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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Kootenai County looks at 8% raises

"There are still a lot of numbers we have to look through before we know where we're going to be," Kootenai County Commission Chairman David Stewart said during a meeting of the county's elected officials.

"Whatever is applied would be best applied in a general sense," said County Assessor Mike McDowell. "Whatever percentage it might be."

A majority of the board of county commissioners sought a new market survey earlier this year and hired a contractor to make it happen. Full story, David Cole, Cda Press


Citylink gets checkup

After 10 years of free bus service in Kootenai County, Citylink Transit will undergo a major assessment of routes, stops, ridership and travel times, as well as the possibility of charging fares for the first time.

“We would like to do a comprehensive view of the transit system,” said Jody Bieze, the county’s transit administrator. “We want to move it from being an informal system to a formal system.” Read more.

Graduation Day at Drug Court

Kootenai County Mental Health Drug Court graduate Jordan Fox gets a hug from District Court Judge John Mitchell during a ceremony at the Justice Building in Coeur d’Alene on Thursday. Kathy Plonka, photo

Kootenai County leads Idaho in marriages

COEUR d'ALENE - Love is in the air in Kootenai County and it must give off a strong scent.

Marriage rates are at a 60-year low statewide, but Kootenai County continues to be a popular place to get hitched. The county's marriage rate is more than twice the state average and more people get married here than anywhere else in the state - including Ada County.

Most of the couples marrying in Kootenai County come from out of state to exchange vows, according to vital records and health statistics recently released by Idaho's Department of Health and Welfare.

The department's Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics' report "Vital Statistics 2012" highlights the most recent statistics and information on the state's population, birth, death, abortion, marriage and divorce rates.

Coeur d'Alene Resort Wedding Planner Becky Johnson said North Idaho is becoming an increasingly popular venue for destination weddings. People have come from as far away as Australia to marry at The Resort, she said. More here. Taryn Thompson, Cda Press

Were you married in Kootenai County?


Hydroplane races hinge on county code

There’s a new hurdle for Coeur d’Alene’s hydroplane races scheduled for Labor Day weekend.

Kootenai County is working on a new review process for hydroplane races on Lake Coeur d’Alene after the county’s community development director determined the land portion of the event isn’t allowed under current code.

David Callahan joined the county in November, after the Coeur d’Alene Diamond Cup’s hydroplane races took place Labor Day weekend. The races were the first on the lake since 1968.

The 2013 hydroplane races were permitted “mostly as an aquatic event,” Callahan said, without much consideration to staging areas on the shore. “I don’t think the county knew much about the land portion of the event. My staff wasn’t fully informed.” More here. Becky Kramer, SR

Do you hope the hydroplane races witll return this summer?

Public Defender Adams Sues County

Kootenai County's public defender filed a $1.5 million claim accusing the county of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Idaho Human Rights Act. County commissioners in March 2013 passed - and soon after rescinded - a resolution that would have ended John Adams' longtime career as the county's public defender. A tort claim filed in September by Adams and his wife, Teresa, alleges commissioners made the decision to fire Adams after he told Commissioner Todd Tondee he was battling cancer. Though the county's three commissioners voted unanimously not to renew Adams' contract that fall, Tondee later told The Press that he was the only one on the board who knew of Adams' medical condition. Their decision generated a groundswell of support for Adams and strong backlash from other attorneys in the community/Taryn Thompson, Coeur d'Alene Press. More here.

Question: Do you think Public Defender Adams has a good case?

County Won’t Say Who Got Paid Off

Kootenai County isn't naming names. Three payments totaling $102,000 were made to undisclosed county employees in a span of three months, according to information the Kootenai County Clerk's Office released Thursday. The bulk of a broad records request The Press submitted to the clerk's office two weeks ago was denied, including a request for names of employees who received the payments as settlements or severance. The records request is one of many The Press has submitted after uncovering large payments the county and its insurer have made to former county employees, including more than $300,000 to a deputy prosecutor. From the limited information The Press has been able to obtain through those requests, it appears former employees have received settlements and severance pay from multiple sources and accounts/Taryn Thompson, Coeur d'Alene Press. More here.

