New challengers stretched their political legs Thursday night while incumbents defended their records at a council candidate forum for the city governments of Hayden, Rathdrum and Coeur d’Alene.
Six of the seven active candidates for the Coeur d’Alene City Council’s vacant three spots stayed on message throughout the night. Elaine Price, representing the evening’s lone bid for Seat 1 against absent opponent Christie Wood, continued to push her portfolio as a political outsider looking to represent the city’s everyman population.
“I have seen the changes in Coeur d’Alene,” Price said in her opening statement, “and the reason why I’m running for City Council is, I feel like the regular people in Coeur d’Alene don’t have a voice on our City Council. I have learned a lot since I started running for City Council. I’ve been asking for people’s input. I think that’s a valuable tool that our City Council team needs to help make decisions that impact the citizens that live in Coeur d’Alene and have got Coeur d’Alene to the place where it is today.”
Michael Pereira, challenging Dan Gookin for his spot on Seat 3, reiterated his message as a political outsider, as well, one who believes in small government, a sentiment he pulled no punches in conveying when asked about a council’s role in job creation.
“The best thing government can do to create jobs,” Pereira answered, “is to get the Hell out of the way.”
Even when introducing himself to the crowd, following a row of candidates introducing themselves and listing off their biographies, Gookin gave a tongue-in-cheek, determined push to remain on point.
I have a website, dangookin.com,” he informed the crowd. “You can read my bio there … My big issue is to preserve the character and charm of Coeur d’Alene, and to protect our older established neighborhoods and that’s my record on the council. I also uploaded some videos to my website, dangookin.com, yesterday, in which you can actually see our City Council in action cutting regulations. These were restrictions that would have been placed on private property owners ... I’m very proud of that ... You can watch that video at dangookin.com.”
The enemies of the evening were not in attendance but on everyone’s mind. Urban renewal districts were almost unanimously panned to varying degrees of the spectrum, with the two Rathdrum candidates vying for Seat 4 — incumbent Deborah Holmes and challenger Steven Adams — explaining their difference of opinions surrounding Rathdrum’s urban renewal districts.
“What I can tell you about urban renewal is, we don’t tax the taxpayers,” Holmes explained. “We give a break to the builders, but we don’t raise taxes on our citizens. In fact, we have a great project that’s going on that will bring more jobs, increase the tax base and, if it’s done right ... it can be — I’m not saying it absolutely does — but it can mean property owners will actually enjoy lower levy rates. If it’s done right, if the project doesn’t drag on, and we close it in a timely manner, it can work.”
“I do not believe,” Adams then stated, “we should use taxpayer money to fund urban renewal districts. However for infrastructure: for example, in downtown Rathdrum, there’s just a lack of parking spaces. It doesn’t make much sense to put a lot of commerical in there if there’s nowhere for people to park their cars.”
Adams later dropped a Rathdrum bombshell.
“It was a surprise to me that city councilmen are actually paid for serving,” Adams told the crowd “if elected, I will vow to donate [council] pay to a worthy charity.”
The most contentious moment of the evening came after Tom Morgan and Dan English voiced their opinions on urban renewal districts. Morgan admitted his frustration over the word choice being thrown around East Sherman, the neighborhood in which he lives.
“I am really opposed to urban renewal,” Morgan said. “I live in [East Sherman]. It gets talked about a lot, where East Sherman is concerned. I hear the world ‘blighted’ a lot. I took a walk from 11th Street down to Coeur d’Alene Drive. There are currently more than 60 businesses operating on East Sherman. Not blighted. The people that live in that community are proud of that neighborhood.”
English then discussed his voting record on urban renewal districts, where he talked about job creation a future Health Corridor district could bring.
“East Sherman,” he said. “There’s been a lot of talk about that over the years. But I’m not seeing any strong vibe ... or a drumbeat to change.”
Morgan then broke protocol and fired back: “You guys talk about it a lot for not having a drumbeat.”
The event was sponsored by the North West Property Owners Alliance.