Dan Gookin wants the Coeur d’Alene City Council to respect residents and become more accountable to taxpayers.
Gookin, a technology writer of numerous “Dummies” computer books, has become known recently for questioning how the city’s urban renewal agency, Lake City Development Corp., spends public funds. He asks whether tax dollars should fund private development.
Gookin, 46, is taking on Councilman Ron Edinger, a former mayor and the longest-serving council member with 33 years of service, in the Nov. 6 election.
“I would like to see government have a certain respect and responsibility for the voters and the public,” said Gookin, who made an unsuccessful bid for the Idaho Senate in 2004 as a Libertarian.
Instead of respect, Gookin said, the council “attacks” people when it disagrees. Yet he said the council has always treated him well.
He highlighted what he called “disrespectful behavior” by posting a Google video called “Dissent is not allowed in Coeur d’Alene” after a July council meeting.
Part of the council’s image problem, Gookin said, is that it doesn’t respond to people during public comment periods, and council members often don’t have much discussion before they vote. And the votes are often unanimous, he noted. If elected, he pledges to be more responsive to residents and explain city decisions.
Gookin is part of a vocal group of citizens concerned about the urban renewal agency. He questions how the city helped fund the Salvation Army Kroc Community Center being built in Coeur d’Alene.
He said the center is “awesome” but that the city should have allowed residents to vote on whether to use $3 million to prepare the site for construction. His group also alleges that the city violated the law by spending the money, because it was never appropriated in the budget. City officials, including Edinger, deny the city did anything wrong.
The Kootenai County prosecutor also reviewed the claim and found no “criminal conspiracy” with how the city used the money.
As for extra money in the city budget, such as the $3 million used for the Kroc Center, Gookin said the city should use it for property tax relief, unless residents vote to spend it on special projects.
Gookin said urban renewal is a good tool but the city has lost its focus and isn’t using it for economic development and job creation. One of the biggest issues Coeur d’Alene is facing is where to put all the new people moving to the area, he said.
He supports preserving neighborhoods and the city’s recent restrictions on the height of downtown buildings. Yet to house people, Gookin said, developers should be able to construct buildings as tall as “gravity allows” outside the downtown core. But that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to put a 20-story building in an established neighborhood, he said.