It’s not hard to figure out what our issues are. We all know them: growth, traffic, taxes, housing, spending. They’re not insurmountable, but they must be addressed. And they must be given careful, thoughtful consideration, taking into account not only the immediate effect of what we do, but what it means for the future.
Undoubtedly the number one issue facing Coeur d’ Alene is the projected growth of the city. Estimates for population are in the range of 80,000 over the next ten to twenty years. What will the city look like then? Will the lake be ringed with 10 and 15 story buildings? Will Highway 95 or Ramsey be an apartment house corridor? Will Sherman Avenue be filled with cookie cutter stores and fast food franchises? Do we have to accept that growth as a fait accompli?
It’s my position that any such changes would effectively ruin the city. So we must preserve our residential look and feel, and protect against attempts to change zoning regulations that would change residential housing to commercial or allow large apartment houses to be built. We do need more housing, and apartments are a part of that mix, but the must reflect the look and feel of the community. Smaller units, lower heights / fewer stories will better match the look and feel of the city. Lower and wide, with air between buildings, rather than tall and narrow. Setbacks from the street, trees and vegetation to provide a calming influence.
In addition, it is our decision as to whether the city should grow. The growth projections for the city and Kootenai County are based on estimates that are heavily influenced by developers and city planners, with minimal input from the public. There is no reason for us to accept these plans as written in stone. The public can certainly decide to put a limit on population growth, by deciding what type and how much housing we permit.
Yes, the traffic is getting worse. While it doesn’t yet look like Seattle or San Francisco, it’s clear that the situation is worsening. The city doesn’t have control over a lot of the roads, some of which are managed by the state. But it can certainly work with the state and other municipalities for solutions. The mayor should also require traffic studies done for any sizable new development, whether commercial or residential. We’ve already seen once council meeting this session where Coeur d’ Alene annexed land for commercial and residential use without an accompanying traffic impact study.
We must also consider simpler solutions to traffic issues, such as planting trees along roads to slow traffic speeds, painting intersections, the installation of round-abouts, and timed signals that account for the number of vehicles waiting at an intersection or light.
It’s fair to say that the city’s finances appear to be in good shape, and I’m happy that we are not facing a tax increase in the next year’s budget. To assure that we remain financially stable, I am proposing a Forensic Audit of the city’s finances. With the change in administration, it’s the ideal time to conduct such an audit. It will give us the opportunity to examine the finances in great detail, without it becoming a political football.
What is a forensic audit? A forensic audit is an examination and evaluation of a firm's or individual's financial records. While forensic audits are often used to uncover criminal activity, I want to emphasize at the start that is not my purpose. My goal here is to emulate on a local scale what President Reagan did when he created the Private Sector Survey on Cost Control (PSSCC), commonly referred to as The Grace Commission. I’m sure we all remember the $600 hammers, or the $1100 toilet seats that the report exposed. I’m not sure we’d find anything like that here, but I’m certain we can uncover some better ways to do things, better ways to allocate funds, some inefficiencies that are overlooked. What we’re looking for are ways in which we can save the taxpayer money.
I’m working out the details on this now, with a team of consultants. Our first priority is to have this done by the private sector, and to not spend any taxpayer money. I’ll release more details as we get closer to a final plan.
I applaud the city’s construction of the parking garage on 4th Street, and the development of new lots near the carousel. With more congested streets, it’s going to be increasingly important to continue such efforts. Let’s also remember that Coeur d’ Alene is for its residents, and while we welcome the yearly influx of visitors, we must keep the downtown accessible to those that pay the taxes that build this town. In that area, I am opposed to residents having to pay parking fees.
Let me know what’s important to you.
I want to hear from you. Please let me know what issues concern you, and how I can help. Share your ideas!
To help prevent spam, please answer this math question:
What is 5+1?