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Archive for the ‘Kris Gulick’ Category

Recurring theme at the heart of debate on flood CEO: current City Hall can’t get it right; needs push from private sector

In City Hall, Floods, Jim Prosser, Justin Shields, Kris Gulick, Monica Vernon, Ron Corbett on March 10, 2009 at 12:58 pm

Some in the local business community have been pretty sure they can help City Hall almost since the flood waters began to recede last June.

The latest example of the private sector’s coming to the rescue surfaced last week when council members Justin Shields and Monica Vernon proposed that the city add to its payroll a flood czar of sorts.
Vernon called the position a flood CEO.

The City Council will discuss the matter at its meeting Wednesday evening and may even act on it.
There are two significant features of the proposal:

Firstly, as presented by Shields, the flood czar would report directly to the City Council and not directly to City Manager Jim Prosser. Shields said the city’s organizational chart would include a “dotted line” to Prosser, which apparently means that flood CEO and Prosser would communicate.

This part of the proposal is not particularly new: Shields and Vernon have been trying for some months, without success, to get a staff policy maker who would report directly to the City Council and not be managed by Prosser. Heretofore, the council majority has had little time for such a thing. Prosser is the council’s CEO, and Prosser and the city staff are the council’s policy advisers, the council majority has said.

A second significant feature of the latest proposal is that the cost of the new city employee would be paid by the private sector.

Asked after last week’s meeting, Vernon deferred when asked for details about whom or what this private-sector force might be.

She said it was a “captain of industry” who had come up with the idea.

“I don’t think it’s important to tell you right now,” Vernon said when asked for specifics. “We have some people (in the business community) who are very interested in this and who get it: that it (the new position) needs to be part of city government.”

Suffice to say, it will be a great discuss on Wednesday evening.

Council member Kris Gulick was quick to note last week that creating a CEO slot that reports to the council when the council already has a CEO in the city manager would cause problems for the city’s current structure of “governance.”

Shields did note that Patrick DePalma, a vice president at AEGON USA who headed up the council’s government reorganization task force, recommended a year ago and again in recent months that Prosser needed, at the least, an assistant city manager who would report to Prosser. The council and Prosser have put that idea aside in the past because of cost.

The new wrinkle -– the new allure — is that the private sector will now foot the bill.

In that regard, it’s hard to imagine a local “captain” of industry whose company doesn’t have some entanglement with City Hall.

There are street issues out by Rockwell Collins and economic development incentives as well. The city is leasing an office building as a temporary City Hall with an AEGONUSA sign out front. The city is set to approve a franchise agreement to allow Alliant Energy to continue to operate in the city.

In truth, the city has had relationships with some or all of these private companies for a number of years in the form of donations of executive expertise. No one has suggested any problems with that.

In the broad picture, that the private sector is apparently willing to pay for a flood CEO or specialist is a piece of a recurring theme: that City Hall isn’t doing that good a job on flood recovery.

Chuck Peters, CEO of Gazette Communications, recounted at a recent meeting of the Downtown Rotary Club how he and a few others jumped on an AEGONUSA corporate plane in the days after last June’s flood to see how Grand Forks, N.D., had recovered from a similar disaster in 1997.

That Peters is still telling the story is an indication he doesn’t think lessons learned on the trip got much of an audience at City Hall.

In recent weeks, the Downtown Rotary Club devoted four straight meetings to a newly created, local flood-recovery entity called the Economic Planning and Redevelopment Corp.

The corporation has City Council member Monica Vernon on its four-person board as well as Linda Langston, Linn County supervisor. But the push to create the corporation came from some in the private sector who feel the city’s flood recovery needs private-sector know-how.

The chairman of the EPRC is John Smith, president/CEO at trucking firm of CRST International Inc. Smith, incidentally, is the boss of newly announced mayoral candidate Ron Corbett, who is a CRST vice president.

