Have you realized that something very precious is being taken
away from you? It's the essence of our freedom, it's what
millions have died trying to obtain or preserve. It's our vote. And
it's being quietly picked out of our pockets by local officials.
The U.S. national mood is all about voting right now, with presidential
caucuses and primaries occurring across the country. Americans
are enthusiastically marking their ballots and expressing their
choices. Yet here in Coeur d'Alene, major decisions are being made
behind the scenes, without a vote of the very people who will have
to bear the costs and live with the consequences. It seems
un-American, like taxation without representation.
We elect our city leaders to run the basic business of the city. They
need to make sure the staff gets paid, the streets get plowed and
when we open our faucets or flush our toilets, we get the results
we expect. But when it comes to major decisions that will
forever change the face and course of our city, we, the voters,
should be involved. When it comes to large expenditures for
optional "opportunities", we want to exercise our vote.
Do you remember the Hagadone Gardens project about four years
ago? It would have changed several streets downtown and created
a large public garden in front of the Resort. The Gardens would
not have cost the taxpayers any money but the streets would have
been redirected, so our Mayor and City Council ruled that the proposal
should go to a vote of the people. The project was cancelled
before a vote could take place, yet the Mayor's reasons for requiring
the vote were clear: It would be a major change and the people
should have a say in the decision.
Now fast forward to today. Same Mayor, nearly the same
City Council but very different attitudes and behaviors. Now they
try to avoid the voters. They have set up a system of tax
money that flows without the public's awareness; it circumvents
the voters. This system of money is called urban renewal,
or LCDC. A large amount of tax increment money is skimmed
off of all the existing buildings and homes downtown, as well as
new construction areas, and it all funnels into LCDC. The rest
of us pay significantly more on our property taxes to make up the
We were never asked if we wanted urban renewal. The LCDC board
is unelected, appointed by the Mayor, and they give millions of
tax dollars to private developments as well as public projects.
But they never ask the voters. With the bucket of money in
LCDC, the Mayor and City Council don't have to ask the taxpayers
either. They just do what they want.
Did the Mayor ask us to vote on the $4.5 million dollars of
public money given to the Kroc Center? No. We weren't even
told the full price until it was already signed and sealed.
Are we being asked to vote on the Education Corridor? No. The
multi-million dollar purchase of land is being hurried along, behind
the scenes, by the City, LCDC and NIC. It's happening right
now as I type this newsletter. Mayor Bloem, why don't we
get to vote on the Education Corridor? By your standards
we should: It will forever change the face and course of
CdA. It will cost the taxpayers ongoing millions of dollars and
there are other places the Education Corridor could be built. Many
people think there are better locations. So why are the citizens
not part of this decision? We want our voices heard. Give
us back our vote!
By making these momentous decisions without the input of the
voters, our leaders are removing the power of the people. They've
taken away our votes but will still expect us to pay for their
decisions. In essence, our officials are not only picking the votes
out of our pockets, they're emptying our wallets too. And, sadly,
most of us are none the wiser.