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Archive for the ‘Chuck Swore’ Category

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.”


Super Bowl defeat changes nothing: City needs a Kurt Warner street now

In Chuck Swore, City Hall on February 3, 2009 at 1:23 pm

Chuck Swore, the brains behind naming a Cedar Rapids street after native-son golf phenom Zach Johnson, is continuing to push to name a stretch of local asphalt for native son Kurt Warner.

Swore, a recent City Council member, initially jumped out with the street-naming idea for Warner after quarterback Warner helped get his latest team, the Arizona Cardinals, to the Super Bowl. Warner, a graduate of the former  Regis High School in Cedar Rapids,  had been to two Super Bowls as a St. Louis Ram.

Two weeks ago, Swore suggested naming what he thought was an unnamed street that runs by Kingston Stadium and Veterans Memorial Stadium for Warner.

Turns out the street actually has a name, Veterans Memorial Drive. The idea of changing the name to Kurt Warner Drive didn’t sit too well with some veterans, Swore reports.

His new idea is to put Warner’s name on the nearby street that runs next to Kingston Stadium and the tennis courts outside Veterans Memorial Stadium and between Eighth Avenue SW and Veterans Memorial Drive.

That little street is next to the Kingston football venue and won’t “insult every veteran” by trying to change the name of Veterans Memorial Drive, Swore says.

Plus, he adds, the proposed street has no existing name and no addresses on it that would need to be changed.

Swore says an interception thrown by Warner in Sunday’s Super Bowl matters not one bit in the city’s need to name a street for him.

“I hope it can be done immediately,” he says.

Swore hasn’t warmed to what he says has been KGAN-TV’s idea to name part of Interstate 380 for Warner.

Past council member Chuck Swore got Zach Johnson a Drive; now he launches a push to name a street for Kurt Warner

In Chuck Swore, City Hall on January 21, 2009 at 1:46 pm

Former council member Chuck Swore was the one who agitated first and succeeded in getting a street name here changed to Zach Johnson Drive in honor of the Cedar Rapids native and Masters Golf champion.

Swore on Wednesday is the first to surface now to name a street after another Cedar Rapids native and sports champion, NFL quarterback Kurt Warner.

Swore suggests the perfect street is the one runs between 15th Street SW and Rockford Road SW – which is the entrance to Kingston Stadium.

Warner, a Regis High School graduate, is leading a team into the Super Bowl for the third time.

Johnson, who won anew on the PGA tour last weekend, is also a Regis grad. His street is a little stretch that runs into Elmcrest Golf Course, where Johnson played golf growing up.

Former council member Swore likes Des Moines idea of homeless/prisoners helping with city cleanup

In Chuck Swore, City Hall on May 20, 2008 at 5:11 pm

There’s a great “Seinfeld” episode in which Kramer and Newman decide they are going to make some money running a small fleet of rickshaws in New York City. To make the business plan work, Kramer and Newman decide to select their rickshaw drivers from those who are homeless. Things didn’t work out too well. It wasn’t the homeless as much as the rickshaws. Contestants on Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice” show couldn’t have made the rickshaws work.

This week former Cedar Rapids City Council member Chuck Swore made note of a news story in which the city of Des Moines is looking to turn to the homeless and to prisoners to help with its citywide cleanup. The projects include planting trees and flowers, cleaning up parks and trails, tidying up the downtown and maintaining the riverfront, The Des Moines Register reports.

“We would look at people who are sort of down-and-out and looking for a way to get a little bit of income,” Mayor Frank Cownie told the Register.

The city also plans to look at prisoners, including those at the state prisons in nearby Newton. Iowa prison inmates in the past have received $5 a day for such work, according to the news report. Some correctional clients must perform community service work without pay.

Swore notes that he had proposed in the past that the city use those housed at the Linn County Jail to assist the city in a cleanup. City Hall, though, had reservations because of the expense of workman’s compensation insurance, Swore recalls.

“Out of curiosity,” how is Des Moines planning on making such a thing work? he wonders.

Chuck Swore had dam idea first; he lives, though another Chuck occupies his former council seat

In Chuck Swore, Chuck Wieneke, City Hall, Downtown District on May 14, 2008 at 5:29 pm

The City Council this evening is expected to pick between two accomplished design firms for the job of creating a master plan for one of the council’s top priorities — riverfront redevelopment.

In front of the council last week, one of the design firms, Sasaki Associates Inc., Watertown, Mass., took a risk and showed off some concepts for how the riverfront could change.

They talked about turning First Avenue West along the river into a “great boulevard” with trees on each side and in the middle and how multistory buildings would go up on the west side of the boulevard and face the river.

They also had a pretty image of an open-air riverfront amphitheater, on the west side of the river, just upriver from the Police Department.

It was the third idea and image that had some on the council remembering former District 4 council member Chuck Swore without even mentioning him by name.

That idea, which Gina Ford from Sasaki even called kind of out there, involved moving the dam above the downtown to below the downtown. Such a move would raise the level of the Cedar River through the downtown and create a still pool of water there. People then could the river right in the downtown for boating and even skating in winter, was the thought. Raising the river, too, would make people actually see the river. Now, it is mostly out of sight as it runs through downtown, Ford and her colleague, Mark Dawson said.

Swore on numerous occasions talked about the very idea of a dam below the downtown that would raise the water level up in the downtown.

In recent days, Swore, though, said he would keep the present dam in place and build a new dam further downriver to accomplish the task.

By the way, Swore reports he’s doing fine. Even in his council campaign last year, he was excited about the idea of a new museum in the city to memorialize the city’s contribution to engineering and science — Art Collins and all that.