Clay Jones, CEO at Rockwell Collins, also has turned up in public talking about Cedar Rapids’ flood recovery. That happened when he crossed paths and spoke briefly with President Obama after the president’s speech to The Business Council on Feb. 13 at the White House.

Keep in mind, the city of Cedar Rapids, after much debate and many meetings of the Home Rule Charter Commission in 2004 and 2005, voted overwhelmingly to get rid of the commission form of government that the city had had in place from the early years of the 20th Century. In its place, voters picked a city government with professional management and a part-time mayor and council.

It’s no little irony that the commission form of government came to be in Galveston, Texas, after a hurricane devastated that city in 1900. Back then, the private sector stepped forward and said that city government needed its expertise if the city was to recover. In the commission government, council members double as experts in certain fields like finance, public works and public safety.

After a few years, the council-manager government, which most cities now have, began to replace commission governments.

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Council not using L-word or F-word, but it seems to sense: big hike in property taxes might louse up sales tax

In City Hall, Kris Gulick, Monica Vernon, Pat Shey on February 8, 2009 at 9:11 pm

At last Thursday evening’s budget meeting, City Council member Pat Shey put it this way: “We’re going to ask a lot from citizens this year.”

Shey mentioned higher fees: The proposed new budget includes a 14-percent hike in the city utility bill — for water, waste water, storm sewer and garbage services; and the proposed budget includes a brand-new 2-percent fee on electric and natural gas bills.

And then Shey mentioned the 1-percent local-option sales tax, which the council is asking voters to approve on March 3.

With the fees and the sales tax, he didn’t think the public would take kindly to a 14-percent boost in property taxes at the same time.

That level of property-tax increase was what the city manager had proposed for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

But Shey said, maybe the question was this: “What can we do to trim services.”

He wasn’t alone among council members, who sent Casey Drew, the city’s finance director, City Manager Jim Prosser and the city government’s department heads back to the drawing board. In short, the message was this: go find some place to cut.

One inference from what Shey had said is the council has the ability to louse up passage of the local-option sales tax if it doesn’t take it easy on property taxes, which is the principal revenue source for local governments in Iowa.

And the council – and a host of local groups from the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce to Hawkeye Labor Council – doesn’t want to louse up the prospects for the sales tax, the revenue from which they say the city needs as it works to recover from the 2008 flood.

The sales tax will raise between $18 million and $23 million a year for Cedar Rapids for five years and three months.

However, it’s still unclear what the City Council is going to cut out of its proposed budget.

No council member has mentioned the L word – layoffs – or the F word – furloughs.

Two-thirds of the city’s 1,400 employees are in bargaining units, and the council pretty much agreed that those bargaining units wouldn’t have any interest in opening up contract agreements that are set to pay those employees raises of 3.25 to 3.5 percent.

So council members Kris Gulick and Monica Vernon said the council may have to lower wages for the other third of employees outside of bargaining units. The part-time council’s annual salary is tied to the cost of living index, which went up 1.1 percent in the last year, and maybe that is where wage increases should be for others, Gulick and Vernon said.

The City Council has been at its budget-making business for a good month now. That’s where council members have been Thursday evenings, and a Tuesday evening or two.

In the process, the city government’s department heads have trooped in, stating needs, making their cases for how to better deliver services.

Until last Thursday, it had been an odd few weeks. Everyone was asking for more. No one, including council members, was talking about less.

But then, after all, it was a time of recovery from a natural disaster.

Last Thursday evening, all those department heads were back, sitting, shoulder to shoulder, and listening to what the council had to say.

Suddenly, the tone shifted.

Long line of people want buyouts, but City Hall frantic to find 51 owners of the first 192 buyout properties; number down to 34 by Thursday afternoon

In Chuck Wieneke, City Hall, Floods, Jim Prosser, Kris Gulick on January 15, 2009 at 7:00 am

More than 1,200 property owners in Cedar Rapids have signed up to have their flood-damaged properties bought out by City Hall.

