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Posts Tagged ‘Mayor Kay Halloran’

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.

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Corbett not bashful about letting would-be mayoral-race foes know that he’s beating bushes for bucks for the coming match

In City Hall on April 24, 2009 at 10:15 am

This year’s mayoral race looks like it will be richer than the 2005 race in which Kay Halloran, a retired attorney and former state lawmaker, defeated Scott Olson, a commercial Realtor and architect, in a close contest.

That conclusion comes after mayoral candidate Ron Corbett’s fund raiser downtown Thursday evening in the Armstrong Centre, an event that 135 people attended, he reports.

In brief remarks at the gathering, Corbett pushed for a greater emphasis on economic development and for what he said is the need to “repair” Cedar Rapids’ “image” as a progressive city on the move.

Corbett also announced that, to date, his campaign has raised $42,325.

It’s not May yet, it’s still six months from the Nov. 3 election, and no one else has entered the race against Corbett, vice president of trucking firm CRST Inc. and a former state legislator and former president/CEO of the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

But Corbett already is closing in on raising as much money as Halloran did and Olson did in 2005, which was the first election in the city’s new council/manager government, a government with part-time elected officials.

In 2005, Olson took in $54,701 in campaign contributions and Halloran, $53,302, $20,050 of which included her own money.

Asked at the time what races for the part-time mayoral slot should cost in Cedar Rapids, Halloran said, “I’m glad it wasn’t any more than that, that’s for sure.”

The job is a four-year one with a salary of about $30,000.

Keep in mind, the 2005 campaign spending amounted to chicken feed compared to spending in the 2001 mayoral race here in which Paul Pate — a former state senator, former Iowa secretary of state and former gubernatorial candidate — defeated three-term incumbent Lee Clancey, the city’s first female mayor.
In that race, the two candidates together raised $226,811. The mayor’s job then was a full-time one and paid about $80,000 a year.

In the Halloran-Olson race in 2005, Olson said the $54,000 he raised was “probably the right range” for a competition for part-time Cedar Rapids mayor.

He raised $4,750 from three political action committees — Realtors, builders and building trades — and the rest from 240 individual contributors.

Halloran had about 100 individual contributors and raised about $11,000 from labor political action groups.
To date, Corbett says he has had more than 240 contributors.

Four people are considering taking Corbett on: council members Brian Fagan and Monica Vernon, Gary Hinzman, long-time director of the Sixth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services and a one-time police chief here, and 2005 candidate Olson. Incumbent Halloran has not announced her intentions.

Asked in passing this week about Corbett’s fund raising, Fagan said the 2009 mayoral race won’t be about raising money.

One campaign novelty to date — a pioneering one for a local Cedar Rapids race — is Corbett TV, which is Corbett’s own video enterprise that he runs at his campaign Web site, roncorbett.com.

First post-flood victory for new ‘affordable’ replacement housing: Cedar Pond Townhouses to go up on a part of what had been Chapman Fun World

In City Hall, Floods on March 26, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Neighbors out along Wilson Avenue SW near Williams Boulevard and Westdale Mall lost out this week on their attempt to block the construction of 90 rental units on about 11 acres of land.

Part of the site used to be home to the Chapman Fun World, but for opposing neighbors, the fun is long gone. Some 224 people signed a petition against the development, called Cedar Pond Townhouses.

The 6-2 City Council vote in favor of the development clears the way for the first newly built, affordable rental housing to be built to replace affordable housing lost in the June 2008 flood.

Much has gone into City Hall’s effort to do just that, build more affordable housing, since the first months after the city’s flood disaster.

The City Council created a Replacement Housing Task Force last September and then it successfully lobbied the federal government to increase a key federal funding tool – federal tax credits – for the state of Iowa.

The Cedar Pond development will use tax credits and some local financial incentives for much of its funding. For the tax-credit financing piece, private investors pay money upfront for a housing project’s construction and, in turn, have their federal tax liability reduced.

The upfront money allows the developer to take on much less debt, and, as a result, the developer can and must keep rents affordable. At Cedar Pond, only those earning at or below 60 percent of the average medium income for Linn County can rent the units.

The opponents made good arguments on Wednesday evening about potential problems with water runoff from the proposed development and about traffic problems that already exist in the area.

