As I stood to begin my part of our public presentation last Tuesday, I was surprised by the intensity of the audience’s focus; it was like a wave of positive energy coming up over the stage. Everyone was riveted to the information Sharon Culbreth, had just delivered in the first part of the program, and their concentration did not abate until we were all done.
The room was full, with folks standing across the back. Mayor Bloem, Wendy Gabriel, the City Administrator, Councilwoman Deanna Goodlander and other city officials were in attendance. The audience was a nice mix of new faces and long time supporters. City Council candidates Steve Adams, Amber Copeland, Dan Gookin, and Adam Graves were are also present, but none of the incumbents were there.
So let me give you some of the highlights. There were several “Oh My” moments:
1. The LCDC owns the Library. It’s true. We showed the recorded Deeds, with the signatures and seals and dates, showing that LCDC owns the property. Under Idaho law, unless there is a legal contract or binding agreement, any buildings on a property belong to the property owner.
When City Finance Director Troy Tymesen was asked if there is a signed legal agreement or contract between the City and LCDC as to the use, liability, maintenance, future transfer of property, etc. of the Library, his answer was: “Not that I know of”.
What’s wrong with LCDC owning the library? We showed a copy of the Ballot that we all voted on during the Bond election of Feb.2005, The Ballot said “Shall the City of Coeur d’Alene...”, not shall the LCDC...
The LCDC and the City are separate legal entities. The Idaho Supreme Court made that very clear with their decision two years ago, stating Urban Renewal Agencies, like LCDC, are independent entities not accountable to the cities that appointed them.
The two most egregious parts of this whole Library fiasco, in my opinion, are first, that if the City truly does not have a binding legal agreement with LCDC for use, etc., it is a management error of grand proportions. And secondly, why was this ownership not made known to the public? We, after all, are the folks who voted to tax ourselves for what we thought would be a city owned facility.
2. Riverstone’s theater building and the long buildings on either side of it, are in default and have reverted back to a Seattle based bank in lieu of forclosure. $14 million plus interest is owed. Here’s some history:
--In 2000, Riverstone was approved for 1.5 million by LCDC
--In 2006, Riverstone West was approved for 6.6 million
--In 2009, Riverstone West defaulted on the Condos
--In 2011 Riverstone West defaulted on the theater and nearby buildings.
...And now LCDC has a pending approval for an additional $900,000 for Riverstone West.
3. In my part of the program, I focused on City spending, especially salaries. First let’s establish some Idaho city facts from the 2010 census:
Boise is the largest city, with 205,000 people. That is 4.5 times bigger than Coeur d’Alene.
Twin Falls, Coeur d’Alene and Caldwell are numbers 6,7,8 in size, with all three cities right around 44,000 people.
4. How many jobs paying $100,000 or more do these cities have?
Coeur d’Alene has 19
Twin Falls has 4
Caldwell has 0
5. How much do Street Superintendents make in these cities?
Coeur d’ Alene pays $100,012
Twin Falls pays $65,353 (35k less)
Caldwell pays $50,507 (half as much)
6. What about Fire Chief? How much do they make?
Coeur d’Alene pays $112,005
Caldwell pays $82,999 (30k less)
Twin Falls pays $91,395 (20k less)
What about in Boise? $116,087...in a city 4.5 times larger than CdA.
7. Finance Director:
Coeur d’Alene: $112,005
Caldwell: $94,889 (17k less)
Twin Falls: $83,605 (28k less)
Boise: $101,549 (10.5k less in a city 4.5 times larger than CdA)
8. City Attorney:
Coeur d’Alene: $125,459
Caldwell: contracts out per job
Twin Falls: $101,067 (25k less)
Boise: $115,748 (10k less in a city 4.5 times larger than CdA)
All of the above city pay information came from Wendy Gabriel, our CdA City Administrator ($123,024) and from www.ouridaho.com
, which is a web site offered by the Idaho Freedom Foundation. Thank goodness for them!
9. State Rep. Kathy Sims wrapped up our program with comments about the need for legislation to reign in Urban Renewal. She told of 5 such bills that passed the House last year but were stopped cold in the Senate by a committee chairman who just happens to be an attorney connected to an Urban Renewal Board. Kathy pledged they will try again this year.
She admonished the city government for wasteful spending when unemployment is high, and suggested they suspend the Art Fund project to beautify the wastewater treatment plant, and instead donate that $50,000 to the Food Bank to help this winter.
Kathy’s applause line of the night, which drew a huge response from all except the Mayor’s posse, was “In these tough economic times, why does the city want to spend $39 Million dollars to make a park out of a park? The crowd went wild.
Well, dear Readers, we have a great deal more to talk about, with the campaign season fast and furiously upon us. There's new drama every day on the election scene, so you’ll be hearing from me again soon.
Have a great weekend! --Mary