Question: Am I the only one who thinks something stinketh here?

KCSD Drops Boy Scout Charter

The Kootenai County Sheriff's Office let its charter of Boy Scout troop 911 expire at the end of 2013. Tim McCandless, CEO of Boy Scouts of America-Inland Northwest Council, said Northwest Backcountry Rescue is now chartering the troop, starting officially at the first of the year. Kootenai County Sheriff Ben Wolfinger said last year he was considering dropping the sheriff's office chartered troop when Boy Scouts of America ended its membership ban on gay youth. He said then that his Christian faith and the language in the Bible informed his view of homosexuality. "Boy Scout troop 911 is stronger than it has ever been," McCandless said Friday. "It has great adult leadership, a strong charter, and it has been very active." He said the troop has 22 active scouts and 15 volunteer adults. "The troop never stopped meeting," he said. Wolfinger couldn't immediately be reached for comment Friday/David Cole, Coeur d'Alene Press. More here. (File photo: Duane Rasmussen)


ULUC Dilemma Frustrates Planners

Kootenai County is faced with a dilemma concerning the controversial land use code they have spent three years trying to revise - trash it and start over, or try and salvage what they have. The County Planning Commission met with county commissioners in a workshop on Tuesday afternoon to try and resolve that, but to no avail. "I have 53 pages here and we've only gotten through four pages," said Planning Commissioner Linda Fillios. "I guess I didn't expect it would be something like this. I thought we would look at the prospectus and say yes or no. Do we want to continue with this or not?"/Jeff Selle, Coeur d'Alene Press. More here.

Question: Should the county throw the proposed land use code or keep trying to revise it?

County Releases ULUC Plan Fix

Item: Plan to fix ULUC released: Public will get chance to provide input on proposal/Jeff Selle, Coeur d'Alene Press

More here: A 31-page plan to fix Kootenai County's controversial Unified Land Use Code was released Thursday for public review, and commissioners are planning to hold a workshop to decide how to proceed with the proposal. "I want to try and go through this to see how we are going to deal with it," Commissioner Todd Tondee said during a Thursday meeting on the issue. The $5,400 prospectus was developed by the county's land use consultant Kendig Keast Collaborative. It details a plan to overhaul the ULUC. Commissioners want to make it more user friendly by incorporating public input into the document.

Question: Is this a step in the right direction?

Land code cost rises

COEUR d'ALENE - Kootenai County commissioners approved on Tuesday an $89,960 amendment to their contract with Kendig Keast Collaborative to fix the Unified Land Use Code.

The amendment includes an additional $13,000 in optional work, bringing the total new expenditure as high as $102,960.

Responding to a steady stream of public outcry, county commissioners and the County Planning Commission asked the land use consultant in July to prepare a prospectus that would outline how his firm would go about revising the ULUC to incorporate many of the concerns that have arisen with the proposal.

Bret Keast submitted a proposal for that prospectus to the county on Aug. 5, outlining a two-phased approach that he would like to use.

In the first phase, Keast wants to develop a prospectus that would consolidate, reorganize and reformat the ULUC "to the extent necessary and practicable."

His cost for that alone is $5,400. More here. Jeff Selle, Cda Press


County: Can’t Get No (Satisfaction)

Here's what Kootenai County employees said in the "job satisfaction" portion of the recent courthouse survey:

  • I love the work that I do
  • We deal with a lot of crap and get paid crap
  • If I can find something that pays more I won’t hesitate to take it
  • Looking for another job crosses my mind daily
  • Why go out of the way when we don’t have commissioners that support the department
  • Low confidence about job security.
  • Employees have no rights
  • Employees are afraid to be friends or voice their opinions for fear of losing their job
  • I love my job EXCEPT for the pay• Love my job, but I’m on food stamps just to make it

Question: Do you love your job & pay?

