Public discontent over a multimillion-dollar plan to remake McEuen Field, Coeur d’Alene’s downtown waterfront park, appeared to be the deciding factor in delivering City Council seats Tuesday to critics of the plan.
“I think McEuen was the big issue,” said Ron Edinger, a 40-year incumbent who was the sole councilman to vote against approving the plan and who repeatedly called for a public vote on the project. “I’ve been the fighter for having a public vote on McEuen and I think the people of Coeur d’Alene said they want a public vote on McEuen.”
With all 71 of Kootenai County’s precincts counted, Coeur d’Alene’s three council races were won by Edinger and two challengers who were outspoken against the plan that would remove the Third Street boat launch and baseball fields, replacing them elsewhere in the city in favor of more green space and more diverse features to appeal to a wider populace.
In Seat 1, Edinger defeated his challenger, 37-year-old businessman Adam Graves, with 72 percent of the vote to Graves’ 28 percent.
Graves said he supported the McEuen Field plan but thought putting the matter to a public vote was a moot point, considering enough votes existed among council incumbents to reject that idea. Graves ran on a platform of positioning the city to attract new business among the technology-savvy generation who will be attracted to cities with the best infrastructure and quality of life.
In the race for Seat 3, Dan Gookin, a well-known critic of both city spending and urban renewal agency actions, defeated George Sayler, who served eight years in the state Legislature and taught high school government for 31 years. Gookin garnered 54 percent of the vote to Sayler’s 39 percent. Gookin ran on a platform that the council was not listening to the public and that nothing epitomized that more than its approval of the McEuen Field plan.
The remaining 7 percent was split among the other three candidates – Derec Aujay, Patrick “Mitch” Mitchell and Annastasia Somontes.
Gookin was victorious in his third run for council; he lost to Deanna Goodlander by 29 votes in 2009. He had promised to hold office hours if elected.
“This is the first public vote on McEuen and they (the voters) are very unhappy,” Gookin said of Tuesday’s election. “The true indicator of that is Ron Edinger’s vote. He’s in the only two-way race. People want a new direction and that’s what we’re going to get.”
Sayler had promised to be a positive force on the council and to bring a spirit of unity to it. He said he’d second the motion for a public vote but didn’t say how he’d vote on it. He promised to move the McEuen Field plan forward in a way the public could support.
In the Seat 5 race, insurance agent Steve Adams beat first-term incumbent John Bruning, 56 percent to 33 percent. Bruning had tried to cast the race as one of positive versus negative, saying he wanted to keep the city going in the positive direction it was headed.
Adams, however, opposed what he called the city’s overspending, advocated for abolishment not only of the urban renewal agency, but of the state law creating such agencies, and opposed the plan to remake McEuen Field.
“I think it’s a referendum on McEuen,” said Adams, 45. “I think it’s also people saying they’re tired of the spending. They want to rein in the spending and take a hard look at the budget and pay scales and the urban renewal agency. I think people have finally woken up that it might be a little out of control.”
The third candidate in that race, Amber Copeland, received about 11 percent of the vote Tuesday night.
In other races:
Post Falls City Council
• In the three-way race for Seat 1, incumbent Kerri Thoreson defeated former three-term councilman Joe Bodman with 59 percent of the vote to Bodman’s 28 percent. A third candidate, retired South Dakota police officer Jim Edgington, received 13 percent.
• In the race for Seat 3, 21-year council incumbent Scott Grant lost to political newcomer Joe Malloy, 70 percent to 30 percent.
• In the race for Seat 5, incumbent Skip Hissong beat challenger Barry Rubin, who is retired from the credit and financial industry, 61 percent to 39 percent.
• In the race for Hayden mayor, pitting 12-year incumbent Ron McIntire against 12-year councilwoman Nancy (Taylor) Lowery, McIntire won with 65 percent of the vote.
Hayden City Council
• In the one contested council race in Hayden, Realtor and builder Tim Timmins defeated truck driver Kris LaMarr in both candidates’ first run for public office. Timmins received 61 percent of the vote.