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
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
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.
Please send a copy on to any friends that might be interested. To
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And, as always, a free archive of my past newspaper columns
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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.