By Ralph Russell
During my work with cities over the last four decades, I have found local government elected officials are some of the most dedicated, least appreciated people in any community. As a civil engineer working in a local consulting engineering firm for 44 years, I have developed a deep appreciation for these community volunteers. My desire to seek a seat on the Cedar Rapids City Council is an outgrowth of this respect and appreciation.
My priorities for our community encompass four areas:
l Infrastructure: The infrastructure needs in Cedar Rapids are staggering. Forty percent of our streets are in poor condition with a price tag of more than $500 million. This backlog of major street repair and renovation has increased more than $100 million in the last three years. During that three-year period, we have spent only about one-third of that amount. We are getting further behind every year. The second major infrastructure need is flood protection. We must develop a plan that includes both sides of the river and is affordable. At this time we do not have that plan.
l Government efficiency: Several years ago, I co-chaired the Cedar Rapids school district’s School Efficiency Task Force. During that work, we identified several areas where costs could be reduced through collaboration with other school districts, cities or the county. Similar collaboration still is needed. Cedar Rapids must look for ways to work with area cities, school districts and the county. Some of the best opportunities are in purchasing, transportation, vehicle maintenance and equipment sharing.
l Economic development: Getting it right in economic development means jobs! It is critically important that our efforts include cooperation and teamwork with other Corridor cities and economic development organizations. Cedar Rapids cannot do it alone. Attracting a new business to an adjacent city or to the south end of the Corridor means more jobs for Cedar Rapids residents, regardless of the location in the Corridor. It is also important that we use tax increment financing and property tax abatement. However, we have been too lenient with some of our incentives. TIF and property tax abatement should be used only when the existing business expansion or new company relocation to our community would not happen without the incentives.
l Community development: The overall development of our community begins in the neighborhoods and the neighborhood associations must play an important role. We have recently authorized the development of a new comprehensive plan for Cedar Rapids. The plan must be a well-planned assembly and melding of the neighborhood plans to assure orderly, efficient growth and development. It must include amenities that are attractive to young people so our youths do not have to leave our city to enjoy the lifestyle they desire.
In summary, the knowledge and experience I’ve gained in working with cities for 44 years has prepared me for service as a member of the City Council. Coupled with my desire to serve our community, that makes me the best choice.
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