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CdA2030: Time for transparency

by DAVID LYONS/Guest opinion
| March 26, 2021 1:00 AM

“Open and honest government is fundamental to a free society … The Open Meeting Law codifies a simple, but fundamental, Idaho value: The public’s business ought to be done in public.” — Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden

“Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” — Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

Good stuff, right? Transparency, openness in local government. After all, your taxes pay for it. Who doesn’t believe in that?

We’ll soon see whether the Cd'A Planning Department — and its secretive, taxpayer-funded right arm, CdA2030 — believe in that.

The new comprehensive plan the Planning Department is creating would vastly expand its authority — from just “land use” as contemplated by the statute (the Local Land Use Planning Act) to include almost everything in your life — 250+ “actions” on health, jobs, education, environment, economic growth, community identity, you name it.

To “implement” all this, the Planning Department has chosen (guess who) CdA2030 — which will make CdA2030 an integral part of city government for the next 20 years.

Yet CdA2030 stubbornly refuses to provide any transparency or openness. Government bodies are required to open their meetings to the public and to make their records publicly available upon request. But CdA2030's meetings are, and always have been, closed to the public, and it refuses to disclose its financials or other records.

So the question is — now that CdA2030 is being made an integral part of city government, will it finally agree to be transparent — meetings open to the public and records publicly available?

If what CdA2030 does is so wonderful, why not let the whole world see? Why all the secrecy?

More importantly, will the Cd'A City Council require CdA2030 to provide such transparency? The City Council still has to approve the new plan.

The City Council has leverage. It can demand things in return for approving the new plan and giving CdA2030 this enormous power.

The City Council needs to demand that CdA2030 provide full transparency. If CdA2030 refuses, then don’t approve it as the “implementer” of the new powers, or just scrap the new powers.

Who are City Council members loyal to? Who do they care about? The public — whose taxes pay for all this government — or the secretive developer-realtor-planning club known as CdA2030?

We can guess how council members Kiki Miller and Amy Evans (former/current CdA2030 Board members) answer that — they’re not outraged that the city is run by this secretive club, they just want to be members of the club.

But what about the rest of the council? Who do they answer to?

Did you ever wonder where the idea of the “medical corridor” urban renewal district originally came from? Here’s an excerpt from CdA2030 board discussion on 6/21/17:

Nipp shared that CdA2030 has been asked by Kootenai Health to act as facilitator of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Technical Assistance Panel (TAP) on the medical corridor … Wilson, Buck, Nipp, Anderson and Kahler formed a steering committee and have been in discussion with ULI-Idaho and Kootenai Health. Sponsorship will be paid for by Parkwood and Kootenai Health.

Parkwood Business Properties owns many medical office buildings near the hospital. The TAP study began the push, subsequently led by CdA2030, to create a “medical corridor” urban renewal district — which hugely benefits Parkwood and Kootenai Health by having your property taxes pay for all new infrastructure there.

A few months later, the CdA2030 board noted that it “provides leadership and helps incubate projects” that board members want.

Who’s paying for this backroom cabal known as CdA2030, and has been since it began in 2013? You — the taxpayer — that’s who.

Since CdA2030 began, the overwhelming majority of its funding has always been taxpayer dollars — $25,000 annually from the urban renewal agency and $45,000 annually (just cut to $40,000) from the city. That’s all property taxes paid by you.

CdA2030's most recent (2019) income tax return shows total contributions from all sources of $88,602 — you do the arithmetic.

It’s time for CdA2030 to be transparent — meetings open to the public and records publicly available upon request — as all government bodies must.

If CdA2030 won’t do that voluntarily, it’s time for the City Council to make them do it.

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David Lyons is a Coeur d'Alene resident.