It's not an easy subject. It's not a fun read. But it might be
one of the most important issues facing Coeur d'Alene in the near
future, and you're probably not aware of the subject or the impact
it could have on our city and your wallet.
Bits and pieces of Educational Corridor info have been made public
over the past years yet very few people know what's really happening.
I still have lots of questions, even after talking, asking and
reading as much as possible. So let's step through some of the
The Educational Corridor would be an expansion of NIC's campus,
north along the river to the old Osprey building near the city's
wastewater treatment plant. The idea is to have one campus where
people can get a 2 year degree at NIC and then go on to a local
branch of either U of I, Lewis Clark State College, Boise State
University or Idaho State U, to finish their education.
The politics of this thing is thick. Mayor Bloem and the CdA council
have been focused on this issue for years. (It was actually started
before Sandi's time by Steve Judy and Bill Panos) Our urban renewal
agency, LCDC, is now the Mayor's key player in this project. CdA
wants the Educational Corridor here, but Post Falls has tried very
hard to get it over to their Riverbend Park. They've offered cheap
land and all kinds of considerations to attract the schools. At
the same time, there's a large piece of land earmarked for higher
education out on the Prairie.
Way back in Steve Judy's reign as Mayor, the city of CdA invited
the University of Idaho to use the Osprey building for $10. per
year. Yes, that says ten dollars. The city had been using it for
offices, so then had to lease and remodel another building on Sherman
for the displaced city employees, at costs in excess of $6000/month
ever since. There was also an active wastewater bond on the Osprey
building, at that time, that the city had to continue to pay, to
the tune of $25,000/month. (rate payers saw their bills go up because
of this) The city thought it was worth all the cost to keep U of
I here in town. U of I, on the other hand, took the $10. per year
Osprey space, subdivided it, and rents about a quarter of it to
Lewis-Clark State College for a significant amount of money each
month. I'd say U of I is getting a good deal both ways.
Last year, the Idaho State Board of Education declined to support
the Educational Corridor concept in CdA, and told the college presidents
to remain neutral on the subject. Our Governor, Butch Otter, also
spoke publicly against the idea and said it's not good to take
prime land off the tax rolls.
The Educational Corridor idea was recently re-named "University
Place". It's the name recommended by the state if there's
more than one school together at a location. But it's a terrible
name, and here's why: A few years ago there was a huge financial
mess with a similar project down in Boise that was named University
Place. It ended very badly with investigations, lawsuits and censures.
The President of the University of Idaho resigned because of this
enormous problem and the school and its foundation lost all kinds
So now, Coeur d'Alene not only wants a comparable project and
is using the same name but they are choosing many of the same questionable
business and legal partners that were used in the U of I fiasco!
It's amazing. But they're keeping all the details very hush-hush.
I told you in my newsletter two weeks ago, that LCDC is making
plans for the DeArmond Mill, a key piece property for the corridor
that will cost $10 million dollars. It is listed in LCDC's annual
report as a priority and Mayor Bloem reported back in January of
2007 that LCDC had retained a consultant for development of the
corridor. Yet last week, in an effort to refute my newsletter,
Tony Berns, Exec. Director of LCDC was quoted in the CdA Press
saying he had "no plan", "LCDC has no plan",
he repeated, to buy the property. Now, just a week later, they
are in the Press again, announcing their plan to plan to do exactly
that! This kind of double talk scares me. It makes me think that,
as one concerned citizen said to me, maybe there's some "cahootin'
Why are the CdA Mayor and council pushing for this campus? They
say it will bring good people into our city to teach at the schools.
They talk frequently about the payroll at NIC and how we need more
of those kinds of people living in our town to improve the economy.
But critics note that accessibility will be a problem if all the
schools are in CdA. They say that NW Blvd and the Fort Grounds
area is already congested and expansion will bring serious problems
with parking, traffic and student housing. They're concerned that
any buildings or parking structures will cost significantly more
due to the problems with access and expensive real estate. They
worry that taxpayers will have a far greater price tag if the schools
are located here, rather than in Post Falls or on the Prairie.
Many years ago, about 23 to be exact, I worked as a Clinical Nursing
Instructor for Spokane Community College. My students were mostly
single moms, working part-time jobs to put food on the table as
they attended school full-time to become nurses. Yet all the while
they were parents, caring for their children, taking them to daycare
or dropping them off at preschool. These students were very dedicated.
They worked incredibly hard and every single minute of their day
So when I think of a campus for higher education, I wonder what
would be best for the students. How easily will they get to the
campus? Where will they park? Where will they live? Will daycare
and grocery shopping be nearby?
Let's face it, the typical student will be scraping up enough
money to go to NIC and continue at one of the branch colleges.
Or they might be older folks in town trying to finish some college
they had earlier in their lives. But most will be working and going
to school at the same time, and often caring for a family as well.
Cost and convenience will be essential issues for these students.
Think about which campus scenario will offer affordable, nearby
housing for student-level families, easy access for chronically
late and stressed adult students, free or cheap convenient parking
and reasonable nearby services such as daycare, groceries and inexpensive
dining? The Fort Grounds campus, with higher CdA rents, traffic
back ups all the way to the freeway, limited parking and treacherous
walking across busy NW Blvd, leaves a lot of concerns.
Then, please, think about taxpayers. Remember that no matter where
the money comes from for any type of higher education campus, whether
from city, county, state, LCDC or state schools--it all comes out
of taxpayer pockets. There is no such thing as government money.
This subject has layer upon layer to discuss. So, Chapter 2 of
this newsletter about the Educational Corridor / University Place,
will be focused on the taxpayers as well as the types of education,
academic and/or technical, the future expansion capabilities, basic
safety concerns and much more. These higher education opportunities
are for the entire northern part if our state. As one citizen observed,
our local community college is not named "Coeur d'Alene Community
College", it's for all of North Idaho. And so are the branches
of our state schools. This is a regional issue. Let's keep that
in mind. Mull it over, we'll talk again.