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

The Corporation raises profile on flood recovery; chairman John Smith backs local-option sales tax

In City Hall, Floods, Jim Prosser, Monica Vernon, Ron Corbett on February 2, 2009 at 10:47 pm

There’s a new guy on the block when it comes to flood recovery. It’s called the Economic Planning & Redevelopment Corp.


The Corporation, formed last fall with modest fanfare, is a place for private business leaders to flex some muscle. It is a place for them to bring their influence to bear in hopes of landing some public and private funds that the city might not get otherwise.


If successful, the public might come to calling the entity, The Corporation.


Even with a bit of a corporate titan-feel, the group is structured as a public-private partnership. This is, in part, because much funding that might come into the community will need to come through City Hall or Linn County.


Thus, the four-person board of directors of the Corporation consists of its chairman, John Smith, president of trucking firm CRST International Inc.; Monica Vernon, Cedar Rapids council woman; Linda Langston, Linn County supervisor; and Dan Baldwin, president/CEO of the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation.


Doug Neumann is the full-time executive director.

Smith gave something of a profile-raising speech on Monday in front of the Downtown Rotary Club.


Smith said the Corporation was not intended to usurp the power of elected officials but to help.


He held out a challenge in saying that the Corporation will have mattered if it brings home money to the city and if it helps to quicken the pace of the community’s recovery.


If Smith was critical of the seven months of flood recovery to date, it was when he said the recovery had been without a “management mentality” needed to see projects through to completion.


It is unclear how such a suggestion might be received at City Hall or among the Linn County Board of Supervisors.


It is probably correct to say that seven of nine Cedar Rapids City Council members are strong supporters of City Manager Jim Prosser, who in recent months was named by Iowa’s city and county managers as Iowa’s manager of the year.


One of two council members who has thought the council has given up too much power to Prosser is Monica Vernon, the city representative on the Corporation.


Vernon is among those mentioned as a likely candidate to run for mayor.


Another likely candidate for mayor is Ron Corbett, a vice president for John Smith at CRST.


Smith is in agreement with the City Council in one regard: He told the Downtown Rotary that he supports a 1-percent local-option sales tax on the ballot March 3.

  1. As I have said all along…. FLOOD REBUILDING will be dictated by a SELECT FEW.(Just look at the members of the Planning &Redevelopment Corp) All the open houses (More overpaid consultants ideas not ours) and now this 3 month farce of meetings at the Crown Plaza which are nothing but more overpaid consultants ideas (not CR citizens) that we the citizens have to choose from, with most of the content being DOWNTOWN related. Downtown already knows it will be taken care of at any and all costs — this is evidenced by only 2 or 3 people standing up from the DOWNTOWN/MEDICAL area at the last Crown Plaza meeting. (Attendees were asked to stand from the 3 flood impacted areas.) Also I will be voting NO to local option tax and would engourage others to do the same.

  2. “Smith said the Corporation was not intended to usurp the power of elected officials but to help.”

    I would welcome the idea of our elected public servants feeling a little challenge to their power. They should collectively and individually hang their heads in shame over this corporation even being formed (translation: if they had demonstrated any level of aggressiveness and better results, there might not even be a need for other organizations to fill the leadership vacuum.

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