The Coeur d’Alene City Council probably won’t let residents vote on whether to bring back hydroplane racing this year, Mayor Al Hassell said Friday.
There simply isn’t time, Hassell told a group at the Kootenai County Democratic Luncheon Friday.
The Coeur d’Alene Diamond Cup Association wants to host a three-day hydroplane race on Lake Coeur d’Alene over Labor Day weekend. Proponents have said they need to know the city’s decision by next month.
“If they (race promoters) have to be on schedule in the next 30 days or so, the council will have to make some kind of decision,” Hassell said.
Opponents have said they would like the proposal put to a vote of the people as it was the last time the issue surfaced.
Judy Whatley, an advisory vote supporter, said she was surprised by Hassell’s statement.
“I think it’s unfortunate that we as a city are considering jumping into a project if we don’t have the time to give it a proper airing,” Whatley said.
As a city councilman in 1985, Hassell supported an advisory vote on the same issue. That brought voters to the polls in record numbers to defeat the proposal by a 3 to 1 margin.
Things are different this year.
Under Idaho law, the earliest the city could hold a formal vote would be May 28, the date of the primary election, said Deputy Secretary of State Ben Ysursa.
Since he does not get to vote as mayor, Hassell also said he would support what ever the rest of the council decides. Because the hydroplane proposal involves private use of public property, four of the six council members must vote for it in order for the races to be approved.
At least three of the city’s six council members already have said they don’t support a referendum on the proposal: Ron Edinger, Dixie Reid and Nancy Sue Wallace.
Attempts to reach Susie Servick and Chris Copstead were unsuccessful Friday. Councilman Kevin Packard was out of town.
“We have a republic, not a democracy,” Wallace said. “We’re elected to make decisions.”
Edinger said he held that belief in 1985, when he voted against conducting the advisory vote, and he holds it now.
“What … every time we have a big issue, are we supposed to take it to the people?” he asked.
Besides, Edinger said, a vote would cost $5,000 to $8,000.
Grant Marks, a financial consultant and race supporter who has worked with race proponent Coeur d’Alene Diamond Cup Association, said an advisory vote would kill the proposal anyway. Regardless of the outcome of the vote, corporate sponsors would shy away from that kind of controversy.
“I’m not sure it’s good PR for any corporation,” he said.
The three-day race is expected to cost $500,000 and could not go on without big money from sponsors.
The annual boat races in Washington’s Tri Cities costs about $720,000. About 40 percent of that money comes from sponsors including Budweiser and Camel cigarettes, said Karen Miller, managing director of an association that runs the event.
Most of Miller’s 30 sponsors are local companies. An advisory vote seven years ago did not in any way scare off her national contributors.
“We were controversial then and it went to a vote, and we just kept on going,” she said. “It’s all in how you do marketing.”
The council will hold a public hearing to discuss the proposal Jan. 29. Officials are considering moving the location to the Coeur d’Alene High School auditorium, but one decide until early next week.
, DataTimes MEMO: IDAHO HEADLINE: Mayor dashes hopes for hydroplane vote