County Workers Not HappyHappy

Huckleberries has obtained the results of the recent survey of Kootenai County employees. Judging by summarized remarks, county employees aren't happy. Here's some of the responses when asked about "elected officials":

  • The only elected officials who would have positive marks in this section is the Sheriff
  • County officials do not respect us as employees
  • I hope commissioners and other elected officials will take negative feedback to heart
  • I respect the officials, but not their decisions
  • Elected officials butt heads and the employees pay the price
  • There is no true oversight over the county. Elected officials are free to do whatever they want with little regard to the county as a whole. We have 7 individual kingdoms instead of a unified body of government. This is impacting us more than ever.
  • Some seem to work for the public as a whole, others seem to work to support an ideology regardless of the public’s majority views
  • Elected officials are the reason the county has a horrible morale and such negative workplace right now. Choices they make are not being made to protect and help employees
  • Individually the elected officials have leadership skills. But those are morphed when they get together and the total leadership approach is ineffective

Question: Are these (and other complaints listed in link) merely employees seeing only negative re: their workplace? Or is there something wrong at the Kootenai County Courthouse?

County GOP Dumps Party Purity Test

Item: Republican committee: No vetting: Only two members stood in favor of resolution/Jeff Selle, Coeur d'Alene Press

More Info: Committeeman Bjorn Handeen (pictured) proposed the resolution to establish an endorsement event to endorse candidates for the 2014 election cycle - but only after it was determined that the candidate would abide by the platform. He read a statement from a prepared text that essentially chastised what he called the "Stockholm Syndrome Republicans" who sit on the central committee. "In my six-year engagement with this party, I have noticed there are two types of party activist," he read. "There are those, and I count myself one of them, who see that our country is in rapid decline, and so we are doing our best to organize somewhat of a defense. "But there is another, more common sort of party activist, and you will never catch them doing something useful - unless it is for a liberal news blog, I guess.

Question: So are Bjorn Handeen and Carol Goodman the only true Republicans in Kootenai County?

KCGOPCC Resolution Seeks Purity

Seems some members of the Kootenai County GOP Central Committee aren't satisfied that real Republicans are running in their primaries. On Tuesday, the local Elephants will consider a proposed resolution calling for an ad hoc committee to screen primary candidates to ensure that they're really Republicans (and not Libertarians, Ron Paulers and Constitutionalists, like more than a few precinct committeemen). The resolution reads in part:

  • Whereas, Promotion of the Republican philosophy cannot be done while simultaneously supporting candidates who oppose the Republican philosophy; and
  • Whereas, The KCRCC has failed to show any concern regarding whether or not a Republican candidate has promoted or opposed the Republican philosophy; and
  • Whereas, This failure has created a vacuum that has been filled by special interest grops and the meida, who often obfuscate a candidate's philosophy; and blah, blah, blah (full resolution here).


Question: What do you think of the resolution's attempt to screen GOP primary candidates?

Couple sues Kootenai Co.

COEUR d'ALENE - A North Idaho couple filed a lawsuit against Kootenai County and county officials saying the wife, a county employee, was improperly terminated.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene by the couple's attorney, Larry Beck of Hayden, said the wife, Kathy Pagano, was employed by the county as an accounting clerk in the payroll and accounts payable divisions within the auditor's office.

Pagano and her husband list County Clerk Cliff Hayes, deputy clerk Pat Raffee and finance director Dave McDowell among the defendants.

The lawsuit said Kathy Pagano began work for the county on Aug. 8, 2008, and was diagnosed with serious medical conditions in 2004, 2008 and 2010.

The lawsuit doesn't say what the medical conditions are, but says they cause her to suffer severe intermittent physical pain, difficulty with concentration, memory and sleep.Full story. Cda Press


ULUC Project To Revise Plan

Over the last several months, the Board of County Commissioners and Planning Commission members have carefully listened and heard community concerns regarding moving forward with the current draft of the Kootenai County Unified Land Use Code (ULUC).  In order to proceed with the best possible draft code proposal, the Board and Planning Commission have jointly decided to postpone setting new dates for the continuation of the Planning Commission hearing and deliberation process.  With the assistance of Bret Keast of Kendig Keast Collaborative, the Planning Commission will be reviewing and revising the April 11, 2013 Public Hearing Draft ULUC.  Once complete, another public hearing notice will be published along with a second 60-day comment period.  As previously decided by the Planning Commission, the current comment period during this interim review period will remain open/ULUC Project news release.

