The only request Coeur d’Alene mayor-elect Steve Judy has for the next two months is that city employees speak up.
The 28-year-old newly elected mayor plans to start his “listen and learn” strategy Tuesday when he will be sworn in at Coeur d’Alene’s first City Council meeting of 1998.
For the next two months, Judy plans to meet with each city department to hear suggestions and develop goals, he said. Real change won’t likely start until March, when Judy has promised the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce a State of the City address.
Even then, his suggestions might not be what city employees expect. Judy is eager to shed his image as the voice of Concerned Businesses of North Idaho, a conservative lobby that supported budget cuts to lower taxes. While the group has supported cutting benefits for city employees, Judy has distanced himself from that prospect.
“You always have an outside perspective,” he said. “But that isn’t necessarily how things run.”
There definitely are no plans to cut positions, Judy said.
“There’ve been rumors from Day One about that, and I’ve said from Day One that those are unfounded. If people around me say things like that, it doesn’t mean anything to me.”
What Judy hopes for, he said, is more employee recognition, better customer service and a louder voice for employees on city issues. “As much as possible, we are going to try to simplify things and make sure employees are empowered to make quick decisions and make sure they are supported in doing that,” Judy said.
Still, Judy describes his new position as a “strong mayor form of government,” which means day-to-day involvement in the city’s business. Some administrative tangles aren’t likely to wait out his self-imposed two-month grace period.
For example, contract negotiations with the Coeur d’Alene Police Department have been stymied since they started last spring. Police have talked about posting informational pickets this month.
“I think the city started off making a lot of demands and I think they have given them all up,” Judy said. “So, to me, it seems they are reasonable where they are. I do know they are at impasse, so I hope we can get those guys focused back on the important thing, which is public safety.”
Already next week, the newly formed urban renewal agency holds its first meeting to set priorities and hear a preliminary proposal from a developer considering a library and parking structure downtown. Also on the agenda is an executive session discussion about buying property.
“There might be some areas in the midtown area on Fourth Street that the agency might be involved in to develop additional park areas,” agency director Charlie Nipp said. “We’re also looking at the development of more green space on Northwest Boulevard.”
On Tuesday, the existing city council will conduct its last meeting before swearing in the new mayor and city council members.
The council will vote on several amendments to the civil service rules that would extend the probation period for police officers from one year to 18 months and recommend that the police and fire chiefs and deputy chiefs not be bound by civil service rules.
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MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Passing the torch On Tuesday, the existing City Council will conduct its last meeting before swearing in the new mayor and council members.