District 5 council member Justin Shields — this is his council district — was convinced. He said the site was too wet for the development. And he said he had heard before how a developer’s engineers were going to take care of everything, and then they do not.

But in these discussions about affordable housing, a central concern, too, is just who might live in affordable housing.

It’s clear it’s an issue, not so much by what opponents say, as what proponents and the developer say.

In this instance, Greg and Candace McClenahan, of EverGreen Real Estate Development Corp., Prior Lake, Minn., are the developers, and Candace McClenahan emphasized to the City Council and to the opponents in the audience that people who live at Cedar Pond must have jobs so they can pay up to $570 in rent and $78 a month for utilities each month for a two-bedroom apartment and $670 and $101 for utilities a month.

There is even a new term — work force housing — for these kinds of developments, which Mayor Kay Halloran used to express her support for the project. Given the affordable housing lost to the flood, this is “new housing for our work force,” she said.

Council member Tom Podzimek took exception to neighbors who called the rental development incompatible with the area.

“Affordable housing doesn’t seem like an incompatible use,” he said.

At the end of the day, the opposing neighbors had a tough case to make, in large part, because an early development on the same site had been given approval a few years ago. And that development had three-story buildings, not two-story ones, and it had 38 more rental units.

The McClenahans also came along with a plan at a good time when the City Council was eager to replace some of what the 2008 flood destroyed. And the McClenahans spent much time refining their plan and scaling it back as they worked to please the city’s Replacement Housing Task Force. Task force member Ben Henderson told the council just that on Wednesday evening.

Two members of the City Planning Commission also came to the council meeting to explain why the commission earlier had backed the project.

Chris Dostal, a 2005 City Council candidate, was among neighbors arguing against the development because of the traffic nightmare that he said already exists on and around Wilson Avenue SW. But the timing of that argument wasn’t the best either: the city’s multimillion-dollar viaduct project on 33rd Avenue SW will be ready for traffic in the fall and should reduce traffic on Wilson Avenue by a third, a city engineer said.

Cedar Pond now heads to Des Moines to secure tax credits from the Iowa Finance Authority. This comfortable territory for the McClenahans: They’ve built 11, regulation-heavy, tax-credit projects in Iowa and Minnesota in the last 12 years.

Three other new, new-construction, tax-credit projects have been proposed for Cedar Rapids since last September. One intended for the former Ellis Golf Course chipping area has been abandoned in the face of neighbor objections. A second at 1100 O Ave. NW is opposed by neighbors and has gotten a lukewarm reaction to date from the City Planning Commission. A third project, planned for the Oak Hill Neighborhood has yet to secure tax credits.

Mayoral race has one announced candidate, but Gary Hinzman joins Ron Corbett with his own mayoral Web site

In City Hall on March 17, 2009 at 6:33 am

Cedar Rapids may have just Ron Corbett so far when it comes to candidates who have formally announced a campaign for mayor.

However, Gary Hinzman, director of the Sixth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services and a one-time Cedar Rapids police chief, is front and center with his own Web site, “Gary Hinzman for Mayor, A Voice for All People, A Force for Positive Change.”

Hinzman, who has not run for elective office before, has been on Corbett’s mind for a few months now as Corbett, a former state representative and, in that role, a former speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives, has readied to make his own run for mayor.

Early in the year, Corbett or Corbett backers conducted a phone survey in the city to see just which names might have some traction in this year’s mayoral race. In addition to the Corbett name, the list included Scott Olson, a commercial Realtor who was narrowly defeated in the 2005 mayoral race; council members Brian Fagan and Monica Vernon; and Hinzman.

In recent weeks, Hinzman joined the other four names on that list in saying that he supported the local-option sales tax for flood relief and property-tax relief, a tax that voters easily passed on March 3.

Once Corbett jumped out and formally announced his mayoral campaign on March 9, Hinzman said recently that he would wait for a time before announcing his intentions.

Hinzman is a national leader in the field of community corrections as exemplified by his position as president of the American Parole and Probation Association.

He has been head of the six-county community corrections operation since 1989, and in that time, he has overseen the creation of a sprawling campus of correctional buildings off Sixth Street SW.

Hinzman came to the agency at a time when it needed to expand and it was facing resistance from neighbors who didn’t want correctional services in the neighborhoods. Hinzman took the center of the operation to an out-of-the-way industrial area of the city, and more recently, has returned some staff members to neighborhood centers in the city.

