Tom Hearn sighed.
“I seem to keep coming out on the wrong side, without really intending to be there,” he said.
Hearn is frustrated about a few things, and he wonders if people may be misunderstanding his priorities.
No doubt he’s enjoyed kicking back at his Black Lake cabin a bit more than usual over the past two months.
Here’s why …
There’s no question that trustees of the Coeur d’Alene School District have made a hash of how and where to spend the money from a bond measure passed a year and a half ago.
The board has zigged and zagged, endured a resignation, elected a new trustee, tabled motions, re-tabled similar motions, bought property in one part of the district, nearly approved a land swap in another — and all the while it seemed like Hearn had to stand up and explain what the hell was going on.
More than that, it appeared he was on the losing side of two key votes: where the district would build its next school, and who should be that critical fifth trustee.
“This is getting to be the story of my life,” Hearn said, “trying to explain that my opinions and ideas are not what the public seems to think they are.”
It all got wrapped up in one package last week, when the four remaining board members voted to add that fifth trustee.
They approved Jennifer Brumley by a vote of 3-1.
By law, the votes had to be read aloud by clerk Lynn Towne, and of course Hearn was lone dissenter — having cast his ballot for Traci Hanks.
But that’s the way things have been breaking for Hearn.
What made a slightly uncomfortable situation even worse is that when the candidates were asked their top priority if elected, Brumley mentioned acquiring more land — particularly in the northwest portion of the district.
Hanks had said she’d like to see more emphasis on mental health, including suicide prevention.
FRANKLY, the optics of the situation could have been better.
Over the past several months, Hearn became one of the faces of a potential land swap that would have seen the district build an elementary school on Government Way at the old Hayden Lake School site.
That occurred completely by default, since the board hadn’t really pushed very hard for any other option — only Lisa May continued to argue for putting the school in the northwest along Prairie Avenue, which had been the selling point of the bonds in the first place.
Eventually a groundswell for building in the northwest emerged rather suddenly, and Hearn — who had no problem with it — appeared by default to be the one member who disagreed.
Which he didn’t.
Then with the board’s vote for Brumley, it looked like Hearn again was stubbornly objecting to that original plan.
“That’s not how I feel at all,” Hearn said, with another sigh of frustration. “I’ve talked to Jennifer (Brumley) and we’re going to be fine.
“I totally agree with the land acquisition in the northwest, and I agree that the next school should be in that area.
“Geography had nothing to do with my vote. I was just impressed by Traci’s focus on mental health, and I think that’s something critical for us. But the decision wasn’t a problem at all for me.”
“It would be nice to be perceived as being on the winning side once in a while,” Hearn said, finally managing a laugh.
“Honestly, though, it doesn’t really matter as long as we do what’s best for the district.”
Any more questions?
Ring him down at the lake.
Steve Cameron is a columnist for The Press.
A Brand New Day appears Wednesday through Saturday each week. Steve’s sports column runs on Tuesday.