The City's Pulse Newsletter
Take Heart, There's Hope


There's a stark contrast of attitudes among our community leaders.  On one hand we see the open, honest admission of fault by officials at the County, and we notice the responsible, citizen-oriented use of tax dollars by Post Falls.  On the other hand lurks the arrogant attitude of the CdA City Council, the distortion of facts by the CdA School District and the secretive dealings of NIC.  The differences are quite remarkable.  Any person on the receiving end of the attitudes is instantly aware of which hand is being offered. 

Let's start with the positive, though it may seem like just the opposite. The County Assessor's office made a huge mistake on the calculation of property taxes from 2006.  The error, which was discovered just recently, caused shortages in the tax income for more than 40 groups all over Kootenai County--from cities to highway districts, school districts to libraries to emergency services, etc.  It remains a big problem because it has not yet been fully resolved.  

It was a terrible mistake but, when discovered, they did not hide.  The County Assessor came out, announced what had happened and held a meeting for all the groups involved.  He answered questions and talked about possible remedies.  The Assessor apologized, both for the problem and the inconvenience to the other entities.  In fact, even the County Treasurer also took some of the heat. It was refreshing, in a surprising sort of way.

Now I certainly don't know what the final outcome should be.  My point is not whether heads should roll or not, I'll leave that to those investigating.  I'm just glad they were honest and up front about what happened. That's unusual around here.

The CdA School District, by contrast, is not.  They are asking for a huge levy to build a brand new Lakes Middle School, but have no research, estimates or bids on the cost of simply remodeling the existing school. In the second letter I've received from the district's Chief Financial Officer, he repeats his comparison of the Lakes Middle School project to the remodel of Rogers High School in Spokane, which he touts as costing far more than a totally new school.  This is disingenuous and insulting.  Anyone looking into the details of the two projects will see that to compare them is impossible.  Rogers is a high school, not a middle school, and serves three times the student population as Lakes. Rogers is also a historically sensitive renovation, retaining the art deco elements of the grand building it once was.  And the remodel offers high school level amenities such as a Visual and Performing Arts Center and an Athletic, Health and Fitness Center.  The "remodel" of Rogers HS also includes over 165,000 square feet of completely new space. To compare this project to Lakes is like comparing apples to pears.  And the distortion of these facts by our school district is disturbing.

We've also got the City of Coeur d' Alene spending money like a drunken sailor, giving millions to this pet project or that, without any voter input, but they can't find money to fix the sidewalks, the most public of all amenities. The council didn't seem to care at first.  They sent letters to hundreds of homeowners more than a year ago, firmly demanding the sidewalks be fixed or risk a lien which could lead to the loss of their home. The letter was followed by a second threat with a clear deadline of this summer.  Now, when angry citizens are showing up in droves to complain, the council has changed its tune and is holding workshops, pledging to find a solution. This is political survivorship, not effective leadership.

On the more open hand, Post Falls has also been confronted with the sidewalk repair issue.  They have taken a whole different approach.  The city of Post Falls decided to fix the sidewalks themselves and absorb the cost over the next few years.  They appear much more responsible and reasonable in their relationship with their citizens.  Perhaps Mayor Bloem and the CdA City Council should take a lesson from our neighbors to the West.  

Finally, as the Education Corridor issue continues to evolve behind closed doors, one NIC Trustee was recently heard saying "we've got lots of plans, but I can't tell you about them". So we, the taxpayers remain in the dark.  Mayor Bloem will take the Ed. Corridor plans to Portland in May, where she will get feedback from other mayors and "experts". But we, the taxpayers, will remain in the dark. 

Is it any wonder, then, when we see a ray of sunshine in the form of an honest admission of error or a quiet motion to shoulder financial responsibility without threats or grandstanding, that we have hope?  Everyone is not treated with disdain.  Some officials actually value citizen input, encourage participation and use restraint when spending the public's money.  Take heart. 



        

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