Call them the Field Agents. Call them agents of change or progress. Or call them agents of destruction.
Either way, if they get their way this Election Day, they may wield the power to shape-shift a Coeur d’Alene landmark into something bold and new and glamorous. Under their hand, McEuen Field — long a beloved icon of the Lake City — will begin to transform under the citizenry’s gaze. Behold! Rising out of a simple waterfront park: A promenade, an ice-skating rink, a plaza, a play area, a sledding area and even a multi-level parking lot.
All it takes is a wave of their hands, a few years, up to $40 million and a ritual sacrifice of a ball-field and a boat launch. This is the issue of Coeur d’Alene’s City Council races.
Yet, there are some who resist — who want to save the boat launch and the ball field. Call them the Dock Knights, fighting to preserve the traditional integrity of the waterfront park. They protest the McEuen design and are armed with 1,700 signatures. Some Knights declare that the plan is too expensive, that the citizens of Coeur d’Alene should have been involved in the design process.
Yet, the Field Agents are no upstarts. They’re supported by Mayor Sandi Bloem, and their plan comes from the Lake City Development Corp. And all but one of the six members of the current Council have joined forces to change McEuen.
With just three council seats up for grabs, the Dock Knight challengers can’t take control of the city. No matter how many votes they get, at least three members who support changing McEuen Field remain on the Council. And the mayor will cast the deciding vote.
Two candidates, Dan Gookin and Steve Adams, are Republican, and both condemn what’s happening to McEuen. Gookin calls it a betrayal of donor Mae McEuen’s original vision; Adams calls it a betrayal of the will of the people.
Adams faces Councilman John Bruning, who not only supports the McEuen plan, but also is head of the steering committee that came up with the plan to change it. (Bruning’s other opponent, North Idaho College student Amber Copeland, also believes a public vote should have been taken, though she hasn’t made it a focus.)
Gookin finds himself surrounded by numerous opponents while aiming for an open seat on the Council. There’s George Sayler, a former state representative who favors changing the field. The other contenders — comedian Pat “Mitch” Mitchell, former Army Specialist Derec Aujay, and gas station clerk Annastasia Somontes — say the plan is too pricey.
Which brings us to the third and final seat. The one sitting councilman who opposed the McEuen Field plan: Ron Edinger, who clearly has the power of immortality and invincibility. He was mayor of Coeur d’Alene the same year his opponent, Adam Graves, was born. He’s been in city government for more than 40 years.
Yet recently, Graves — who believes the McEuen issue has been overhyped — may have found Edinger’s one weakness: alleged nepotism. Three of Edinger’s grandchildren had been working for the city, a violation of Idaho state law. Edinger said he didn’t know about the law, even though a newspaper article, 11 years ago, quoted him discussing that very same issue.