The City's Pulse Newsletter
The Next Tubb's Hill?: The Art of Spin

$10 million dollars is what NIC expects to pay for the Stimson/DeArmon mill site.  This price equates to $588,200 per acre, making this old mill site next to the sewage treatment plant among the most expensive properties ever in the State of Idaho.  Yet Kootenai County assessed the land in 2007 at only  $2.4 million and NIC has not obtained a real estate appraisal on the property.  And why does NIC Trustee Mic Armon call it "The Next Tubb's Hill"? 

Mic is just repeating the public relations mantra floated by Mayor Bloem, Councilman Mike Kennedy and others.  They like to put a simple label or "brand" on a complicated subject so people won't look beyond the headline. Tubb's Hill?  Who could argue against that?  But take a closer look: Tubb's Hill is a park.  It's full of trees, solitude, open views and walking trails. The mill site would be full of buildings, parking lots, streets, sidewalks, busy students and lots of to a sewage plant.  It would not be a park, certainly not at all like Tubb's Hill; it's not a legitimate comparison.

If the goal is to preserve the riverfront for public use, there are other possible methods.  The mill site is not yet part of the City of CdA.  City staff can negotiate the annexation agreement to include a public trail and/or parkland along the riverfront. And the rest of the property can be controlled by the zoning density the City Council sets during annexation.

But beyond the Tubb's Hill catch phrase, the real concern should be the mission of North Idaho College. It's a two year community college, paid for by all the taxpayers of Kootenai County.  NIC's goal should be to provide the best community college education possible in the most cost effective manner for the students and taxpayers.  Apparently, the NIC Board of Trustees does not agree.  

In their "Resolution in Support of the Acquisition & Development of the Educational Corridor" which was approved unanimously in 2007 and again last week, they list many points that appear outside the common sense responsibilities for a community college.  Here are several examples:

1.  "WHEREAS the land will provide otherwise limited opportunity for expansion of centralized educational programs on the Associate, Bachelors and Masters levels for citizens of Kootenai County and North Idaho."
NIC is only responsible for the Associate degree level.  We, the Kootenai County taxpayers should not be paying for land to supply Bachelors and Masters degree level education--that's the state's role. But if NIC buys the land, we're paying for it.

2.  "WHEREAS acquisition of the property will maintain quality property and waterfront for public use and recreational access."
Is this the job of a community college? And should Kootenai County taxpayers be paying for recreational access in the city of CdA?  No and No.

3.  "WHEREAS ownership of the property will provide growth of the CdA wastewater treatment facility well into the future."
Not a community college job. Besides, the City of CdA already owns property on the other side of the wastewater treatment plant where the old Osprey building sits. The rate payers paid for it years ago with a Wastewater Bond in case the treatment plant needs to expand. And, again, the County taxpayers should not have to pay for CdA's sewage expansion plans.  

4.  "WHEREAS acquisition of the property will achieve objectives and purposes of the Midtown, NW Boulevard and Downtown Urban Renewal Districts and enhance economic development opportunities for North Idaho."
Why should County taxpayers pay even more than they already do because of urban renewal in the city of CdA?  

5.  "WHEREAS acquisition will provide for an improvement to the visual entrance to downtown Coeur d'Alene."
Some little Grandma in Harrison should pay more for this?

6.  "WHEREAS acquisition will provide additional land for private commercial development along NW Boulevard."
This one's my favorite.  The County taxpayers should fund land for private commercial development on NW Blvd? way.

NIC is considering the use of Foregone Taxes as part of the $10 million payment.  Foregone are taxes they could have taken in the past but did not need.  Mic Armon said they are "entitled" to $2.6 million in Foregone, which will then become part of their annual budget and be included in the taxpayer's burden each year thereafter.  And all the Urban Renewal districts in the county will get extra money if NIC takes Foregone taxes. We'll just pay more.

Very little information has been made public and very few questions have been answered.  So a public forum has been organized by active citizens, co-sponsored by the North Idaho Education Forum and the Pachyderm Club with help from the Mica Flats Grange and other groups as well.  The event will take place at the CdA Inn next Tuesday night, May 13th.  It's a casual dinner for $18 per person (just to cover costs), with social hour from 6:00-7:00pm and the dinner and panel discussion to follow.  Here are the panel members:  

Ron Vieselmeyer, NIC Trustee

John Goedde, State Senator and Chair of Senate Ed. Comm.

Bob Nonini, State Representative and Chair of House Ed. Comm.

Mike Jorgenson, State Senator and Senate Ed. Comm. member

Rich Piazza, Kootenai County Commissioner

Mike McDowell, Kootenai County Assessor

Dennis Wheeler, CEO of Coeur d' Alene Mines

Bob Potter, former Jobs Plus Director (currently unconfirmed)

Mary Souza, (me) Concerned Citizen

Several other community leaders were invited to be on the panel, but declined:  CdA Councilman Woody McEvers had to check with "the people" and then left a message saying No.  NIC Trustee Christie Wood said No and Trustee Mic Armon said probably not.  Post Falls Mayor Clay Larkin had a scheduling conflict.

Former NIC Board Chairman Fred Ostermeyer is recovering from surgery and NIC President Priscilla Bell is as well. Because of this, they were both considered, but not invited.

So, there you have it.  An interesting opportunity awaits us all to exchange information, ask questions and voice opinions.  Please come to the forum next Tuesday.  Just RSVP by calling Betty Henderson at 664-7312.  Kudos to the active citizens who stepped up to organize this event.  Their actions remind me of a favorite quote from the famous anthropologist, Margaret Mead, who studied cultures and civilizations all over the world: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has. "

See you Tuesday, May 13 at 6pm.  Remember to RSVP soon.