The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Posts Tagged ‘2009 City Election’

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.”

City Hall puts cost of “A Season of Progress” report and mailing at $31,444; mayoral challenger Corbett sees report as incumbents using tax dollars to respond to criticism

In City Hall on July 6, 2009 at 11:39 am

Mayoral candidate Ron Corbett says it figures.

It’s just four months from the November city election, and the City Council — six of the nine members’ seats are on the ballot — is out with a spiffy, six-page mailing called “A Season of Progress.”
City Hall puts the cost of the “one-year progress report” on the city’s flood recovery at $31,444. The sum is what it costs to write the report, design it, print it and mail it to 63,000 households, the city reports.

“Any challenger like myself, no matter what the office is, always has to go up against the power of incumbency,” says Corbett, vice president at trucking firm CRST Inc. and a former state legislator.

“When you can use taxpayer dollars to respond to challenges from someone like me and others, it certainly is that built-in advantage of being the incumbent,” Corbett continues. “… It’s a disadvantage that I have.”

Mayor Kay Halloran says Corbett is entitled to his opinion, but she says the mailing to Cedar Rapidians was an appropriate report at the one-year mark of the city’s flood recovery.

“We had certain commemorative activities to mark the one year, and the idea was to show people that we have made a significant amount of progress, and while they are clearly impatient as I am also, we aren’t standing in place,” the mayor says. “We’re marching straight ahead. Not as fast as they would want us to. Not as fast as I would want us to. But as fast the circumstance permits and FEMA money allows.”

Kathy Potts, who is challenging incumbent council member Jerry McGrane for the council’s District 3 seat, says her very first question when she saw the City Hall mailing was this: How much did it cost?

“The wasteful spending that this city continues to do is frustrating,” Potts says.

Beyond that, she says she also thinks, “There they go again, trying to convince us they are doing a wonderful job.”

Corbett says all he can do is pick apart what the six-page progress report trumpets. He singles out two items:

He notes that the report praises all the flood-damaged businesses that have reopened. But he notes that the City Council has decided to add a year to its lease on temporary quarters in a northeast Cedar Rapids office park rather than returning to the downtown. And he notes, too, that the City Hall report celebrates the demolition of 70 flood-damaged properties. With more than 1,200 more demolitions to go, Corbett says 70 homes in a year isn’t much of a victory.

The city’s new fiscal year began July 1, and the City Council’s new budget eliminates the cost of printing and mailing City Hall’s monthly four-page newsletter. Each issue has cost about $18,000 to produce and mail, the city reports.

The city will continue to produce an e-mail version of the monthly newsletter.

Corbett is the only candidate in the mayoral race at this point.

Two possible candidates, council member Monica Vernon and Linda Langston, Linn supervisor, have said they will not seek the mayor’s slot.

Council member Brian Fagan, a local attorney, is expected to run against Corbett while Mayor Halloran is not expected to seek reelection.

Burglars hit mayoral candidate Ron Corbett’s home; calls it unnerving; campaign secrets still safe, he says

In Ron Corbett on June 25, 2009 at 5:09 pm

Burglars busted into mayoral candidate Ron Corbett’s home during the daytime Wednesday, ransacked the place and made off with jewelry, money, a computer, electronics, a couple bottles of wine and a bottle of champagne.

Corbett, who was in Pennsylvania at the time with four of his five children visiting his 90-year-old grandmother, was still trying Thursday to determine with his wife, Benedicte, all that was stolen.

The 48-year-old former state lawmaker said he didn’t know if the burglary was an isolated incident or if it’s a part of an uptick in crime that’s confronting the city. He said he will ask Police Chief Greg Graham about that.

Never a burglary victim before, Corbett noted that Cedar Rapids historically has been a safe, family-friendly community with a good education system and work ethic.

“That’s really been the bedrock of our community,” he said.

It appears, he said, the burglars spent some time inside his house at 321 30th St. SE because they opened every closet and drawer. He said the burglars used his children’s backpacks to carry stolen items from the house. One backpack, partially filled, was left behind, an indication that the burglars got scared away, he said.

