Latest from The Spokesman-Review
Shoshone County taxpayers reached a notable conclusion in the May 21 election: More government won't mean more economic opportunity and prosperity. I suspect that advocates of urban renewal will try again. I'm more hopeful that advocates of urban renewal in other parts of the state, including those in Nampa, will take note: If your project is so wonderful, you ought to have no trouble presenting it to voters. Voters in Shoshone County rejected the creation of a new urban renewal agency by a 3-1 margin. The electorate simply didn't buy the sales pitch about the urban renewal agency and its related promise of “jobs, jobs, jobs”/Wayne Hoffman, Idaho Freedom Foundation. More here.
A funny thing happened to Silver Valley residents on their way to a decision on whether or not they want an Urban Renewal Agency (URA) in their county. They've heard from their neighbors to the west, including two elected officials angry over Coeur d'Alene's agency and its investment in McEuen Field. The newest change to urban renewal law requires approval from local residents before their elected officials can form a URA. Previously, in over four dozen cities and at least one county, those officials needed only proof of deterioration within their boundaries to authorize the URA and appoint its members. As a result of the law change, Shoshone County Commissioners have scheduled a vote on the issue for this Tuesday. What they could never have imagined was the interference of residents outside the Valley, but that is exactly what has happened/John Austin, Coeur d'Alene Press op-ed article. More here. (Idaho Legislature photo: Rep. Kathy Sims)
Question: Should state Rep. Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d'Alene, and Coeur d'Alene Councilman Dan Gookin be trying to export their anti-urban renewal philosophy to the economically depressed Silver Valley?
JohnA (re: Idaho Freedom Foundation opposes Shoshone County urban renewal agency): Well, I guess it is time that I opined on this issue, since I am under contract with Shoshone County to help them create an urban renewal agency. The fact is that the county commissioners have a chance with their private partners in the Big Creek area, Sunshine and Crescent Mines and Essential Metals silver refinery, to rebuild Big Creek Road from I-90 to the Sunshine and thereby fix the deficiencies in the road. The net gain is over 300 high paying jobs, which makes this the exact purpose of urban renewal in the first place. After intrusions from those who don't live in the county, in particular Kathy Sims from CDA, we tried to give the correct facts last night in Kellogg. Then, we heard from Sharon Culbreth and our own Dan Gookin, both of whom said it was a bad idea to help the county to create 300 mining jobs at Sunshine. Now, no one in the crowd was a rich realtor or best selling author, but they clearly knew from the onset that the Silver Valley needs these jobs to grow their economy and some clearly resented this intrusion from the west. More below.
Question: Should anti-urban renewal types from Kootenai County stick their noses into the debate re: an urban renewal agency proposal in Shoshone County?
The transformation of midtown continues with the proposed 2012 construction of a mix-use retail and housing development along the Coeur d'Alene corridor. The Housing Company, developer of the proposed project, will provide an update to midtown stakeholders and the general public March 14 at 6 p.m. at the American Legion, 754 N. 4th Street, across from the site. In its continuing midtown revitalization efforts, the Lake City Development Corporation plans to partner with the Idaho Housing and Finance Association and The Housing Company for the mix-use development to promote the business environment in the sector and facilitate development of new workforce housing. The proposed project will include 9,000-square-feet of commercial space on the street level and 45 workforce residential rental units on three floors above/Keith Erickson for Lake City Development Corp.
Question: Do you support ongoing efforts to redevelopment Coeur d'Alene's Midtown area?
Rep. Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d’Alene, has had a rough go of it with one of her bills this year. With the session winding down and about two weeks to go before the final gavel drops for the year, Sims, for the second time in the last few weeks, pitched her bill to force urban renewal districts to hold elections for their oversight boards. And, for the second time this session, the bill was held in committee. As it stands now, commissioners are either chosen by a city council, a mayor or county commissioners, depending on how the urban renewal agency is set up. Sims believes that because the agencies handle millions of public dollars, they should be accountable to local residents. That, she says, would be achieved through direct election of oversight commissioners/Dustin Hurst, Idaho Reporter. More here.
Question: Does Rep. Kathy Sims' extreme anti-urban renewal bills reflect yours?
Urban renewal might not be popular with Idaho’s legislators, but lawmakers aren’t ready to eliminate the districts just yet. After two days of testimony, the House Local Government Committee voted 5-4 Tuesday to hold a bill that would eliminate urban renewal districts in Idaho. During the testimony, the committee heard arguments for and against the bill. Former state Sen. Rachel Gilbert of Boise called urban renewal “food stamps for businesses.” “I’ve watched urban renewal districts grow across this state. There are now 70 urban renewal districts across the state of Idaho,” Gilbert said. Those districts took $52 million from the property tax base in Idaho, she said, adding that the free market should determine which businesses succeed/Melissa Davlin, Twin Falls Times-News. More here.