And the city figures there are at least that many properties that are too damaged to be fixed.

Yet in the first, most-certain piece of the city’s buyout plan, City Hall can’t find 51 owners of the first 192 properties slated for buyout. By Thursday afternoon, the number had dropped to 34.

These are the properties for which the city is seeking Flood Mitigation Grant Program funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the purchases, and it is a program that requires approval of the owner for the buyouts.

The city must submit its application for the FEMA money by Jan. 30.

And not being able to find owners means the city won’t be able to garner these FEMA funds for the purchases of those owners’ properties. These are properties that are unoccupied, likely far too damaged to repair and, in any event, are between the Cedar River and the proposed new system of levees and flood walls and so won’t be protected against future flooding.

It was a fairly odd sight at Wednesday evening’s council meeting: Council members were realizing that the city might get stuck with the bill of buying or at least demolishing properties for which FEMA is likely to pay money if owners can be found.

 “I’m extremely nervous,” council member Chuck Wieneke said Wednesday night about the city’s inability to find the owners of the first properties slated for buyout.. “… Guess whose hook it’s going to be on” if they aren’t found, he added.

He and other council members asked city staff Wednesday to take additional steps to find those 51 property owners. By Thursday, the city had only 34 to find, Jennifer Pratt, the city’s development coordinator, told the council.

The city has published addresses of the properties involved, and council member Kris Gulick asked if the city ought to publish the names of the owners of the properties as well.

City Manager Jim Prosser said he would have to check about that – but the owners’ names are public record and are available on the City Assessor’s Web page.

The city’s Pratt suggested Wednesday that additional properties can be added to the city’s FEMA application until the date of the FEMA award, and she said other funds or a later application to FEMA might secure money for buyouts for which the owners have not yet been found.

However, the council asked that city staff work to find more owners by Jan. 30.

Pratt said owners who haven’t been found are apt to include people who have walked away from homes and out-of-state mortgage companies.

Conflicting numbers on housing need prompt some City Council head-scratching

In City Hall, FEMA, Floods, Justin Shields, Kris Gulick, Monica Vernon on August 27, 2008 at 2:58 am

The numbers don’t always add up. But they all tell the same story: June’s historic flood hit Cedar Rapids hard. It damaged some thousands of homes. It displaced thousands of people. And of that number, some still need temporary housing, and some will need permanent housing.

This week, the City Council was left to scratch its head a little after one of the city’s consultants in recent days had concluded that the city needed 1,000 temporary housing units by the time the snow flies.

On Monday, though, a representative of the Federal Emergency Management Agency updated the council on the temporary housing matter. He reported that as of late last week, flood victims in Cedar Rapids and Linn County now were occupying 359 temporary FEMA manufactured homes, and another 152 victims had requested the homes and were in line to get them. He suggested it would take FEMA 10 more days to meet the need and to have all 511 households seeking temporary housing placed in FEMA homes.

This report perplexed some on the City Council, wondering how its consultant, Maxfield Research Inc. of Minneapolis, had said the city still needed 1,000 more temporary housing units, and FEMA was reporting the it had nearly satisfied all who were seeking such temporary housing.

Furthermore, all residents of flood-hit Palo in Linn County who had requested temporary housing had been placed in temporary housing, FEMA reported.

Council member Monica Vernon called the disparity in numbers “curious.”

Council member Justin Shields asked Vernon where she thought all the other displaced flood victims were, and Vernon suspected some entitled to FEMA temporary housing support hadn’t signed up and some didn’t know they could.

Council member Kris Gulick suspected that some are expecting to get back into their flood-damaged homes by winter and so have not signed up for temporary housing. Even so, he thought the gap between Maxfield’s 1,000 units and FEMA’s 511 was big enough that it was worth investigating.

City Manager Jim Prosser said city staff was working with the United Way to investigate under-reporting of needs.

