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April 3, 2008

Toilet Not Included – Part 3

Filed under: Probable Cause — Bill @ 3:03 am
In Part 3 of this five-part series, we will suggest who will benefit most and who will benefit least from the City’s putting a precast concrete building in City Park, a building being promoted to inrease police presence in the Park. You may be surprised and you should be concerned about who really won and who really lost. You may want to read Part 1 and Part 2 first.

Who Really Won?

The Coeur d’Alene Downtown Association

  • At the LCDC meeting on March 19, 2008, presiding Vice-Chairman Jim Elder invited Downtown Association General Manager Terry Cooper to come from the audience and be seated at the table with the LCDC Commissioners while Commissioners more-or-less debated the merits of the proposal.  Cooper then proceeded to gush about how the presence of the precast concrete structure will benefit downtown businesses.  (I wonder if a citizen had asked to speak in opposition to the building, would he have been invited to the table by Elder or escorted out by Police Chief Longo or Captain Childers?) 
  • The Downtown Association members could pool their funds and hire private security patrols and inside security officers to spot potential problems and then call police. But why should they do that when the Mayor and City Council are willing to have our City’s professional police officers perform double duty as “square badges”, de facto security for businesses who contribute generously to local officials’ campaigns?

The Ford Ironman Coeur d’Alene Triathlon 

  • The precast concrete structure will be at the edge of the Ironman Athlete Village, about one large wetsuit and a bicycle length away from the revenue generator.  Although Police Captain Steve Childers didn’t know the building’s hours of operation or staffing, it is a safe bet that once the Ironman booths go up, the building will be manned more frequently than during non-event periods.  
  • According to City Administrator Wendy Gabriel, Ironman has contracted with Eagle Eye Security, Inc., of Post Falls for some level of private security at Ironman. 

Coeur d’Alene’s Mayor and City Council  

  • During the Ironman contract renewal negotiations, the Mayor bragged to a group of neighborhood blockwatch captains that she had requested Ironman give $50,000 to The Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Community Center, a 501(c)(3) qualified organization.   After learning of this, I sent an email to Ironman’s corporate body asking it to confirm or refute that assertion.  I received no response to that email, so a week later I resubmitted it to a different addressee at Ironman.  There was no response to my second inquiry, either.
  • Ironman agreed to donate $10K per year for the next five years of the contract.  However, Ironman’s charitable donation is not unique to Coeur d’Alene. It makes charitable donations to host areas and cities. It donated $4,000 each year to Panama Beach, Florida’s “Cops and Kids” program. Ironman purchased two police patrol cars for the Lake Placid, New York, Police Department.
  • Ironman has also reimbursed host cities for hard costs.  In 2006 the city of Madison, Wisconsin, charged Ironman $36,200 for police services.  Ironman paid the charges.  In Kona, Hawaii, Ironman pays the cost of contractual police services.  Ironman reimburses the City of Tempe, AZ approximately $70K for expenses.
  • Mayor Bloem could and should have negotiated with Ironman to reimburse the City for expenses rather than asking it to donate to a tax-exempt privately owned community center which will charge the taxpayers to enter and use the facilities.   While Ironman’s donation will be unquestionably generous, the Kroc Center has no direct connection with the Ironman Triathlon.  Reimbursement to the City for hard costs would have allowed the City to spend the money in a way most beneficial to all Coeur d’Alene’s citizens (for example, public safety communications equipment or vehicles.)   Ironman’s reimbursement to the City for costs above normal service costs would have been a tax deductible business expense.
  • It seems oddly coincidental that within one week of the City’s successfully rushing through approval and funding for the precast concrete structure in the park, the City’s General Services Committee recommended City Council approval of the five year contract renewal with Ironman.   At the April 1, 2008, City Council meeting, the Council voted to approve the five-year contract renewal.  That raises an obvious, if disquieting, question: During contract negotiations, did the City pledge increased police presence near Ironman Athlete Village in return for Ironman’s donation to the Kroc Center?  It’s a fair question given the City’s rush to get this project funded and approved and built by June 15, 2008, for the Ironman Triathlon on June 22, 2008.  The answer might affect the valuation of Ironman’s charitable contribution on its federal taxes.   If Ironman receives a benefit as a result of making a charitable donation (e.g., the City agrees increase police presence in return for the Kroc Center donation), it can deduct only the amount of its contribution that is more than the value of the benefit it received.  The increased police coverage could be interpreted as allowing Ironman to reduce its overhead costs for private security officers and insurance. 

The Hagadone Corporation

  • It’s no surprise that the Coeur d’Alene Press cheered this proposal with its editorial headlined Police proposal no stroll in park on March 13, 2008.  The Hagadone-owned Press  and The Coeur d’Alene Resort, a Hagadone Hospitality enterprise, are both within a beer bottle’s throw of the Park and Independence Point (very slight exaggeration).  It will be quite a selling point for the Resort’s Conference Services Manager to be able to point reassuringly across the green to “our police substation” while courting prospective conference and convention clients.  
  • “Taxpayers can also appreciate that it (the precast concrete structure) is modestly priced — $50,000 to $55,000,”  says the Press editorial writer(s).  Trivializing that amount of public money reveals the writers’ disdain for the taxpayers who have to pay it.  It isn’t modest to the family of four or the single mother of two struggling to pay taxes.  That family of four and single mother of two are as entitled to exactly the same police, fire and EMS services as those to whom $50,000 is walking around money.  What taxpayers would have appreciated is the Press doing its job to reveal the wasteful pork in this project rather than being among the first to nudge up to the trough.

