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Archive for the ‘Mayor Kay Halloran’ Category

Council cancels special meetings; members head to Des Moines and DC in search of flood-recovery help

In City Hall, Jerry McGrane, Justin Shields, Mayor Kay Halloran, Monica Vernon on January 13, 2009 at 12:49 pm

The City Council had intended to hold one of its “brown-bag” discussions at lunch Tuesday and then to convene a budget session at 5 p.m.

Both meetings have been called off for a more urgent priority: Lobbying and arm-twisting any lawmaker or policymaker at the state or federal level that the City Council can get his or her hands on. The council is in the hunt for more state and federal funding for the city’s flood recovery and it wants state lawmakers to make some changes so the city can raise money in new ways. Now the city and other cities in Iowa say they must rely too heavily just on property taxes.

On Monday, Mayor Kay Halloran traveled to Des Moines for the first day of the legislative session. She’ll be there today, too, for the governor’s state of the state address.

Accompanying Halloran were Linn County Supervisors Jim Houser, Ben Rogers and Brent Oleson. The group was armed with easels and photographs to remind lawmakers from across the state of the devastation that Cedar Rapids experienced in the June flood, the mayor said.

Halloran said Gov. Chet Culver has called flood recovery a top priority, and she said she and the supervisors were there to make sure Cedar Rapids and Linn County are on top of that top priority list.

At the same time, council members Monica Vernon, Justin Shields and Jerry McGrane were slated to leave the Eastern Iowa Airport at 6 a.m. Tuesday on a lobbying trip to the nation’s capital. They’re scheduled to return on Wednesday.

Vernon said she and her council colleagues will join representatives from the city’s Washington, D.C., lobbying firm to visit the members of the city’s Congressional delegation. Vernon said staff members of the delegation also will accompany her, Shields and McGrane to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Vernon said she and her colleagues intend to give HUD representatives a first-hand account of the problems the city of Cedar Rapids is having in trying to work around HUD rules and regulations in handing out funds to disaster victims. HUD’s Community Development Block Grant money, which is a chief source of disaster relief, was never intended for disasters and so the program’s rules don’t fit the situation, Vernon said.

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Who are you for? Anonymous phone survey has 5 on list for mayor: Corbett, Fagan, Hinzman, Olson and Vernon

In Brian Fagan, City Hall, Gary Hinzman, Mayor Kay Halloran, Monica Vernon, Paul Pate, Ron Corbett, Scott Olson on January 12, 2009 at 4:40 pm

An anonymous phone survey conducted in recent days in Cedar Rapids has been asking a scientific sampling of residents some questions about city government. The survey ends with a bottom line: Who do you want for mayor, Corbett, Fagan, Hinzman, Olson or Vernon?

Yes, this is a municipal election year, and six of the nine Cedar Rapids City Council seats are on the ballot, including the mayoral seat currently held by Kay Halloran.

The phone survey did not include Halloran’s name among the list of five it was seeking to find out information about, and she has not said if she will seek reelection.

The first question you need to ask is this: Do you know the first names of the five in the survey and why they are on the list?

Actually, all five are well known and accomplished.

Corbett is Ron Corbett, who has been past speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives and, more recently, president of the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce from 1999 until mid-2005. He left the chamber to take a vice-president post at CRST International.

Fagan is Brian Fagan, a Cedar Rapids attorney, at-large City Council member elected in 2005 and the council’s mayor pro tem.

Hinzman is Gary Hinzman, executive director of the Sixth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services and former Cedar Rapids police chief.

Olson is Scott Olson, a commercial Realtor and architect, who lost a run for the mayor’s job in 2005 in a close contest with Halloran.

Vernon is Monica Vernon, a local business owner and the District 2 council member who won election in 2007.

Vernon is president of Vernon Research Inc., a company that conducts phone surveys. However, Vernon said on Monday that neither she nor her firm is conducting the survey. Others said the survey calls were coming from an area code outside of Eastern Iowa.

Some reported Paul Pate, mayor from 2002 through 2005, was on the list, but others reported last evening he was not.

Shey compares Mayor Halloran to Gen. U.S. Grant; small-business group OK with mayor’s ‘No’ vote

In City Hall, Mayor Kay Halloran, Pat Shey on September 10, 2008 at 12:25 pm

Council member Pat Shey drags out the history references with some regularity. And he did again Tuesday during a conversation about City Hall that turned briefly to Mayor Kay Halloran and her sometime penchant to drift off for few seconds during public meetings.

