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When Dust Settles, It Will Be Too Late

Last January, Coeur d’Alene residents went through a familiar drill. They massed at North Idaho College to oppose Duane Hagadone’s plan to transform popular McEuen Field into a botanical garden. Ultimately, Hagadone withdrew the proposal rather than face a battle royal at a City Council meeting.

Twice previously, angry Coeur d’Alene voters had trooped to the polls to defy attempts by the movers and shakers to bring hydroplane racing back to Lake Coeur d’Alene. Finally the voters passed a referendum that banned hydroplane races off the city waterfront - after a tough petition drive. They didn’t want to leave that decision in the hands of an easily influenced council.

But there’s a simpler way to handle potential rhubarbs. Voters should learn where candidates stand on important issues, particularly recurring ones, before the election - not afterward, when damage control is harder.

With city elections imminent throughout the Inland Northwest, it’s time for communities to pay attention to office seekers. What are they saying? What aren’t they saying? Constituents shouldn’t settle for generalities.

Every candidate, for example, is for controlled growth, good schools and quality of life. Motherhood. Apple pie. Ad nauseam. Each should be pinned down on the specifics.

In Post Falls, candidates should be asked if they’d vote against major subdivisions until new buildings are built to relieve school crowding. In Coeur d’Alene, voters should demand that candidates state clear positions on Sanders Beach and the greenbelt rimming the waterfront. Will they fight to block residential development on the beach? Would they entertain ideas to transform McEuen and Memorial fields into commercial use or parking lots?

In Spokane, it’s important to know which candidates support projects to improve downtown and the pockmarked streets citywide.

And, there’s more than candidates on the ballot. In Washington there’s a range of complex initiatives, from gun control to health insurance reform.

Often, candidates and initiatives slip through the cracks because the voters aren’t paying attention.

In the 1996 general election, most Kootenai County residents didn’t follow the two races for North Idaho College trustee positions. In fact, few showed much interest in the outcome - until the new board ousted popular President Bob Bennett. Then, the students and community tried vainly all summer to recall the trustees.

It’s critical to tune in - now.

, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = D.F. Oliveria/For the editorial board