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Archive for the ‘Brian Fagan’ Category

Lone mayoral candidate Corbett, a Republican, gets backing of Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Building Trades Council, AFL-CIO

In Brian Fagan, Monica Vernon, Ron Corbett on June 2, 2009 at 4:44 pm

Ron Corbett is still out there running for mayor all by himself, though word is that council incumbents Monica Vernon and Brian Fagan – if not others – are biding their time, waiting to enter the race.

On Tuesday, Corbett, a former Republican state legislator and former president/CEO of the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, won the endorsement of the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Building Trades Council, AFL-CIO.

Scott Smith, the council’s president, said Tuesday that the council’s endorsement of Corbett was by a unanimous vote.

The council represents nearly 5,000 workers in the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City areas.

“Ron has a great track record of building coalitions and providing leadership,” Smith said. “We are proud to endorse his candidacy for Cedar Rapids mayor.”

Smith called the trades council’s early endorsement “an unusual step” for the council. But he said the endorsement was intended to send a message that those in the union trades “are looking for a consensus candidate for mayor.” That’s Corbett, he said.

Corbett brought out dozens of union trades workers in mid-March when he spoke outside the city’s flood-damaged and all-but empty Veterans Memorial Building, which is home to City Hall. Corbett castigated the current mayor and City Council on that day, accusing them of embracing a “culture of delay” and failing to get the city’s key, flood-damaged facilities back up and functioning.

Ray Dochterman, business manager for the Plumbers & Pipefitters Local #125, was there that March day, and on Tuesday, he, too, spoke on behalf of the trades council in endorsing Corbett.

“It is time to rebuild this city, and we believe Ron Corbett is the best person to take charge and do that,” Dochterman said.

Corbett, vice president at trucking firm CRST Inc., on Tuesday thanked the trades council for its backing.

“Like this organization, I want to work together with community members and businesses to create jobs and find the best path forward for Cedar Rapids,” Corbett said in a published statement.

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Past council candidate Bates back with profanity-tainted yelling; but a criminal charge from an earlier episode in September was dismissed

In Brian Fagan, City Hall, Greg Graham on May 21, 2009 at 11:37 am

One of the last times Robert Bates — a City Council candidate in 2005 who is open about his criminal and prison past — showed up at a City Council meeting, he ended up getting arrested.

That was in early September, and the misdemeanor criminal charge of disorderly conduct for disturbing a lawful meeting was the result of Bates’ profanity-laced and yelling-tainted performance during the council’s public comment period.

Turns out, Bates, who runs a traveling concession business, contested the charge and beat it in February.

On Wednesday, he was back at the City Council podium with a new version of public comment that featured profanity, a loud voice, personal attacks and a short refusal to leave the microphone when the council’s 5-minute time limit had been reached.

Council member Brian Fagan, the council’s mayor pro tem, asked Bates to moderate his comments twice, and then Fagan had to insist that Bates leave the microphone.

By then, Police Chief Greg Graham had moved to the side of the room to accompany Bates outside.

Bates asked if he was getting arrested again, to which Graham did not respond.

In his presentation, Bates once again brought up a decade-old dispute with the Linn County Sheriff and the Police Department. Bates also is a flood victim, and he talked, too, about what was not being done for flood victims.

Bates also had a notable outburst in the council chambers in the fall of 2007 when he sought to run for City Council a second time. However, a citizen successfully challenged some signatures on his nominating petitions and, as a result, he did not have enough signatures to qualify to run.

On Thursday, Bates said he and Chief Graham talked for about 15 minutes outside the City Council meeting on Wednesday evening in a discussion that he said did not result in any criminal charge.

He said he is just “standing up for our American rights” of free speech to make the point of how he and other flood victims feel.

He said he is planning a new run for City Council this year.

Wellington Heights’ president invites council for an awareness walk; castigates suggestion that garbage crews wear bullet-proof vests

In Brian Fagan, City Hall, Neighborhoods on May 15, 2009 at 9:17 pm

Terry Bilsland, longtime president of the Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association, this week invited the City Council on a 20-block-long neighborhood walk the evening of May 21 to help concerned citizens make it clear they aren’t going to put up with criminal activity.

