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Archive for July 14th, 2009|Daily archive page

Chuck Swore launches pioneering move: Can a former incumbent reclaim a seat on the city’s still-new, part-time council?

In Chuck Swore, City Hall on July 14, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Chuck Swore wants to return to the City Council.

Swore on Tuesday said he will run for one of the two at-large council seats on the ballot in November, and he said he is running to return a “can-do attitude” to City Hall.

Swore was elected to the west-side District 2 seat on the council in 2005 in the first election for what that year was the city’s new, nine-member, part-time City Council.

Three of the nine seats — the District 2 and District 4 seats and one at-large seat — began with two-year terms so that not all nine seats would change in the same election cycle. And in 2007, Swore lost his council seat to challenger Chuck Wieneke.

This November, six of the nine council seats will be up for grabs — mayor, two at-large seats and the seats in council districts 1, 3 and 5.

Brian Fagan and Pat Shey are the incumbents now in the two at-large seats, and Fagan is expected to run for mayor and Shey to seek reelection to an at-large seat.

On Tuesday, Swore said most on the council back in 2005 came in with a commitment to get things done.

“That attitude kind of went away,” he said.

Swore said he is not opposed to talking about a vision for the city, but he said he wants the City Council to establish a set of time goals to make sure the city is accomplishing and not just planning.

“The City Council wants to take its time. I’d like to have some deadlines,” Swore said.

He said an approach of “ready, fire, aim” sometimes is needed to get things done.

Swore said, too, that the city of Cedar Rapids needs to get back to promoting economic development so it builds its tax base for the future.

“If you look at successful cities, they are developing,” he said.

Too often, Swore said, Cedar Rapids’ city government impedes development and the growth of business with what he said is a “mindset” that prefers to impose and enforce regulations rather than finding ways to facilitate development.

Swore, 66, retired from Acme Electric where he had been vice president and general manager, has spent the 19 months since he left the City Council involved in several endeavors related to small business.

Prior to the June 2008 flood, he ran his own, one-man consulting business, CRS Small Business Services, and he became the spokesman for the Cedar Rapids Developers’ Council.

Since the flood, he also has worked as a flood-recovery case manager on contract representing both small businesses and landlords.

“It’s been a very satisfying position because I’m actually able to help folks,” Swore said of his flood-recovery work.

He also is the representative of small business on City Hall’s Recovery and Reinvestment Coordinating Team, a key source of flood-recovery advice for the City Council.

It is his flood-recovery roles where he said he has seen ways in which city government can improve how it works with businesses and people. If returned to the City Council, he said he will push to have the city review existing ordinances related to development to see which ordinances can be refined.

“Let’s see if some need updated so they are not effectively hurting our community in encouraging business to come to town,” Swore said. “Let’s at least dust them off and see if there’s a better way of doing it.”

Swore has long years of service in Cedar Rapids city government.

He served as chairman of the city’s Five Seasons Facilities Commission for 23 years, a period during which the city built its downtown arena, now called the U.S. Cellular Center. He then spent five years on the City Planning Commission before his successful run for City Council in 2005.

Swore said he does have some experience with the council and city government that he thinks can help now.

“I’ve just watched Cedar Rapids over the past several years lose its standing,” Swore said. “I care very deeply about Cedar Rapids, and I want to offer as much as I can.”

He said the City Council should be a place to discuss and act on ideas, ideas that the city staff is then directed to implement.

“I don’t see it working that way now,” he said.

Swore said he has respect for City Manager Jim Prosser, but he said he wishes that the council back in 2006 — when Prosser became the city’s first city manager — had told him to leave his speed dial back in Illinois where he had come from.

It’s Swore’s way of saying that the city has used too many out-of-state consultants and too few local experts.

Swore is a former union electrician who, at age 29, became the business manager for his local union, IBEW Local 405. Eventually, he jumped to management at Acme Electric.

Swore and wife Carol have four adult children and 16 grandchildren.

He is undergoing surgery for prostate cancer in August, but doesn’t anticipate he will miss a beat.

“I look at challenges as opportunities,” Swore said. “We always ought to be trying to help in the best way we can through our own abilities.”