Flood survivor and City Hall critic Ajai Dittmar, who manages a website called CR Smells, is running for the District 1 seat on the City Council.
Dittmar, 42, says she is running to uphold the Constitution, to talk about her issues and “to get the truth out there.”
“I have student loans and I want to use my degree,” she added.
She is a stay-at-home mother, earns a little income from Google ads placed with her online video postings and said she doesn’t need a lot of money. Part-time council members earn $17,173, the part-time mayor, $34,338.
Dittmar returned to school and earned her high school diploma in 2006 “to give my kids an example.” In 2010, she obtained an associate degree from Kirkwood Community College in criminal justice and corrections.
The City Council should have held referendums to let voters decide if they supported the construction of a new convention center, library, fire station and public works building.
The City Council should have been more responsible about how much federal disaster money it spent on the new buildings. “That to me is a gross misuse of taxpayer money.”
The city should not have spent some of its local-option sales tax revenue on flood-recovery projects like the library and public works building.
The city should fix streets with money it already has. “Instead of all the streetscapes and all the pretty lights, we just need to fix the streets.” The city should provide more information about which streets it will fix and how much each street will cost to fix.
The city doesn’t need to increase taxes. The local-option sales tax is regressive and hits low-income people unfairly. The city has too much debt.
The Police Department needs to change. “The police have a history of abusing people.”
Redevelopment of Westdale Mall is a good idea, but the project doesn’t need City Hall incentives. “That’s what’s wrong with the capitalistic system — when the government gives incentives, then it’s hard for regular companies to compete.”
Bike lanes on H Avenue NE don’t make sense. “Is the plan to put bike lanes on every street in Cedar Rapids?”
Dittmar lives with her common-law husband, Greg Vail, at 1426 First St. NW. Their house in the 100-year flood plain in the Time Check neighborhood is the only one left on First Street NW, which was hit hard by the 2008 flood. The owners of the others entered the flood-recovery buyout program.
Dittmar said all of this: She isn’t against flood protection. The city already has flood protection. Her house has been flooded once in 113 years. She has flood insurance. “Why do you need flood walls when you have two dams?” The city needs to dredge the river. Dredging will provide a couple of inches of flood protection and will clean out the river.
Dittmar voted against ballot measures to extend the city’s local-option sales tax in 2011 for flood protection and streets and in 2012 for flood protection.
She spent some time during the city’s flood recovery with a video camera recording a variety of public meetings. “I’m all about transparency,” she said. For a time, she was a member of the city’s Local-Option Sales Tax Oversight Committee.
Most of the voting precincts in Council District 1 are on the east side of the river, though Time Check and neighboring areas in northwest Cedar Rapids also are in the district.
Two-term incumbent Kris Gulick is seeking re-election. Clark Rieke also is challenging Gulick and Dittmar.