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Bloem upbeat on CdA’s successes

Coeur d’Alene Mayor Sandi Bloem doesn’t think the city could have had a better year: snagging the $60 million Kroc Community Center, a new library under construction and resolution to the use of Sanders Beach.

Bloem, a former elementary school teacher, gave the city an A-plus report card for 2006 in her annual state of the city address Tuesday morning at the Coeur d’Alene Resort.

Yet Coeur d’Alene can’t rest, she told the crowd of about 200. The new year presents many challenges, from ensuring affordable housing for all residents to securing more land for an educational corridor – a goal that’s been on the city’s to-do list for years.

Bloem said another goal for 2007 is to perhaps broker a deal with Sanders Beach homeowners that may provide more public access to the popular shoreline.

A ruling by the Idaho Supreme Court in September essentially eliminated all public access to the beach between 12th and 15th streets. The city, which took a neutral stand on the controversy, asked the court to determine where private property ends and public land begins so city police could enforce trespass and other laws.

“Whether you agree with the decision or not, the city can now police Sanders Beach,” Bloem said, adding that was the point of the lawsuit. “But hopefully this is not the end of the story.”

Bloem said the City Council wants more public access to city beaches, yet she said it must be lawful use.

Attorney John Magnuson, who represents the majority of the Sanders Beach homeowners, said he’s unsure if his clients are willing to negotiate with the city. The homeowners tried that, Magnuson said, but instead of reaching a compromise, the city sued.

“I’m not sure how willing they will be to listen to them again,” Magnuson said.

Bloem spent a large part of the report highlighting what she characterized as likely the “biggest announcement ever” in Coeur d’Alene when the Salvation Army agreed in May to build a Kroc Community Center near Ramsey Park. Another perk is that the city will now have the presence of the Salvation Army.

“We’ve been working toward a real community center for nearly 30 years,” the mayor said.

The highest priority for the city is ensuring the center pays for itself, Bloem said.

To her, that’s part of the balance the city strives to achieve in everything it does, whether it’s weighing private property rights with the public good or the need for services versus the taxes residents must pay. “True effectiveness requires balance,” Bloem said.