Question: Would you like to see urban renewal districts eliminated altogether in Idaho?
While other lawmakers are running legislation to put limits on urban renewal agencies, one lawmaker wants to pass a law completely removing authorization for them. Rep. Robert Schaefer, R-Nampa, introduced a bill Thursday in the House Local Government Committee that would entirely repeal Idaho’s urban renewal law and require debts incurred by the agencies be retired. This is the second time Schaefer has pushed a bill like this. He attempted it last year, but the measure didn’t make it out of committee. The Nampa Republican is pushing the bill to send more money back to school districts, highway agencies and fire departments/Dustin Hurst, Idaho Reporter. More here.
Question: Remember the good old days when Idaho Republicans supported improved infrastructure and community development?
Question: Do you support both LCDC moves — pledging $11.5 million for McEuen Field work and hiring a PR person?
For the second time in the last two years, the House Local Government Committee introduced a slate of urban renewal reform bills, though fewer measures are coming forth this time around. Rep. Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d’Alene, brought a retooled bill to force urban renewal agency commissioners to be elected to serve. It would, however, only apply to urban renewal districts created after July 1, 2012. Existing districts would still be able to choose how members are named to their oversight boards. “Having the board stand for election will have them be more accountable than what they are,” Sims said/Idaho Reporter. More here.
Question: Do you agree with Rep. Kathy Sims' legislation, attacking urban renewal law?
In this 2007 SR file photo, developer John Stone stands in his burgeoning Riverstone development. Riverstone, the large multi-use development off Northwest Boulevard at Coeur d'Alene's western entrance, has been hit hard by the long recession.
John Stone has agreed, somewhat reluctantly, to be interviewed by North Idaho Business Journal at 11 a.m. on 11/11/11. He shows up at Starbucks, right on time, a Riverstone promotional packet in hand and a countenance on his serious face as gray as the November skies. It is the look of a man who devoted much of his time and more of his treasure to create and then shape this project over a dozen years, yet as he walks through the front door of the coffee shop he looks anything but triumphant/Mike Patrick, North Idaho Business Journal writer. More here.
Question: What are the most attractive facets of Riverstone for you?
A new study by the Idaho Freedom Foundation shows levy rates for the city of Dover would be half what they are if not for urban renewal projects in the rural panhandle town. Since 2005, the year the Dover Urban Renewal Agency formed, levy rates in the city of Dover have risen 12.7 percent, in spite of property value increasing over 300 percent. This increased tax burden is being placed on residents of Dover because of the city’s need to increase revenues for services in conjunction with urban renewal projects/Erik Makrush, Idaho Freedom Foundation. More here.
Question: Do you support the concept of urban renewal?
In responding to a Coeur d'Alene Press letter to the editor today in which Steve Adams calls urban renewal “fascist,” Councilman Mike Kennedy writes on his Facebook wall: “Ever wonder why some people aren't taken seriously? Steve Adams says Urban Renewal is 'fascist.' Steve is an unsuccessful former candidate for city council and now he is saying the only economic development tool the state legislature allows cities in Idaho to use is 'fascist'? Really, Steve? Come on.”
Question: Would you vote for a City Council candidate who not only disagrees with the concept of urban renewal but goes as far as to say it's 'fascist'?
As you recall, County Clerk Cliff Hayes circulated a press release April 5. (You can read Huckleberries Online post here.) If you follow the link above and go to the comments section, you can find three questions that Councilman Mike Kennedy asked Hayes (at 10:29) and Hayes response via email to Huckleberries Online (at 11:46) — and ultimately a follow-up posting that Mike made (12:42) asking for three specific types of information. Here's Hayes response directly to Kennedy afterward: “To (sic) much data to research and supply. The tax numbers were before our computer system on many items before the URD’s were formed. Would be a large dollar amount to calculate. Let me know if you want an amount. If you want to come in and look at data you are welcome. The citizens who requested the data were requesting current tax distributions, not many years ago. Call me if you would like to discuss.”
