In less than 10 years, Pocatello will be entering the 21st century. But at this point, Idaho's second-largest city seems to have trouble reaching the 1990s, city officials say.
Every time it appears Pocatello is making headway on economic revitalization or rejuvenation of the downtown business district or improvement of its infrastructure, past problems emerge."I think that's our biggest challenge . . . being able to look forward for any length of time," Councilman Roger Chase said. "It seems we're always getting hammered because someone didn't think things out sufficiently."
The other five council members share the same concerns but have different agendas on moving ahead.
Take the downtown. Twelve years ago it was bustling with activity with few closed buildings. But with the construction of Chubbuck's Pine Ridge Mall, Pocatello's downtown hit hard times.
Buildings fell into disrepair. But because of the unique features of many of them, some residents pushed for creation of a downtown historic preservation district to maintain the area and attract commerce.
"We made a mistake when we made it an historic district," Chase maintained. "Some parts of the downtown are worth saving, others aren't. But because of the designation, our hands are tied."
Chase said until less-important buildings are removed, it will be hard to bring people back to the core. Councilman Greg Anderson said less significant structures should be removed for parking.
"But we must also recognize the unrealized potential of the downtown. Once a building is demolished, it's gone. We should give those who are pushing revitalization time to get the plans together," he said.
Saving the downtown does not mean being inflexible about cleaning out unwanted buildings, council members Karen McGee and Earl Pond said.
The downtown plans dovetail with the city's program of beautification and neighborhood cleanup. But the council has been reluctant to come down too hard on homeowners.
Officials also must work to overcome an attitude problem. Pocatello, Chase said, is still in a 1920s mind-set.