When Ron Edinger began serving on the Coeur d’Alene City Council, Adam Graves had not entered the world.
Now the two – the 75-year-old with 40 years of incumbency and the 37-year-old businessman determined to modernize the city – are facing off for council seat 1. The race has been cast both as a battle over the future of McEuen Field and as one of looking to the future rather than being mired in the past.
“I’ve got a vision for the future. I think Ron is stuck on preserving history and the past,” said Graves, co-founder of a Coeur d’Alene marketing and branding company and a board member of the city’s Downtown Association. “That’s been shown in his thinking on the McEuen Field projects.”
Edinger sees it differently.
“I object to spending the money they intend to spend at McEuen Field. I am not opposed to improvements down there,” Edinger said. “The Third Street docks are something the people are used to. If they propose to put it out at Silver Beach, I think that’s a very bad location. It’s going to be very costly, and the Third Street docks are paid for. From what people tell me, it’s part of Coeur d’Alene’s history. I don’t like to see part of our history disappear.”
Despite the dust-up over McEuen Field, Graves said his biggest focus for the race is creating jobs. “We don’t have to be dependent on what’s going on in the economy,” he said. “We can choose our own destiny.”
Technology allows people to start and run businesses from anywhere, he said, and young people emerging from college today know that. The cities that will win more of those new businesses, Graves said, are the ones that offer quality of life and the technological infrastructure to support the new way of doing business.
“It’s a new business climate now. It’s the next wave,” said Graves, who grew up in Coeur d’Alene and is raising his family in the Lake City. “The next generation, they’ll go anywhere. They’re not tied to anything. They’re looking for what makes them happy. Things are a lot different than they used to be. If we plan it right, we can get a lot of these people to start businesses here and find jobs here.”
Edinger said the city needs to invest in education, and is doing so with the education corridor project, which he supports. He said he’s supported several endeavors that will bring new, good-paying jobs to the city, including Jobs Plus, the economic development agency, the construction of a professional-technical high school on the Rathdrum Prairie, and the development of Kootenai Health’s new medical residency program.
“My promise to the voters is that I will listen to them and I will respond to them when they call me,” said Edinger, who is also a former mayor. “I will be a councilman that has the taxpayers in mind at all times.”
The Edinger-Graves race experienced a bit of scandal recently over nepotism claims against Edinger. Graves submitted a question to city officials asking if it was appropriate for Edinger to vote on a budget that contained a salary increase for his city-employed daughter. City officials responded that was just one line item in a multimillion-dollar budget and allowed Edinger to vote.
However, following the request, city officials took it upon themselves to investigate further, City Attorney Mike Gridley said, and found three of Edinger’s grandsons worked for the city part time or seasonally. All three were subsequently fired because the city was in violation of a state anti-nepotism law.
Edinger issued a news release saying “individuals” were attacking his family because they couldn’t criticize him on the issues. Graves disputed that, urging people not to give Edinger the “sympathy vote” when all Graves had done was question the propriety of the councilman voting on his own daughter’s raise.