Question: Is this decision to postpone new hearing dates and revise ULUC an admission by the planners that they've heard the outcry of the Kootenai County rural residents?

Edit: ULUC Faces Uphill Battle

In its Friday editorial, the Coeur d'Alene Press focuses on three groups that are players in the uproar over the Unified Land Use Code including this one:

The second group includes ideologues whose conspiracy theories have wrapped their tentacles around this issue. They are taxpaying citizens of the county, so they have every right to be heard and their suggestions to be taken seriously, but that's the key. To these folks and their followers, the code is yet another manifestation of insidious governmental intrusion and control. Reasons for distrust vary, but a very loud few are trying to link the Kootenai County land use code to the United Nations' Agenda 21 - a sustainable development plan that many conscientious and scientifically grounded entities around the world have embraced. To these few critics, the county will never generate an acceptable set of rules, so officials would be wise to focus on the third group. Full editorial here.

DFO: Whenever I see the acronym ULUC, I think of the mystical kingdom in the Shrek tale: Duloc. Just sayin'.

Question: Why are some people in this county so paranoid?

County Targets BUI, Drugged Boaters

Josh Sterns, a Kootenai County Sheriff Recreation Safety deputy with answers a boater's question about beaching near Tubbs Hill Thursday while patrolling Lake Coeur d'Alene. (Coeur d'Alene Press photo: Shawn Gust)

Kootenai County Marine deputies will be out in force this weekend looking for boaters under the influence, and if you're caught, you're going to pay. "There is nothing wrong with having alcohol on the boat while you're out here on the lake," said Marine Deputy Josh Sterns. "But if you beach your boat on Tubbs Hill, you need to know that the city's laws apply and it's illegal to have alcohol on that beach." Sterns and his partner, Marine Deputy Bob Bjelland, will join another dozen marine patrol deputies in patrolling all of Kootenai County's navigable lakes this weekend as part of a national emphasis patrol, called Operation Dry Water. The program is an intensified effort of detection and deterrence aimed at boaters who are operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs

Question: Do you see boaters operating under influence when you're out on the waters?

Local R’s Oppose CdA Anti-Bias Law

(Local Republican) Party image was also a concern when Bjorn Handeen (pictured) proposed a resolution to assert the Natural Rights of Contracts and to call on the city of Coeur d'Alene to repeal its anti-discrimination ordinance. He said the resolution was not about gay rights, but rather the freedom for any two parties to willingly enter into a contract or do business with one another. The anti-discrimination ordinance as passed by the city, he said, uses the law to force citizens to do business with someone they might not otherwise choose to do business with. "We don't want to reject gays," Handeen said. "We want to protect their right to do business with whoever they want." Committeeman Duane Rasmussen said he was in favor of the intent of the resolution, but he felt the way it was written would make the committee look "goofy." "This natural rights stuff is going to make us a laughing stock. If not in the public's eyes, it will in the eyes of the legal community," he said. After a lengthy debate and few parliamentary maneuvers to amend the language the resolution passed on nearly a split vote/Jeff Selle, Coeur d'Alene Press. More here.

Question: Izzit just me — or did the local GOP back into this one by asserting some Natural Right of Contracts rather than direct opposition to the city's new antidiscrimination law?

Morse Responds To Censure Attempt

Rep. Ed Morse (pictured), R-Hayden, gave Huckleberries the following letter, which he has asked to be read to the Kootenai County GOP Central Committee prior to a vote on the motion to censure three other legislators and him for supporting a state health exchange. Morse told Huckleberries that the Central Committee chairman and secretary advised him that they wouldn't read the letter tonight. Here's the letter:

Prior to the scheduled censure vote Tuesday, please read this letter into your minutes and provide a copy of this letter to each Central Committee member.  The resolution passed Jan. 2, 2013 by the Central Committee asked for legislators to defy the Obamacare law upheld by the Supreme Court in NFIB v. Sebelius.  I took an oath as a legislator to uphold the law, even ones I disagree with.  The resolution passed by the Central committee preceded the final state bill, so it could not consider the actual House bill provisions.  We agree on our opposition to Obamacare, but we disagree on how best to achieve that. More here.

