Dear Newsletter Readers,
Thanks to all of you who came to the City Council meeting last Tuesday evening! The room was packed; every chair was full and people were lined up on the sides and along the back of the room. Almost everyone had a paper sign that read “McEuen Park PUBLIC VOTE” and, after every speaker was done with their 5 min. testimony, the crowd silently held up their signs. It was great. 13 people spoke to the council. I was the last person to speak and I asked everyone who was in favor of a public vote to please stand up…the whole room seemed to be on their feet. Most folks also held up their signs. It was a clear message to the council.
(My testimony to the council is included at the end of this newsletter.)
However clear the message, NOT ONE city council member made a motion to put the subject of a public vote on the next city council agenda. They all chickened out. Even Ron.
This morning, Thursday, I attended the meeting the City Council had with the volunteer Steering Committee and the paid Team McEuen, which is made up of the architects, engineers and landscape folks. It was in the conference room at the Parkside Tower on the 3rd floor, and was well attended. I bet there were 40 meeting participants around the table and about 25 members of the city staff and public off to the side in chairs--we could only listen.
Team McEuen ran the meeting. They showed slides of the public questionnaire results (you know, from the flawed survey form that didn’t ask about the boat launch or the ball fields). They reported high approval rates for most everything proposed, but Team McEuen admitted that some features should be reconsidered. The items on the list for reevaluation are:
1. Urban Water! apparently folks didn’t go for fake urban water right near the real lake.
2. The Freedom Tree might be saved by relocating it or replacing it elsewhere in the park. It’s not going to stay where it is now.
3. Harbor House? They’ll look at it again.
4. Dog Park? Not so sure.
5. People said don’t build anything on Tubbs, not even the waterfalls at the trail heads. But the ADA trail? The Design Team will push for it. Oddly, they said they haven’t planned that trail yet and don’t even know if it can be built, so if the engineers can’t make it work, it goes away.
6. Bridge to the Resort? Not likely unless someone else pays.
7. Skate Park? No huge support but Mike Kennedy wants it.
8. Sledding Hill? Not sure, needs more evaluation.
9. Parking garage? Might be only one level below grade instead of two...cheaper that way.
10. The Big Fountain? Needs to be “refined”. Maybe more North Idaho style rather than glitz.
Ok, those are the easy things. Now here are the two BIG features it seems will go away: The Boat Launch and the Ball field.
Team McEuen created an evaluation spreadsheet for each of these items, even though it was not part of their job. Team McEuen scored each of the choices for the Boat Launch locations and Ball field possibilities. Here are their results:
Boat Launch: Three possible sites: 3rd Street, NIC, and Silver Beach (between the condos and the marina) The “winner” of their evaluation was Silver Beach.
Ball field: Five possibilities: McEuen, LCHS / CHS, Eagles’ property on 15th street, IFI proposed property or Memorial Field. The winner of their scoring?... the IFI property. (I think it’s off of Seltice...isn’t that near where they wanted LCDC to help fund a private sports complex?)
At the end of the meeting, Ron tried to redeem himself by saying that he still wants the plan to go to a public vote.
And, after 2-1/2 hours of talking, the city council told the Design Team to go forward and get costs for the plan. Yep. They don’t have prices yet. And now, after all this, they will try to estimate costs. It will take them another month.
I think one of the citizen speakers at last Tuesday’s city council meeting summed it up best when he said, “This is the most backward process I’ve ever seen.”
Here’s my testimony at last Tuesday’s city council meeting:
Mayor Bloem and city council members, We are here tonight to ask you to put the topic of a public vote for McEuen on the city council agenda for your next meeting. I’d like you to know how many people are here tonight in support of a public vote. Would everyone who wants a public vote, please stand up?….thank you.
We are not asking for the public vote right now. We understand the plan is conceptual and changes will be made. We want the Steering Committee to do their work, make the changes necessary, research the costs, identify the funding and bring their best plan to you. We want you to do your job, make any changes, finalize the costs and funding then endorse the best, most beneficial plan possible. Then we want you to put the final, endorsed plan on the November 8th city election ballot for a public vote.
I have heard many of you say that you were elected to make these kinds of big, difficult decisions. You were not. You were elected to oversee the ordinary and necessary operations of the city.
So while you love to say it is your job to make these massive spending decisions, in truth, Idaho law was set up to require the voters to make the big spending decisions. You are just using a loophole in that law to get around the voters. Please let me explain:
Article 8 section 3 of Idaho law says that cities cannot go into debt beyond their one year budget without either getting a judge to say the spending is ordinary and necessary for city operations, or the city must take the decision to the voters.
There’s no way any judge would rule that below-grade parking garages, enormous fountains, ice skating rinks and underwater walkways, however beautiful they might be, are ordinary and necessary for a city. So, in the spirit and intent of Idaho law, you should take this plan to a public vote.
But here’s the loophole you are trying to use to avoid this law. You, the City are not going to go into debt for the McEuen plan, you are going to have LCDC go into debt for it instead. And LCDC does not have to follow Article 8 section 3 of Idaho law…at least for now, though there is legislation in Boise trying to fix that problem.
So we are here tonight to ask you to follow the spirit and intent of Idaho law and this huge spending decision to the voters, where it belongs. Please put the final, endorsed McEuen plan on the ballot for city election on November 8th. Thank you.