Hinzman’s Web site says he oversees an $18-million-plus annual budget and 250 employees.

As for Web site, candidate Corbett has one, too: Ron Corbett, “Leadership for Cedar Rapids.”

On the Corbett site, you can buy a T-shirt, coffee mug or dog shirt, sign up to get text messages or e-mails from the campaign and watch a video of Corbett’s campaign announcement speech.

Corbett is vice president for human resources at trucking firm CRST and is former president/CEO of the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

Mayor Kay Halloran has said she will wait until after the state legislative session this spring before announcing her City Hall plans.

The election is Nov. 3.

City Hall kindness has not always been easy to find for neighboring jurisdictions that dump on sales tax

In City Hall, Marion, Mayor Kay Halloran on March 7, 2009 at 8:08 am

City Hall kindness is new found when it comes to jurisdictions whose voters dump on local-option tax.

On Friday, Cedar Rapids Mayor Kay Halloran was out counting noses, trying to find a majority on her nine-member council to pass a resolution, oddly, for the city of Marion.

Halloran got the votes, and as a result, the city of Marion will get a second bite at the local-option sales tax apple.

Marion city officials had lobbied Halloran and other Cedar Rapids City Council members after voters in Marion turned down the local-option sales tax on Tuesday along with the cities of Hiawatha, Robins, Center Point and the Linn County portion of Walford.

At the same time, Cedar Rapids easily passed the tax, the revenue from which it will use primarily for flood relief over the next five years and three months.

Marion stood to take in about $3 million a year during the life of the tax, which is an amount city leaders in Marion weren’t reluctant to easily turn their backs on. Particularly when the measure was defeated by 183 votes out of 4,271 cast.

The Cedar Rapids council is in the middle of the affairs of its neighboring communities because of the demands of state’s local-option sales tax law. That law, as applied to Linn County, creates only two ways to get the question of a local-option sales tax on the ballot: the Cedar Rapids City Council, which represents a majority of residents in Linn County, must do it; or proponents of the tax can amass signatures on a petition that number at least 5 percent of the total who voted in the last general election.

Halloran said the decision was an easy call for her, and she pointed to the first days after the June flood when the city of Marion stepped in and provided public-safety dispatching services for Cedar Rapids.

“So the idea is, as a matter of comity and neighborliness, they help us when we need help, and we’ll help when they need help,” the mayor said.

It was quite a different story, though, back in 2001 when Cedar Rapids and nearly every jurisdiction in the county put the local-option sales tax in place, but unincorporated Linn County rejected the matter and stood to lose about $4 million a year.

No sooner had the election office closed down on election night and the county’s Farm Bureau members and the Linn County Board of Supervisors were on the phone to Cedar Rapids City Hall, hat in hand, asking the council to put the measure up for a revote out in the county.

The Cedar Rapids City Hall has three words for the request: Get some signatures.

“Calling for a vote without a petition drive would be a departure from previous practice of the Cedar Rapids council,” the City Council said back then. The council noted that the city’s 2001 vote on the sales tax for swimming pools was supported by a petition of 5,188 signatures and that an election the previous on a minor-league baseball stadium levy was backed by 3,361 signatures before the council put the matters on the ballot.

Then-Parks Commissioner Dale Todd was the most outspoken of the City Council members back then. Who was he, Todd asked, to decide that rural residents really didn’t mean to reject the tax when they voted that way Tuesday?

Then-Mayor Lee Clancey stressed the City Council’s tradition of asking for petitions from those interested in putting an issue on the ballot.

Clearly, her preference was that any revote come from a petition drive with a sufficient number of signatures to prompt a vote without the City Council’s help.

“The citizens in rural Linn County had an opportunity to vote on this two days ago,” Clancey said. “If there is strong sentiment among the citizens of Linn County that they would like to have this revote, I think it might be an appropriate way to go to have a petition.

“Then at least we would have a feeling for what folks really would like to do. The only thing we have right now is the majority of them declined the option tax.”

Within a few days, the Farm Bureau had rounded up 10,131 county residents, more than twice the number needed to put the measure back on the ballot. Voters in unincorporated Linn, Walker and Walford then returned to the polls and passed the tax.

On Friday, Marion city officials said what was said eight years ago: Marion voters didn’t understand the complicated, quirky tax.

