Thursday, January 27, 2022

What he didn't do speaks volumes

| January 5, 2022 1:00 AM

Sometimes, the hardest but best thing to do is nothing.

In an eight-year rule of the Lake City roost, Mayor Steve Widmyer will be fondly remembered for so many good things he had a hand in. An incredible new park on the Spokane River. A balanced budget that benefitted taxpayers. A safe place to live, work and play.

In that latter category, thinking back over the last eight years, one potential powder keg never exploded — thanks to what some mistakenly perceived as negligence on behalf of the city’s leader.

In early June 2020, protesters peacefully chanted and waved signs near WinCo in Coeur d’Alene after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Even as Press reporters were covering the protesters’ presence, rumors flooded the newsroom that extremist elements were headed this way, determined to incite the rioting and looting that was tearing other communities apart. Social media and callers had allegedly spotted a convoy of black vans headed east from Spokane.

Quicker than you could say What the hell?, armed citizens — some of them looking like they were ready for WWIII — assembled in downtown Coeur d’Alene. The dozens of heavily armed men and women swelled to hundreds. Some downtown stores prepared for the worst by putting up plywood sheets over windows or closing early.

What Widmyer faced was this: Do something to try to clear the downtown area of armed citizens who made some people clearly uncomfortable, or do nothing and be blamed if all hell broke loose.

It was easy to imagine some joker dropping a lit string of firecrackers and dead bodies lining Sherman Avenue seconds later. It also was easy to imagine what might happen if Coeur d’Alene police tried to remove citizens who asserted their entire purpose in showing up armed was to protect downtown businesses and people from potential harm.

In retrospect, by standing down and refusing to add fuel to a potential inferno, Widmyer acted with impeccable wisdom. And now, looking back through his entire administration, we think those dangerous June days were representative of his management style: Act when necessary. Don’t overreact — ever.

Here are a few more labels to hang on Widmyer, who is difficult to label because he thinks for himself: intelligent; transparent; consistent; communicative; hardworking; appreciative.

And it is with great appreciation that we express the community’s thanks for a job so well done over the past eight years, Steve. Here’s hoping nothing but great days ahead for you, Marie and your clan.

P.S.: No pressure, but when your public service itch needs to be scratched again, we have a long list of possibilities for you to consider.

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