President John F. Kennedy observed that, "The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word 'crisis'. One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger but recognize the opportunity."
As the national economic downturn is taking a serious toll on local business and the federal government is grabbing at our wallets for never-ending bail outs, the time for local common sense has arrived. For more than 11 years, urban renewal has been active in Coeur d'Alene's commercial core. LCDC's districts currently account for more than 14% of our city's total value. But now we are in danger and are looking for help.
Let's take a cue from our prudent governor, Butch Otter, who just announced his plan to reign in state expenses. He has called for spending cuts in order to weather the economic storm, rather than place additional financial strain on already struggling taxpayers.
Our mayor and city council can do the same; they have an opportunity to help. They can take decisive action that will radically change the flow of tax increment money to LCDC, and reroute much of it back to city hall and the county's coffers, where it will help in these dangerous times.
This change can begin by redrawing the boundaries of our two huge urban renewal districts. Take only the active projects, like Riverstone, Parkside or Mill River, and create smaller, more specific districts. There might be 5 or 6 of them. Create plans that are clear and realistic, with measurable goals and reasonable timetables for completion.
Redrawing the maps and revising the plans is a serious, viable, legal option. It will not be quick or simple, but I have every confidence the LCDC board can accomplish this goal for the good of the community.
These actions will allow the tax increment from the rest of downtown and our commercial core to return back to the city and county, thereby reducing the extra tax burden placed upon the rest of us.
The property tax increment for every single building, old or new, whether it received urban renewal money or not, in downtown, midtown, out NW Boulevard and out Seltice Way---every bit of that huge tax increment will continue go to LCDC until the year 2021, unless changes are made.
For many years, Mayor Sandi Bloem and Executive Director of LCDC, Tony Berns, have touted the agency's open and flexible plan. They have claimed the lack of measurable goals and specific timeframes allows them to "respond to changing market needs". Well the market has certainly changed. And now the taxpayers have critical needs. We need a responsive local government that takes the opportunity to protect us; a government that is wise enough to help in times of crisis.
LCDC does not just impact those living in Coeur d'Alene, it affects all property owners of Kootenai County. So please, use your voices and make your views known.
The time has come to change the way urban renewal is managed here, and our mayor and city council are the only officials who can do so. If you agree, please take a few moments to send an email or letter to the addresses listed below. The only way our city council will understand our need is if they hear from enough people who say: The time to change LCDC is now.
Or mail a note to: Mayor Bloem and City Council
710 E. Mullan Avenue
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho 83814