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Posts Tagged ‘Doug Neumann’

City, county contributing to one private-sector effort on flood recovery while private sector contributes to second effort in City Hall

In City Hall, Linn County government on March 17, 2009 at 3:34 pm

The private sector’s interest in helping with flood recovery got another boost this week.

The Linn County Board of Supervisors has agreed to contribute $20,000 to the Economic Planning and Redevelopment Corp., an upstart private-sector initiative created in Cedar Rapids to help with local flood recovery.

For one, the Linn County board’s contribution should help comfort Cedar Rapids City Private-sector help on flood recovery: City, county contributing to one business-led Council member Chuck Wieneke, who has suggested that the council take back its $50,000 grant to the EPRC if the county wasn’t willing to contribute.

Earlier, the county board had tabled the matter.

On Tuesday, Lu Barron, chairwoman of the Linn board, said Tuesday that the board first wanted to get a better feel for the EPRC’s plans and mission before it contributed to the effort. On a unanimous 5-0 vote, the board now is satisfied, Barron said.

The public support for the EPRC makes it a private-public partnership, though the push for its creation came from some local business leaders displeased with the pace of flood recovery in the city. John Smith, president/CEO of trucking firm CRST International Inc., is chairman of the four-person EPRC board.

The EPRC’s director is Doug Neumann, who also holds down a post with the Downtown District.

In the last two weeks, the EPRC’s still-new role got pushed into the background a bit as yet a second, private-sector initiative surfaced in hopes of helping City Hall better deal with the city’s flood recovery. In this second effort, which is being promoted by Rockwell Collins, local business interests have offered to pay to support a new city flood-recovery manager inside of City Hall not outside of City Hall where the EPRC is operating.

Fund-raising for the City Hall position reportedly is underway even as the city and now Linn County are spending public dollars to pay for the first private-sector initiative, the EPRC.

The EPRC’s Neumann and the EPRC board have said that the EPRC will be out chasing federal grants and private grants that the city and county are not.

“I sincerely appreciate that the county supervisors have recognized the value EPRC can have in helping find funds for flood recovery and in helping accelerate progress on the many redevelopment projects we need to revitalize this great community,” Neumann said Tuesday of the county board’s funding support.

Linn County’s Barron said the EPRC and the private-sector-supported flood coordinator inside City Hall may have efforts that overlap a bit, but she said she sees the two positions as working together.

Linn supervisor Linda Langston and Monica Vernon, Cedar Rapids council member, are on the four-member EPRC board of directors.

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EPRC works to matter; its director, Doug Neumann, tightropes a middle ground with gentle kicks at ‘mayor’s office’ and business leaders who are ‘off track’

In City Hall, Floods, Mayor Kay Halloran on February 24, 2009 at 10:01 am

The day you know what EPRC stands for may not come until the day is closer for the upstart Economic Planning and Redevelopment Corp. to have a quantifiable victory or two for Cedar Rapids’ flood recovery.

Even its director, Doug Neumann, says the acronym is little known and the corporation’s name is pretty cumbersome and bureaucratic-sounding.

But Neumann told the Downtown Rotary this week that the name is what it is and that he and the endeavor had bigger fish to fry. The EPRC’s singular goal, he says, is to find money, particularly from the federal and state government and other non-local sources, to help with the city’s flood recovery.

In that regard, the group is trying to tap the U.S. Department of Commerce’s regional office in Denver, Colo., for $22 million to help fix railroad congestion downtown, support a fiber-optic system for public entities and create a Regional Economic Commerce Center.

The EPRC calls itself a private-public partnership and it has City Council member Monica Vernon, and Linda Langston, Linn County supervisor, on its four-person board.

But make no mistake: The EPRC is where local players in Cedar Rapids’ private sector can focus their muscle to help get the city back on its feet again.

The endeavor’s creation about four months ago came, in part, out of a frustration that City Hall couldn’t do it all, but that it might want to try to.

Apparently, there were some fears with some at City Hall that the private players’ real intent was to create a “shadow government” to run flood-recovery.

In any event, John Smith, president/CEO of CRST International Inc. and the chairman of the EPRC, felt obliged to assure the Downtown Rotary Club earlier this month that the EPRC was not a shadow government. Neumann did the same this Monday.

At the same time, though, Neumann said the EPRC’s intent was to “talk frankly and clearly about progress and problems” in the city’s flood recovery. He then ventured ahead to do so gently.

“When I say that we’ve lacked a strong, confident public voice from the mayor’s office, I don’t say that for any political purpose or because I wish ill-will toward anyone,” he told a crowd at the Downtown Rotary Club on Monday. “I say it because it’s important to identify that shortcoming as one of the major factors impacting long-term economic redevelopment and flood recovery.”

Of note, Neumann, who worked many months on City Hall’s Recovery and Reinvestment Coordinating Team as president of the Downtown District, did not direct his City Hall criticism at City Manager Jim Prosser or the City Council as a whole.

Then he had this to say for the private sector:

“And when I say that some business leaders are off-track when they say there has been no planning for flood recovery, or that they’ve been far too public with that criticism, I don’t say that to be defensive about progress or to pick a fight with anyone.

“I say that because we know that when those comments wind their way to Des Moines and Washington, D.C., that it severely hampers our efforts at long-term economic redevelopment and flood recovery.”