The burglars also threw a stack of some 50 red-colored and blue-colored “Ron Corbett for Mayor” T-shirts around one room, so they know now that they burglarized the home of a possible future mayor. Corbett said the T-shirts are intended for campaign backers to wear in Saturday’s Freedom Festival parade.

“They didn’t take any campaign secrets,” said Corbett in a stab of comic relief regarding what he said was an event that had shaken up his wife and made him and his children uneasy.

“My wife comes home and the house is all torn apart. Certainly a part of her feels violated, coming into your home, seeing things in a shambles. It really is kind of unnerving,” he said.

Corbett said he supports Police Chief Graham’s call for opening a police substation on the city’s east side and Corbett said he likes the idea of opening one on the city’s west side, too.

“Whatever we can do to get police in the neighborhoods will help,” he said.

At the same time, Corbett said he has not liked the delay in getting the proposed police substation open at 1501 First Ave. SE. He noted that the city is now hurrying to open a temporary spot in a commercial building a block away after council member Monica Vernon complained about the delay.

“You squawk a little and the city can make some things move,” he said

For now, Corbett said he needs to take care of family matters.

“I’m a victim like anybody else,” he said. “It doesn’t make me a special victim just because I’m running for office.”

23-year-old middle-school teacher with a school-board election under his belt enters the race for City Council

In City Hall on June 18, 2009 at 10:49 am

Nick Duffy, who took a shot at securing a Cedar Rapids school board seat in 2006 as a 20 year old, says he is running for an at-large seat in this year’s City Council election.

Two at-large seats are being contested this year. Those two are currently held by Brian Fagan, a likely mayoral candidate, and Pat Shey.

Duffy, a lifelong Cedar Rapids resident, a 2004 Jefferson High School graduate and a Mount Mercy College graduate as well, teaches language arts at Regis Middle School.

His campaign has a logo, a Web site and news releases.

He cites flood recovery, job creation, public safety and fiscal responsibility as his top campaign issues.

“I will bring to this position a lifelong commitment to Cedar Rapids and a common sense approach to what is best for this community,” Duffy says in a news release. “We must spend taxpayer money wisely and work aggressively for a progressive and community-centered agenda.”

Duffy, of 122 12th St. NW, points to a delay in opening a police substation at 1501 First Ave. SE, calling it “another example of bureaucracy getting in the way of helping people.”

During his unsuccessful school board run in 2006, The Gazette editorial pages said of Duffy: “At just 20 years of age, Duffy is someone this town should hope to hang on to — if not as a school board member, then perhaps as a district teacher someday. The Mount Mercy education student has great passion for teaching and an idealistic approach that likely will be seasoned with the right amount of pragmatism in a few more years.”

In an interview Thursday, Duffy said of his young age that common sense and the ability to lead are the important qualifications for a candidate.

He lives in council District 5, where incumbent Justin Shields is up for reelection, but he has chosen to seek an at-large council seat rather than take on Shields. Duffy said both that he “great respect for the work” that Shields has done and that he likes the idea of seeking a council seat that represents the entire city.

Duffy is engaged to marry in November. He performed in and directed theater productions at Mount Mercy College, and this summer, he will be working with Theatre Cedar Rapids’ summer youth camp.

Duffy is the grandson of Linda Seger, 1629 Eighth St. NW, who has been among the most widely quoted Cedar Rapids flood victims in both the Cedar Rapids media and in media from elsewhere.

Monica passes on mayoral run; has her own business in a tough economy to run and City Council work to carry on, she says

In City Hall on June 16, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Monica Vernon has pulled the plug on her thought to take on mayoral candidate Ron Corbett and any other comers in this year’s mayoral race.

District 2 council member Vernon, founder and president of Vernon Market Research, on Tuesday afternoon said running for mayor calls for a “huge commitment” at a time when she is heavily committed to her business in a down economy and to her City Council post a year into flood recovery.