The walkers will travel through parts of both the Wellington Heights Neighborhood and the Mound View Neighborhood, which are split by First Avenue East.

A similar walk a few years ago mobilized council member Brian Fagan and others to push for a new Enhance Our Neighborhoods initiative, an initiative that got set aside a bit after last June’s flood, but is now, City Hall says, back on the front burner.

Evidence of that is the Police Department’s move to open a district police station in June at 1501 First Ave. SE between the two neighborhoods. Code enforcement officers and other city employees will call the district station home, too.

Bilsland, who is known for working with City Hall to try to get things done, had another issue on his own front burner that he let the City Council know about this week. Bilsland referred to a TV news report in which a city solid waste employee apparently said he wanted the city to issue him a bullet-proof vest to pick up garbage in Wellington Heights.

Bilsland, who is not shy about chiding the local media when he says it unfairly characterizes Wellington Heights, said the matter suppossedly centered on a dispute over garbage, and Bilsland wanted to know how often that has happened in the neighborhood and how often it happens elsewhere in the city. He was sure it was a rare event and certainly no more frequent in one place than another.

He told the City Council that he expected solid waste employees to wear the bullet-proof vests citywide if such vests were ever issued, and Bilsland said he’d be out checking to make sure the workers — if the city was going to spend such money — had the vest on even when it was 100 degrees outside and no matter which part of the city they were in.

Why did mayoral prospect Monica Vernon change from Republican Party to Democratic Party?

In Brian Fagan, Linda Langston, Monica Vernon, Ron Corbett on May 5, 2009 at 12:41 pm

First it was U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter. Now it’s Cedar Rapids council member Monica Vernon.

In recent days, Specter changed his political party affiliation from Republican to Democrat as he readies to try to keep his seat in the U.S. Senate from the state of Pennsylvania. He said he couldn’t win the Republican primary there in a Republican Party that he said had moved to far to the right.

But why is Vernon — a long-time Republican with a husband, Bill, who as recently as 2008 was a member of the party’s state central committee — moving to the Democratic Party?

Vernon, who is the second year of a four-year term as District 2 council member, has been among a group of people considering a run this year for Cedar Rapids mayor, which, like other City Council seats in Iowa, is a non-partisan post.

This year’s mayoral race, though, surely will come with a partisan flavor.

To date, only Ron Corbett, a former Republican speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives, has announced that he is running for mayor.

On Monday, Linn County Supervisor Linda Langston, a prominent Democrat, said Democrats were urging her to take on Corbett. She said she was considering a mayoral race, but was not yet convinced she would run.

Council member Brian Fagan is another person mentioned as a possible mayoral candidate, and Fagan is registered to vote without political party. He changed his registration to Republican so he could compete in the January 2008 presidential caucuses, and he changed it to Democratic so he could vote in the June 2008 primary, the Linn County Auditor’s Office reports.

The county office said it processed Vernon’s change of party from Republican to Democratic just today, Tuesday.

State lawmakers from Cedar Rapids see to it that owners of abandoned flood-damaged homes don’t louse up a return to life for neighbors

In Brian Fagan, Floods, Rob Hogg on April 16, 2009 at 9:04 pm

A common lament in flood-hit neighborhoods here comes from those fixing up their homes while neighbors next door or down the block have abandoned theirs.

On Thursday, the Iowa Legislature did something about that.

State lawmakers passed a bill and sent it to Gov. Chet Culver that will permit Cedar Rapids and other cities to go to court and in expedited fashion take title to disaster-affected abandoned properties if a concerted effort to find the owner has failed.

Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, managed the bill through the Iowa Senate and on Thursday said that the city of Cedar Rapids has told him that it thinks the owners of 150 to 200 flood-damaged properties have simply walked away from them and can’t be found.

“The biggest thing is it gives the city clear title to this property that has been abandoned so the city can then do something productive to the property,” Hogg said.

