The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Archive for May 20th, 2008|Daily archive page

Former council member Swore likes Des Moines idea of homeless/prisoners helping with city cleanup

In Chuck Swore, City Hall on May 20, 2008 at 5:11 pm

There’s a great “Seinfeld” episode in which Kramer and Newman decide they are going to make some money running a small fleet of rickshaws in New York City. To make the business plan work, Kramer and Newman decide to select their rickshaw drivers from those who are homeless. Things didn’t work out too well. It wasn’t the homeless as much as the rickshaws. Contestants on Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice” show couldn’t have made the rickshaws work.

This week former Cedar Rapids City Council member Chuck Swore made note of a news story in which the city of Des Moines is looking to turn to the homeless and to prisoners to help with its citywide cleanup. The projects include planting trees and flowers, cleaning up parks and trails, tidying up the downtown and maintaining the riverfront, The Des Moines Register reports.

“We would look at people who are sort of down-and-out and looking for a way to get a little bit of income,” Mayor Frank Cownie told the Register.

The city also plans to look at prisoners, including those at the state prisons in nearby Newton. Iowa prison inmates in the past have received $5 a day for such work, according to the news report. Some correctional clients must perform community service work without pay.

Swore notes that he had proposed in the past that the city use those housed at the Linn County Jail to assist the city in a cleanup. City Hall, though, had reservations because of the expense of workman’s compensation insurance, Swore recalls.

“Out of curiosity,” how is Des Moines planning on making such a thing work? he wonders.

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Linn Auditor Miller said, show me the report, I’ll show you the money; Humane Society shelter complies

In Humane Society, Linn County government on May 20, 2008 at 3:28 pm

Linn County Auditor Joel Miller asked about the county’s funding of the Cedar Valley Humane Society animal shelter — which is under investigation for billing irregularities — and Miller now has received.

This week, the Humane Society submitted a simple monthly report in writing, as required in its contract with Linn County, and Miller was satisfied.

Two weeks ago, Miller said he would hold up the county’s $5,000 monthly check to the Society’s shelter if it did not submit a written report as required.

In truth, what Miller discovered was that the county’s Public Health office and county’s Board of Health over time had been satisfied with a monthly verbal report on animal bites from the Humane Society shelter. The office and board decided it didn’t need a written report

Miller got involved because a taxpayer, who has been following the Marion Police Department’s probe of the Humane Society shelter’s billing records, asked Miller for the required reports from the shelter to the county. Miller, who signs the county’s checks, discovered that the county didn’t have any reports to send to anyone. He asked about it, and Tom Hart, Public Health environmental supervisor who oversees the county contract with the shelter, said he would see that the shelter began submitting written monthly reports again.

“I got what I needed,” Miller said this week after the Humane Society shelter submitted a report of its activities for April to the Public Health office and health board. Miller described the report as “simplistic,” but sufficient for his needs — proof, he said, that the county contract, which requires a written report, is being satisfied.

The Humane Society shelter, which was raided by the Marion Police Department in March and had its billing records seized, handles animal control and the sheltering of animals for jurisdictions outside of the city of Cedar Rapids.

Public Health’s Hart said the Board of Health on Monday accepted the shelter’s one-page written activity report and recommended two additions — animal bites by species and a more complete monthly census of animals.

Hart noted that the Humane Society’s shelter continues in a transition of sorts since its longtime director, Pat Hubbard, retired back in 2001.

“This is what they need to do is get their feet real settled on procedure and work out the differences with Marion and other cities,” Hart said of the Humane Society shelter and the new written monthly report. “But the Board of Health was convinced that we’re getting a value for our service.”