By Ron Moore
What is our obligation to be good stewards of state and federal government assistance? Of local government spending? Is our use of tax money efficient and effective?
Since the flood of 2008, this community has received a lot of government funding. Looking at what we have received through the lens of stewardship rather than actual dollars received, we need to ask: Are we being good stewards?
A Cedar Rapids study recommended that the northwest side community center be rebuilt on high ground at Ellis Park. Neighbors wanted it rebuilt in its original location where it had been destroyed under 17 feet of flood water. The site proposal actually submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency was adjacent to the original location, but authorized a building elevated only 5 feet above ground level. Now FEMA has rejected that site and another location must be found outside of the 100-year flood plain.
Why was the flood zone site even submitted? Was this a good use of our time and money? There are other pending building projects for the west-side flood zone that should not be permitted without first obtaining flood protection.
The Paramount Theatre was beautifully renovated using government flood recovery funds, and it’s better than ever.
Before the flood, there was a rule prohibiting food and drink inside the auditorium, but that rule has been abandoned, apparently to increase concession revenues. In addition to noisy imbibers distracting from performances, beer, pop, and snacks undoubtedly will fall on the new seat fabrics and carpets, shortening the life and diminishing the amenities paid for by the government — and government money is our money.
The new theater management company must balance profit with stewardship of the facility.
In yet another example, the Coralville City Council allocated economic development money to a department store to locate in its town, resulting in the store closing its location in adjacent Iowa City. Nothing was added to benefit the greater community.
There are now (at the time this was written) noncompete discussions among Iowa City, Coralville, and North Liberty, and also between Marion and Hiawatha, although Cedar Rapids is not yet participating. Implementation of such agreements would prevent future non-productive tax money support of location switches, at least among those participating in the agreements. T
We have numerous “governments” — towns, cities, and counties — in Iowa that overlap. Linn County and Johnson County are in many ways one interacting and dependent community, so it would make sense to eliminate redundant city and town governments.
Yet we allow the inefficiency of separate governments in our greater community. This competition and duplication is not good stewardship of the money government spends. And the resulting parochial decisions are often not the ones that would be made if the community as a whole was considered.
We should do what good stewards would do despite what politics, power positions, government competition, and profit seem to demand. We who are not the government decision-makers can have tremendous influence if we speak out.
Ron Moore is a risk management consultant from Cedar Rapids. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org