Timing is critical in comedy as well as finance. The use of public money for a well-intended project can turn a good idea into a bad joke when the timing is off. And right now it has.
The City of Coeur d'Alene has been collecting 1.3% of all new building projects within the city for a number of years. This money is kept for public art projects, and the fund has been growing quickly with our recent development boom. They've used this money for feathers, benches, moose and more. Now the boom has turned to bust; our local economy is limping along, but the public art fund remains fat and sassy.
So last week, the city announced a Request for Proposal (RFP) for an art piece to welcome visitors coming from the East. It will be installed on the triangle of grass near the cemetery on the SW corner of Sherman and Lake CdA Drive. Price tag: $100,000.
Ouch. The timing could not be worse. We have cutbacks galore coming out of our state capitol, school budgets are being gouged and the unemployment lines are getting longer by the day. Does anyone at city hall understand what regular folks are going through? Do they see the plight of small businesses laying off workers and/or closing their doors?
The city's level of insensitivity can be noted in another important way as well. At city council meetings. It's incredulous to watch various council members randomly stand up and walk into their side chamber during public comments! Maybe they want some coffee, maybe they have to make a call or use the restroom but it is rude and unprofessional. Then they walk back in a while later and casually take their seats without apology.
In the six years I spent on Planning and Zoning, none of us ever left during public testimony. We would not leave the meeting at all unless it was a dire emergency. If we were in want of a break, we would ask the chairman to call a recess at the next convenient opportunity, then we would all take a moment.
The council's lax manner of walking out while a citizen is speaking at the podium is shameful. Mayor Bloem should put a stop to this behavior at once.
It takes a lot of time, effort and courage for a citizen to attend a city council meeting and speak up on some subject of concern. The brave souls who do so should at least be received with warmth and grace by our elected officials.
Timing is critical but so is respect. It's a two-way street and I hope the give and take will improve as we go forward in 2009.