Coeur d’Alene Mayor Sandi Bloem and three City Council members are facing a recall attempt over a proposed $14.2 million upgrade of McEuen Field.
Bloem, who is three years into her third term, has been the guiding influence on many of the major projects that have transformed Coeur d’Alene in recent years, including the Kroc Center, Coeur d’Alene Library, Riverstone, the education corridor and downtown revitalization.
She has been targeted for recall along with council members Deanna Goodlander, Woody McEvers and Mike Kennedy because they didn’t seek an advisory vote on the McEuen Field project.
Recall supporters filed the required paperwork to launch the recall on Thursday. They now have 75 days to collect 4,311 valid signatures to put the matter on the ballot later this year.
A group that met to organize against the recall attracted 40 people on short notice at the Fort Ground Grill on Thursday night.
Jack Riggs, former Idaho lieutenant governor and founding member of the Coeur d’Alene Kroc Center, has called on Kroc Center users and supporters to oppose the recall. The Coeur d’Alene Police Association has also announced opposition to the recall.
On Wednesday, Bloem spoke about the recall effort in an interview on the Huckleberries Online blog (www.spokesman.com/blogs/hbo):
Huckleberries Online (HBO): What do you think of the recall announcement (Wednesday)?
Bloem: We were informed earlier so I wasn’t surprised. I’ve been hearing rumors for several months. They have the right to do that.
HBO: What do you plan to do at this point?
Bloem: I plan to do just what I would be doing whether the petition had been filed or not. I will continue working with the staff and the community to hopefully continue to make this a great place to live. They’re trying to recall us for adding a lot of value to this community. We have added the Kroc Center, Riverstone, the education corridor, a long stretch of Spokane River frontage, as well as revitalized downtown Coeur d’Alene and Midtown (Coeur d’Alene).
HBO: Have you seen the flier handed out at the Republican Women’s luncheon Thursday that claims the price tag on the McEuen Field upgrade is $40 million – or almost three times more than it actually is?
Bloem: I have seen the flier. The $40 million is not correct. The estimated cost for the park improvements, including moving the parking, is a little over $14.2 million. One of the problems we’ve had since the beginning of the McEuen concept is rumors and untruths put forward about the costs. At one time, it was rumored that we were going to pay $80 million just to move the parking (and open five acres more of green space). We’ve been bringing forward true numbers. Fourteen million is the number put forth to do improvements to park, parking and Front Avenue. It’s much easier to get a sound bite against something than a sound bite in favor of something.
HBO: Are you disheartened that a recall effort is under way not only against you but three fairly respected members of the council?
Bloem: I’m disappointed because this is divisive for the community. For me personally, I would be very selfish if I was disappointed in the 11 years I’ve been able to serve this community. It has been an incredible opportunity and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
HBO: Do you think that recall organizer Frank Orzell and others who filed the recall papers speak for the community?
Bloem: They speak for a portion of the community. They have surrounded themselves with others who think like they do. I’m sure they don’t speak for the community as a whole. No one does that.
HBO: Would you do anything differently re: your approach to McEuen Field upgrade?
Bloem: No, not as far as hiring the amazing (planning) team we have and the approach of the advisory group and community meetings. I would change the way the message was delivered to some degree. I would try to communicate what was happening before untruths and rumors took the lead.