Despite the lack of clarity on the data, the City Council on Wednesday evening will decide if it wants to approve a resolution calling for the city to set a target of 1,000 units of temporary housing to be in place for Cedar Rapids residents by Nov. 1.

The FEMA representative this week noted that those in 13 households continued to reside in the Crowne Plaza Five Seasons Hotel in downtown Cedar Rapids, where they chose to seek temporary housing after a first batch of FEMA homes were found to have some mold in an exterior compartment. Those are 13 additional households that will need different temporary housing in the weeks ahead.

This week’s council resolution on temporary housing states that 5,390 homes had varying levels of flood damage and more than 18,000 residents were displaced from their places of residents at least for a time.

Earlier this month, the Iowa Fiscal Partnership, a joint venture of two Iowa think tanks looking at flood-recovery needs, estimated that more than 12,000 residents were displaced in Cedar Rapids by the flood.

Byrd, Pelosi, Rangel: Local flood-relief effort faces need to convince big players in Congressional appropriations

In City Hall, Floods, Justin Shields, Kris Gulick, Monica Vernon on August 26, 2008 at 3:21 am

Iowa’s U.S. Senators, Chuck Grassley and Tom Harkin, have plenty of Senate seniority and, with that, big shoulders to help carry the requests of a flood-damaged Cedar Rapids and a flood-damaged Iowa.

But members of the Cedar Rapids City Council, with the guidance of a K Street lobbyist in Washington, D.C., talked on Monday about the need to lean on more than just Harkin and Grassley and the city’s first-term Congressman, Dave Loebsack, from Mount Vernon.

What’s needed, too, is for Cedar Rapids to work some key Congressional giants — Sen. Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee; Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee; and Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaker of the House — if the city is going to land some quick, substantial, supplemental funding to help with its disaster relief.

“We’re playing in the big leagues now,” council member Justin Shields said. “We’re not playing in hopes and maybes.”

With the help of advice from lobbyist Mary Langowski, managing director of Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal LLP, the City Council plotted strategy for what it might be able to do next month to secure funds for the city’s post-flood recovery.

Langowski called the last three weeks of September “do or die,” the time when Congress goes back into session before it adjourns to compete in the November elections.

The hope is that Sen. Harkin and Sen. Byrd will be able to put forth a supplemental spending bill with a formidable package of funds for Iowa’s flood relief. Also in that bill, as now envisioned, will be $182 million for a long-sought new federal courthouse in Cedar Rapids. The existing courthouse along the Cedar River was flooded and needs, according to the city’s numbers, as much as $15 million in flood-related renovations.

Langowski was promising nothing about what might come in September. To provide some comfort, she noted that substantial amounts of Congressional funding continue to go to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast three years after Hurricane Katrina hit there. And Langowski imagined that the city of Cedar Rapids, similarly, will be seeking and receiving federal earmarks for flood relief in three years and more into the future.

The council spent some time talking about what kind of local delegation should venture to Washington, D.C., in September to lobby face-to-face. It sounds like a couple council members, a couple of Linn County supervisors and a couple business leaders will be in the mix. Langowski said she would take them from Harkin and Grassley and Loebsack to the offices of key members of the Senate and House appropriations committees.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi is slated to be in Iowa on Sept. 8, and Langowski advised the city of Cedar Rapids to prepare for any trip to Cedar Rapids with sites of flood damage to see and flood stories to hear.

Langowski wondered if Barak Obama was headed back to Iowa or if anyone had good ties to Sen. Joe Biden, Obama’s running mate.

Council members Monica Vernon and Kris Gulick liked the idea of seeing just what kind of contacts that corporations in Cedar Rapids might have in other Congressional districts across the nation, and if any of those districts had members on the House Ways & Means Committee.

Much of the talk was about Democrats, in part, surely, because the Democrats control both houses of Congress.

Langowski’s biography — 1999 graduate of Drake University; a masters in public administration from Drake, 2005; law degree from the University of Iowa, 2007 — includes a stint as senior policy advisor for Sen. Harkin.