And don’t be surprised to see that idea emerge at some point. Swore also is working with a local developers’ group, pushing its ideas.

Swore served two years on the city’s first council under the city’s new council/manager government. He was defeated last fall for the west-side District 4 council seat by Chuck Wieneke.


Zach Johnson Drive NE: a special street for a Masters champ and native son

In Chuck Swore, City Hall on April 7, 2008 at 7:52 pm

This is the week that Cedar Rapids native son Zach Johnson attempts to defend his 2007 title as champion of the prestigious Masters Golf Tournament.

It’s hard to forget last year’s accomplishment if you’re paying attention out on one stretch of 35th Street NE.

It took the City Council, led by former council member Chuck Swore, just five weeks to pass a resolution to change the name of the final piece of Eastern Avenue NE – the piece between 35th and 36th streets NE – to Zach Johnson Drive NE.

The stretch leads into the Elmcrest Country Club where Johnson played his golf growing up in Cedar Rapids.

Vern Wright, the general manager at Elmcrest, says the new street name and new green city street sign haven’t become entirely old hat after being in place for nearly 11 months.

“From time to time, you do notice it,” Wright says. “Just simply because it is what it is.

“The street name is special just as Zach is, just as Cedar Rapids is because it has someone who has won that Masters championship  jacket.”

Only 30 golf courses in the nation can say they are the spots where a Masters champion learned his golf, Wright says. The number of courses would be greater, but several who have won the tournament are from abroad and several have won the tournament more than once.

Here’s hoping Zach adds his name to that final group, Wright says.

Out on Zach Johnson Drive NE on Monday afternoon, the street sign was standing proudly and the two main potholes in the street had been pretty well filled in by city crews.

“The terrible winter didn’t kill it,” Wright says of the sign and street. . “… I think there are a couple of potholes. But what street in the city didn’t suffer from Mother Nature’s winter this year.”

No one has an address on Zach Johnson Drive NE, so no one had to change a street address on Johnson’s behalf.

At a public hearing a year ago at City Hall, Audrey Rahn, who in the past has regularly attended council meetings and regularly has commented to the council, was the only one to question the street-name change.

“Golf is a game, it’s not something to be taken seriously,” Rahn said back then. “How different is your life since this guy won this green jacket?”

Council member Swore was quick to note than even Rahn was aware of the significance of the green jacket.

Swore said he hoped he never grew up so much that he would lose the capacity to get excited for the community over an achievement like Johnson’s.

P.T. Larson, a regular candidate for City Council, has suggested that the city also name a street for Kurt Warner, National Football League quarterback and native son.



Freight trains crawling in the downtown: Is it like death and taxes?

In Chuck Swore, City Hall, Jerry McGrane, Justin Shields, Tom Podzimek on March 23, 2008 at 12:14 am

In the movie, “Groundhog Day,” comedian Bill Murray dazzles his music teacher when he instantly catches on to playing the piano. “Yes, but my father was a piano mover,” Murray tells the piano teacher.

It was a little that last week when Jerry McGrane, council member and neighborhood leader, weighed in on the intricacies of the United States railroad industry and its ongoing effects on downtown Cedar Rapids by saying he’d lived next to railroad tracks much of his life. He worked for the railroad for a time, too, he said.

“Good luck,” McGrane told his council members on trying to get the get three or so railroads that run through and near downtown to cooperate with the city.

City Hall has created seven task forces, which are comprised of city employees and citizens, to focus on changing the landscape of what has been a struggling downtown.

The task forces are looking at downtown housing, traffic, the proposed Intermodal Transit Facility, an amphitheater, RiverWalk and riverfront park, the future of the downtown arena and railroad noise and congestion.

The latter group’s effort is a reminder that the periodic, head-pounding congestion that is caused by freight trains – some crawl through downtown, but most are only performing switching maneuvers — is a signature of Cedar Rapids as much as is its City Hall, sitting on an island in the middle of a river.

Early on in its work, the downtown-train task force and the Downtown District announced they had negotiated a pledge from the Union Pacific Railroad in which the railroad said it would try to stay out of the downtown streets during morning and evening rush hours. A railroad spokesman at the time promised a little less than the Downtown District had, but the proposal seems to be working.

Last week, Bill Meeks, the city’s traffic engineering project administrator and task force head, talked about the stiff costs in trying to establish a quiet zone downtown. To get freight trains to stop blowing horns at crossings, which they are required now to do, the city would need to erect gates at each rail crossing downtown, costing an uncertain, many millions of dollars depending on how far the city wanted to extend the quiet, he said.

The state of Iowa does have about $4 million a year in grant money, Meeks told council member Tom Podzimek, but requests for such money, he added, already were backed up 3 to 5 years.

The idea that intrigued some on the council the most was the thought of track construction of some kind that would allow the railroads to perform switching activities north of the First Avenue East intersection and the Crowne Plaza Five Seasons Hotel. Such a remedy would cut down on both congestion and noise, council members noted.

Meeks said such a solution is not an easy one and requires the railroads and the downtown industries they serve to sort through issues of track ownership and track sharing and railroad service.

Moving the railroad switching above downtown was an idea broached by former City Council member Chuck Swore before his defeat last fall in a reelection bid.

Swore said that 90 percent of the train traffic downtown comes from switching maneuvers, not from trains coming and going, and he suggested building new tracks on Cedar Lake to facilitate train switching.

Council member Justin Shields asked Meeks if customers would be turning to railroads and away from semi-trailer trucks as fuel prices rise.

 Meeks thought that was possible. And that would mean more downtown rail traffic, he said.