Who Really Lost?

The Coeur d’Alene Police Department, Fire Department, and EMTs 

  • The precast concrete building will have no toilet, no running water, no facility for booking and temporary custody.  Unless it is properly air conditioned and heated , it will be uncomfortable in summer and winter.  There was no mention of HVAC in the winning quotation.  Unless the City spends more money on interior decorating (Dixie’s Inside Connection, maybe?), the inside of that building will resemble the inside of a jail or the restrooms at the Huetter rest stops. 
  • While ostensibly praising and supporting the police, City officials and the LCDC see the police department as warm bodies to provide enhanced security for downtown and special revenue-generating events.   Professional police officers are being subjugated to private companies.  Think not?  Read the proposed contract with Ironman. The contract, Schedule D, includes this statement:  “The City shall provide at no hard cost to Ironman:  (i) Police services subject to coordination by Ironman in the City limits wherein the Race will take place at no cost to Ironman.” 
  • Occupying the precast concrete structure which the Press editorial states will face City Beach and Independence Point puts the building occupants at a tactical disadvantage.   Police officers are taught to be fully and acutely aware of what’s going on all around them.  Inside a concrete building with one viewing window, they will neither see nor hear what’s going on in any direction but one.   That hinders rather than helps them doing their job and it jeopardizes their safety.  
  • Fire and EMT vehicles (except all-terrain vehicles and bicycles) will not be able to park at the building or drive up to it.  How does this help them?  How does this help the injured or ill victim who appears at the building believing it to be staffed and able to handle his emergency? 

Visitors Who Use City Park and Kootenai County Taxpayers 

  • Police Chief Wayne Longo, with the tacit concurrence of the Mayor, the City Council, and the LCDC, has created the public expectation that this precast concrete structure will be a police substation.   It was explicitly stated in Marc Stewart’s article in the Coeur d’Alene Press headlined Cd’A police favor office in City Park.  That expectation reasonably will lead people (including visitors from out of town) to conclude that if they need a police officer when they’re in that area, they will find one when they go to the police substation.  But as Captain Childers has indicated in his appearances before Council and the LCDC, he didn’t know how or when this building would be staffed.  He also stated that it would not be a walk-up complaint facility, that it might not necessarily be manned by a police officer.  It is safe to assume that not all the public who visits City Park will be aware of Childers’ disclaimer.
  • The Press said in its editorial there will be no additional staff hiring.  Then that means it may be occupied by a police officer (or maybe more than one) who would normally be on patrol or conducting an investigation.   On the other hand, if the building’s occupant is an unsworn volunteer, then no services requiring a POST-certified law enforcement officer are available there.   Will an out-of-town crime victim or someone seriously wounded or gravely ill approaching the building and seeking help know that the only action the person inside will be able to take is call a real police officer or an EMT? According to police Captain Steve Childers, if a crime report or other law enforcement action is necessary, the volunteer will have to call the police.  The building’s function and utility is going to vary by who occupies it at any given time.  This is going to confuse people.
  • Your tax dollars are being spent to fund this building.  Will this spending increase your safety at home or at your business in Dalton or Mica Flats or Hayden or Sunshine Meadows or the historic heart of Coeur d’Alene?  No, not likely.  Go to the Coeur d’Alene Police Department website and look at the Crime Maps.  While these maps intentionally avoid showing locations of violent crimes against persons (murder, rape, aggravated assault, kidnaping, intimidation, etc.) and crimes against society (drugs, gambling, pornography, etc.), they do show the locations of crimes against property.  They indicate that crime in Coeur d’Alene is not centered on Independence Point and City Park.   Yet that is where the City wants to spend $50K to $60K of your tax dollars put this precast concrete structure. 
  • Your tax dollars are being used to increase public safety protections for out-of-state, for-profit businesses that pay no property taxes in Kootenai County.  These businesses are entitled to the same protections and services you are, but they are entitled to no more than you.  If police, fire, and EMTs are deployed at special events at a level above what would be considered “normal” public safety services for those events, then your tax dollars are subsidizing increased services for out-of-state, for-profit businesses that pay no property taxes in Kootenai County. 

Next:  Part 4 – Financial planning?  Who needs responsible financial planning when you’ve got the LCDC Bucket-O-Cash at your disposal?

11 Comments

  1. It is funny that before Mr.Cooper was DTA manager, he was opposed to most anything concerning Hagadone, the Mayor, LCDC, and the DTA. Funny what power and control does for ones ego. A lot of the business owners in the downtown know that he is now a yes man. He will not do anything to jepordize his position of authority and will agree with the Chamber, LCDC and Mayor no matter what they want. Even at tax payers expense.