KGAN-TV Channel 2 has been beating hard on the mayor about nodding off, and Shey reported that he declined Channel 2’s offer to get excited about the mayor on camera.

On Tuesday, Shey called the mayor matter a “non-story.” He also bristled a bit about the news media and why it wasn’t doing a better job of covering the City Council and all it was discussing about sustainable development and the future.

Shey also was chiding his own council colleagues for using council meetings to speechify and blab and for not staying focused on the post-flood tasks at hand.

As for the mayor, Shey noted that the city’s still-new, council/manager government is designed to make the part-time mayor little different than the other eight part-time council mayors.

The setup is referred to as a “weak mayor” form of government. The mayor has one vote like the others. She has no veto power. The “strong mayor” form of government, which the city’s Charter Commission did not choose back in 2005, features a full-time mayor who has veto power.

It is not true now, Shey said, that “the city going to hell because the mayor nods off once in awhile” or “that Nero is fiddling while Rome burns.”

“She puts in a full day,” Shey said of the mayor. “There are eight others of us on the council. She’s said all along, ‘I’m one of nine.’ If she nods off once in awhile, is that really impacting how the body works as a whole? I don’t think it does.”

Shey said the whole matter reminded him of Abe Lincoln, who was called on to get rid of Gen. Ulysses Grant because of an issue particular to Grant. He drank some.

“Maybe I should get my other generals casks of whiskey,” Shey said Lincoln responded.

The conclusion: “It’s not impacting his performance. He gets the job done.”

The Channel 2 TV news reporting on the mayor began at last week’s council meeting.

At that meeting, Mayor Halloran cast the lone “no” vote against the council’s decision to release the final $2 million of $3 million in city funds to support a local Job & Small Business Recovery Fund.

Gary Ficken, who is president of the new Cedar Rapids Small Business Recovery group, wasn’t pleased with Halloran immediately after the vote. This is the same Ficken, owner of flood-hit Bimm Ridder Sportswear, who helped run Halloran’s mayoral campaign in 2005.

But on Tuesday, Ficken said he now understands the mayor’s vote.

She has called it symbolic. She knew the council majority was going to vote to release city funds for small business, and she wanted to issue a protest vote because the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce did not follow through and raise funds to match city funds, Halloran has said.

Both Ficken and Don Karr, owner of Affordable Plumbing and Remodeling and one of the founders of the Cedar Rapids Small Business Recovery group, both noted Tuesday that Halloran had donated $10,000 of her own money to the small business fund prior to her “no” vote last week.

Mayor Halloran works Mayor Nagin for help in securing Congressional cash

In City Hall, Floods, Mayor Kay Halloran on August 27, 2008 at 3:50 pm

Disasters can turn distant mayors into friends. If not allies.

In that regard, Mayor Kay Halloran apparently is a bit of a buddy these days with Ray Nagin, the mayor of Hurricane Katrina-damaged New Orleans.

Halloran revealed this week that she and Nagin have spoken via phone several times since Cedar Rapids’ historic flood in June.

Nagin was on the line again Monday, the mayor reports.

In a written note back to Nagin, Halloran thanks Nagin for the call, and then gets to the point.

Cedar Rapids, she writes, needs the state of Louisiana’s Congressional delegation to join with Iowa’s in an effort in September to have Congress pass a significant, supplemental appropriations bill that would send disaster-relief money to Cedar Rapids and New Orleans.

Halloran also asks Nagin to push for federal tax relief for Iowa residents and businesses similar to federal legislation passed to help New Orleans after Katrina hit in 2005.

“Time is of the essence,” Halloran writes.

She says Iowa’s Congressional delegation cannot “carry the water alone” in fighting for a supplemental funding for disaster relief.

“The prayers of thanksgiving are for the fact that we had no loss of life. In that respect we are luckier than your city,” Halloran tells Nagin.

More public employees not eligible for OT pay get extra flood cash

In Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency, City Hall, Floods, Justin Shields, Linn County government, Mayor Kay Halloran on August 20, 2008 at 4:15 am

Seven employees at the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency who are not eligible for overtime pay will be getting an average of $3,000 in extra pay each for extra work performed during June’s historic flood.

In this regard, the agency is following the city of Cedar Rapids, which has decided to pay 167 similarly situated employees for extra work performed during the flood and the recovery. The city expects the extra pay will reach to a total of $400,000 for those employees.

