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Who and what is CDA 2030?

| December 13, 2019 12:00 AM

We hear a lot about CDA 2030 nobly representing the “community” and the “public.” But exactly who and what are they?

Each year CDA 2030 gets $45,000 from the city and $25,000 from the urban renewal agency. That’s $70,000 of taxpayer dollars — more than half its annual revenue.

So, since taxes are most of its funding, CDA 2030 must be a government agency, right? Wrong. CDA 2030 is as private and secretive as it gets.

Government agencies are subject to the Idaho Open Meeting Law and Public Records Act. Their meetings must be open to the public with written notice, agenda and minutes, and their financials and other internals must be open to the public.

But CDA 2030 meetings are closed to the public — and they refuse to disclose their financials, meeting minutes and other internals.

You see, CDA 2030 is a private, nonprofit Idaho corporation — formed in 2014 by none other than City Attorney Michael Gridley. Gridley, Steve Wilson (Chamber) and Charles Buck (U of I) were the original officers and directors. There were no shareholders or members — they were it. They chose about a dozen others to join them as directors — and ever since then the directors and officers of CDA 2030 have been completely self-perpetuating. When there is a vacancy, they and they alone choose the replacement — in their secret meetings, behind closed doors.

Each year CDA 2030 is required to file a list of its officers and directors with the Idaho Secretary of State. Those filings read like a “who’s who” of connected, local business insiders and top city officials.

Self-appointed, unelected, self-perpetuating, publicly unaccountable, and secretive. Like an exclusive private club.

There’s nothing wrong with private clubs — except that this private club survives mostly on taxpayer dollars. And it gives those connected, business insiders a lot of access and influence with city officials — behind closed doors.

And here’s the thing — this whole CDA 2030 boondoggle is completely unnecessary. It’s redundant and duplicative of what the city Planning Department does.

Every city and county in Idaho has been required by statute since the 1970s to prepare, update and implement a comprehensive plan based on an all-inclusive list of 17 social components — a blueprint for all future planning and land use decisions.

CDA 2030 began in 2013 as a “visioning” project for the city’s future — championed by (guess who?) Gridley. His main argument — the city’s plan for the future needed to be updated.

So, duh, why not just update the city’s comprehensive plan? That would have been in accordance with state law. Instead, self-appointed, unelected, and publicly unaccountable CDA 2030 was allowed to substitute its own “plan.”

Remember that the city’s work is required to be done in public. Meetings and financials are open to public scrutiny and voters have ultimate control at the ballot box. Not so with secretive and “private” CDA 2030.

CDA 2030’s “visioning” plan was completed in the summer of 2014. But instead of closing up and going away, it persisted and never went away — constantly struggling for things to do to justify its existence — and its receipt of taxpayer dollars.

It now appears to be a forum for the local, good ol’ boys club — and those who aspire to join it — to meet (in secret) and to plan the city’s future — to their advantage. Their ideas mysteriously emerge, seemingly from nowhere, as consensus city policy with unstoppable momentum — like the urban renewal agency’s new “health corridor” district.

A shadow government? The private gathering place of the local oligarchy? A training ground for wannabe city power players? A de facto city planning committee?

It may be all those things and more. But we don’t know. Because it’s all so secret. And your tax dollars are paying for it.

Here’s a challenge to CDA 2030 — voluntarily agree to comply with the requirements of the Idaho Open Meeting Law and Public Records Act, as all governmental bodies must.

That means meetings open to the public with written notice, agenda, and minutes, and financials and other internals available to the public.

If what you do is so great, don’t you want the whole world to see?

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David Lyons is a Coeur d’Alene resident.