Lon Pluckhahn, Marion’s city manager, said on Friday that Marion council members likely would not have requested a new vote if they and he hadn’t received many calls from citizens who said they had not understood the Tuesday vote.

“I’m glad to see it,” Pluckhahn said of the Cedar Rapids council decision to clear the way for another sales-tax vote. “We’ve worked hard to improve relations between the two cities.”

He noted an e-mail from one Cedar Rapids council member who said he would not have wanted to have to get Marion’s permission if Cedar Rapids wanted a new vote.

Mayor and five possible mayoral candidates have one thing in common: All support the local-option sales tax

In Brian Fagan, City Hall, Gary Hinzman, Mayor Kay Halloran, Monica Vernon, Ron Corbett, Scott Olson on March 1, 2009 at 11:00 pm

There have been local-option sales tax elections in years past in which elected officials and would-be elected officials have deferred to the voters and not expressed an opinion one way or another of the matter.

Not this time. At least not with Mayor Kay Halloran and the five people whose names to date are afloat as possible candidates for mayor in the November election.

Halloran is a strong supporter of the local-option sales tax, as are council members Monica Vernon and Brian Fagan, both who considered possible mayor candidates.

In favor, too, of the sales tax are three other possible mayor candidates: Ron Corbett, Gary Hinzman and Scott Olson.

In recent weeks, backers of Corbett conducted a private phone survey to check out what voters might be thinking about in this year’s upcoming mayoral race.

The Corbett backers asked those surveyed to pick from five possible candidates: Corbett, Fagan, Hinzman, Olson or Vernon.

Olson, a commercial Realtor who was narrowly defeated in his run for mayor in 2005, said last week that additional taxes like a local-option sales tax do have a “negative connotation.” But he said the unique circumstance of the flood recovery “overrides” that concern. “We have many people in need,” he said.

Olson said the local revenue raised by the sales tax will help those who own flood-damaged housing but, for one reason or another, don’t qualify for federal funds. He noted, too, that a citizen oversight committee will be in place to help direct how the sales tax money is spent.

Hinzman, director of the Sixth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services and former Cedar Rapids police chief, said last week that he normally doesn’t jump at a tax increase.

“But it makes better sense than having no concept as to how Cedar Rapids bails itself out of this disaster,” Hinzman said. He said the sales tax will help the city “recover and heal as a community.”

“Without the local-option sales tax, it will be extremely difficult to get beyond the past,” he said.

Corbett, vice president at trucking firm CRST International Inc., said passing the local-option sales tax will “definitely improve” the city’s chances to secure increased federal and state funding.

“Given the scale of our disaster, we can’t pretend that we can recover and redevelop without these funding sources,” said Corbett, past president of the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and former speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives.

He said the local-option sales tax will provide a temporary “window of opportunity” that will give the city time to work hard to recruit companies to the city to add jobs and rebuild the city’s tax base.

Mayor’s speech downtown is a reminder that all is not well there

In Brian Fagan, City Hall, Justin Shields, Mayor Kay Halloran on February 28, 2009 at 6:48 am

A mayor’s annual address on the condition of the city is generally an upbeat affair with a focus on the accomplishments in the year past and the ones sure to come in the year ahead.

That was the case on Friday when Mayor Kay Halloran and Brian Fagan, mayor pro tem, spoke at the League of Women Voters of Cedar Rapids/Marion’s annual State of the City luncheon.

This year, though, it was hard not to feel how far there is yet to go in the city’s recovery from the June 2008 flood, a recovery that must come in the midst of a troubling national economic downturn.

Friday’s event was held in what over the years has become the lone downtown venue for such gatherings: The Ballroom of the Crowne Plaza Five Seasons Hotel.

The hotel is in bankruptcy and being run by an interim hotel manager, and for more than a year now, the hotel chain that owns the Crowne Plaza moniker has threatened to withdraw it from Cedar Rapids only downtown hotel.

The previous owner of the hotel had been required to upgrade the building to keep the Crowne Plaza name, and, in fact, much of that work was completed, reports Patrick DePalma, chairman of the city’s Five Season Facilities Commission. The rooms still need new TVs, and, more to the point of the mayor’s Friday speech, there is still a need to upgrade the hotel’s Ballroom, DePalma says.