On Tuesday, the Solid Waste Agency Board voted unanimously to approve the extra pay for the seven agency employees. Karmin McShane, the agency’s executive director, asked for the funds. One of the seven presumably is her.

She told the agency’s board that she had consulted with the agency’s attorney, Ivan Webber of Des Moines, who said the extra pay was allowed as “uncompensated work outside of normal duty.”

Likewise, the Cedar Rapids City Council also had voted unanimously on the matter for city employees a couple weeks ago.

On Tuesday, Mayor Kay Halloran, a Solid Waste Agency board member, asked McShane if she wanted “to get into as much controversy as we did?” She was referring to some who had criticized the City Council’s earlier move.

Justin Shields, a Cedar Rapids council member and a Solid Waste Agency board member, said the extra pay was entirely called for.

“We were in an extreme emergency,” Shields said in explaining his reasoning for approving extra pay for city employees — many of them management employees — not eligible for overtime pay. He said he supposed the city could have gone out and hired more people, but instead the employees on staff agreed to do the work. The employees not eligible for overtime worked without expecting extra pay, he said. They showed loyalty, and so should the city and the Solid Waste Agency, Shields said.

Jim Houser, a Linn County supervisor on the agency board, noted that the county decided not to pay its managers more because the county did not have a policy in place to address such extra pay. McShane said the agency didn’t have a policy either.

Houser added that county employees not eligible for overtime will have the ability to get “adequate time off” for the extra time they put in.

Pat Ball, the city of Cedar Rapids’ utilities director and agency board member, said the city gave that approach some thought, but concluded that those ineligible for overtime who worked so many hours as a result of the flood are still needed and wouldn’t have time to take extra time off work.

The city of Cedar Rapids has estimated that it paid $1.5 million to overtime-eligible employees during the flood and in the early recovery from it.

Was that the city manager screaming inside?

In City Hall, Mayor Kay Halloran on August 14, 2008 at 1:22 pm

The city’s signature City Hall on May’s Island in the Cedar River is still out of commission in the aftermath of June’s historic flood. No definitive word has been offered on when the city might return to the 80-year-old building.

Council member Brian Fagan has said it’s hard to imagine that city government won’t go back to the island at some point.

The city long has made it known that only two cities in the world have had city governments on an island — Cedar Rapids and Paris. Yes, Paris. Apparently, Paris has given that up, though.

For now, City Hall in Cedar Rapids has been moved to what had been an empty AEGON USA office building in a newer office park at 3851 River Ridge Dr. NE.

The temporary place isn’t particularly welcoming, so it’s easy to stay away from it. You don’t just walk in and go to the office you want. You sign in. You’re announced. Someone comes and gets you. The place features cubicles, not private offices.

On a visit Wednesday afternoon, it was easy to imagine how City Manager Jim Prosser might be longing for a return to his real City Hall digs again.

There, he had a suite of offices on one end of the third floor. Part-time mayor Kay Halloran was located at the far end of the hall in her own expansive office. The geography makes it clear there are two power centers in the city’s still-new part-time council/full-time city manager government.

In the temporary City Hall, though, much of that seems to have changed.

For one, the mayor doesn’t have an office.

By all accounts, Prosser is a tireless professional. He has a schedule manager, as he should. And now the city has a gatekeeper-communications liaison, as it should. Getting on Prosser’s schedule isn’t easy, for a news reporter anyway.

But for a 15-minute stretch on Wednesday afternoon, you had to feel for him. All in that one stretch, there was the mayor, who was in the temporary City Hall, checking up, even visiting a bit. And at the same time, there was this reporter, there to review some documents, unexpectedly standing in the same space, taking up Prosser’s time.

Get those mold experts, air quality specialists and remodelers cooking down at the real City Hall, you could almost hear him say.

It was a reminder of way back in 2005 when the city’s ad hoc Charter Commission created a new charter for the city, which voters approved overwhelmingly in June 2005.

One key commission debate centered on whether to create a new city government with a city manager and with or without a full-time, so-called “strong” mayor. Most cities use the part-time mayor and part-time council approach, and the Cedar Rapids Charter Commission opted for that choice as well.

At the time of the commission deliberations, David Redlawsk, a University of Iowa professor of political science, noted that strong-mayor governments often favor more public participation a bit at the expense of streamlined efficiency, while the weak-mayor governments tend to make efficiency paramount, sometimes at the expense of public participation.

