Happy New Year my Cedar Falls friends! While undercurrents of political dissatisfaction seem to exist no matter your political leaning, we can take comfort knowing Cedar Falls is on a solid path. In 2016, we welcomed Mayor Jim Brown and Councilman Tom Blanford to the chambers of 200 Clay Street. We launched the most ambitious road and infrastructure project in the history of our city, University Avenue. We rose above ominous flood waters. We inked an historic agreement for public-private golf operations. We advanced Public Safety modernization. We processed a record level of building permits. On the other side of good, we expanded the government control over our lives from misguided rental code expansion to denying backyard chicken freedom. But on a whole, I am proud of our city's continued progress.
In the coming year, I will monologue on various topics of interest. For this post, I cover my philosophy and future as your at Large representative. I will keep posting until I run out of words!
My Council Future
I joined city council in 2010 after a challenging campaign against formidable forces (back when mayor and council publicly endorsed favored candidates). The campaign was built on fresh ideas and energy; Cedar Falls voters gave me a chance and I am forever grateful. I read the council packets, I advocate for sound policies, I try to respond to the needs of today with a vision for tomorrow. I don't subscribe to a strictly right or left ideology, my positions reflect classical liberalism, I am libertarian.
For the most part, city issues are non-partisan (sewers needs to flow, garbage needs to be picked up, and roads need to be maintained). However, philosophy plays a role in some of the most critical, local issues. At the city level, this mainly relates to property rights, fiscal restraint, and sound economic policies. Interestingly, I've witnessed council members of both stripes stumble over their purported principles. From creating free speech zones to free market interventions, intentions are good, but too often they result in compromised philosophy and principle resulting in undesirable and unintended outcomes. I will always defend personal, economic, and social freedom... free markets, civil liberties, individual choice and limited government. I will strive for good law - law that is just, equally applied, intelligible, feasible, and should make no favors and limit unintended consequences.
Laws and ordinances are restrictions on freedom. Illustrating a few... Zoning tells you what you can do with your personal property. Taxes (or spending) diminish your economic freedom. Incentives favor certain entities over the whole. Society requires laws, but those laws should be focused on preserving rights, not taking them away. Society requires government to provide certain services, infrastructure, and community amenities, but these should always be made with value return and fairness in mind. My philosophy is quite simple, I work to maximize value and reduce negative consequences.
What guides me? Here's a list of my bullet point philosophy for representing you in local government:
- Fiscal responsibility - perform government services as efficiently and effectively as possible, make wise expenditures and investments with positive cost-benefit.
- Example(s): the city has undertaken a philosophy of lean - which is to maximize process outcomes while minimizing waste. Efforts such as single-sided garbage pickup and investments in LED street lighting reduce operating costs. Our innovative public safety modernization is another highlight, an effort to improve services while controlling costs. In addition, our 20%-25% reserves, replacement debt philosophy, and lean operations make Cedar Falls one of the best managed cities in the state.
- Encourage public-private partnerships, inter-governmental cooperation.
- Example: the public-private partnership of the golf course is a win-win for players and taxpayers. The city owns the physical asset, but the management, maintenance and programming are run by a private sector entity which will reduce cost and enhance the product.
- Fees should be direct-coupled to those that benefit from the product of service (i.e. trash pick-up, rec center, or street lighting)
- Example: year-round, compost pick-up is costly. This cost is covered by user fees which encourages responsible use and disposal alternatives (i.e. compost drop-off or on-site use).
- Support sound infrastructure development - efficient, safe, aesthetic, accommodating
- Example: University Avenue was studied like no other project for capital expense, safety, operations, and corridor vitality (commercial and residential). It will be an awesome project!
- Advocate for home rule, local control, and policies that support freedom (growth) and justice.
- Example: Cedar Falls is a leader among cities. Our legislative agenda is pro-growth, pro-city. Through our lobbyist and the League of Cities, we advocate for sound legislative priorities and local control.
- Protect and Expand Civil Liberties
- Example: cities can squash civil liberties with ordinances like 'free speech zones' or by being federal and state agents of misguided domestic wars like the drug war. Cedar Falls does both. We should seek to maximize liberties, not punish people who exercise personal rights.
Oh yes, I was saying, my future on City Council. I am a staunch advocate of term limits at every level. At higher levels, term limits reduce special interest influence, structural advantages of incumbency (mainly money raising abilities by doling out political influence, favors and legislation), and they limit parties ability to hold rank. On the local level, term limits allow new leadership, ideas and energy to infuse into city government. I know there are other great leaders willing to serve in my stead. Honestly, I am exhausted. I strive to be a council activist, not a hobbyist... this takes energy and I am running on empty. And it isn't just council, I am managing a family, career, civic, and spiritual life. For me, I am beyond satisfied and proud of this council's body of work over the last seven years. We don't get it right every time, but we are on a great path - a result of good political, staff and citizen leadership. Of course, I will dissect the trials and tribulations in posts to come, I just need a little more time!
Barring a minor miracle, indentured servitude, or a bad bet, this will be my final year on council. This isn't to say I won't run for office again, I am term limiting myself in this current office. In fact, I look forward to running again, in the distant future. If only all politicians shared term limit virtue! My council service has been the highest honor of my life. I am humbled that the citizens of Cedar Falls entrusted me to help manage the present and guide our future. I look forward to serving you on council this year and our community in the years to come.