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Huckleberries

| November 20, 2022 1:00 AM

Sandi Bloem’s fingerprints are all over this town she loves.

Kroc Center. McEuen Park. Coeur d’Alene Library. Revived downtown. Education Corridor. Much more.

No elected official has done more to transform Coeur d’Alene than the former three-term mayor who celebrates her 80th birthday today. Yet she refuses to hog credit for all the accomplishments under her watch. And she admits she misses the bustle of elective office.

“I’m glad I served most of my time at a better time, in terms of the way people treat one another,” she said as she sipped a latte at Independence Point on Tuesday, relishing her view of the lake. “McEuen Park (redevelopment) had its problems. But we didn’t have the lack of civility that exists today.”

Sandi worries that public rudeness is scaring away good candidates, especially in nonpartisan races.

“I don’t think we’ll have good leadership or partnerships as long as extremes are trying to take control,” Sandi continued. “There is going to be fewer people who want to get involved to make things happen. I hear possible leaders in their 40s and 50s who say they’d be crazy to run for office.”

Sandi paused when asked if the signature projects of her tenure would happen in today’s toxic climate.

“I don’t think so,” she said.

Ten years ago, she gambled all her political capital on a dream that had eluded downtown Coeur d’Alene for decades – the transformation of the tired McEuen ballfields into a destination park. In doing so, she became the target of a bitter recall effort, along with three council members: Mike Kennedy, Woody McEvers and the late Deanna Goodlander.

Repeatedly, Sandi cast the tie-breaking vote in 4-3 decisions to move the project ahead, as well-organized recallers haunted parks, streets and even gatherings of the old Tea Party to collect recall petition signatures. The recallers circulated misinformation. And Sandi was the target of vitriol.

Ultimately, thanks to a grass-roots counter movement, the recallers didn’t get enough valid signatures – and McEuen Park was rebuilt from the dirt up. Today, it’s the crown jewel of the city’s park system.

In 2013, Sandi said the negativity of the recall effort wasn’t a key factor in her decision not to seek a fourth term. But it took a toll.

Mike Kennedy, who also decided not to seek re-election, said at the time: “Ten years from now, Sandi Bloem’s time as mayor will be looked back on as hugely important in a positive way to Coeur d'Alene."

It has been nearly 10 years. And Sandi’s legacy of outstanding public service is secure.

Sandi at 80 is free to do as she pleases.

After leaving public life, she sold her downtown jewelry store and other business assets – and obtained a real estate license. Together with her Century 21 team of son, Kurt Lundblad, and Mark Parisot, she sold out the condos at the newest downtown high-rise, One Lakeside.

And she’s not done: “I’ll always be looking for places or things I feel would build a better community.”

If I had a hammer

Sometime in decades past, we misplaced a City Park war memorial.

At 11 a.m. on Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1947, the city dedicated a Georgia marble stone with fanfare. The Coeur d’Alene High band led a parade down Sherman Avenue, from Seventh Street to City Park, where hundreds joined them for the celebration.

The inscription on the stone read: “Kootenai County: honoring all who served and dedicated to the everlasting memory of those who sacrificed their lives on the altar of freedom in all wars.”

A photo of the monument can be found in the Coeur d’Alene Press 75 years ago. But no one seems to know what happened to it.

Strangely, eight days after the dedication, a confused World War I veteran left his discharge papers at the memorial, along with his Victory Metal from World War I, a new hammer purchased at Dingle’s Hardware, and a note. The message warned that Coeur d’Alene was rife with Communists. The vet urged residents to resist the Commies and use the hammer to destroy the memorial.

Maybe someone did.

Gone with the Wind

We’ve made it to Nov. 20 in one piece again this year. And we shouldn’t take that for granted.

On Nov. 19, 1996, as many of you know, the region suffered through Ice Storm. Ice, from freezing rain, caked the streets, knocked out power and stoplights, and snapped trees. But Ice Storm wasn’t the only natural phenomenon to hit the area on a 19th of November.

On Nov. 19, 1962, winds of 57 mph, with gusts up to 100 mph, knocked out power and uprooted trees throughout the region, including the historic Mullan Tree in Fourth of July Canyon.

The winds snapped off the white pine 18 feet from the ground and dropped it over the old Mullan Trail. More than 101 years earlier, a trail construction crew, under the command of Capt. John Mullan, paused to celebrate the Fourth of July. And someone carved “M.R. July 4, 1861,” on the trunk.

That carving is preserved at the Museum of North Idaho.

Huckleberries

·Poet’s Corner: All of that daylight/we saved through the year,/now that we need it/why isn’t it here? – The Bard of Sherman Avenue (“Time Change”).

·Clarification – After his flirtation with GOP politics, the late Scott Reed, a born-again Democrat, never sought PARTISAN office again. But he was elected to the nonpartisan North Idaho College trustee board that hired President Barry Schuler in 1968 and later helped save public access to NIC beach. This, according to retired NIC instructor Tony Stewart.

·Bumpersnicker: The late Bob Paulos, a former Hagadone Newspapers publisher, closed his Press column with bumpersnickers, too. Here’s one from 20 years ago: “Your body may be a temple, but mine’s an amusement park.”

·Factoid: Our “Little Red” Chapel at North Idaho College was built in 1880 for $1,709.30. And served Fort Sherman as a library, lecture hall, and school, as well as a church.

·After the election, in which the expected Red Tide dwindled to a slow leak, Democrat Florence Blackbird saw that a Republican neighbor had added a second yard sign to his “TRUMP” one: “Only Jesus can save us now.” To which Florence responded on Facebook: “Thank you, Jesus.”

Parting Shot

Idaho legislator Paul Amador is now an adult with two boys of his own. But he was only 3 years old during the November 1985 election when his late mother, Diane, took him with her to vote. Only Little Paul thought she said, “boat.” Responded Paul, “Is it a big boat Mommy?” Patiently, according to her journal, his mother explained what “voting” is – something that happens when the family can’t decide “where to go for dinner and Daddy asks everybody where they want to go.” When they arrived at the polls, Paul, a member of the powerful 2022 Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, said: “Mommy, I vote for Chuck E. Cheese.” With the current state of politics, Paul told Huckleberries this week, “Chuck E. Cheese might be a pretty rational choice!”

D.F. “Dave” Oliveria can be contacted at dfo@cdapress.com.

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