Hogg said Rep. Todd Taylor, D-Cedar Rapids, managed the bill in the Iowa House.

The legislation, he said, is “very much in favor” of people who are trying to repair their homes or the business people who are trying to bring their businesses back in the flooded zones.

“One of the things that is so challenging right now is you might have an owner here and an owner here who are bringing their properties back, but these other properties, their owners have just walked away from them,” Hogg said. “And they’re in as dilapidated a condition as they were last June when the flood waters receded.

“And so it’s unfair to the people who are trying to bring their properties back to have neighboring properties that have just been totally walked away from. And hopefully this procedure will allow the city to do something very quickly about that.”

Hogg said the bill includes a provision that brings the legal action to a halt if the owner shows up within the period of the action. The city must work to find an owner of a disaster-affected property at least 30 days before going to court. At least 60 days then must pass before a court hearing on the matter.

If the court agrees the property has been abandoned, the court awards clear title of the property to the city at the property’s existing market value. The city pays that amount to the court, and if unclaimed, the money reverts to the city after two years.

Hogg said the bill, which addresses property damaged by a disaster between May 1 and Sept. 1, 2008, is designed to remedy “truly abandoned property.”

Cedar Rapids City Council member Brian Fagan on Thursday said the city had pushed for the legislation because abandoned properties, which had been a problem for the city prior to the flood, are especially a problem since the flood.

“Certainly we want to be respectful of property rights, but the huge, overriding concern is the health, welfare and safety of our residents,” Fagan said.

Mayor and five possible mayoral candidates have one thing in common: All support the local-option sales tax

In Brian Fagan, City Hall, Gary Hinzman, Mayor Kay Halloran, Monica Vernon, Ron Corbett, Scott Olson on March 1, 2009 at 11:00 pm

There have been local-option sales tax elections in years past in which elected officials and would-be elected officials have deferred to the voters and not expressed an opinion one way or another of the matter.

Not this time. At least not with Mayor Kay Halloran and the five people whose names to date are afloat as possible candidates for mayor in the November election.

Halloran is a strong supporter of the local-option sales tax, as are council members Monica Vernon and Brian Fagan, both who considered possible mayor candidates.

In favor, too, of the sales tax are three other possible mayor candidates: Ron Corbett, Gary Hinzman and Scott Olson.

In recent weeks, backers of Corbett conducted a private phone survey to check out what voters might be thinking about in this year’s upcoming mayoral race.

The Corbett backers asked those surveyed to pick from five possible candidates: Corbett, Fagan, Hinzman, Olson or Vernon.

Olson, a commercial Realtor who was narrowly defeated in his run for mayor in 2005, said last week that additional taxes like a local-option sales tax do have a “negative connotation.” But he said the unique circumstance of the flood recovery “overrides” that concern. “We have many people in need,” he said.

Olson said the local revenue raised by the sales tax will help those who own flood-damaged housing but, for one reason or another, don’t qualify for federal funds. He noted, too, that a citizen oversight committee will be in place to help direct how the sales tax money is spent.

Hinzman, director of the Sixth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services and former Cedar Rapids police chief, said last week that he normally doesn’t jump at a tax increase.

“But it makes better sense than having no concept as to how Cedar Rapids bails itself out of this disaster,” Hinzman said. He said the sales tax will help the city “recover and heal as a community.”

“Without the local-option sales tax, it will be extremely difficult to get beyond the past,” he said.

Corbett, vice president at trucking firm CRST International Inc., said passing the local-option sales tax will “definitely improve” the city’s chances to secure increased federal and state funding.

“Given the scale of our disaster, we can’t pretend that we can recover and redevelop without these funding sources,” said Corbett, past president of the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and former speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives.

He said the local-option sales tax will provide a temporary “window of opportunity” that will give the city time to work hard to recruit companies to the city to add jobs and rebuild the city’s tax base.

