By The Gazette Editorial Board
There was much to appreciate in Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett’s State of the City address last week.
He backed up his “Takin’ Care of Business” theme with several examples of how various city departments worked to improve services even through difficult times following the city’s worst-ever natural disaster, the 2008 flood.
The mayor rightly noted that those achievements and the city’s nationally recognized recovery successes have fostered a growing confidence throughout much of the community — a confidence that has produced new and often innovative development projects we’re seeing in the city’s core and elsewhere. Securing state funding toward permanent flood protection became another confidence builder last year.
The mayor, City Council members and staff deserve credit for many achievements of the past year and progress on ongoing challenges — the biggest among the latter being voters approving a 10-year extension of the local-option sales tax, to be used for catching up sorely overdue streets repairs while reducing the city’s bond indebtedness.
While the mayor offered no new grand vision about the coming year, he and City Manager Jeff Pomeranz later told The Gazette Editorial Board that properly managing the ramped-up streets program so residents quickly see results is a top priority.
VACANT & ABANDONED
Our discussion also swung to a lingering problem not covered in the mayor’s speech: abandoned and vacant houses — those that opted out of the buyout program in the flood-damaged neighborhoods as well as others scattered around the city. Balancing property rights with public nuisance or health hazard concerns makes for often sticky situations. City staff told us they will develop new ordinances that will be a “lot tougher.”
This is an important, difficult issue. We would expect lots of public discussion to be sought and weighed along the way. With ample transparency, we believe this city has the capability of creating a fair, more effective policy.
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