Langowksi noted Monday that Sen. Grassley and Rep. Loebsack also are working on tax-relief legislation, which would, in part, provide more low-income housing tax credits to Iowa to help cities like Cedar Rapids build more affordable housing to replace what was lost in the June flooding. Support for the legislation wasn’t a sure thing, Langowski said.

At the same time as it works Congress, the city of Cedar Rapids is readying to work Gov. Chet Culver and the Iowa Legislature to try to find some revenue support from state government. Larry Murphy, a lobbyist, former state lawmaker and mayor of Oelwein, is helping.

Murphy said chances for a special legislative session have moved from doubtful to an open question for now.

Some of what the city is seeking is ambitious and seems reflective of the size of the disaster here and the amount of money it is going to take to get beyond it.

One idea, for instance, would be for the state of Iowa to allow all the state income tax paid by Cedar Rapids residents to come back to a special fund in Cedar Rapids for use in disaster relief for five years.

The city also is seeking permission to raise local revenue via sources in addition to local property taxes. Imagine a local income tax, or at least a local income for non-resident workers. Other ideas include a local sales tax without referendum, a local entertainment tax, a wheel tax and a tobacco tax. This push for alternative revenue was considered by the Iowa Legislature this spring, before the flood, without success.

CCLOG: Play by Play at City Council meeting/August 13

In Brian Fagan, CCLOG, City Hall, Justin Shields, Kris Gulick, Mayor Kay Halloran, Monica Vernon, Tom Podzimek on August 13, 2008 at 11:12 pm

Public comment starts.

A Cedar Boat Club rep wants the city to provide access to the Cedar River so that the club can hold an event later this month.

Second up: A city harbor advocate is arguing that the city needs to continue to support the existing boat harbor. Nobody, this advocate says, has given the city reason why the boat houses — many heavily damaged or swept away in the June flood — shouldn’t be kept in the boat harbor.

He wants the city to issue a proclamation in support of the boat harbor.

The city has turned to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources in recent weeks to help figure out the harbor issues. The DNR has determined that boat houses are not legal, though the DNR and the boat house owners are in discussions.

The city has made note that it faces $2 million in repairs in the harbor over 10 years to keep it the way it has been. The city and its consultants are exploring a variety of options for the entire river corridor through the city, and it’s unclear where the boat houses might fit into that.

Carol Martin, veteran council critic, has just been applauded. She protested the council vote last week to pay salaried employees for extra hours worked during the flood, a decision that will cost the city an estimated $400,000.

Martin also wondered why the city hadn’t cleaned up the flood-damaged Time Check Recreation Area even as it has pushed for residents of the neighborhood to do the same with their houses.

Martin received some applause from the 25 citizens in the audience here at the AEGON USA auditorium in NE Cedar Rapids.

Charlotte Martin is next at the mike: “I’m no relation” to Carol, she said, to a good chuckle.

She says the patient needs triage; the city has immediate needs. She adds, the extra pay for the hard work of the city employees is fine.

IT’S HARD TO KEEP UP. YOUR ONLY GOING TO GET PART OF THIS, AT BEST.

Bart Woods, a local contractor and member of the Cedar Valley Bible Church on Cottage Grove Avenue SE is asking the council permission to set aside a requirement to build a sidewalk along Cottage Grove Avenue as part of the church’s expansion project for its school. The project was a controversial vote for the council because the church sits along the flash flood-prone Indian Creek.

Jim Ernst, president/CEO of Four Oaks and the still-new Affordable Housing Network, has alerted the council that the city’s recovery coordination team, of which he is a part, will be asking the council in a week or two to help identify $50 million to get a significant amount of affordable housing started here before the snow flies.

Tax credits and federal funds will help pay much of the bills in the end, Ernst suggested, but it takes time to get that money in place. The thought seems to be that the city figure out a way to front money, which later can be recouped.