Mayor’s speech downtown is a reminder that all is not well there

In Brian Fagan, City Hall, Justin Shields, Mayor Kay Halloran on February 28, 2009 at 6:48 am

A mayor’s annual address on the condition of the city is generally an upbeat affair with a focus on the accomplishments in the year past and the ones sure to come in the year ahead.

That was the case on Friday when Mayor Kay Halloran and Brian Fagan, mayor pro tem, spoke at the League of Women Voters of Cedar Rapids/Marion’s annual State of the City luncheon.

This year, though, it was hard not to feel how far there is yet to go in the city’s recovery from the June 2008 flood, a recovery that must come in the midst of a troubling national economic downturn.

Friday’s event was held in what over the years has become the lone downtown venue for such gatherings: The Ballroom of the Crowne Plaza Five Seasons Hotel.

The hotel is in bankruptcy and being run by an interim hotel manager, and for more than a year now, the hotel chain that owns the Crowne Plaza moniker has threatened to withdraw it from Cedar Rapids only downtown hotel.

The previous owner of the hotel had been required to upgrade the building to keep the Crowne Plaza name, and, in fact, much of that work was completed, reports Patrick DePalma, chairman of the city’s Five Season Facilities Commission. The rooms still need new TVs, and, more to the point of the mayor’s Friday speech, there is still a need to upgrade the hotel’s Ballroom, DePalma says.

One of the typical routes to The Ballroom is through the entrance to the U.S. Cellular Center, which is joined to the hotel. You walk in the center’s lobby and head up the towering escalator to the next floor to get to the hotel lobby and The Ballroom. But the escalator has been out of service since the machinery that drives it took on water in the June flood.

Nearly nine months after the flood, there surely are some who, hiking up the stationary escalator steps, aren’t wondering if the city’s recovery from the flood will ever come.

The city’s Facilities Commission oversees the city-owned event center and it plays a role in the hotel because the city owns the land and air rights for the hotel.

The commission’s DePalma says he’s tried to impress on the city the need to get moving on fixing the flood damage to the U.S. Cellular Center’s lobby and to the escalator there. He says the work is dependent on funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and he says City Hall controls the schedule on which of the many flood-damaged city properties gets fixed first.

“We’ve talked to the city and said, ‘Let’s get this done,’” he says. “The work that needs to be done is fairly minor in terms of how much it would take and how much it would cost compared to (other projects).”

DePalma says the city’s first focus in the downtown is to fix elevators in damaged parking ramps.

“We understand that,” he says. But he says he hopes the U.S. Cellular Center comes soon after.

“Any pressure you can put on them,” DePalma says. “It’s not a difficult thing to take care of. But I can’t hire a contractor.”

Under consideration, he says, is doing away with the escalator and replacing it with an elevator and a staircase.

The public now can ride the elevator next door that leads into the hotel lobby on the second floor.

For whatever reason, the audience was a little smaller this time for the mayor’s annual address. The League of Women Voters put the count at about 300, down about 60 from the year before.

Six of nine City Council members did not attend to hear their council colleagues, Halloran and Fagan, speak. Council member Justin Shields was on hand.

The center of the city’s government has been operating out of an office building in a northeast Cedar Rapids office park since the flood. The council holds its formal Wednesday evening meetings in an auditorium nearby on the AEGON USA campus. The flood-damaged City Hall downtown remains empty and awaiting renovation.

Water-filled bladders and sand-filled baskets to provide temporary flood protection; but cost too great to protect New Bohemia/Oak Hill

In Brian Fagan, City Hall, Floods on February 25, 2009 at 9:56 pm

The City Council moved ahead to purchase a temporary flood control system to protect many of the flood-prone parts of the city to some degree until permanent protection is in place.

The temporary system, which will cost $6.6 million for materials and mobilization if needed, will be available this flood season.

The council approved the concept of a temporary system a few weeks ago, but wanted to hear more about why it was too expensive to protect the lowest-lying area along the river, the New Bohemia/Oak Hill area.

Last night, the council agreed with consultant Stanley Consultants Inc., Muscatine, Iowa, that it did not make sense to spend an additional $3 million to protect property valued at about $2 million below Eighth Avenue SE on the east side of the river in what is New Bohemia/Oak Hill.

