Ichiro for mayor. Despite at least one sign to that effect, the charismatic ballplayer isn't on the ballot. Soon, though, Coeur d'Alene voters will choose from two arguably more interesting locals for mayor.
Current Mayor Steve Judy is not running for re-election. That leaves the next four years in office to either Sandi Bloem or Steve Badraun, along with the position's humble salary -- recently doubled to $2,000 a month.
"I'd bring to the mayor's office a balance of heritage and history, with a strong vision for the future," Bloem says. Hearkening to her teaching, business and community service experience, she adds, "I have a reputation for building partnerships, creating teams, listening to community and getting things done."
Which sounds like fluffy language for business-as-usual to Badraun.
"We're emerging from a city with small-town politics, power politics controlled by a few people. We need to break out of that, or this community will suffocate," says Badraun. He speaks of his readiness to serve and of his experience both in planning matters and in private business. "I'm a guy who takes a plan and then moves the plan along to action."
Badraun (pronounced "ba-Drawn"), 56, and Bloem ("Bloom"), 58, do, however, agree that growth and the need to create high-paying jobs are the city's most pressing issues. They're both business owners and longtime city residents, and they sit next to each other on the city's planning and zoning board.
Coeur d'Alene attorney Scott W. Reed, long active in community matters, says he could accurately describe the political affiliation of most city council members, who, like the mayor, are in non-partisan positions. "I couldn't do that with either Sandi or Steve, and I know them both quite well."
With Bloem, voters will get a team player with support from many local power brokers; someone with a careful, deliberate approach to public policy. With Badraun, they'll likely get a straight talker running against what he sees as an entrenched network of political and business interests, and known more for his passion than his patience.
Rushing in from a public speaking
engagement, Bloem answers a
phone call at her business -- Johannes & amp; Co. Jewelers on Fourth and Sherman -- then joins a reporter, carrying a boxed lunch she says she'll have to eat during an interview. After 45 minutes of questioning, she hasn't touched a bite.
Her headquarters are located in an empty retail space between her business and her brother Greg Crimp's Sports Cellar, in the Dingle Building. Racks of athletic clothes line the store's front. Behind them are stacks of Bloem's flag-striped yard signs.
"I think it's the city's role to create a climate for a better economic base," Bloem says. The new mayor should focus the infrastructure so that potential corporate citizens see a community with good parks and an unimpeded traffic flow, she adds.
"We're going to have growth here. The key is to have smart growth," says Bloem.
Growth is an issue Bloem and Badraun both have on their minds: Coeur d'Alene jumped from about 24,500 people just 10 years ago to around 35,000 today, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Kootenai County, meanwhile, grew from 70,000 to 108,000.
The idea is for the city to recruit diversified companies and build its tax base, both candidates agree.
"Then growth can pay for itself and be healthy," says Bloem. "We need to get in a position where [new businesses] look at Coeur d'Alene and say, 'Absolutely, this is where I want to go.' "
Bloem's speaking is polished; her manner, genteel. She grew up in the city, a fourth-generation native. After graduating from Utah State, she worked as a school teacher for 10 years in District 271. When her father died suddenly in 1977, she joined the family business at Dingle's Hardware. Though that's now gone, Bloem and family remain at work in the same building.
She describes herself as passionately involved in community affairs for the past 30 years -- a pretty fair statement, given her work with business groups like the Chamber of Commerce, community groups like the EXCEL Foundation and numerous city committees.
As mayor, Bloem says she would look beyond the city in planning things like growth and aquifer health, meeting with county commissioners and city officials in places like Rathdrum and Post Falls.
Bloem, says attorney Reed, has been integral to growth planning in Coeur d'Alene. Consider the city council's adoption of the Walker Macy Downtown Public Places Master Plan in March 2000. The council adopted the $14.4 million plan unanimously, but with one proviso: That the city adhere to seven "community values," such as replacing any existing facilities that get torn down with equal or better ones. The seven values helped residents get past fractious debate and now serve as a guiding vision for revitalizing the downtown. Their author? Sandi Bloem.