Wanna know how close-minded Kathy Sims, R-OpenCDA.com, is when it comes to urban renewal? During the long-running Idaho Legislature debate on six bills sponsored by Sims, Hart, and other anti-urban renewal legislators, Mayor Sandi Bloem sent an SOS to Idaho legislators, urging: “Please support economic development in Idaho.” Sims received one of those letters. She responded angrily to the Her Sandiness: “Mayor Bloom (sic), You are wrong on all issues. You will see these bills every year till they pass.” (You can see Sims' response by click on this link here.) As you know, only one of the six anti-urban renewal bills passed this year. Which sez to me that Sims, Hart, and other anti-urban renewal solons were out-of-step even with a radical Idaho House of Reps.
- You can read Mayor “Bloom's” letters of opposition to urban renewal bills here.
The information contained in Mr. Hayes’ email today regarding estimated urban renewal tax increment receipts for the 2010 tax year are higher than the fiscal year 2011 LCDC district budget tax increment receipts adopted by the LCDC Board last August (please refer to 8/18/10 LCDC Board Minutes). Assuming everyone pays their taxes, Mr. Hayes’ documents show $3.9 million of estimated tax increment revenue for the LCDC Lake District ($3.1 million per FY2011 LCDC budget), and $1.7 million of estimated tax increment revenue for the LCDC River District ($1.4 million per FY2011 LCDC budget). The primary reason for the variance in Mr. Hayes’ values and the LCDC budget values is that LCDC has to use projected increment valuations and estimated taxing district levy rates when setting the budget in August of each year/Tony Berns, executive director/Lake City Development Corp. More here.
Rep. Kathy Sims, R-Coeur d'Alene, proposed legislation to require county-wide elections for urban renewal boards. “I can't believe that I'm finally here and I'm finally talking about urban renewal,” she told the House Local Government Committee. “It's been on my mind for many years. … To a great extent urban renewal taxpayer dollars have been abused by many throughout the state. … That's what happens when the law is incorrectly written - predators move in and they exploit its good intentions”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.
- 6 of 7 urban renewal bills introduced
- Nampa legislator: Don't need urban renewal if people carry guns
- Local Government panel convenes for first time, takes up urban renewal
Question: Should urban renewal law in Idaho be reined in, dumped altogether, or left alone?
A report released today identifies an estimated $52 million of tax dollars being diverted from local taxing districts to pay for government-selected projects with little economic benefit. Cato Institute Senior Policy Analyst Randal O'Toole wrote the report for the Idaho Freedom Foundation. The Cato Institute is a Washington, D.C.-based free market public policy research organization. “The report confirms Idaho's urban renewal districts are out of control, and the Legislature needs to act to fix the problem before it becomes even worse,” said Idaho Freedom Foundation Executive Director Wayne Hoffman/Idaho Freedom Foundation. More here.
Question: Do you agree with Wayne Hoffman that “Idaho's urban renewal districts are out of control”?
Some Idaho lawmakers are looking to put new limits on urban renewal districts, which are special taxing areas that divert some property tax dollars from traditional areas such as schools and local government to fund development and business projects. Several lawmakers got a dose about the potential problems of urban renewal at a presentation by Randall O’Toole with the Cato Institute that was sponsored by the Idaho Freedom Foundation. O’Toole said he doesn’t think urban renewal is necessary and can harm cities efforts to grow/Brad Iverson-Long, Idaho Reporter. More here.
Question: Is urban renewal important to help Idaho cities develop?
Councilman Mike Kennedy has compiled a number of reactions to proposed changes to McEuen Field, including this one that reads in part: “I think funding is very crucial to this and I believe it should be part of the discussion now. That is so no one is concerned that their taxes will go up at on account of the construction. I think this is very crucial as I noted above. I don't think it is too soon to reveal the sources of the funding, including the bonding authority of LCDC, its 12-year remaining life, and also the other sources of funding (i.e. the Parking Fund reserve, any Water and Wastewater funds that will be used for those improvements, street funds for reconstructing Front Avenue (including impact fees), parks impact fees, and any others I may not have considered. The plan will gain momentum if people actually think (as I know) that there are funds available to make much of it happen.” You can read the many other responses here.
Question: Have you bothered to fill out the online questionnaire re: your response to proposed changes to McEuen Field that were revealed earlier this month by Team McEuen?
One of my many Berry Pickers nabbed a site schematic of the possible boat launch proposed by the city of Coeur d'Alene at the new Education Corridor, to possibly replace the Third Street boat launch. To get perspective, the buildings on the northern part of this plan comprise the wastewater treatment plant. The launch is proposed to take up 3 acres of the 17 acres in the Education Corridor.
Question: What do you think?
More Info: The written surveys say 75 percent of its 133 responders approve of the project, and 17 percent disagree with 8 percent no response. Online reaction is slightly lower, but still positive, the team said. From the first 358 online responders, 66 percent overall agree with the plan, and 29 disagree, with 5 percent no response.
