Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

"...When Greed Masquerades As Need..."*

I've been trying to find an original, simple way to explain my perception of what Coeur d'Alene's urban renewal agency, the Lake City Development Corporation (LCDC), is doing to Kootenai County residents.

Harvard University psychologist Dr. Daniel Gilbert beat me to the punch.

In his editorial comment in the Sunday New York Times (free online registration may be required), Dr. Gilbert anecdotally describes the psychological sleight-of-hand LCDC is using.
One phrase in the last paragraph of his column points to a growing public perception of LCDC's motives: "... when greed masquerades as need ..."

Thanks to Dan Gookin's The LCDC primer and Mary Souza's The City's Pulse newspaper column, people in Coeur d'Alene are beginning to ask good questions about LCDC's interpretation and administration of "urban renewal". When has a "blighted" condition been successfully abated? For that matter, why is premium waterfront property considered "blighted" simply because it has vegetation rather than buildings on it? Why do some multimillionaire developers "need" tax increment financing when other more conventional methods of financing are available for their profit-generating projects? What independent oversight prevents any LCDC Commissioner from using "inside information" from LCDC project applications to invest in assets certain to appreciate in value if the LCDC project is approved? What independent oversight prevents the LCDC Commissioners from manipulating the somewhat elastic geographic boundaries of the LCDC's urban renewal districts and then "steering" LCDC supported projects to enrich Commissioners, their business associates, and their families?

Urban renewal, properly used and conscientiously administered, can help truly blighted areas recover. Once recovery has occurred, the urban renewal project must end so the increment taxes go to improving the community, not enriching the urban renewal agency. Informed citizens are able to distinguish between greed and need. Urban renewal projects can be a legitimate means to an end, but they must never become the end themselves.

*Daniel Gilbert, "Compassionate Commercialism," The New York Times, March 25, 2007 [newspaper on-line], available from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/25/opinion/25gilbert.html?th&emc=th; Internet; accessed March 25, 2007, at 2:00 P.M. PDT.


Blogger Starr Kelso said...

Bill, that is as well stated as I have ever seen it. I don't know if you have checked out the Boise Guardian site under the Best of Nortwest list or not. If not you should. Also, I am not aware of any URD that has ever succeeded at its task and then gone out of business. Maybe there is one? It just seems that they develop an institutional drive "to live" and fight all comers who would/do dare question their existence. Generally they are successful in surviving because the rich and famous profit from their existence and put down any revolt against the kingdom.

8:45 PM, March 25, 2007  
Blogger Bill McCrory said...


Thank you for reading and commenting.

I believe some URDs such as the Harper's/flex-cel one in Post Falls did in five years. However I don't know of any Urban Renewal Agencies that have ceased operation. Where there's "blight", there's profit, and where there can be profit, someone will find "blight."

Of course, there's another type of URD designed to address competitive disadvantage with neighboring states. That's in Title 50, Chapter 29. It would be hypocritical for CdA's mayor to invoke the competitive disadvantage one, though, because she's been a strong advocate of distancing CdA from "them" in Spokane so CdA doesn't lose its brand name recognition.

6:27 AM, March 26, 2007  

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