“It’s true that a lot of people have asked me to consider running for mayor, and I’ve spent some time exploring that,” Vernon, 51, said. “However, I’ve concluded that I don’t have the time to run my business, provide a high level of service as a council member and run for office.”

Even so, Vernon sounded a little disheartened even as she was setting aside the thought of a mayoral run.

In truth, there has been something of a behind-the-scenes mayoral run going on for many weeks, with formidable prospects like Vernon — business owner, past chair of the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, past president of Junior League and past chairwoman of the City Planning Commission — trying to assess the political winds.

Linn County Supervisor Linda Langston, a Democrat, toyed with the idea of a mayoral run only to set the idea aside in recent days.

Gary Hinzman, one-time Cedar Rapids police chief and longtime head of the Sixth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services, also has been exploring a mayoral run in recent months, but it’s unclear if he will run for the post.

The one candidate expected to take on Corbett now is council member Brian Fagan, a local attorney.

In the course of sorting out if she would or would not run for what is officially a non-partisan job of mayor, Vernon changed her political affiliation from Republican to Democrat.

In the end, Vernon on Tuesday said she concluded she is more interested in governing than in the politics of running for office.

She said, too, that she remains committed to making sure the council “can flex its muscle” and can be as strong “as it needs to be.”

Announced mayoral candidate Ron Corbett — who was president/CEO of the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce when Vernon was chairwoman of the Chamber’s board of directors — had only good things to say about Vernon on Tuesday.

“Monica has certainly been a leader on the City Council and that will continue,” said Corbett, vice president at trucking firm CRST Inc. “As a small business person her perspective has been extremely valuable. I hope I have a chance to work with her on the council next year.”

Vernon’s current council term runs through 2011.

She said she hasn’t decided if she will support another candidate for mayor or not.

Linn’s Langston out as mayoral prospect; says she’s flattered she was asked; has plenty of fish to fry with county office and new national posts

In City Hall, Linda Langston, Linn County government on June 4, 2009 at 10:33 am

Linda Langston, Linn County supervisor, says she won’t run for the job of Cedar Rapids mayor.

A month ago, Langston acknowledged that some had urged her to make a mayoral run, a request she said on Thursday that she found flattering.

However, she said her strong interest in issues distinctively a purview of county government — mental health and development disabilities, for instance — have reminded her why she has pursued and won elective county office and why she wants to stay there.

Langston, a Democrat, said, too, that her party affiliation in a race against Ron Corbett, a former Republican state legislator, had the potential to make the local mayoral race overly partisan at a time when partisan politics should not be what the race, which is officially a non-partisan one, should be.

The city will have three or four good mayoral candidates, she said.

At the same time, just three weeks ago she assumed new national responsibilities as president of the National Democratic County Officials, a position that also places her as one of seven Iowans on the National Democratic Committee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linn’s Langston has new national responsibilities; says she’d give up national gig if she runs and wins Cedar Rapids mayor’s post

In City Hall, Linda Langston, Linn County government on May 18, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Linn County Supervisor Linda Langston, a big-time local Democrat, is a big-time national Democrat, too.

Langston has been elected president of the National Democratic County Officials, a position that also gives her membership on the Democratic National Committee.

Only six other Iowans are on the DNC.

Both new positions prompted the question to Langston late Monday afternoon: Will the national positions force her to set aside any thought of running for Cedar Rapids mayor, an idea that she said a few weeks ago she had been asked to entertain?

Langston said the new national responsibilities wouldn’t prevent her from running for mayor. But she said she would give up the national posts if she were elected mayor.

No, she added, she hasn’t decided yet if she will run for mayor or not. She said she’s apt to decide in June.

She said she’d issue a press release when she decides. Asked if she wouldn’t hold a news conference to announce a mayoral run rather than issue a press release, she said, in fact, she would hold a news conference. She said the fact that she said “press release” and not news conference didn’t mean anything.

Langston said she has been vice president of the National Democratic County Officials, and now has been elected president to fill the slot left by previous president, who has taken a job as a deputy director of the Department of Housing & Urban Development.