The Gazette Editorial Board
The Cedar Rapids City Council election on Nov. 5 certainly won’t lack for officer seekers. All but one of the six open seats is contested, including the mayor’s race, with a total of 17 candidates on the ballot.
That’s good to see. We hope the campaigns are spirited and civil, and produce constructive debate that voters can weigh in the stretch run of this election cycle.
Perhaps the biggest issue common to all the campaigns is one that’s also on the ballot in Cedar Rapids and other Linn County jurisdictions: the proposed extension of the 1-cent local-option sales tax for 10 years.
Cedar Rapids officials propose using all of its share to fix city streets. The current five-year LOST levy expires next year and has been directed to post-flood recovery projects. Two previous votes to extend it for flood protection were narrowly defeated.
The LOST vote is an especially big deal in Cedar Rapids. Complaints about the condition of city streets have buzzed for years. Certainly virtually everyone wants this city to catch up the sorely needed repairs. How best to do that is the rub, mostly because of the high cost and how to pay for it. Is the LOST revenue a must to get this done? What about the state stepping up with more road use fund money? Will voters who opposed the LOST extension for flood protection be more supportive of using the money for street repairs?
And mixed into all of the debate is one that can’t be ignored but is hard to measure: the level of public confidence in City Hall to do what it says it will do with the LOST revenue. Critics have claimed that the current tax has been used for projects that didn’t fit the original ballot language in 2009.
To help further the community conversation and understanding of the proposed LOST extension, we’ve invited all the Cedar Rapids council candidates, neighborhood association representatives and economic development leaders to provide their perspective on this issue. Beginning today and running for the following two Sundays, we will publish their responses in Insight’s new Local Issue page (see 10A).
In addition, Gazette columnist Todd Dorman has been following and researching the LOST issue and the city’s streets budget. His column today and for the next two Sundays will share what he’s learned and what he believes is important to know.
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