Remember all those years of frustration watching the CdA City Council sitting up at their high desk, nodding their heads in agreement with almost every vote, while the common folk sat silently below? I always wondered why nearly every decision was unanimous. Well now the reason has become clear.
Our City has what is akin to a Loyalty Oath! It’s part of every new council member’s paperwork and they are asked to sign it. I’m not kidding. Lucky for us that our two new city council members, Dan Gookin and Steve Adams, refused to sign it because they realized their loyalty is to the people, not other government officials.
In order to put the “Loyalty Oath” in perspective, I asked some city administration and council folks from nearby towns if they have ever seen anything like this document. They were all shocked. They said they had never heard of such a thing, and that city councils are elected by the people and are not beholden to the mayor or any other city official. City Council members are responsible to the citizens.
The official title of the document is “Coeur d’Alene City Council Standards and Norms”. It has 24 points and begins almost every one of them with the pledge “I will…” All of the points initially sound warm and fuzzy and kumbaya, but some made me choke with the obvious hypocrisy of the city’s behavior and some scared the bejeebers out of me.
Let’s start with the hypocritical:
“I will tell the truth.” That would be fabulous. But how about these past statements the city has made: There will be no taxpayer money used for this project. You’ll never have to pay anything more for the new library if you just pass the bond. We’ll sell the old library to help pay for the new one. And the list could go on and on.
“I will be accountable.” To whom? To certain power players and close friends? The mayor and half the council refuse to listen to the people and ignore citizen requests for a public vote. But they support and endorse LCDC and back room deals like the one in Midtown that uses taxpayer money to enrich a developer rather than improve the neighborhood.
“I will listen with an open mind and make every effort to understand an issue before I come to a conclusion.” I wish this were true. But now, with two new members, questions are finally flying. In the past. the council rarely asked questions, especially about controversial issues. Like when LCDC gave presentations. Or when the council quickly approved $3 Million dollars to fill the Kroc pit, even though the previous estimate had been only $1 Million, and not one of them asked a single question. Perhaps their conclusions were reached before the meetings even began.
Ok, enough of that, I could fill another page with more, but let’s get on to the scary part:
“I will participate in and contribute to the council’s goals, decisions and progress while working toward consensus.” Ah, yes, there’s that well worn word “consensus”. Mayor Bloem loves it. Just nod your heads, all together. Please remember, dear readers, that these independently elected city council members were individually chosen by the voters to represent the citizens. They are not children in an elementary classroom. They do not have to always agree.
“I will be a sounding board for guidance to my assigned Department Head consistent with the Council’s vision as a whole.” The council’s vision…as a whole. What if an independently elected council member, representing the citizens, does not agree with that vision? Must they still walk in lock-step? Vote in unison?
“I will acknowledge and support the City Administrator’s authority to make decisions.” This one is very curious. Why ask elected city council members to pledge loyalty to the City Administrator? They are her boss!
[Addendum: For those who expressed an interest, here is the 24-item "Coeur d'Alene City Council Standards and Norms" list I received. Although this is undated, the signature block shows that Reid and Wolfinger were on the Council at that time.]
The “Loyalty Oath” is unique to CdA and seems to have been created during Mayor Bloem’s administration. It is the kind of “group think” and misplaced allegiance we must stop. It’s little wonder the Mayor and council have been ignoring the will of the people. We don’t seem to matter. Let me once again leave you with one of my favorite quotes, which seems especially pertinent right now:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead, the celebrated anthropologist who studied civilizations and cultures all over the world