October 29, 2013 in Opinion

Editorial: Steve Widmyer has what it takes during divisive time

 

Coeur d’Alene has made enviable progress in recent years, adding a promising higher education corridor, gorgeous library, mixed-use Riverstone development, Ray and Joan Kroc Community Center and, coming soon, the expanded McEuen Park. The state-of-the-art wastewater plant is a vital project for the city and downriver communities.

All that took vision, the quality residents should focus on as they ponder their mayoral vote.

Why? Because progress has overcome virulent objections couched in the name of process. The McEuen Park project sparked a failed recall attempt, with the mayor and half the City Council placed in the crosshairs. But criticism isn’t a platform. Candidates must say where they would take the city.

Steve Widmyer wasn’t part of those battles, but when he saw that naysayers were running for mayor, decided that was unacceptable. He wasn’t alone; he’s pulled in impressive endorsements from civic, business and labor groups. Widmyer and his wife own two clothing stores and Fort Ground Grill, and he is a former controller at the Coeur d’Alene Resort. He has the business sense to appreciate the damage caused by embarrassing political battles, and the temperament to assuage critics while taking on upcoming challenges.

His priorities are hiring a new police chief, being a vocal leader for economic development, and containing costs, including a look at salary schedules that exceed those of comparable communities. Urban renewal has a target on its back, but Widmyer notes it has cured blight and spurred economic development. The growth that’s come from projects has generated enough revenue to keep a lid on taxes. He says McEuen Park might’ve warranted an advisory vote, given its high price tag, but he’d turn to such votes sparingly.

He supports the recent ordinance that outlaws discrimination against the city’s gay and lesbian citizens.

Widmyer’s opponents are Joe Kunka, who hasn’t mounted a significant campaign, and Mary Souza, who co-owns Design Events, and is the community’s chief noise-maker. She served on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission before being dismissed, and helped organize the divisive recall bid. She says she isn’t necessarily against many of the city’s positive developments, but is troubled by the way government achieved them. A city under Souza could expect endless delay as she nitpicks details and suspends decision-making pending advisory votes. She says she embraces economic development, but she has no important endorsements from developers, or from any mainstream groups. She wouldn’t be able to bridge the divides she helped create.

Souza hasn’t taken a stand on the anti-discrimination ordinance, except to say, as usual, that it should’ve been put to a public vote.

We prefer Widmyer’s forthright stance against discrimination, and his commitment to positive leadership.

To respond to this editorial online, go to www.spokesman.com and click on Opinion under the Topics menu.


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