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Archive for June 18th, 2009|Daily archive page

23-year-old middle-school teacher with a school-board election under his belt enters the race for City Council

In City Hall on June 18, 2009 at 10:49 am

Nick Duffy, who took a shot at securing a Cedar Rapids school board seat in 2006 as a 20 year old, says he is running for an at-large seat in this year’s City Council election.

Two at-large seats are being contested this year. Those two are currently held by Brian Fagan, a likely mayoral candidate, and Pat Shey.

Duffy, a lifelong Cedar Rapids resident, a 2004 Jefferson High School graduate and a Mount Mercy College graduate as well, teaches language arts at Regis Middle School.

His campaign has a logo, a Web site and news releases.

He cites flood recovery, job creation, public safety and fiscal responsibility as his top campaign issues.

“I will bring to this position a lifelong commitment to Cedar Rapids and a common sense approach to what is best for this community,” Duffy says in a news release. “We must spend taxpayer money wisely and work aggressively for a progressive and community-centered agenda.”

Duffy, of 122 12th St. NW, points to a delay in opening a police substation at 1501 First Ave. SE, calling it “another example of bureaucracy getting in the way of helping people.”

During his unsuccessful school board run in 2006, The Gazette editorial pages said of Duffy: “At just 20 years of age, Duffy is someone this town should hope to hang on to — if not as a school board member, then perhaps as a district teacher someday. The Mount Mercy education student has great passion for teaching and an idealistic approach that likely will be seasoned with the right amount of pragmatism in a few more years.”

In an interview Thursday, Duffy said of his young age that common sense and the ability to lead are the important qualifications for a candidate.

He lives in council District 5, where incumbent Justin Shields is up for reelection, but he has chosen to seek an at-large council seat rather than take on Shields. Duffy said both that he “great respect for the work” that Shields has done and that he likes the idea of seeking a council seat that represents the entire city.

Duffy is engaged to marry in November. He performed in and directed theater productions at Mount Mercy College, and this summer, he will be working with Theatre Cedar Rapids’ summer youth camp.

Duffy is the grandson of Linda Seger, 1629 Eighth St. NW, who has been among the most widely quoted Cedar Rapids flood victims in both the Cedar Rapids media and in media from elsewhere.

Vernon vents; dresses down City Manager Prosser for not getting police substation in storefront at 1501 First Ave. SE open quickly

In Greg Graham, Jim Prosser, Monica Vernon, Neighborhoods on June 18, 2009 at 9:10 am

Council member Monica Vernon, fresh off her decision on Tuesday not to try a run for mayor, took time at Wednesday evening’s council meeting to tear into City Manager Jim Prosser.

Vernon, who for many months has made it clear she thinks the current City Council has acceded too much power to Prosser, was angry that the Police Department had not yet gotten the city’s first police substation open in a vacant storefront at 1501 First Ave. SE.

Police Chief Greg Graham initially had said he wanted to be in the building in June in the wake of an attack on police officer Tim Davis just two blocks away.

It’s not worked out that way, and Vernon isn’t happy about it.

Wednesday evening, looking straight at Prosser, Vernon declared that the city has a crime problem, that crime is at its worst in the summer, and it was important to have gotten the substation open.

She called the matter “a can-do moment” and said Prosser has not had a “can-do attitude” about getting the project done.

Vernon then lit into City Attorney Jim Flitz, suggesting that he worries too much about preventing problems rather than solving them.

“I’m really disgusted about this,” Vernon said.

Council member Tom Podzimek calmly weighed in and suggested that the council take what steps it can to speed matters along. Then Podzimek defended Flitz: “I do think our attorney’s job is to keep us out of jail.”

Flitz said he didn’t have anything to do with the procedural steps required by state law to take bids on a renovation project.

The building needs about $50,000 in renovation work before it can be occupied. Last week, Chief Graham said it would likely be fall before the building is ready.

Prosser explained that he had taken a risk by proposing that the building’s owner do the renovations rather than the city so the job would not require public bidding and could be done faster. The cost of that was too great and couldn’t be done, he explained.

By looking at that approach, though, the project got delayed a bit, he said.

“We tried something and it didn’t work,” he said.

Even so, Prosser assured the council that the Police Department has taken additional steps to beef up their presence in the area even if the substation, which he called “symbolically” important and a good practical asset, is not yet in place.

Council member Jerry McGrane said neighborhood leaders are disappointed that the substation isn’t open yet. He called it “very unsettling.” He suggested Prosser talk to the neighborhoods.