The City's Pulse Newsletter

Big Heads and Red Flashing Lights at the Ed Corridor

It seems dishonorable the way information about the Educational Corridor has been controlled and withheld.  The public's red warning lights are flashing.  So when the Master Plan and Financial Impact Study were finally unveiled last month, I hoped our wait for real answers was over.

The big reveal was on July 10th.  It was an advertising extravaganza; big on glitz and short on information. Did you know that education is good? Did you know that your earnings are likely to rise with more education?  Did you know that higher education brings community economic growth? Yes, we do.  We believe in education, but we want specific information about this particular, important public decision. Still, we had to sit through a large portion of the meeting, hearing again and again that education is important.

The presentation was full of cute Northwest names and feel-good sketches of the proposed corridor in the Fort Grounds.  It was "conceptual", they said.  Nothing is firm. When do we get firm?  After they commit the first $10 million of the hundreds of millions it will eventually cost us?  And why should the Ed Corridor be constructed at the DeArmond site, the most expensive, least accessible of the alternatives?  These issues were never addressed.

Instead, the expert consultants showed a slide of a big head.  Next to it, a bigger arrow pushed credit hours from college classes into the big head.  Every time a credit hour was added, the projected income level for the big head went up.  The consultants projected an additional 12,000 students will attend the new Ed Corridor campus. They calculated the total credit hours the students will complete in 20 years and estimated the income rise for all students. This increased income is touted as "value" the Education Corridor will supposedly bring to our economy.

The obvious flaw in the presentation's insultingly simplistic argument is this: Any increased income from education will create a positive impact for our region even if the college development is in Post Falls or out on the Prairie.  It does not have to be at the DeArmond Mill site. This advance for higher education is for all of North Idaho, not just CdA, so we should thoughtfully and openly examine every option.  

Any perception of the presentation's validity was shattered when they failed to include the cost of expanding the colleges.  It must have slipped their minds.  So I went to the NIC web site and downloaded the full report, which states, "Construction costs are not known".  Now red lights are really flashing. These consultants can project the number of students and the income potential of every college credit, but they can't estimate the cost Kootenai County taxpayers will incur for college buildings, streets and parking at this high priced location?

Another shock was hiding in the printed report too.  They are planning to use one third of the mill site for private commercial development.  These experts anticipate nearly six acres for retail and commercial properties.  Could this be the true driving force behind choosing the DeArmond Mill site? 

Many serious questions remain. The presentation and reports answered very little. I asked NIC Trustee Mic Armon shortly after the meeting three weeks ago, if he would schedule a series of public hearings, much like the CdA school district has so effectively conducted, with open formats at various times and locations throughout the community.  Mic promised to look into that possibility.  No word yet. The public is still waiting, our red lights are flashing and this whole thing is looking like a very big head...ache.
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Dear Newsletter Readers,
Above is my opinion column that ran in last Sunday's Press.  Also included in that same paper was an article by NIC President Dr. Priscilla Bell, PhD.  I am making a point of including her academic titles and letters because in the article she actually cites a completely unscientific blog poll as evidence that the public supports the Education Corridor!  If  Dr. Bell and the Trustees want to know how the public feels about the Ed Corridor, why don't they put the matter on the ballot in November?  Why don't they float a public Bond for the land purchase?  Why don't they at least ask for an Advisory Vote to accurately gauge public support?         They have been asked each of these questions and have answered "no" to all.  Their reasons?  One trustee told me that it's "too important" to risk a public vote.  And another trustee told me they've never floated a bond and don't know how.  Besides, the trustee said, we've been told it would never pass.
Dr. Bell again wrote of the economic "value" promised by the Ed Corridor.  This is the big head theory, which I explained above, that would bring value to our whole region no matter where the educational expansion is located.
The run-around by public officials is tedious.  Just open up the information and answer our questions...please!  Also on the November ballot will be two of the five Trustee positions for NIC.  Change may be our only recourse.  
Have a great week.  --Mary
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Mary Souza has been a concerned citizen of CdA for over 20 years. She's a local small business owner, former P&Z Commissioner and wrote an opinion column in the CdA Press on local issues.  Her opinions are her own.

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