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CdA mayor still backs McEuen Field remake

Thu., Nov. 10, 2011

Three council members unswayed by election

Coeur d’Alene’s mayor and three council members say the election Tuesday of three critics of a multimillion-dollar plan to remake a downtown park does not sway their support for the plan.

“I’m really committed to the parking and to improving the field,” said Councilwoman Deanna Goodlander of the plan to remake McEuen Field. “That’s what the future holds. We don’t plan for today. We plan for 10 years down the road.”

On election night, the three winners of council seats – one incumbent and two challengers – said their victories resulted from public discontent over the plan, which would remove a boat launch and baseball fields, replacing them elsewhere in the city to make room for additional green space and other features. The plan also would create a multilevel parking structure, much of it below ground, to open up more recreational space. The price tag, much of it for the parking structure, has been pegged at anywhere from $23 million to $40 million, depending on features.

Ron Edinger, who has served on the council for about 40 years, was the lone councilman to oppose the plan and to make motions calling for a public vote. Those motions died for lack of a second. He was re-elected Tuesday with 72 percent of the vote. He will now be joined on the council by Dan Gookin and Steve Adams, who oppose the park plan and also call for a public vote.

However, the remaining three council members – Mike Kennedy, Woody McEvers and Goodlander – opposed the idea of a public vote, a position shared by Mayor Sandi Bloem, who would cast the deciding vote in case of a tie.

Kennedy said the plan to remake McEuen Field evolved out of a “long process” – months of work by a citizen committee working with a design team. Though he acknowledged that the election “absolutely” affects his thinking on McEuen, he said it doesn’t change his mind.

“Does it make me flip-flop and turn tail? No,” he said. “Because at the end of the day, the process was a long process that had more input than anything I’ve ever been involved in. I don’t think we should just toss aside all that work.”

McEvers agreed, saying he hasn’t heard any arguments that would shift his support for the plan. He said council members are elected to make tough decisions, not dodge them by putting them to a public vote.

“They want people voting on everything? Why do we need to be there?” McEvers asked. “If we let the public vote on that, why not everything else?”

McEvers said there’s a lot more to being a council member than just the decision on what to do with McEuen Field and he welcomes the new perspectives and debate.

Bloem said she expects the election results to pave the way at least for discussion of a public vote, but she doubts it will change her position.

“I don’t think you can do good planning for a park with a public vote,” Bloem said. “I don’t think you can. I don’t think that’s the way you plan. I’m always open to the fact that if a motion is put on the floor with a second, I will listen to the motion and I will listen to the debate. It has not changed my mind that this is not the way to do good planning.”

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