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Archive for the ‘Rob Hogg’ Category

State lawmakers from Cedar Rapids deliver again: Jumpstart housing loans now forgivable in 5 years, not 10, once governor signs the bill

In City Hall, Floods, Jumpstart, Rob Hogg on April 17, 2009 at 5:21 pm

It has gnawed at flood victims who have received Jumpstart housing funds for months: That the money has come in the form of forgivable loans, which take 10 years to forgive, while Jumpstart funds for businesses are forgiven in five years.

This week, though, the Iowa Legislature passed a new law and sent it to Gov. Chet Culver that will make the term of the Jumpstart housing loans now in place and to come five years instead of ten years, Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, confirmed Friday.

Hogg, who credited Sen. Wally Horn, D-Cedar Rapids, with managing the bill through the state senate, said the measure was somewhat controversial simply because of the work required to change the terms of a large number of loans. But he said the Iowa Department of Economic Development has said it was committed to taking the work on.

Hogg noted that some Jumpstart housing awards were made with state dollars and some with federal Community Development Block Grant funds, and he said the state will have to amend its CDBG arrangement with the federal government so that both sources of forgivable loans are treated consistently.

Jon Galvin, a flood victim and Jumpstart recipient as well as vice president of the Northwest Neighbors Association, on Friday said shortening the time period on the forgivable loan from 10 years to five years puts the homeowner on the same level as the business owner.

Galvin, a retiree, says who knows how long he and his wife might live.

“At our age, our kids would be or could be still paying off these liens at the 10-year rate,” he said. Now, he said he might get out of debt again “before I leave this world.”

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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.

Is passage of a local-option sales tax proof that government can work?

In Jim Prosser, Justin Shields, local-option sales tax, Mayor Kay Halloran, Rob Hogg, what worked on March 8, 2009 at 8:20 am

Listen to citizens who come to council meetings, listen to the news, listen to those outside of local government and those wanting to get in on it, and it seems nothing – nothing – works well. Government doesn’t do anything right. …

It didn’t take the Flood of 2008 to push the City Council and City Manager Jim Prosser to focus a great deal of their public comments and much of the city’s Statehouse lobbying energy on trying to figure out a way to convince the Iowa Legislature to give cities more flexibility in raising revenue.

Property taxes, the chief revenue source for Iowa cities and counties, provide most of the revenue now, and those taxes hit those who create jobs, the industrial and commercial sectors, particularly hard in Iowa.

The flood and the task of recovery from it only focused City Hall’s interest in “revenue diversification” all the more. Why can’t cities have an income surcharge or a wheel tax or a tax on alcohol and tobacco use? The nine other largest cities in Iowa joined the cause.

And lawmakers and policymakers in Des Moines spoke back. They told Cedar Rapids City Hall to use a revenue option already available to them first before asking for more. And the one chief revenue-raising source that is available is the local-option sales tax.

After all, nearly every city in Iowa has the 1-percent tax in place, and only six of Iowa’s 99 counties have county seats without the sales tax. Those six include Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.

At first, the Cedar Rapids council dithered, thinking state lawmakers might meet last fall and give some special consideration to Cedar Rapids and its flood recovery. On the city’s list of requests was to have the ability to institute a local-option sales tax without a vote by the residents.

There was no special legislative session.

By January, members of the City Council said in public that they had gotten the message from Des Moines: The city’s position would be strengthen in asking for large sums of federal and state funding if the city could show it was doing all it could to raise money locally using the taxing machinery it already had the ability to use. The council decided it would ask voters for a local-option sales tax to be used mostly for help in flood recovery.

By then, though, the state’s existing local-option sales tax law, which sets out a four-month timeline for when such a vote can be held, would not have allowed a vote before late spring.

Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, then wrote a piece of legislation designed especially for Cedar Rapids and Linn County and Iowa City/Coralville and Johnson County. The bill allowed an expedited vote on the sales tax, allowed the tax to begin to be collected immediately and did not require a metro area to vote as a block. Cedar Rapids could try to pass the tax for flood relief without worrying if Marion, Hiawatha and Robins would vote against the move and bring the tax down.

Hogg led the bill through the Iowa Legislature, the governor passed it and the City Council got the measure on the March 3 ballot.

The council assured the public that 90 percent of the funds would go to flood relief, and then in got even more specific and told the public it would be used in tandem with federal money to buy out as many as 1,300 flood-destroyed homes and rehabilitate many, many more.

The council also created an Oversight Committee to assure the public that a citizen group would help advise the council on how it spends the more than $90 million in sales-tax revenue that will be coming in over the next five years and three months.

On Tuesday, residents voted 59 percent to 41 percent to approve the sales tax.

The measure passed despite a palpable sense of frustration with the pace of flood recovery, a frustration level that Mayor Kay Halloran says she is quite aware of.

The Sunday before the tax vote, a Gazette Communications poll found the mayor’s approval rating at 20 percent and City Manager Jim Prosser’s at 29 percent, and the poll found a slight majority of residents said they had little or no confidence in the council.

In the end, with Sen. Hogg’s push in the legislature and with no little lobbying effort on the part of Halloran, council member Justin Shields and others in Des Moines, the city got a special, one-time deal out of the Statehouse for Cedar Rapids.

The city’s local elected officials — in a year in which six of nine council seats are up for grabs — then helped to make the case for the tax.

The voters this year might toss most up for election out of office. Who knows?

But each of the five people mentioned as a possible candidate for mayor –- Ron Corbett, Gary Hinzman, Scott Olson and council members Brian Fagan and Monica Vernon — supported the local-option sales tax for flood recovery.

And the tax is now in place. It will begin to be collected April 1.