Bernard Clayton, a sometime visitor to council meetings, argues that the Civil Rights Commission erred in its recent firing of its director, Kenneth White. Clayton said the director was fired because of an audit of landlords that found that some landlords treated minorities differently when they sought to rent apartments.

Clayton compared the mistreatment of the fired commission director to what he said has been the poor treatment of Mayor Kay Halloran by some who he said have criticized her for dozing off at a meeting. Clayton said it has been a trying time for the city and its leaders, and a good time for someone to doze at a night council meeting.

Last week’s meeting — not an exceptional one — was a four-hour one.

Linda P. — didn’t catch her last night — agrees with Clayton and wonders, too, if it was related to the landlord audit and to the director’s African-American race.

Rick R. calls on the city to help residents in the flood area to clean and rebuild, even if only a few homes in blocks remain. It will be cheaper to restore those homes than tear them down and build new.

He left the impression that some blocks the will be protected by a new, better levee, will still much demolition. The thought seemed to be save even a few homes around which new homes can be built. I THINK.

Council member Justin Shields moves to open all boat ramps on the river. Council member Jerry McGrane seconds.

Council member Kris Gulick says it’s a staff decision, not a council policy decision. Council member Tom Podzimek agrees with Gulick.

City staff, for now, has wanted to check the debris content and the bacterial content of the river. Podzimek noted last week that the state has kept the river open, and that people are using it by putting their boats in the river outside the city limits.

City Attorney Jim Flitz says the council shouldn’t vote because the matter isn’t on the agenda. The state’s open meetings law requires matters be placed on the agenda 24 hours before a meeting.

Shields also wants a staff member to work with the City Council, and to have council vote on it next week.

Shields also wants to vote next week on the creation of the Economic Planning and Redevelopment Corp., a private-sector initiative that some on the council has been chilly towards. The non-profit corporation’s advocates say the city needs to have more than the city manager charged with the city’s flood recovery.

Council member Monica Vernon wants the council to commit to the number of new housing starts it can expect by the start of winter.

PUBLIC COMMENT ENDS.

Public Works Director Dave Elgin says bids will be open on Thursday for a $2 million sewer project in the Ellis Boulevard area. This is a project prior to the June flood.

Now the council will need to decide if it wants to reconstruct Ellis Boulevard as is once the sewer pipe is buried under the street. The street has now fallen into disrepair since the flood.

The council is readying to vote to approve the major preliminary plat for a new Walgreen’s store next to the Road Ranger convenience store on C Avenue NE at Blairs Ferry Road NE. It was a unanimous vote for approval. Some nearby neighbors had questioned the project in earlier votes. But no objectors were here tonight.

Council now is talking to its consultants of flood control. LOOK FOR A STORY IN TOMORROW’S GAZETTE.

The Flood of 2008: District 1 council member Kris Gulick offers these thoughts and updates

In City Hall, Floods, Kris Gulick on June 16, 2008 at 1:32 am

Kris Gulick’s remarks on Saturday, June 14, at the daily update on the June 2008 Flood and its aftermath.

I can’t come up with any words that describe what has happened to our community.  My heart goes out to those who have been displaced by this disaster.  I represent district 1 but I also represent the entire city as a councilmember; all citizens in our community have been and are being affected by this event whether that is physically or emotionally. 

Thanks to the thousands of volunteers who have helped.  Our work unfortunately is just beginning.  The city has been in a constant crisis management mode for the past several days.  That will continue to extend into the future.

Over the past few days the council has dealt with crisis management and now we are focusing on what I call the recovery, rebuild and recast. 

First Recovery:

We are taking actions to assure the delivery of our most critical services.  Police, Fire, Water, Water Pollution Control, Solid Waste, Public Works and Communications.  It is imperative that these basic services continue to be delivered at the highest level possible. 