One of the typical routes to The Ballroom is through the entrance to the U.S. Cellular Center, which is joined to the hotel. You walk in the center’s lobby and head up the towering escalator to the next floor to get to the hotel lobby and The Ballroom. But the escalator has been out of service since the machinery that drives it took on water in the June flood.

Nearly nine months after the flood, there surely are some who, hiking up the stationary escalator steps, aren’t wondering if the city’s recovery from the flood will ever come.

The city’s Facilities Commission oversees the city-owned event center and it plays a role in the hotel because the city owns the land and air rights for the hotel.

The commission’s DePalma says he’s tried to impress on the city the need to get moving on fixing the flood damage to the U.S. Cellular Center’s lobby and to the escalator there. He says the work is dependent on funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and he says City Hall controls the schedule on which of the many flood-damaged city properties gets fixed first.

“We’ve talked to the city and said, ‘Let’s get this done,’” he says. “The work that needs to be done is fairly minor in terms of how much it would take and how much it would cost compared to (other projects).”

DePalma says the city’s first focus in the downtown is to fix elevators in damaged parking ramps.

“We understand that,” he says. But he says he hopes the U.S. Cellular Center comes soon after.

“Any pressure you can put on them,” DePalma says. “It’s not a difficult thing to take care of. But I can’t hire a contractor.”

Under consideration, he says, is doing away with the escalator and replacing it with an elevator and a staircase.

The public now can ride the elevator next door that leads into the hotel lobby on the second floor.

For whatever reason, the audience was a little smaller this time for the mayor’s annual address. The League of Women Voters put the count at about 300, down about 60 from the year before.

Six of nine City Council members did not attend to hear their council colleagues, Halloran and Fagan, speak. Council member Justin Shields was on hand.

The center of the city’s government has been operating out of an office building in a northeast Cedar Rapids office park since the flood. The council holds its formal Wednesday evening meetings in an auditorium nearby on the AEGON USA campus. The flood-damaged City Hall downtown remains empty and awaiting renovation.

Halloran and Fagan bring Condition of the City speech downtown; city needs sales tax, they say; Alliant exec has few hopes for downtown steam

In City Hall on February 27, 2009 at 4:57 pm

Mayor Kay Halloran and Brian Fagan, mayor pro tem, told an audience of about 300 at Friday’s Condition of the City speech that a 1-percent local sales tax will help the flood-damaged city rebuild.

“We need it,” Fagan said bluntly, when asked about Tuesday’s upcoming sales-tax vote during the noontime event in the Ballroom of the Crowne Plaza Five Seasons Hotel.

The annual event is sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Cedar Rapids/Marion.

To a question about the viability of a low-cost steam system in the downtown, Fagan turned to Eliot Protsch, Alliant Energy’s chief operating officer, in the crowd.

Protsch came to the microphone to say that there “may be” a solution to the steam issue for large users of the steam system, including the Quaker and Cargill plants. But he said it was “difficult” to see how steam, which had been provided by Alliant’s flood-damaged Sixth Street Generating Station, could be provided to the downtown “absent” a very large subsidy.

On the sales-tax question, Fagan said the estimated $18 million a year that the sales tax will bring to the city for five years and three months will allow the city to rebuild properly. Passing the sales tax also will show federal and state lawmakers, from whom the city is asking disaster help, that Cedar Rapids is doing its share to “support ourselves locally,” he said.

Mayor Halloran noted that the City Council will use the sales-tax revenue to buy out, repair and replace flood-damaged housing vital to the city’s work force.

“I don’t want residents of Cedar Rapids leaving (town),” Halloran said.

City Manager Jim Prosser, who joined the mayor and Fagan during the  question-answer period, said the city’s share of flood-related costs could come to $500 million even if the city and community secure substantial federal and state funds. “That’s the number,” he said.

In prepared remarks that reprised ones made at the City Council meeting Wednesday evening, Halloran said the city remains “open for business” despite the 2008 flood and its aftermath. She said the council promises to be “vigilant” with its budget and to work hard and deliver efficient government.

Halloran noted, too, that the she and the council continue to push the Iowa Legislature to stop its “draconian” ways and give Cedar Rapids and other cities the freedom to raise revenue from diverse sources. That will mean the city won’t need to be so heavily on property taxes, she said.

Halloran had Fagan focus his comments on the city’s flood-recovery effort, the costs of which are “staggering,” Fagan told the audience. He said the needs and costs don’t get better if they are ignored.

