FOR CEDAR RAPIDS MAYOR: CORBETT
Four years ago, Mayor Ron Corbett promised to end what he called the “culture of delay,” insisting that the city must be faster and more decisive in its handling of flood-recovery decisions. He argued that the city was stuck in “analysis paralysis.”
Maybe you agree with the decisions that followed Corbett’s election victory in 2009, and maybe you don’t. But it’s hard to argue that the Corbett-led City Council hasn’t acted swiftly and decisively on many fronts. Cedar Rapids has seen an astounding number of high-impact decisions packed into just four years — arguably among the most important years in the city’s history.
We’ve agreed with many of those calls as the city seeks to recover and improve after the 2008 flood. We think, on balance, the city is much better off than it was four years ago. And we believe Corbett deserves a second term.
Public investments in new facilities, including the public library, convention complex, amphitheater and Paramount Theatre are transforming the city’s core. That list includes the city’s purchase of the downtown hotel, a risky yet necessary step to give the new convention center and revamped city arena a real shot at success.
Private investment has followed these public dollars downtown, in New Bohemia, Kingston Village, Westdale and other parts of the city. Corbett says his second term will be dedicated to continued job creation efforts.
We also think Corbett should do more to include the input of citizens in the council’s decisions, especially now that the pressures of recovery have subsided. City government should be as fully accessible to its citizens as it is to developers seeking city assistance.
Speaking of development, we’d like to see the mayor lead the city in a more regional direction. Corbett’s “buy local” effort made sense during the recovery, but it’s now time consider a more cooperative approach with the city’s neighbors and others in the corridor. Watershed management is another chance for a stronger regional approach.
We thank Greg Hughes for challenging the mayor. But we found his grasp of city issues to be lacking. In too many cases, he answered our questions about issues by saying he’d have to learn more about that once he took office.
The city needs a mayor who understands the issues and challenges it. That mayor is already in office.
FOR CEDAR RAPIDS DISTRICT 1 CITY COUNCIL: GULICK
Kris Gulick has been a City Council member ever since the new style of government was installed in 2006. He’s been a steady voice of reason and constructive critic, especially on matters of spending, investment and fiscal accountability during one of the city’s most challenging, turbulent times in history.
A certified public accountant and small business operator, Gulick has a strong blend of private and public service experience. He is past president of the Iowa League of Cities and serves on the National League of Cities Finance and Inter-Governmental Relations Committee.
Once again, he pledges his commitment to objectivity — to “look at all the information and all the sides before deciding what’s in the best interest of the community.” His track record supports that pledge, and he’s made efforts to get information to residents and explain his decisions.
He also supports a stronger regional economical development approach than the council as a whole has been practicing.
One of his challengers, Clark Rieke, raises valuable questions and ideas about being more proactive in watershed management and neighborhood improvement initiatives.
But Gulick’s overall role and skills are still needed by the council and community.
FOR C.R. AT LARGE CITY COUNCIL: RUSSELL and KNOX-SEYMOUR
A proven incumbent and six challengers for the two at large seats provide voters with a rich set of choices.
Although incumbent Chuck Swore has been instrumental in the critical flood-recovery decision-making and initiatives, the city is entering a new era. Among this capable field, we see Ralph Russell and Carletta Knox-Seymour as the best choices to bring more diverse experience to the council.
Russell, a civil engineer in the private sector, brings 44 years of dealing with municipal budgets and infrastructure needs in cities across Iowa and the nation. Clearly, he understands how cities work — or don’t.
He offers specific suggestions. For example, he told us that converting the general obligation bonds that funded the water treatment plant years ago to revenue bonds could be done with a nominal fee increase and would substantially reduce the city’s indebtedness.
He also sees a need for more collaboration with schools and other neighboring cities. His community background includes co-chair of the Cedar Rapids school district efficiency committee that produced recommendations including the joint fiber optics communication line with the city and Linn County.
Russell is a strong proponent of regional economic development cooperation, believing that “a rising tide raises all boats.” As chair of Cedar Rapids’ private economic development group, Priority One, more than a decade ago, he suggested combining forces with the Iowa City Area Development Board for the good of the corridor.
Knox-Seymour is a Cedar Rapids native who moved to Milwaukee, earning her college degree while working there as a funding developer for a homeless shelter. She also served on the executive board of directors and chaired the personnel committee for a successful private school.
Since returning to Cedar Rapids, she’s launched baking and residential cleaning service businesses. And she’s now in her second term serving on the City Planning Commission.
Knox-Seymour has deep understanding of the city’s poverty and neighborhood issues, especially involving at-risk children. Related work experience here includes the Four Oaks agency that provides housing and family services for low-income residents.
We think Knox-Seymour would add to the council a strong, thoughtful voice representing a more diverse constituency.
FOR C.R. DISTRICT 3 CITY COUNCIL: KASH
Since the 2008 flood, the City Council has been engaged in a number of big decisions on large-scale recovery projects, mostly in the waterlogged core business district downtown. That made sense, and we agree with many of those decisions.
But now, we’d like to see the council refocus on smaller-scale yet important efforts to improve the health of the city’s residential neighborhoods. Robin Kash has some innovative ideas, and we think he’s ready and able to fill the council seat in District 3.
Kash argues that some neighborhoods suffer from a “culture of neglect,” where code enforcement has been lacking and initiatives are needed to back improvements. He calls for exploring microlending to residents seeking to make improvements and says he will dedicate much of his council pay to community projects. Kash would also like to see neighborhoods be allowed to form self-supporting improvement districts, where residents can modestly tax themselves to pay for improvements. Kash supports a more regional economic development approach with much more cooperation between communities and less winner-take-all competition. He contends the city should be more aggressive in forging regional alliances to better manage the Cedar River watershed.
We disagree with Kash on the local-option sales tax extension, which he opposes. But we agree with him that the state also should consider ways to boost funding for the Road Use Tax Fund.
Incumbent council member Pat Shey has been a key backer of critical recovery efforts, and was a pioneer member of the council elected in 2005 to guide the new form of government. He deserves our gratitude, but we think the time is right for a change.