Council member Brian Fagan suggested that maybe that area could be the first to see the coming permanent flood protection when it is built in the years ahead.

The temporary system features a product called a tiger dam, in which water fills bladders, and a product called a Hesco Concertainers, in which sand is used to fill plastic-lined mesh baskets.

The latter was used in Johnson and Des Moines counties last year.

Once the flood forecast is for the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids to reach 20 feet, the city will mobilize the temporary protection. It will protect Time Check, Czech Village and both sides of the river downtown to a river stage measured at a downtown river gauge of 24 feet.

The city twice has had flood water reach 20 feet in its history. The only time it was higher was last June, when the river reached 31.12 feet.

Protecting to 24 feet will protect 830 homes and $21.3 million in property value, consultant Jim Kill, of Stanley Consultants Inc., Muscatine, Iowa, told the council last night.

Kill called that “a good ratio” between the cost of temporary protection and the amount of value being protected.

He said the ratio “validated” the council’s earlier decision to protect to 24 feet. 

Stealth ‘Condition of the City’ address has Halloran assuring city is ‘open for business;’ Fagan says city’s flood recovery will be a model for the nation

In Brian Fagan, City Hall, Floods, Mayor Kay Halloran on February 25, 2009 at 7:33 pm

Without prior promotion, Mayor Kay Halloran and Brian Fagan, mayor pro tem, last night gave a Condition of the City speech, saying the city is working to recover from disaster in a way that makes the city better than ever.

The speech was part preview: Halloran is scheduled to reprise her comments at a public forum on Friday.

In PowerPoint-aided comments, Halloran last night forewarned Cedar Rapidians that “times will be difficult” in the city for the next few years as the city works to recover from the 2008 flood.

At the same time she assured that the city is “open for business” and she promised that she and her council colleagues will be “vigilant” on spending and continue to work to bring about an even more cost-effective, customer-friendly city government.

SEE http://gazetteonline.com/Assets/pdf/ConditionofCityPPT.pdf

 

Halloran said, too, that the city will continue to work hard to change “very draconian” state policies that she said force cities to be too dependent on local property-taxes. Those taxes “gouge” the city’s businesses and residents and will “cripple our city” as it works to recover, she said.

 

Fagan said the state of the city’s condition is a tale of two cities — a city before the flood and a city recovering from a flood.

Fagan recalled the images of last June, calling them “difficult” and at the same time “inspiring” and “representative” of the giving and generosity of Cedar Rapids.

Fagan said the city’s needs and costs remain “staggering,” and he put the cost of recovery at between $2 billion and $5 billion. For housing needs alone, the city needs more than $200 million to fix, buyout, relocate and rebuild housing, he said.

In citing the dollar figures, Fagan addressed head on the frequent criticism often heard about the City Council’s use of consultants that have and are providing the city with what Fagan called “expert guidance” in the flood recovery.

He put the cost of consultants at about $5 million, defended the spending and said the expertise was the city’s best way to ensure that Cedar Rapids’ flood recovery is “the best recovery this country has ever seen.”

Fagan, too, talked about the city’s plans to make sure it renovates or rebuilds some 300 flood-damaged public city buildings and facilities in the best way it can for future generations.

He made reference to a comment last week from a Linn County supervisor, who suggested that the city was pursuing wants and not needs as the city talked about the possibility of building new facilities. It meets a public need to study rebuilding options to see what best serves customers and what is sustainable, efficient and affordable for the long term, Fagan said.

In the city’s flood recovery, Fagan singled out several high points: the public-private effort that saved the city’s water supply; the city’s ability to get its waste-water treatment plant back on line quickly; the city’s ability to get a flood-protection plan in place in four months. The speed of the latter two accomplishments was unrivaled in the nation, he said.

Fagan said the last eight months has brought some “incredibly tense times” and plenty of “vigorous debate” at City Hall and throughout the community.

For all of it, the city will come through the recovery a better city, he said.