Question: I can't figure why local Republicans would refuse to read a letter presented by a Republican legislator who's facing a censure resolution. Can you?

Local GOP May Censure 4 Solons

Several Republican state legislators representing Kootenai County districts could receive a public reprimand next week from members of their own political party. When the county's Republican central committee meets on Tuesday, its elected precinct committeemen will consider a resolution that would formally censure Rep. Frank Henderson, Rep. Luke Malek (pictured), Rep. Ed Morse and Sen. John Goedde, because they voted, during the last legislative session, in favor of the creation of a state insurance exchange. "I'm confused as to why they would censure those of us who advocated for and voted for state control," Malek, of Coeur d'Alene, said Friday to The Press. "If you didn't, you were advocating for a federal exchange, which would be far more harmful to Idaho." … The Idaho House of Representatives passed the bill to create the exchange in March, by a vote of 41 to 29/Maureen Dolan, Coeur d'Alene Press. More here. (SR file photo)

Question: Izzit just me or does this censure attempt, coming months after the end of the 2013 Legislature, seem silly to you, too? What is the end game of those behind this attempt?

Mag Spotlights Kootenai ULUC Fight

William F. Jasper of The New American (a biweekly magazine of the John Birch Society) sums up discontent with Kootenai County's Unified Land Use Code, a link to which is posted on Jennifer Locke's Facebook page:

Much of the concern and outrage expressed at the commission meeting by property owners stems from the fact that the new “comprehensive plan,” the ULUC, is more than double the page count of the existing code, and, as might be expected from that expansion, contains many more regulations, prohibitions, restrictions, mitigations, impact fees, permit requirements, and much more. Another common complaint, both from property owners and professionals who regularly deal with these matters, such as realtors, appraisers, consultants, and attorneys, is that the ULUC is vague and confusing, with many terms undefined or ill-defined, opening the door for county administrators, inspectors, and regulators to cite and fine property owners for many normal activities and uses now permitted under the current code. More here. (Caution: the article does swerve off into United Nations commentary)


Local GOP May Censure 4 Legislators

At its meeting Tuesday night (agenda here), the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee will consider a resolution to censure four Kootenai County legislators who voted for the controversial state health exchange, favored by Gov. Butch Otter in response to Obamacare. Here's the resolution that will be considered:

Whereas, the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee (KCRCC) voted overwhelmingly against the establishment of a State Insurance Exchange; and Whereas, several of our elected officials ignored the will of the majority of the KCRCC, and those who attended the KCRCC hosted legislative hall meetings, and voted in favor of the Exchange; therefore Resolved, the KCRCC formally censures Representative Frank Henderson, Representative Luke Malke, Representative Ed Morse, and Senator John Goedde.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Kootenai County Administrative Building, 451 Government Way, Coeur d'Alene.

Question: Am I the only one who considers this action extreme?

Local GOP May Oppose Anti-Bias Law

At its meeting Tuesday night (agenda here), the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee will consider a resolution asking the Coeur d'Alene City Council to repeal the recent passage of the controversial antidiscrimination ordinance that extends human rights protections to gays. Here's the resolution that will be considered:

Whereas, there exists no natural right to make a contract with an unwilling private person, no matter what that person's motivation for refusing that contract; and, whereas, the right to make contracts is therefore always a right to enter into binding agreements such as employment or rental contracts only with willing second parties; and, whereas, a municipal anti-discrimination ordinance confers the right to make contracts with unwilling parties and to "enforce" those contracts in court; therefore, resolved, the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee considers the City of Coeur d'Alene's recently adopted anti-discrimination ordinance to be a violation of the people's natural right to make free contracts, and resolved, the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee recommends that the Coeur d'Alene City Council secure the natural freedoms of its citizens by repealing said ordinance.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Kootenai County Administrative Building, 451 Government Way, Coeur d'Alene.


