They lied to us again. Coeur d’Alene’s Finance Director, Troy Tymeson, admitted at last Tuesday’s council meeting that the city has never tried to sell the old library. After they made a big deal of it in the bond campaign for the new library, they did not do what they promised and never came back to the public to reveal or explain.
Here are the details: In early 2005 Mike Kennedy was not yet on the city council but he was hired to run the library bond campaign. There were all kinds of advertising pieces sent out for the $3 million dollar library bond, cleverly stamped “Overdue”! Two promises were touted in the slick ads: First that the taxpayers would never pay a penny more for the new library, if they passed the bond. Secondly, the city vowed to sell the old library, which they claimed was worth $1 million, to help pay for construction.
Both promises were officially shattered at the council meeting this week. Councilman Kennedy asked Finance Director Tymeson to explain where the money came from, since the old library was never put up for sale. Troy Tymeson said, “In a nutshell, we used our own cash to fill the gap for what the old library would sell for.” Our own cash? I think what he meant to say was taxpayer dollars, as in “we used taxpayer dollars to pay for what we promised we would never do.”
Now the city wants to lease the old library to a charity group for an amount they openly admit is a fraction of its fair market value. “We are not just about dollars and cents”, they announced Tuesday night.
Is that why they rent the Harbor Center building, the old Osprey Restaurant, to the University of Idaho for $10. per year? (yes, it says ten dollars per year) The citizens paid a public bond to buy the Osprey for future expansion of the city wastewater plant next door. At least the city should require fair market value in renting it to someone else. And then the city tried to give the university a 99 year lease on the building with the option to extend out to 198 years! The State Board of Education would not approve the action, on the part of the university, but watch for it to come up again soon.
These are public properties, paid for by all the citizens, from those who are wealthy and will never feel the pinch to those who scrape for every dime and dollar, especially in these tough economic times.
Mr. Tymeson explained Tuesday that selling a publicly owned property is carefully restricted by Idaho law. He said there’s a lengthy protocol for public hearings and determinations that must be made before a publicly owned asset can be sold. Is that why the city likes to lease these assets away for almost nothing? Is this their way to circumvent the law? And their responsibility to the taxpayers?
We must now watch the old library very carefully. They might try to pull the same trick. Of course charity groups are worthy of aid and assistance, but is that the job of our city government...without approval of the taxpayers? Journalist P.J. O’Rourke wrote that, “There is no virtue in compulsory government charity, and there is no virtue in advocating it. A politician who portrays himself as "caring" and "sensitive" because he wants to expand the Government's charitable programs is merely saying that he's willing to try to do good with other people's money. Well, who isn't? And a voter who takes pride in supporting such programs is telling us that he'll do good with his own money - if a gun is held to his head.”
The past four years have been quite a financial roller coaster ride for the people of our area. In that time frame, the property taxes we are required to pay the City of CdA have increased by 77%. Now the economy has tightened and many are out of work, struggling to pay their bills and keep their homes. Shouldn’t our city government be working in our favor? Shouldn’t we have accountability and fiscal responsibility from our local leaders?
Our trust relationship with city officials is not strengthened by their lies and efforts to dance around the laws. Take care of our money--it’s not yours--it belongs to the citizens you were elected to protect. Please do your job.