Of note, the City Council on Wednesday evening approved the hiring of two consultants, each for more than $100,000. One was to weigh in on damage to flooded electrical equipment in city buildings, the other to advise on mold and air quality testing.

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.

It’s 10:15 p.m., do you know where your City Council is?

In Brian Fagan, Chuck Wieneke, City Hall, Mayor Kay Halloran on May 29, 2008 at 3:41 pm

They have finally decided to go home.

Four hours and 15 minutes after the 6 p.m. start of the Wednesday evening council meeting, the city’s nine council members called it a night.

By then, most anyone in the audience had cleared out. The few from the local media were long gone. And several top city staffers, forced to stay until the end, headed home. They’re back at it now, running the city all over again.

Near the end of the night, Mayor Kay Halloran had left her chair for a short break, and was doing knee bends to loosen up the legs before returning to her seat.

Near 10 p.m., the topic had turned to Minneapolis developer Sherman Associates’ plan to spend $7.7 million to buy and renovate The Roosevelt, the former hotel turned apartment complex.

After renovation, about 85 percent of the 97 apartment units in the 12-story building will be classified as affordable, and much of the federal and state financial help for the project is coming because of the affordable housing component of the renovation.

As part of the financing, the city is being asked to make a $775,000 loan to Sherman Associates, the details of which are still being worked out.

At one point, council member Chuck Wieneke was enthusiastically voicing support for the loan, noting that the council had given ample local financial incentives to the WaterTower Place condominiums downtown and now the  Bottleworks condominium project next door in what is the former Osada building, which had been affordable housing.

The council has steered money to the “upper end” in downtown housing, it’s time it did the same for affordable housing, Wieneke said.

Council member Brian Fagan, sounding a bit weary, said Wieneke’s comments sounded like a seconding of a motion to support the loan, and the matter went to successful vote.

The loan details will come back to the council in a couple weeks for a final vote on the matter.

It had been a long night, which had featured two, hour-plus-long public hearings and council debates on land-use changes, one for the proposed Tudor Rose condominium project on the west side and one for a proposed Walgreens drug store on the east side. Both projects were given the go ahead to proceed to zoning changes.

Few bodies were around, though, to hear about The Roosevelt or the four or five council items that followed.

Great American Cleanup great, but how to stop littering remains a puzzle

In Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency, City Hall, Justin Shields, Mayor Kay Halloran, Tom Podzimek on May 21, 2008 at 5:38 pm

Litter drives board members of the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency nuts.

Board members were appreciative enough this week when they heard from the agency’s education specialist, Stacie Johnson, who reported that more than 700 volunteers turned out locally May 18 for the Great American Cleanup.

Board member Justin Shields, a Cedar Rapids City Council member, said one thing that preoccupies some doing the cleanup is who is doing the littering and why. The volunteers don’t litter, so why do others? he asked.

Shields said he often watches people roll down a vehicle window and toss stuff out, and he wondered what communities can do to avoid litter.

The upbeat Johnson suggested that some litter actually is unintentional litter that just pops off trucks.

Be that as it may, Linda Langston, board member and Linn County supervisor, said it’s clear what is intentional. Litter lives near fast-food restaurants, she said.

This prompted Tom Podzimek, board chairman and Cedar Rapids council member, to suggest that it might make sense to have fast-food restaurants pay a fee or deposit to help pay for communities to clean up litter, “because we’re tired of picking it out of our streams,” he said.

Board member Mark Jones, the city’s solid waste/recycling manager, said a fast-food restaurant considers it litter if its packaging is in its parking lot, but when it is two doors down, it’s advertising.

The state of Iowa has increased the littering fine to $70 from $35, but it’s not clear if that has prompted local jurisdictions to hand out more tickets for littering.

Board member Pat Ball, the city’s utilities director, said the community needed to figure out a way to make it “socially unacceptable” to litter.

Old River Road SW and Otis Road SE are known as regular littering site for major items like couches and appliances, Langston said. It costs local jurisdictions real money, she said, to pick the stuff up and deposit it at the landfill.

Mayor Kay Halloran, also on the solid waste board, remembered when the city of Cedar Rapids had a bulky item pickup program, which began several years ago as a neighborhood cleanup in her neighborhood, Wellington Heights. You could watch late at night as people from outside of Cedar Rapids drove in and dropped their couches, appliances and other junk in the neighborhood for city pickup, she said.