If Bloem's life and times form
a steady, respectable arc,
Badraun's are closer to a squiggly line. He grew up in North Idaho, where his father was a Priest River logger and his mother a teacher. Later he took some college courses and held several jobs : U.S. Forest Service smoke jumper, police officer in Oregon, Vista Domestic Peace Corps worker in Georgia.
Landing in Coeur d'Alene, he purchased Duncan's Little Garden Spot, on Dalton, and Duncan's Pet Shop, on North Government Way, about three decades ago.
Neither of those businesses are downtown. Badraun spends much of his campaigning energy in puncturing what he sees as the overemphasis of a "four-square-block area of downtown." To him, it's the older, prettier sister who gets all the attention at the expense of younger, plainer neighborhoods. Emphasizing the downtown, as with the public spaces master plan, means neglect and flight, says Badraun. And that means sprawl.
There are two ways for a mayor to change Coeur d'Alene's political climate, he says: Consolidate existing committees now talking, talking, talking about growth management, and invite in "new faces" from a series of neighborhood meetings.
"We need to start refocusing on the neighborhoods and refocusing on our district businesses. We have to bring those people into the process and empower them," Badraun says. "[Currently] we have a whole group of committees. The same people just go 'round and 'round and 'round. They eat the donuts and drink the coffee and not a lot gets done in the way of action. And I'm an action guy."
That -- and his jabs at local media and elected officials -- is the sort of pitchfork-and-torches talk that leads some community leaders to characterize Badraun as a bit of a wild card. Badraun relishes the role, though, as he attempts to marshal backers to overcome "people who conduct business as usual."
It's not as if Badraun hasn't been on any of the committees he's blasting. He's volunteered on the planning board for 12 years and has served on other community boards, like the urban forest committee and the sign board review committee.
Most people who know him, though, have either met him at his businesses or, more recently, sitting on a street corner, perched atop a yellow stool -- his "mayor mobile." A sign invites passersby to ask questions.
This campaign venue probably fits Badraun's personality. He's a man singing his own tune, at once critical and self-deprecating, ironic and earnest. Asked if one person's characterization of him as 'smart, involved and abrasive' was accurate, he says, "that's exactly right."
How would that translate to the mayor's office? Badraun says he's a doer but not a micromanager, "allowing people to do their jobs but making sure those jobs are done properly."
His role, he says, would be as a catalyst for job creation, courting companies interested in relocating to the area. It would mean staying in touch with job placement and training organizations, trade groups, even taking a trade mission to Canada.
"[People] will find me very approachable -- but I'm passionate," he says. It's hard to argue with a man whose campaigning is done on street corners.
Mayors sometimes face thorny
issues with no clear resolution.
Take the Aryan Nations' parades through Coeur d'Alene in recent summers. How might Bloem and Badraun handle the job of protecting the Aryans' free speech, which often draws cantankerous protests?
"We've been fortressing off downtown for the past two or three [parades] now. We have 300 policemen and 25 demonstrators and the whole town is shut down," Badraun said. "My vision for that is a person will be shopping downtown on a busy Saturday afternoon, and they'll look up and see Richard Butler going by with one policeman, and they'll go back to their business. We have to take back that downtown and take back our city and not give it entirely to the Aryan Nations on a yearly basis."
Bloem says she supports the right to demonstrate, but noted that providing security for the Aryans' parade is costly to taxpayers. Demonstrators should bear some costs in the form of posting a bond, she says, if that's legally plausible to require. As for the level of security, she says she would have to rely on advice from police: "The number one charge to the city is public safety."
The new mayor must provide focus to the community's interests and issues, says Coeur d'Alene Area Chamber of Commerce President Jonathan Coe. The job requirements are "vision, enthusiasm, inspiration -- and ensuring the right people are in place to make that vision happen."
The question is can Bloem better create that blend of vision and action, or Badraun? Bloem's steady hand or Badraun's raised fist -- that's the voters' choice on Nov. 6.
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