Question: The survey results seem to fly in the face of online polls and comments. Is it possible that there's wide-spread community support to overhaul McEuen Field?
- Weekend Poll: Overwhelmingly, Hucks Online readers want any significant changes proposed by Team McEuen and city leader to be put to a public vote. 145 of 232 respondents (62.5%) said they wanted a public vote on proposed changes. 85 of 232 (36.6%) didn't support a public vote. 2 respondents were undecided.
- Today's Poll: Do you want the American Legion baseball diamond to remain on McEuen Field?
More Info: The American Legion said it was left out when it came to planning McEuen Field. They were, city officials said on Monday, but by accident. The American Legion wasn't represented in the 21-person steering committee that comprised various stakeholders in charge of helping craft the conceptual plan for revamping the downtown 20-acre park. An American Legion Baseball representative was appointed, Dennis Spencer, but a breakdown in communication prevented word of planning progress from getting back to the American Legion. (SR file photo: Jesse Tinsley, of a play at home plate involving the local American Legion team on McEuen Field.)
Question: Should the American Legion Baseball field remain on McEuen Field?
If this dream were to become reality, McEuen Field would be no longer. In its place: a 20-acre destination park designed from the ground up to serve “the greatest number of uses for the greatest number of people, of all ages and abilities, throughout all seasons,” according to the mission statement of Team McEuen, the four-person crew of engineers, architects and a landscape designer tasked with the park redesign. This is McEuen Park, and it’s a radical departure from the fields, fences, lights and blacktop found between Front Avenue and the base of Tubbs Hill. The city boat launch, American Legion Baseball Field, softball fields and parking lots would make way for walkways, water features, public spaces and a variety of sport courts/Jacob Livingston, SR. More here. (SR file photo of McEuen Field softball diamond: Dan Pelle)
- An open house and discussion of the proposal will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday in Lake Coeur d'Alene Room of North Idaho College Student Union Building.
Question: What is your biggest concern re: the overhaul proposed for McEuen Field?
It’s always hard to get something out of candidate debates that using a format like the League of Women Voters did Wednesday night. Brief opening. A coupla questions that may or may not be of interest. Little interaction between candidates. Then short closing remarks. It allows incumbents to skate through the process because they know the material better than their opponents. But last night a nugget popped out in the closing minutes of a House District 4 debate when Republican Kathy Sims voiced her disgust that Lake City Development Corp. controlled so much tax money at a time when local and state government is short of revenue. It was obvious that she was in the CAVEr corner when it comes to urban renewal. Democrat Paula Marano, pictured, deftly countered Sims’ short statement by gesturing at the community room and noting that LCDC money helped build the library and many other wonderful assets in the community. Indeed.
Question: Do you want a Coeur d’Alene representative who backs or opposes current urban renewal legislation?
Overall, the urban renewal agency is anticipating a $5.4 million budget, with roughly $2 million of its expected expenditures geared to go to capital enhancements for a possible reconstruction project of McEuen Field and improvements to portions of the education corridor near the North Idaho College campus/Tom Hasslinger, Coeur d’Alene Press. More here.
Question: Is $2M enough money to overhaul McEuen Field and begin improving Education Corridor?
Cannon Hill Industries has torn down the Parkside Bistro, at the northeast edge of City Park. On Tuesday, workers stripped the inside of the popular tavern. Alison Boggs told HucksOnline a few minutes ago that nothing’s left of the building but a slab and debris now — and the debris is being quickly removed. Alison will provide HBO and SR readers with more info after she contacts City Attorney Mike Gridley.
The Idaho Supreme Court has upheld a Rexburg urban renewal project in a case that was being closely watched by urban renewal agencies around the state. In a unanimous ruling authored by Justice Joel Horton, the high court upheld a 7th District Court ruling rejecting a challenge to the project by Rexburg resident Kenneth Hart, who contended it was unconstitutional. Hart acted as his own attorney in the district court case, but was represented by attorney John Runft in the Supreme Court appeal.
At issue was a $6.3 million revenue allocation bond issue to fund a project including a public pool, community center and sports fields. Hart argued that a court couldn’t grant the Rexburg Urban Renewal Agency permission for the bond issue because the agency was just an “alter ego” of the city, and the city’s ability to go into debt is limited by the Idaho Constitution. The court held that “urban renewal agencies are not the ‘alter egos’ of cities under the law,” so the bond issue wasn’t unconstitutional. Nine urban renewal agencies filed amicus briefs siding with the Rexburg urban renewal agency; you can read the Supreme Court decision here.