Plans are being made to have the police department relocated by Monday to: 4200 C Street SW former MCI building.    They have been sharing 911 communications with the Marion Police Department and will continue to do so until the city’s system is back in operations.  Police should be able to get back into their facility within a few weeks and the Cedar Rapids 911 system should be up soon.    

Fire equipment has been relocated around the community at other stations.  Fire personnel from the central stations will be relocating to Westdale Mall who is donating space.  Others locating at Westdale are the assessor’s office and code enforcement, housing, parking and transit, and library staff.

Water treatment is being assessed hourly with plans to get access to additional wells as soon as the water recedes.  Water department remain in their current location.   

Water Pollution Control is focusing on preventing backups in residences and will be working to get completely back on line once water levels drop. 

Solid Waste is continuing to deliver services in all areas that are accessible.  They will be of critical importance as we remove the volume of debris that will exist once the water recedes.  They are also located at Westdale Mall. 

Public works intends to relocate back into their existing facility as soon as possible and continue their important work.  They are being temporarily located at Jefferson High School along with Fleet services. 

A remote location for general city operations including information technology and phone systems needed to keep citizens informed is being located at River Ridge Rd a property owned by Aegon.  This location will also serve as city hall operations including city manager, community development, city clerk, city attorney, finance, human resources and safety, treasurer and library administration. 

These plans for ongoing service were developed while at the same time managing the crisis situation and providing our best available levels of service. 

The bottom line is, critical city operations have continued to operate and plans are in place to bolster those services.  Without these plans in place service levels would suffer and gaps in service could occur.  We are committed to these critical services.  We have authorized staff to utilize whatever resources are necessary to maintain these basic services.  This is about the here and now and city staff are executing on these tactics today.

The state and federal government have already reached out.  You will hear more about the federal effort from an official from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  Their contact number is 800-621-3362

Landlords of Linn County and other sponsors have established a web site that provides information about rental units immediately available in the area.  The web site is iowaflood08.com.  In addition to learning about available rental units, landlords are also urged to list their open units for rent on the site. 

The recover effort will be lengthy and we will need everyone’s patience and we will need to work together.  At times seeing these images, it can be overwhelming.  It might seem at times it will be impossible to ever rebuild Cedar Rapids, but it is not impossible. 

Two other stages of the recovery stage include working with FEMA and gaining their immediate assistance.  Secondly assisting with the coordination of human services to citizens. 

Next is to Rebuild:

The city council will be meeting with staff after this conference to discuss short term strategies.  This includes working with FEMA and the coordination of human services as mentioned before.  We will also be discussing development of plans to provide housing and the plans for temporary relocation of businesses.  The rebuild stage will no doubt be fluid as we need to take care of people and businesses as expeditiously as possible and at this point we don’t have a complete understanding of the actual damages and what can be saved and what cannot. 

The last phase is Recast.  I mean by this recasting the vision for the community.  This is and always has been a responsibility of the city council as elected leaders for the community.  We will not need to recast the vision itself but need to change our mind set.  Our priorities themselves have not changed however the magnitude of those priorities has indeed changed.  We now look at the downtown in a different light as well as the river and I mean the river well up stream and downstream.  Our infrastructure priority has expanded far beyond streets.  Neighborhoods bring on a new meaning with changes in housing in our core neighborhoods.  Energy as a policy discussion will fit directly into redevelopment and rebuilding parts of the city.  And lastly, communications.  Communications to citizens and participation from citizens will need to be a part of every step we take.  We can end up with a much stronger community because of this tragedy however we will need everyone to do their part and join together for without citizens’ support we will surely fail.  Dramatic events bring families closer together and I expect this will be the same of our citizens.  We will no doubt make mistakes along the way but I can assure you that the nine people representing this community have every intention of making this community a great one. 

Summarizing:  Recovery – Tactical steps to keep the city operational and providing assistance to those directly affected.  Rebuild – Development of plans for housing and relocation of businesses.  Recast – Recast the vision for our community.  The complexion of our city will likely be forever changed.

