tax-increment financing in urban renewal causes short-term pain but, properly executed, the long-term gain is well worth the investment. Leveraging LCDC's muscle for strong growth of good jobs is something the whole community can get behind.