Two challengers are taking on City Council incumbent Pat Shey for the council’s District 3 seat.
Robin Kash, 72, is a retired Presbyterian minister who has operated his own video news operation, Neighborhood Network News, in Cedar Rapids since 2007. The endeavor has put him at many City Hall, neighborhood and community meetings and on the questioning side of an assortment of interviews of community leaders.
“Out of that I started accumulating fairly broad and extensive knowledge and understanding of what was going on in the city and how it worked and the players,” Kash said. ” … I have a fairly good grip on … how decisions get made.”
Alan Modracek, 33, spent six years in the U.S. Navy as an electronics technician and now works for Konecranes fixing industrial cranes for companies in Eastern Iowa and across Iowa. Modracek said he has worked to defeat the last two attempts to extend the city’s 1-percent local-option sales tax, and he said he has decided to run for the City Council now to make sure the tax revenue is spent openly and correctly if voters, who are taking on the tax question again, extend the tax on Nov. 5.
“It’s more a trust issue than a tax issue,” Modracek said. “… I don’t want gray areas where things can get muddled. I want people to know where the money is going.”
Kash, of 1806 Grande Ave. SE, is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and holds master’s degrees in divinity and theology from the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He served as a Presbyterian minister, pastor and traveling interim pastor for some 40 years in Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Iowa. Along the way, he also has run a rare bookshop, published religious material and raised funds for social-services entities. He retired in 2006 in Cedar Rapids, where he had served as interim pastor.
Kash said the city needs to push ahead with flood protection to make sure the city’s flood-recovery rebuilding and investment is protected. Kash, who sits on the steering committee of the Cedar River Watershed Coalition, said the city also needs to pay attention to making improvements in the watershed above the city to try to slow water runoff there.
Kash said the City Council is facing budgetary pressures, and as proof, he pointed to the council’s decision this year to increase the franchise fee on gas and electric bills to 2 percent and to the council’s support to extend the local-option sales tax to fix streets. He said he supports the tax extension, adding that the city needs the revenue if it is going to repair streets and end “the culture of neglect.”
Kash, who resides in the Wellington Heights neighborhood, said neighborhood issues can be public-safety ones, too, and he said he would steer revenue from the city’s traffic enforcement cameras into neighborhoods to support youth activities and jobs programs. Neighborhoods could create little companies for youngsters to mow lawns and shovel snow, he said.
Modracek, a 1998 graduate of Prairie High School, said he would prefer to see the City Council work to lower taxes for everyone rather than to target economic incentives for a few developers and businesses.
“I’d like to see Cedar Rapids be the most business-friendly city in the Midwest,” he said. “I would like to do that, not by giving grants, but by cutting taxes, making businesses want to move here because it’s a great city and our taxes are low. People don’t move here because we have great art work. People move here because the taxes are low.”
Modracek, of 2321 Teresa Dr. SW, said he does not think the city should have bought the downtown hotel, which the city has renovated and reopened as a DoubleTree by Hilton hotel. He also questioned the incentive package given to the developer with the plan to transform the long-struggling Westdale Mall property.
Even so, he said, “I grew up on the southwest side, and I spent a lot of time at Westdale. I have fond memories of the mall, and I really want to see it succeed. I’m excited to see what they have planned for it.”
Modracek said city streets are in “dire need” of fixing.
In 2009, Modracek voted against the current local-option sales tax for flood recovery, which expires on June 30, 2014, and he voted against the two attempts to extend the tax in 2011 and 2012. He also voted this year against permitting casino gaming in Linn County.
Kash has voted for the three earlier local-option sales tax measures and voted against the casino plan.
Modracek has a son and a step son. Kash has an adult daughter and his wife, Judy, has two adult children.
District 3 is comprised of eight voting precincts, with the most voters residing in southeast Cedar Rapids including downtown. The district also includes some voters in southwest Cedar Rapids including Czech Village, a little piece of northeast Cedar Rapids including the Coe College campus and a little piece of northwest Cedar Rapids.
Two-term incumbent Shey, 54, is an attorney, a former state legislator and the owner of a green insulation company, Sage Companies. He is completing his eighth year on the City Council.