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CdA council incumbent Gookin says he demands answers, while challenger Pereira says he’s ineffective

UPDATED: Thu., Oct. 31, 2019

Michael Pereira, left, is challenging incumbent Coeur d’Alene City Councilman Dan Gookin’s re-election bid in the November 2019 election. (Nina Culver / The Spokesman-Review)
Michael Pereira, left, is challenging incumbent Coeur d’Alene City Councilman Dan Gookin’s re-election bid in the November 2019 election. (Nina Culver / The Spokesman-Review)

Coeur d’Alene City Councilman Dan Gookin says it’s his job to push for transparency.

“I am the councilman who asks the tough questions,” he said. “I believe in transparency. I believe I represent the common people. My goal for my next term is we need to preserve the character and charm of the city.”

But Gookin’s challenger in his re-election bid, Michael Pereira, says Gookin is ineffective.

“The seat itself right now, it’s a lot of no and dissent,” he said. “There’s not a good working relationship with the rest of the council. Even if you disagree, you need to have a good working relationship. Otherwise, it’s ineffective, nothing gets done.”

Pereira ran unsuccessfully for a state Senate seat last year.

“It was my first run ever,” he said. “I thought it went well. I made a lot of connections. This one is obviously more community-oriented.”

He was appointed to serve on the city’s Design Review Commission three years ago, has been involved in various community groups and is a past president of the Coeur Group, a business organization for young people.

Pereira said now that his children are older, he’s ready to run for City Council.

“I just love giving back where I can,” he said. “I’ve always had politics in my blood as far as what I wanted to do. There’s a lot of good stuff going on in Coeur d’Alene, but there’s a lot of things going on that we need to work on.”

He said the city’s growth, traffic, lack of affordable housing and shortage of high-paying jobs are key issues that need to be addressed.

“Growth entails a bazillion different things,” he said. “Growth is infrastructure, growth is traffic, growth is affordable housing. That is the biggest issue by far.”

He said he’s glad to see the city working on a comprehensive plan. “That’s going to have to be a collaborative effort,” he said.

When Gookin was first elected to the council he pledged to serve only two terms. He said he’s violating that pledge because the people who encouraged him to run in the first place asked him to stay.

“We’re here because they asked me back,” he said. “They know I’m a champion for protecting and conserving historic Coeur d’Alene. I’m willing to do that because people want that.”

Gookin’s first unsuccessful run for City Council was in 2007. He ran again in 2009 and lost by a handful of votes. His third attempt was successful. At the time, Gookin was pushing for a public vote on the remodel of McEuen Park and often voted against the project once he was elected.

Now that the improvements are complete, Gookin said he likes the park.

“It’s nice,” he said. “It was never a question if the park needed improvement.”

Since then he’s also pushed back against the Atlas Mill project, a plan to make the former lumber mill into a waterfront park with urban renewal funding.

“I wanted a public vote on the Atlas Mill project,” he said.

He’s also not supportive of how the city has been using urban renewal money, which has been used for a range of public projects like McEuen Park and the Kroc Center. He said he believes it should be used to create jobs.

“Our urban renewal has been used to build projects,” he said. “There’s other funding mechanisms. Urban renewal is convenient because it avoids a public vote and I object to that. The public has a right to vote on these projects.”

The need for well-paying jobs is a problem, Gookin said.

“Everyone says that it’s growth,” he said. “People work here but can’t afford to live here. That’s really the biggest problem we have.”

Gookin said he’s also running again because he wants to help create a plan for 2021, when tax money will stop being diverted to urban renewal projects and instead revert to the city. “We need to make sure there’s a plan for this money,” he said. “Weirdly enough, I’m the only candidate talking about that.”

He said he’d like to see the increase in revenue spent on streets, the police department and the fire department. “That’s the priority,” he said.

Pereira was born in Sacramento and has lived in Coeur d’Alene since his sophomore year in high school and graduated from Lake City High School in 1996. He earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from the University of Idaho in 1991.

His first job was in the Silver Valley, working on the Superfund cleanup with TerraGraphics for five years. He moved to Boise and did real estate transaction due diligence work with Terracon, then moved to Salt Lake City to do work for the same company.

He also worked for the Utah Department of Environmental Quality before moving back to Coeur d’Alene in 2008. He was a minority owner of Allwest Testing and Engineering for five years and has worked as an environmental risk officer for Umpqua Bank for the last six years.

Pereira said there needs to be better communication between the council and the community and the the council needs to listen to input. He said he believes his background and willingness to collaborate make him a good candidate.

“It’s a public servant position,” he said. “It’s not about my opinion. It’s about what the public wants to do.”

Gookin grew up in San Diego and studied communication, psychology and theatrical design at the University of California, San Diego. “I wanted to do set design in Hollywood,” he said.

When he graduated, he couldn’t find a communications job and turned to writing and was published in a computer magazine. “It blossomed into a career that blossomed into the ‘For Dummies’ series,” he said.

Gookin said he’s written about 20 titles and some require frequent updates, such as “Word for Dummies.” His latest, “Running for Local Office for Dummies,” came out in August. He’s also been teaching online learning classes with LinkedIn for the last five years.

He did manage to work in some set design along the way. He was artistic director at the Lake City Playhouse from 1997 to 2002.

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