Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Huckleberries Online

Mary: To the victors go the spoils

In her latest newsletter Mary Souza writes:

You might remember that on Dec. 6, 2013, the CdA Press ran an article announcing that Jack Riggs is buying the Coeur Building on Front street, right across from McEuen Park. It is right next to the parking lot on Front Street owned by KXLY.
You also probably remember that Jack Riggs owns the Pita Pit downtown and its franchises all over the West, and his life partner/wife?, Sandi Patano, used to be former US Senator Larry Craig’s North Idaho representative. Mayor Steve Widmyer told me that Jack and Sandi ran his campaign. Both Jack and Sandi were strongly in favor of all the spending on McEuen, even the original plan for up to $40 million, and were very outspoken against any public vote on that spending and against allowing citizens to vote on the Recall in 2012.
Now McEuen’s big renovation is underway and Jack is buying one of the key properties along the “pearl necklace” fronting McEuen Park. My theory is that Jack needs more parking as well as more land for future development (condo building?). What better way to solve the problem than a tunnel access to the parking structure paid for by the taxpayers, without a vote. Watch for his probable purchase of the KXLY parking lot on Front St.  More below
Also on Dec. 17, 2013, the CdA City Council made the final move in their plan to close Front Street between 2nd and 3rd , which is right in between the Resort and the Plaza Shops. This all started about a year ago and now, after the election, the last details are being finalized. They said it is for “public safety” reasons.
So let’s review the Big Boys standing like a pearl necklace around McEuen: Starting at the east end of the park, after City Hall and the Library, are the two Miller-Stauffer condo buildings of McEuen Terrace and Parkside Tower (remember Miller-Stauffer are the paid architects for the Park renovation plan). Continuing to move east to west, comes the Coeur Building that Jack Riggs is buying, then the parking lot which was granted underground tunnel access, owned by KXLY unless Jack has already purchased it. Next are the parking lots behind Crickets and near the bank, which are owned by Steve Meyer and Charlie Nipp’s LLC and were granted, by City Council, the first underground tunnel access to the new public parking structure (this was approved after midnight last year when the enormous audience left the LGBT ordinance hearing, with only a handful of people still present for the tunnel decision.) Next is a building owned by our new mayor, Steve Widmyer, then one owned by John Montandon (the city took away the long-time driveway into John’s building on Front Street --John supported the Recall-- but they let Nipp/Meyer bank property keep theirs). Continuing east is the Hagadone grouping of Quicksilver Photography, the Plaza Shops and the Resort, now with the closed-off street in between.
There’s nothing wrong with buying a building or requesting a street closure or any of these things. But the timing is suspect, right after the election and right before the old guard retired, and these decisions were accomplished in back rooms before they ever saw the light of day. That’s what undermines the public’s trust in government.
Transparency seems to be just a game to some of these power players: How creative can you be in dodging the public’s knowledge of your actions, all the while giving lip service to openness in government.
Another case-in-point is the highly political group Balance North Idaho, headed up by Eden Irgens. Their mantra is about balance, transparency and fairness in non-partisan elections, but their legally required campaign reporting shows just the opposite. BNI’s post-election report shows that EVERY BIT of the nearly $10,000 they spent to support the Widmeyer, Evans, Miller and McEvers slate of candidates, went to Range NW, a private business owned by the same Eden Irgens and her partner Adam Graves. And they don’t have to tell anyone how they used that money.
The whole reason for campaign reporting is to show who donated money and how the money was spent. These legal reports are even nicknamed “Sunshine Reports”, obviously to shine a light on campaign honesty. Transparency in government is important and we, as citizens, have a right to know.
The Dalai Lama said, "A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity." So let me express my hope and prayer for our new Mayor and Council, that they will respect the citizens and heal the divides by cleaning up the back room methods and bringing sunshine into the process. I’m glad to hear Mayor Widmyer is questioning the McEuen Park timeline and spending, trying to keep it accountable.
Another testing ground for our new Mayor will be committee/commission/ board appointments. During the campaign, Steve agreed these city panels should be made up of independent people who represent the whole town. He told me the same during our after-election coffee, and even referred specifically to LCDC. Now it happens that Deanna Goodlander, our former city council person who has been on the LCDC for 10 years, is coming up for renewal in another week or so. Steve has to say yes or no to her 5-year reappointment to LCDC. Will he follow through on his campaign promise? Will he thank Deanna for her service and appoint someone else who is not part of the Good old Boys? (We all know she’s “their girl”.) It will be very interesting to watch and I hope Steve comes through like he said. It would give me, and a great number of other citizens, some serious hope for the future of this city.
Let’s have more sunshine and more kept promises in 2014!

Huckleberries Online

D.F. Oliveria started Huckleberries Online on Feb. 16, 2004. Oliveria's Sunday print Huckleberries is a past winner of the national Herb Caen Memorial Column contest.