The City's Pulse Newsletter

An Idaho State of Mind
...The Education Corridor, Part 2

Idahoans are known for a down-to-earth, common sense style, but that is not what we are seeing in our city's attitude toward the Educational Corridor. Our Mayor and City Council are so attracted to having all the state university branches located on one campus in CdA, that they seem to have lost their common sense.  Let's look at their reasons for the proposed higher education corridor down in the Fort Grounds and compare them to our own sensible state of mind.
If you missed my newsletter last week, covering the beginnings of the educational corridor concept in Coeur d'Alene, you can read it on my web site at www.thecityspulse.com under Newsletters: "Is there some cahootin' goin' on?"

Our city leaders talk about the positive impact the payroll of the five schools will have on CdA.  They say the faculty are the kind of "good people" they want to bring to our city.  They seem to think the faculty will live, work, shop and dine only in CdA.  Additionally, one city councilman promotes the education corridor as a way to increase public access to the waterfront. Sure, river access is a good thing, but there are other ways to achieve it.  Our city leaders, however, don't mention any alternatives and they don't talk about any of the downsides. That confounds my way of thinking and makes me shake my head.  We should be told about all the possibilities and look at this enormous public investment from every angle.

Let's start with the taxpayer's point of view for a change.  We want to get the most for our tax dollars.  I am a serious believer in excellent, high quality education; we should procure the very best possible.  So let's use our basic, Idaho good sense:  Will we get the most for our tax dollars by building on high cost land in a tight, congested area of town with limited access roads that already have bumper-to-bumper traffic several times each day? Parking is severely limited and an expensive structured parking building will almost certainly be needed. Safety is a concern because frequent deliveries of highly toxic chemicals are required for the city's wastewater treatment plant right in the middle of the proposed corridor, which won't be going away.  And the De Armon Mill site which is being considered for a purchase price of $10 million has a long history of industrial use, oil and chemical spills and other unknown reclamation issues. Is this where we should be spending public dollars?

Or would our money go further for a state-of-the-art higher education complex built on open, inexpensive land out on the Prairie or in Post Falls? Both outlying locations have offered low cost land for an educational campus. Access would be safe and easy, parking would be plentiful and inexpensive, and future expansion capabilities would be insured.  

If we spend less money on construction, parking, etc., we'll be able to spend more on hiring outstanding, top-tier educators.  That's how you get a great education;  it's all about the quality of the educators.  Build it and they will come. Keep it real, make it excellent --that's Idaho style.

What about the important public access to the river?  NIC's land and beachfront can never be used for anything but a public purpose, it's insured by the way it was donated years ago.  The city already owns the old Osprey building, called Harbor Center, along the river and some of the riverfront to its north.  The De Armon Mill and Stimson Mill sites are not yet inside the city limits.  When they come forward for annexation, the city will have great negotiating power to get more public access to the river as a condition of the annexation agreement.  That's the best of both worlds: Water front access for the public and the rest of the land would stay on the property tax rolls.

But don't worry, Mayor Bloem. With the regional higher education campus out on the Prairie or in Post Falls, the faculty of the five schools will still live all over the area, just like they would if the education corridor was in the Fort Grounds.  You can't keep them only in CdA.  Heck, look around, half your LCDC board lives outside Coeur d'Alene and almost half your P&Z commission too, as well as many from the police, fire and city staffs.  They will all spend time and money in CdA, but because our tax dollars will go farther on the Prairie or in Post Falls, the quality of  education available to our high school graduates and our adult citizens will be exceptional.

I agree with State Board of Education member, Sue Thilo, who was quoted in last week's Press saying, "We truly want to improve the affordability and accessibility of higher education."  So please look at all the options, use your Idaho perspective and consider the bigger picture. This is a regional issue.  The taxpayers and the students want efficient, effective use of our public money to buy the very best education possible.

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And, as always, a free archive of my past newspaper columns and email newsletters  is available at www.thecityspulse.com

Mary Souza is a 20 year resident of Coeur d'Alene, local business owner and former Planning and Zoning Commissioner.  Her opinions are her own.

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Your help is very important in circulating this newsletter.  Please send it on to people in the whole Kootenai County area--they don't have to live inside the city, all of our communities are undergoing rapid change and share similar concerns.

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And, as always, a free archive of my columns is available at www.thecityspulse.com  

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