COEUR d’ALENE — The Civic Engagement Alliance’s first Civic Action Festival went off without a hitch Saturday. More than two dozen candidates and groups were represented at the event, which organizer Jessica Mahuron said was designed to get more people involved in the electoral process this year.
Though the event was predominantly attended by Democratic candidates, Libertarian nominee for Congress W. Scott Howard, independent candidate for county clerk Dan Gookin, Republican state Rep. Paul Amador and members of the Brad Little for Governor campaign also took part.
Live music and food trucks added to the political event’s peaceful ambience. Adults and children enjoyed painting rocks in a literal campaign to “Rock the Vote.”
While adding her artistic touches to a rock encouraging people to vote, Post Falls resident Kathy Neal said she came to the event because she was a big supporter of Paulette Jordan and appreciated the chance to get to know other candidates at the event.
Four panels of speakers discussed a wide range of issues stretching from education to wages in Kootenai County.
During the education panel, Howard noted the disparity among public schools in North Idaho’s larger and smaller communities. Democratic nominee for District 3 state representative Dan Hanks described Idaho’s public schools as “somewhere between the Titanic and a Dumpster fire.” There is only one way to fix the state’s educational system, and that’s by electing new people and increasing funding for public education, Hanks said.
Amador stated, “There’s no issue I’m more passionate about than ensuring a strong educational system in Idaho.” He said in recent years Idaho has increased funding for education by a greater percentage than most other states. However he added, “We’re not where we want to be.”
During a panel discussion on Proposition 2 to expand Medicaid, pediatrician Dr. Tim Jordan from Spokane said a lot of his young patients from Idaho have health coverage, but their parents do not. If they don’t have coverage and get sick, how can they care for their children?, he asked. Dr. Beth Martin of Coeur d’Alene Pediatrics agreed, saying because of problems like this “it would be a tragedy if Proposition 2 didn’t pass.”
Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor Kristin Collum said her experience in the tech sector led her to look for win-win solutions to seeming dilemmas between economic growth and environmental protection. Collum said Idaho should support “economic growth that’s environmentally sensitive.” She also pointed to the Dixie Drain project in southwest Idaho, which she said used less taxpayer money to provide a greater reduction in phosphorus levels in the Boise and Snake Rivers.
Democratic nominee for Kootenai County Commissioner Ruben Miranda spoke in favor of ending runoff into area lakes and waterways. “It will take an effort by everyone,” he said, to make sure that the county remains beautiful for future generations amidst fast growth.
Shem Hanks said if elected as District 4 state representative, he would go to Boise to repeal Idaho Code 44-1502, which precludes cities from setting their own minimum wage rates. After having waited tables here for 10 years, he said that it’s not possible to attain homeownership at the current server minimum wage rate of $3.35 per hour plus tips. Montana and Alaska require servers to receive their states’ minimum wage rates, Hanks observed. City council knows what Coeur d’Alene workers need better than the state legislature, he added.
Fellow Democratic candidate for District 4 state legislature Rebecca Schroeder agreed, noting that Idaho has the highest percentage of workers who earn minimum wage, plus the nation’s lowest minimum wage rate permitted by federal law. People can work two full-time jobs earning minimum wage and still not make ends meet here, she said.
County clerk candidate Dan Gookin said he supported bringing in high wage-paying jobs in the tech sector. He also lamented the state’s refusal to let cities regulate vacation rental housing. Gookin said speculation in the vacation real estate market here has driven housing prices up sharply, and resulted in swaths of Coeur d’Alene consisting of unoccupied vacation homes. Federal subsidies for apartment buildings are also negatively skewing the housing market, said Gookin.