Letter: Why We Fear ULUC

John Boothe of Cataldo wrote this letter to the Coeur d'Alene Press:

I believe everyone who attended the prematurely adjourned ULUC hearing Monday, June 17 probably walked away with a somewhat sour taste in their mouths. What I witnessed as a rural property owner and current non-participant in the county political system was a strong desire of other rural property owners to express themselves at a “functional meeting” which wasn’t designed for that purpose. Of the opinions that managed to get expressed, the content was varied, but I believe the theme behind each message was common. We, Kootenai County residents, are scared. We fear the imposed regulation of a document that we can’t understand. I’m sure the authors of this code, and perhaps the planning commission, can understand the structure and verbiage just fine, and their intentions are honorable. However, we, the common folk, can’t grasp the content. I personally have tried and failed. More here.

Question: Should a planning document be as complicated as, say, the federal tax code?

County Mulls Alternative Jail Option

A Ketchum, Idaho, company wants to build a 621-bed jail in Kootenai County in the next two years and lease it to the county to give the sheriff’s office the relief it long has sought from jail crowding and the cost of housing inmates in neighboring counties. The county likely would spend less on jail operations than it does now with a more efficient building and extra cells to rent to other jurisdictions, according to a pitch Facilities Management LLC/Rocky Mountain Corrections made Wednesday to county commissioners. The county will spend around $900,000 this year alone to keep about 65 inmates in jails elsewhere – an expense that will vanish, said J. Walt Femling, company president and the former sheriff of Blaine County in the Sun Valley area. The design also would enable the county to run the new jail with fewer employees and overtime costs, Femling said/Scott Maben, SR. More here. (SR photo: Tyler Tjomsland, of inmates at Kootenai County Jail)

Question: Sounds like a pretty good idea to me. How about you?

ULUC Hearings Up In The Air

Kootenai County officials went back to the drawing board Tuesday after failing in their first attempt to hold planning commission hearings on the controversial Unified Land Use Code proposal Monday evening. "The meeting didn't go exactly as planned," Community Development Director Scott Clark told the board of county commissioners. "We had a big crowd, bigger than expected. It was a pretty busy place." Coeur d'Alene Fire personnel interrupted the hearing Monday night to inform the county planning commission that it was over capacity in its meeting room and said that many of the attendees would have to leave. Planning Commission Chairman Wes Hanson opted to adjourn and continue the Monday hearing "to a date uncertain" rather than asking half the attendees to leave. There will be no more hearings this week/Jeff Selle, Coeur d'Alene Press. More here.'

  • Larry Spencer: "Seems the property owners have come to understand that this "wonderful new code" is really just a transfer of control and use of their property to the planning department."

Question: Obviously, organized opposition is going to greet every meeting held to discuss the Unified Land Use Code. At this point, are these hearings an exercise in futility? What would you do if you sat in a county commissioner's seat?

Angry Crowd Closes ULUC Meeting

It was powder keg that darn near went off in the Kootenai County Courthouse Monday night. Luckily, the Coeur d'Alene Fire Department was able to snuff the fuse by informing the Kootenai County Planning Commission that its meeting was over capacity, so it was canceled. But not before a few sparks went off.  Pressure started building in 2010 after Kootenai County adopted a new comprehensive plan and decided to update its land use codes to enforce the new plan. As the proposal was being developed, county officials met with several community groups, advisory groups and affected land owners to explain their intentions. Still, after years of meetings, it became apparent during a forum on the subject earlier this month that many county residents are still frustrated. That all came to a head Monday night/Jeff Selle, Coeur d'Alene Press. More here. (Press photo: Nearly 300 people turned out for the Kootenai County Planning Commission's hearing on its proposed Unified Land Use Code)

Commenter Bob Ely: "Those of us who live in the county are quite concerned that the county commissioners are going to ram this ill conceived plan down our throats. Note to commissioners: go back to the drawing board."

Question: What percentage of the public do you think is concerned re: the proposed new land-use code?

ULUCode Hearings Set This Week

The Kootenai County Planning Commission will start holding public hearings on the county's controversial new land use code this week. Staring Monday the commission will hold hearings on each chapter of the Unified Land Use Code and take public input into consideration before it makes a decision on whether to recommend adoption. The county has spent several years developing the new code and the final draft was released for review 60 days ago. Copies of the proposed draft ULUC may be viewed:

Question: Are you interested in the land-use code hearings that will take place this week?