    Comment by concerned citizen — April 3, 2008 @ 6:27 am

  2. I would also question the cities liability related to the services offered by this structure. It’s location and stated purpose is to provide improved safety and services to the public. If someone comes to the bunker with a serious health problem and proper, timely care is not rendered can the city be held liable? The presence of the structure implies a certain higher level of service. That higher level of service is how the structure has been sold. If it fails to deliver better protection or emergency care will someone enterprising person sue? Literally someone could sell drugs behind the building, out of direct view, just inches from the ‘higher level of safety” police force. The design of this structure impairs the visual field. It is better suited as a hot dog stand.

    I think the author has this bunker correctly figured out. Wait and see. When the Ironman comes to town this will be a hub of activity. Fluids will be stored there. Ironman medical staff will coordinate from there. For the rest of the year this will be more of a civil impediment than an asset: And a very ugly one at that.

    Comment by Wallypog — April 3, 2008 @ 7:33 am

  3. concerned citizen,

    I’d agree that Mr. Cooper is a good candidate for the Mayor’s Synchronized Head-Nodding Team Council or Synchronized Head-Nodding Team LCDC. Sadly, only the SHNoT LCDC has a vacancy.

    Wallypog,

    I don’t know about the liability, but the building has definitely been sold on the back of promises of being a police substation. To me, a police substation is occupied and open for emergency public contact. The City’s answer to that is the same answer you’ll get if you ask about the main Police Station on Schreiber being closed on weekends: Use the phone in the lobby.

    Comment by Bill — April 3, 2008 @ 7:56 am

  4. Bill, again an excellent job of explaining the details that fly over the heads of most of us. Your extensive background as a US Secret Service Agent is obviously driving you to expose this misuse of our professional police officers as subservient security patrols for private business…at the taxpayer’s expense.

    (I didn’t mean to, but managed to use 5 “ex…” words in only two sentences!)

    Comment by mary — April 3, 2008 @ 12:04 pm

  5. Mary,
    Thank you. I was not a Special Agent; I was a Physical Security Specialist. Most people don’t know and really don’t care what the difference is, but to avoid being accused of misrepresentation, I try to correct whenever someone refers to me with the word “Agent” instead of “agent.”

    Comment by Bill — April 3, 2008 @ 12:29 pm

  6. So let’s see how this plays – say I’m downtown and am robbed, or have my purse snatched, or something else bad, I have to walk to the bunker to report it (might have to walk a few blocks). When I get there the person manning the bunker has to call the police? No assistance there? I could have done this with my own cell phone and not have to walk over there?
    And wait, what if I walk over there and it’s not even open – wrong time of year – sounds good to me. NOT. I watchec a rerun of the LCDC meeting where it was mentioned it would be a good crime deterrant. Not if it’s not even open.

    Comment by reddy — April 3, 2008 @ 6:10 pm

  7. Bill, was there any mention of signage? I wonder if it will be permanent or temporary and if it will conform to the sign ordinance.

    Comment by Susie Snedaker — April 3, 2008 @ 8:27 pm

  8. Reddy,
    The failure of our Mayor and City Council and the LCDC Board of Commissioners to ask the reasonable, common sense questions like yours ought to alarm everyone. Only McEvers and Patzer deviated briefly from the script to ask a few questions. Then the heads nodded and the rubber stamps stamped (except for Patzer who voted against funding it).

    Susie,
    I did not hear any mention of signage, and that would have been a reasonable question: Without signs, how will people know what that precast concrete structure is? And if there are signs, what will they say? Police? Hopefully not since there’s no guarantee there will be a commissioned police officer there when the building is open.

    Comment by Bill — April 3, 2008 @ 8:59 pm

  9. Here’s my take on the park unit, for what it’s worth. I don’t think the police, fire department, etc. came up with this idea at the last minute. I think it all came from LCDC (or city council, which really amounts to the same thing) and THEY suggested the fire and police depts. ask for it as if it were really their idea. LCDC probably had already made a commitment to Ironman and/or Riverstone that they would provide this, but they had to make it look like the request came from some organization other than theirs. Thus the poor presentation by Childers and lack of homework, not having figures to present, like when it would be manned, who would man it, etc.
    And Bill, you mentioned “McEvers and Patzer deviated briefly from the script to ask a few questions”. I also think it is all scripted, they must rehearse before the public meeting and assign certain ones to ask the token questions.

    Comment by reddy — April 4, 2008 @ 5:24 pm

  10. reddy,
    You’re very astute. But like any good actors, the Council members know their lines well, so rehearsals need not be as frequent.

    Comment by Bill — April 4, 2008 @ 7:11 pm

  11. Well, Bill, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out! lol. If a 70+ old lady like me can see it, I would think the younger professionals on the board could see through it too, which makes me think they have something to gain (or maybe to fear).

    Comment by reddy — April 4, 2008 @ 8:39 pm

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