—Yes, this is the public meeting we’ve been wanting; this is the public, televised meeting between the City Council and the School Board to cut through the obstacles and find an agreement on Person Field. Please join the fun in the lower level of the Library downtown, if you can, tomorrow, Thursday, at 5:00pm, or watch on Channel 19.
The School Board has been painted by many as being uncaring and money hungry in this process, which I think is wholly unfair. Let me tell you why:
1. The School Board is trying to be cautious with public money. They are trying to fill budget shortfalls by reducing spending and selling unneeded assets. Person Field will not be used for a school or any other district purpose, so it should not continue in the district’s possession. But the School Board has ALWAYS said it should stay a park.
2. The City has always said they’d like to have the rest of Person Field, so it would be one park under the city’s ownership and care…forever. They’ve asked the District to let them know when the School Board is ready to let go of their half of the field.
3. And so the School Board did. It notified the City Administrator and Mayor last October, and told them of the district’s timeline for the process. The Mayor and Wendy did NOT tell the rest of the City Council about this opportunity. They withheld the information until the deadline was past.
4. School Board Chairman Tom Hamilton was surprised to hear that the City Council did not know about the situation, so Tom attended the next Council meeting and made a public statement about the School Board’s offer. He also said he would ask his board to extend the deadline, which they did.
5. The CITY then set the rules of the negotiations, with the Mayor asking for only one Attorney and one Finance person from each organization to meet and hash out the details in a private manner.
6. I don’t think the district should have gone along with the Mayor’s request, but they did. And now many people are mistakenly blaming the School Board for wanting everything behind closed doors. No, that problem was on both sides.
7. At last week’s City Council meeting, the Mayor told one of the School Board members, during a break, that the City doesn’t need the rest of Person Field, that they can make a nice small park with their half. Now, today, the Mayor is disavowing this statement. She’s claiming she was quoting what some citizen said to her. I don’t think so. I heard it directly from the Trustee. Our Mayor is famous for claiming things that turn out to be untrue. And Deanna Goodlander, at that same meeting last week, asked a citizen to gather ideas for developing a small park, calling that citizen later to explain they want a design for the city’s half.
8. In public, at meetings, the City Council votes unanimously to “acquire” the rest of Person Field. But what’s happening behind the scenes?—Are they really negotiating in good faith? Or is the Mayor much more concerned about money for her prized McEuen Park project, which is seriously over budget?
9. That’s why WE, the public, must be part of the process. This is a decision by two public agencies about a property that is wholly owned by the public. The process should be PUBLIC all the way through.
10. Your presence will help. Your involvement in the process will put much needed pressure on both sides to come to a reasonable resolution of this situation with the winner not being the City or the School Board. The winner must be the PUBLIC.
See you Thursday!
PS– here’s a note from one of my readers: “McEuen meeting set for Thursday: The Coeur d’Alene City Council will meet at noon Thursday in City Hall to discuss three details of the McEuen Field and Front Avenue designs. The council will decide what it wants to do with three components of the plans: Second and Third Street design, details on the proposed Harbor House and whether a pair of Front Avenue property owners will be allowed curb cuts on the sidewalks.”