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

Mayoral hopeful Corbett fires a new campaign shot: Don’t let city officials use new state-granted power to build a new city hall without a citizen vote

In City Hall, Ron Corbett on May 17, 2009 at 8:48 am

Mayoral candidate Ron Corbett keeps running for office even if no one yet has joined him.

In his latest campaign video on his campaign Website, Corbett is calling into question a change in state law, which applies to Iowa jurisdictions recovering from last year’s natural disasters and allows them to pass big bond issues to pay for public building projects without a citizen vote.

The law change was one Cedar Rapids’ lobbyist at the Iowa Legislature was instructed to pursue by the Cedar Rapids City Council.

The new law — it was approved with great final support by both houses of the legislature — does allow citizens to request a referendum on a bond proposal in a reverse referendum it they can muster signatures on petitions equal to at least 20 percent of the number of people who voted in the last presidential election. In Cedar Rapids, that would mean 13,332 signatures.

“Iowa has a longstanding tradition to allow people to vote on bond issues,” Corbett says in his campaign video.

In the video, Corbett recalls the Cedar Rapids school district’s effort to pass a bond issue some years ago, and Corbett says he, as president/CEO of the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce at the time, helped the district scale back its plans to “the basics” in a way that convinced voters to back the bond issue.

Corbett is aware of the upside to the law change that will allow cities like cities like Cedar Rapids, which is trying to recover from a disastrous flood, to push ahead with bond issues without a citizen vote. The city faces tens of millions of dollars in building renovations and building replacements, and, arguably, such work could be delayed for long periods if the city must seek the required 60-percent voter approval on every issue.

For example, take the city’s downtown library, which was damaged in last June’s flood beyond repair. The city’s library board has decided it would prefer to build a new library at a new downtown site farther from the river. Federal dollars will pay for much of the work, but the money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency doesn’t all come in upfront. The thought is the city will need to bond for some projects to get the construction started as the FEMA money comes in. The same could apply to a host of other projects.

What Corbett singles out in his latest video, though, is what he says is the push in some quarters to build a brand new City Hall. And he fears the new change in Iowa law would allow such a thing to happen without a citizen vote.

We’ll see: Building a new city hall won’t be universally endorsed because the city’s existing City Hall, which is in the flood-damaged, now-unoccupied Veterans Memorial Building on May’s Island in the middle of the Cedar River, has a following. It will be renovated and hold something in any event.

What isn’t clear either is just want members of the City Council want to do. Council member Tom Podzimek said recently that the council has no preconceived notions as it begins a public participation process on the future of city government buildings in June. Council member Kris Gulick said he wants to see a financial analysis of retrofitting and retooling existing buildings as that discussion unfolds.

Corbett earlier has said the city doesn’t need to build a new “Taj Mahal” to house city government.

And he repeats that in his latest video: “I don’t think we need a new city hall,” he says. He says the city has plenty of existing buildings. If building a new city hall happens, though, voters should have a chance to vote on it, he says.

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  1. Ron is once again correct. The current leadership, both elected and staff, have some pre-determined preferences. Let us decide, we pay for it after all.

  2. This is a shell game for Corbett. He doesn’t have any original ideas to run on, so he is going on the attack for something that does not exist. Typical republican tactic. Thanks but no thanks Ron.

  3. Years ago when Corbett was Speaker of the House his counterpart was a guy named Dave Schrader, who in addition to being a legislator, listed his occupation as “Stock Car Driver. Schrader used to get up on the floor and deliver a speech about trusting the competition and put it in terms only a stock car driver could, “You gotta trust that that when you go high into the curve the other guy won’t hit you in the door and push you into the wall”.

    So look at Corbett’s coffee mug in his video – it’s a Number 3 Mug – Dale Earnhardt, Senior not Junior. Earnhardt’s nickname was “THE INTIMIDATOR” and the competition used to get scared when they looked into the rear view mirror and spotted the number 3 car behind them. Soon the gap would close, the bump drafting would start and yes on occassion somebody would go into the wall around turn three. But there would be “THE INTIMIDATOR” speeding onto victroy lane and grabbing the checkered flag, because on race day, much like election day – “IF YOU AIN’T FIRST, YOUR LAST”.

    Boogity, Boogity, Boogity – It’s racing time again.

    And I for one am going to stand up with the crowd, let out a big rebel yell and cheer when some other people go into the wall hard and wreck, holding up my hand making that “3” sign.

  4. Geez 16th Ave, whatsamatter? Too many houbys at houby days? I don’t think ol #3 is going to need to ram them into the wall, they will drive into it on their own.

    A lie is half way around the world before the truth is out the door. No wait, that’s not Shakespeare, what has ol Shey been reading lately?

  5. Ron has his own ideas for Cedar Rapids,but right now he is talking about what this Administration is not doing and has not done.Keep up on the news and you will see that they are trying to get everything so that they can approve it without the citizens of Cedar Rapids having any vote on it.The Council members are lying to us when they say that there has never been any talk about building a new City Hall.It came up,once again,just a couple of months ago.Let’s get truthfulness back in City Hall and put Ron Corbett in as Mayor,then replace the rest of them and Mr.Prosser too.

  6. Nicely done Mr. Corbett! Lets hope you get some new council members who share your vision or this will all be for nothing.

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