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January 14, 2012

Urban Renewal – Are Changes On The Way?

Filed under: Probable Cause — Tags: , , — Bill @ 4:12 pm

(click to enlarge)

Within a few days every Idaho state legislator will receive a copy of “Taxation Without Representation – LCDC,” a revealing look at how Idaho’s urban renewal laws have been misused in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.  (This hyperlink is the low-resolution version because of limitations on file sizes we can upload.) The 16-page brochure was professionally designed and printed.  Printing costs were paid by private donations from concerned citizens of Coeur d’Alene, many of them private businesspeople.

Citizens in several Idaho cities, not just Coeur d’Alene, have been asking, “Just exactly how has our community benefited from the tax increment skimming our urban renewal agencies have been doing?”.  A news article titled New Eagle City Council champing at the bit for change in today’s Idaho Statesman raises the same question.

Rather than trying to “kill” urban renewal laws, Idaho’s citizens are trying to encourage legislators to modify them so they can achieve their intended purposes while at the same time making them less susceptible to predatory exploitation.

12 Comments

  1. Did I read that article right? It sounds like the Eagle City Council is willing to take the issue of their Urban Renewal Agency to a public vote!

    Comment by Dan — January 14, 2012 @ 4:35 pm

  2. Dan,

    I didn’t see that explicitly, however it is clear the Eagle City Council wants public input on how the Eagle URA will be restructured, if that is what the people want.

    It doesn’t seem like the people of Eagle (population about 20,000) are willing to accept the J. Wellington Wimpy promise of “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” Promises of “things will be better after the URD expires” in X years seems inconsistent with “Gee, this is the only tool of economic development we have” argument.

    Comment by Bill — January 14, 2012 @ 5:14 pm

  3. Kudos on a boffo brochure! Well done.

    Comment by justinian — January 15, 2012 @ 1:03 am

  4. I like the brochure.

    Is it possible to mail the brochure to every county and city citizen prior to the next election?

    Comment by LTR — January 15, 2012 @ 7:39 am

  5. LTR,

    I’ll ask to see what the actual costs would be. The printed brochure is much higher resolution than the low-res version I’ve linked to, and it is printed on very high quality paper so the multi-color print and graphics are crisp and clear.

    There are about 70,000 (+/-) registered voters in Kootenai County, so if it would cost 50¢ per brochure to produce and mail, it would be about $35,000.

    Comment by Bill — January 15, 2012 @ 7:54 am

  6. Print it up and door to door deliver it in key areas.

    Comment by Wallypog — January 15, 2012 @ 9:51 am

  7. Wallypog,

    Good idea, but how do you define “key areas?”

    My impression of the existing laws is that they were a cut-and-paste job from a template provided by someone with a vested interest in exploiting urban renewal but without due regard for the rights of the people in the communities affected. In other words, the existing laws were proposed by snake-oil salesmen and passed without critical consideration of potential unintended consequences by well-intended legislators. It is hard to imagine any conscientious, informed legislator would vote to approve a law that gives eminent domain to an unelected urban renewal board and that empowers those same officials to engage in warrantless searches of property in the URD.

    I believe it’s time to have a complete re-evaluation of Idaho’s urban renewal laws. This time around, the legislators need to have their eyes open and be willing to consider that there are some very self-serving, dishonest people who manage to get themselves appointed by crony mayors and councils and who are exploiting the state’s laws for personal gain. It never was “just a Coeur d’Alene problem,” and I believe more legislators are beginning to realize that now.

    Comment by Bill — January 16, 2012 @ 8:49 am

  8. It never was “just a Coeur d’Alene problem,”…

    Upon reflection, and seeing how that’s exactly what legislators told me back in early 2007, I feel that reply was their lazy excuse to avoid looking into the situation. I find that excuses such as “it’s just a Coeur d’Alene problem” are offered often by the Legislature when it comes to complex issues.

    The only reason it was ever called “a Coeur d’Alene problem” was that the abuse of Urban Renewal was exposed here first and that diligent citizens were on the ball making noise about it. We can thank the LCDC for their ongoing arrogance when it comes to bolstering our resolve. My prediction is that they will stand firm and stubborn in the face of mounting opposition and that — if they continue to demonstrate such lack of humility — all Urban Renewal law in Idaho will be repealed by 2015.

    Comment by Dan — January 16, 2012 @ 8:59 am

  9. The line most often heard, “Urban renewal is the only tool of economic development available,” or some variation of that is one I find very offensive and condescending. To accept that line as fact, we have to accept that Idaho’s businesspeople lack the imagination, intelligence, and determination to find other tools of economic development.

    As practiced in Coeur d’Alene, urban renewal is the piggy bank for political patronage. “A government with the policy to rob Peter to pay Paul can be assured of the support of Paul.” (G.B. Shaw)

    Comment by Bill — January 16, 2012 @ 9:09 am

  10. That works out pretty good for politicians as long as Paul represents the majority of those voting. By that same token when ‘Paul’ loses an election cycle then something quite profound motivated the typically complacent ‘Peter’s’. It is even worse when they find out that some of their ‘Paul’s’ converted to Peter’s. Patent, unrepentant arrogance has a tendency to not fool most of the people all the time and even the paid-for and groomed constituency tires of getting their face backslapped.

    Comment by Wallypog — January 16, 2012 @ 9:38 am

  11. To me urban renewal needs to be reined in, if not completely, repealed etc. Urban Renewal should never be in the business of: helping to fund residential development imo.
    I’m starting to think of them as that evil entity.

    Woody once said at a CDA city council meeting:’When I think of ways to fund something, I think of LCDC’. That mindset is troubling to alot of people.

    Comment by kageman — January 16, 2012 @ 12:08 pm

  12. kageman,

    LCDC’s involvement in residential development, with the tacit approval of the Mayor and some councilmen, might have the slogan, “Buying votes — One apartment at a time.”

    McEvers’ remark is very telling. To him the LCDC is the Bucket-O-Cash, Free Money, the First Unregulated Bank of Idaho. McEvers may have become addicted to the easy money from LCDC so that he no longer looks for better solutions. Likewise, he may have become blinded to the unintended consequences that attach. Maybe LCDC has become the first choice rather than the last one.

    Comment by Bill — January 16, 2012 @ 4:39 pm

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