      

 

     

Cedar Rapids seeks bike-friendly status similar to cool places like Madison, Eugene, Fort Collins and Ann Arbor; Podzimek giddy

In Brian Fagan, City Hall, Kris Gulick, Pat Shey, Tom Podzimek on May 22, 2008 at 4:54 pm

It wouldn’t be unfair to say that most if not all of the nine members of the City Council are eager to do what they can to raise the profile of Cedar Rapids.

After a push from council member Tom Podzimek, the city now is moving ahead on the task of earning for Cedar Rapids the status of “Bicycle Friendly Community,” a distinction handed down by the League of American Bicyclists.

No Iowa city now has such distinction, though Iowa City once did have it, and a number of Iowa cities have applied, according to city officials.

Eighty-four cities nationwide are now designated bicycle friendly, including such places as Madison, Wis., Eugene, Ore., Ann Arbor, Mich., LaCrosse, Wis., Fort Collins, Colo., and big cities, Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

According to a City Hall memo, such a designation is not easy to obtain.

Among the requirements are for a city to provide bike racks on most city facilities; equip buses with bike racks (which the city is doing this summer); identify low-volume roads as “touring routes;” and implement a “complete streets” policy that requires accommodations for bicycles and pedestrians as part of new road construction (a discussion that the City Council is now having).

Podzimek couldn’t have been happier on Wednesday evening to hear that the city is pushing ahead.

“Gee that was easy,” he said in an e-mail. “(I) should have asked that question 30 months ago.”

He and council colleagues Pat Shey, Brian Fagan and Kris Gulick all participated in the recent ride-a-bike-to-work-week ride.

Shey rode his bike to the council meeting last night. He said he was mad about gasoline prices, and intended to ride the bike all week.

 

Public Works’ Hanson charms council; council member Vernon praises honesty over hiding the truth

In City Hall, Kris Gulick, Monica Vernon on May 22, 2008 at 2:00 pm

Craig Hanson, the city’s public works maintenance manager, all but charmed the City Council on Wednesday evening with his analysis of the city’s recently completed battle with winter ice and snow.

It’s the honesty that does it.

Hanson reported that the city fielded more than 1,500 calls and more than 1,000 e-mails from inquiring or angry citizens with questions related to the city’s performance during this winter’s snow and ice onslaught.

Hanson admitted that the city made mistakes and suggested ways to improve.

For instance:

Next season, the city is apt to hire a contractor to shovel unshoveled sidewalks and then bill the property owner just like the city does now with the mowing of weeds. That will get the job done quicker. The city also may try to connect neighborhood youngsters who want to shovel snow with property owners who need shoveling.

In its plowing work this winter, the city knocked over more than 100 mailboxes, and the city was too slow in replacing them. Hanson will have more mailboxes on hand next winter so replacements can be made quickly.

The city expects to better enforce rules against citizens blowing snow into the streets.

Communication with the public will improve.

Among matters yet to discuss in the coming months will be the city’s alternate-side parking in some residential neighborhoods. Residents don’t always comply, and one thought has been to implement the policy all winter, not just after a snowstorm, so residents are better trained when snow arrives.

Council member Monica Vernon couldn’t praise Hanson enough.

She said Hanson’s presentation was refreshing because it acknowledged the city’s shortcomings while offering a plan to do better.

“I think our citizens want to hear that,” said Vernon, who added that too often in the past the tendency might have  been  to keep “hidden” what didn’t work right.

Council member Kris Gulick asked Hanson if it was possible to try to measure how much it might cost the city in payments that result from plows hitting parked vehicles and how much the city might save if it better enforced the alternate-side parking rules. He also wondered how much quicker the city could get plowing done if people followed the rules.

Gulick noted that one of the photos in Hanson’s presentation was a photo of Gulick’s own northeast Cedar Rapids street in winter. It showed cars parked on both sides with barely enough room for a plow to get through. The street is not now among residential streets with an alternate-parking designation, Gulick said.