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Hoping For More Of A Metamorphosis

Wed., Jan. 7, 1998

One thing we know about Steve Judy as he begins his first full day as Coeur d’Alene’s mayor today: He opposes changes in the city’s leaf pickup program. That, and he outspent competent incumbent Al Hassell nine to one, courtesy of heavy contributions from business interests.

A true politician, Judy squeaked to a 67-vote victory by promising early in the campaign to be more specific on the issues and then continuing to speak in generalities. He pledged to have a higher profile than Hassell and to make City Hall more “user friendly,” noncontroversial themes used in 1985 by successful mayoral candidate Ray Stone.

Judy won by sidestepping issues, knocking on doors and spending like crazy. Who needs position papers when sound bites work?

Now, apparently, the mayor still isn’t ready to spell out his vision for the Lake City. He has decided to postpone his first State of the City address until March, after he has met with as many city employees as possible.

Like it or not, and we don’t, the strategy may be a good one.

Judy must woo employees if he’s going to improve service at City Hall - if, indeed, better service is needed. Happy workers are productive. Currently, the staff has reason to worry about him. As director of Concerned Businesses of North Idaho, Judy supported a study proposing to cut employee benefits. Then, Judy entered office accompanied by rumors that top officials would be fired, just as Stone did. In Stone’s case, heads did roll.

Commendably, Judy has assured city workers he won’t begin his administration with a witch hunt - and he’s spent the last two months trying to distance himself from Concerned Businesses. He needs to back up his claims that he’s a consensus builder by demonstrating he’s also concerned with neighborhood issues like access to Sanders Beach.

Judy has Hassell to thank for the luxury of easing into his new job. The city infrastructure is in good shape, much better than when the Hassell administration took office. That’s not to say Judy doesn’t face tough obstacles. Coeur d’Alene police are threatening to sue the city over a contract impasse. How Judy handles downtown pressure to change the use of McEuen Field could make or break his administration.

Soon, Judy will learn Coeur d’Alene residents are hard to please. Only one mayor has won consecutive four-year terms: Stone. So, Judy is wise to try to extend his honeymoon as long as possible.

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


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