Ron Nilson spoke at the Downtown Rotary last Friday, and I went to hear him tell “the other side” of several controversial political issues. His speech was important because Ron didn’t need to say anything at all. He will get no obvious bonus for taking the risk, other than the immense satisfaction of doing what he believes is right. But that’s Ron. Anyone who knows him understands he is a man of principle.
Ron is the owner and CEO of Ground Force Manufacturing in Post Falls, a big company that normally employs 90 people. He and his wife live in CdA. He is also involved and on the board of a long list of local organizations, from the Chamber of Commerce to the Boy’s and Girl’s Club, and everything in between. What’s unusual about Ron’s business and his position in the community is that he doesn’t need to fit in; he isn’t selling his products to the local market, his customers are elsewhere, all over the world. He gives his time and energy because he believes he should, and he loves this community.
Ron, as a member of the Downtown Rotary, was concerned, as many have been in recent years, about the politicization of the club. I was a member of this Rotary club until last year when the political slant became so overbearing that I chose to resign and put my efforts elsewhere, and I know a number of others who have done the same.
Not all Rotary clubs are this way, in fact they are not supposed to be political at all. Rotary is a wonderful organization that does great things in its communities and helps people all over the world. And there are many other Rotary clubs in our area that do not condone political maneuvering.
Rotary’s guidelines, as Ron pointed out in his presentation, declare that sensitive political topics may be discussed at Rotary, provided both sides of the issues are represented. This has not been the case at the Downtown Rotary. I think that is why Ron wanted to offer some balance.
The first issue on Ron’s list was the Tea Party movement and how thousands of people have turned out for the local Tea Parties, only to be branded by the media as kooks, racists and radicals. As a strong supporter of the Tea Parties and our constitutional rights, Ron took great exception to the ridicule coming from those without first-hand knowledge; Ron has spoken at several local Tea Party gatherings and knows that 99% of the participants are everyday American citizens, concerned about our country and frustrated enough to finally stand up and say so.
Then Ron moved on to Urban Renewal. He spoke to a key issue that many in the room seemed surprised to hear: That LCDC, our urban renewal agency in CdA, gets the tax increment from 100% of the properties in their huge districts, even the properties and buildings that they don’t give any money to help. All of it goes to LCDC. Ron showed a big map of Coeur d’Alene, with the two large LCDC districts colored in yellow and red. The districts cover the whole commercial core of our town, and then some. LCDC has some projects they’ve helped but they don’t just get the tax money from those, they get the tax increment from every single building, whether they helped it or not.
And this diversion of taxes will continue for 10-16 more years, unless changes are made.
Ron told me later that he was surprised at how many people came up to him after his speech and told him they had no idea LCDC got the tax increment from all of it. They were dumbfounded!
The final topic in Ron’s presentation is near and dear to his heart. It is the education of our high school children. Ron has nurtured a skills & trade high school idea from its inception through to its currently approved plans. He told Rotary that our current school system has failed to engage a significant number of kids and he reported that 17- 35% of high school students don’t graduate from high school. What do they do? Often things that are not good for them or for the community. Of the kids that actually do graduate, close to 65% don’t go on to college. What do they do? More of the same.
The new KTEC high school, proposed out on the Prairie, will give kids the chance to learn a skill or trade while they are still in high school, so they will want to stay, finish, graduate and will be more employable when they’re done. Great idea!
And so it shows, dear readers, that when a patriot stands up, speaks his truth from the heart and helps inform those around him, we are all better off. Let me end with a quote that Ron used at the beginning of his speech to tell the audience of his peers why he was making the effort to come forward: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”-- Edmund Burke.
Thanks to Ron and to all who stand up to demand equal time and fair treatment; it is the essence and foundation of our country.