As he did on Wednesday evening, Fagan defended the City Council’s use of outside experts, who he said are helping guide the city through a community recovery that could cost $5 billion. The $5-million cost for the help, he said, is small in relation to the damage.

“Yes, we needed outside experts. Yes they are ‘consultants,’” said Fagan in acknowledging that it was issue for which the council has taken criticism.

Those in Friday’s audience also asked if the city can get too much public input before it acts and if lobbying efforts to obtain disaster relief have failed.

On the question of public input, Fagan said other communities that have gone through disasters have told Cedar Rapids that their ability to get projects started and finished had been hampered by not taking time up front to listen to the public.

Prosser said cities easily can make decisions about rebuilding, but he said the key is to make decisions that actually get implemented. Without adequate public input, they don’t, he said. He pointed to Tulsa, Okla., which he said we still trying to put a flood-protection system in place 25 years after its devastating flood.

Halloran, Fagan and Prosser all noted that much has been done and is being done to lobby the federal and state governments for disaster relief. But Prosser said the truth was that “this terrible disaster doesn’t have a simple solution.”

The League of Women Voters put Friday’s attendance at about 300, which is down from 359 people who attended a year ago.

From the podium, Halloran said the audience she was addressing looked “very intent.”

“I think they care what happens to the city, and as long as we continue to tell them what we are doing, they will recognize that we’re doing a very big job,” the mayor said.

Stealth ‘Condition of the City’ address has Halloran assuring city is ‘open for business;’ Fagan says city’s flood recovery will be a model for the nation

In Brian Fagan, City Hall, Floods, Mayor Kay Halloran on February 25, 2009 at 7:33 pm

Without prior promotion, Mayor Kay Halloran and Brian Fagan, mayor pro tem, last night gave a Condition of the City speech, saying the city is working to recover from disaster in a way that makes the city better than ever.

The speech was part preview: Halloran is scheduled to reprise her comments at a public forum on Friday.

In PowerPoint-aided comments, Halloran last night forewarned Cedar Rapidians that “times will be difficult” in the city for the next few years as the city works to recover from the 2008 flood.

At the same time she assured that the city is “open for business” and she promised that she and her council colleagues will be “vigilant” on spending and continue to work to bring about an even more cost-effective, customer-friendly city government.

SEE http://gazetteonline.com/Assets/pdf/ConditionofCityPPT.pdf

 

Halloran said, too, that the city will continue to work hard to change “very draconian” state policies that she said force cities to be too dependent on local property-taxes. Those taxes “gouge” the city’s businesses and residents and will “cripple our city” as it works to recover, she said.

 

Fagan said the state of the city’s condition is a tale of two cities — a city before the flood and a city recovering from a flood.

Fagan recalled the images of last June, calling them “difficult” and at the same time “inspiring” and “representative” of the giving and generosity of Cedar Rapids.

Fagan said the city’s needs and costs remain “staggering,” and he put the cost of recovery at between $2 billion and $5 billion. For housing needs alone, the city needs more than $200 million to fix, buyout, relocate and rebuild housing, he said.

In citing the dollar figures, Fagan addressed head on the frequent criticism often heard about the City Council’s use of consultants that have and are providing the city with what Fagan called “expert guidance” in the flood recovery.

He put the cost of consultants at about $5 million, defended the spending and said the expertise was the city’s best way to ensure that Cedar Rapids’ flood recovery is “the best recovery this country has ever seen.”

Fagan, too, talked about the city’s plans to make sure it renovates or rebuilds some 300 flood-damaged public city buildings and facilities in the best way it can for future generations.

He made reference to a comment last week from a Linn County supervisor, who suggested that the city was pursuing wants and not needs as the city talked about the possibility of building new facilities. It meets a public need to study rebuilding options to see what best serves customers and what is sustainable, efficient and affordable for the long term, Fagan said.

In the city’s flood recovery, Fagan singled out several high points: the public-private effort that saved the city’s water supply; the city’s ability to get its waste-water treatment plant back on line quickly; the city’s ability to get a flood-protection plan in place in four months. The speed of the latter two accomplishments was unrivaled in the nation, he said.

Fagan said the last eight months has brought some “incredibly tense times” and plenty of “vigorous debate” at City Hall and throughout the community.

For all of it, the city will come through the recovery a better city, he said.