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Cd'A has plenty to crow about

by Tom Hasslinger
| December 15, 2010 8:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - A community center with 13,000 more members than expected, a HELP facility that provides essential services for 400 people a week.

More than 12,000 square feet of sidewalk repaired, $1.6 million in grants awarded, 200 jobs added, and more softball games than in San Francisco.

If success comes from opportunity, then Coeur d'Alene capitalized in 2010, turning those chances into citywide improvement, without slashing service.

Of course, the city did manage to ruffle a few feathers along the way.

"I am not saying we we're as dumb as a grain of corn," Mayor Sandi Bloem joked Tuesday about the City Council's unsuccessful attempt to limit the number of chickens inside city limits earlier this year, "but the chickens certainly did rule the roost."

Speaking at the Coeur d'Alene Area Chamber of Commerce's last Upbeat Breakfast of the year, Bloem recapped the last 12 months during her State of the City address. The biggest public debate of the year wasn't over the $77 million budget, but over keeping chicks in the city, which attracted a packed room when the debate was on the floor. Long story short, chickens are still allowed.

"I share this with you to let you know we can make a mistake but we are not afraid to admit it and to correct it," Bloem said, then adding: "You have to have a little fun, too."

Jokes aside, Bloem also outlined the fiscal responsibility and principles that helped guide the Lake City in 2010. Despite a down economy, Coeur d'Alene, with its balanced budget, secured $1.6 million that hired three police officers, added high frequency radios and computers and a traffic signal at Howard and Kathleen Avenue. The money brought 23 households emergency repairs, bought 26 homes from foreclosure as part of a neighborhood stabilization program, established the infrastructure for 50 units of affordable senior housing and four Habitat for Humanity homes. It helped pave the way for the recently-completed Lynn Peterson House with its 14 housing units for low income people with disabilities. This year the Kathy Reed House, 36 units for low income seniors, will be completed, too.

Services - like 12,000 square feet of sidewalk repaired, 1,400 tons of leaves picked up, and a more inclusive recycling system that's seen the number of participants double since its implementation - were provided without any staff layoff and 12 opened positions unfilled.

"Our residents deserve a city that is as careful with the dollar as they are," Bloem said. "Our residents deserve a city government that works as hard and dreams as big as they do."

And past partnerships continue to flourish.

Look no further, Bloem said, than the 18,000-member Kroc Community Center - which celebrated its first birthday in the spring and offers recreation and learning opportunities for 13,000 more people than it expected, 5,000 of whom are on scholarship.

The HELP Center, inside the old city library, also turned 1 in 2010. It now helps 400 people a week.

Those partnerships will be the model for 2011, as two major project ideas - expanding and improving the education corridor and McEuen Field - will come forward. Bloem said Idaho is better poised to recover from the economy in the coming year, and stressed the importance of creating jobs and the city's relationship with job recruiter Jobs Plus, which helped bring in 200 jobs to the area this year.

The speech began and ended with a standing ovation.

The room laughed when Bloem told them that chickens, not budgets, brought people to the public meetings. And her optimistic outlook for 2011 left an impression on those who made the morning breakfast.

"It was encouraging to hear some of the good things that are going on instead of all the bad things you hear with the economy," said Brain Tenney, Coeur d'Alene resident, following the speech. "It's not going to be easy (in 2011), but we have a lot of good stuff going on. I'm more optimistic than I was before."

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