Nick's Council Connection 15June2015

garbage.jpgJune 15, 2015 (Council Chambers, 220 Clay St, Cedar Falls, IA 50613)

We cover one-sided refuse collection, fringe-floodplain development flexibility, University Avenue property acquisition and 20th Street developments. I also remark on the Council's support of failed drug policies.

-Committee of the Whole (5:35pm, Council Chamber, ELECTRONIC AGENDA & PACKET)-

In Committee we cover four items: Art & Culture Board, one-sided refuse collection, rental conversion programs and bills/payroll. Here are a few words on one-sided refuse collection.

I have been softly pushing for this operational change for years. As an industrial engineer ("IE"), one of my passions is the pursuit of efficiency. On most streets, the refuse truck must drive on both sides for 'front door' collection. If residents were to line up containers on a single side, we could reduce several hundred, maybe thousands of miles per year resulting in reduced fuel consumption, operator time, conflict points, vehicle wear-and-tear, etc. Of course, this isn't without some drawbacks, namely some residents would need to cross the street and share curb space. Incidentally, several homes already practice single sided pick-up, including my own. I live on an alley and all containers are lined on a single side. I am happy to report, it works.

In internal studies, the city found average time savings totals 39% for single-sided collection. Initially, the city will experiment on 5th-6thloop.JPGlooped streets like Abraham Drive and the 5th/6th Street Loop.  When the the city studied the 5th/6th loop, it saved 8 minutes of route time and reduced vehicle travel by 1/2 mile.  So over 52 weeks, single side collection would save nearly 7 hours and 26 miles in this single loop. At $30/hr and 5 miles at $2.50/gallon, this single operational change would save taxpayers $222.50 per year (or roughly $443/residential collection mile). Cedar Falls has about 400 miles of paved roads. Let's just assume 200 miles are residential, with similar density. Single sided collection could save close to $89,000 per year in manpower and fuel alone. That's significant.

Sure, there could be emotional distress if one must look at another person's garbage receptacle on their side of the street. There are other issues too such as sorting who-is-who's container. But these details can be sorted out. This is a recurring savings of nearly $100,000 per year, or $1 million every decade. I'll take the savings, health improvement and a chance to say hi to my neighbor over a minor inconvenience. 

-Regular Council Meeting (7:00pm, Council Chamber, ELECTRONIC AGENDA & PACKET)-

Special Order of Business

E.13) This item is a request by city staff to modify our flood plain ordinance to offer a degree of flexibility. In our current floodplain ordinance, no building or platting is allowed for any parcel that contains even a small portion of the floodplain. This amendment will allow property owners to construct on or plat parcels that contain no more than 25% floodplain (setbacks and other regulations still apply). This is a very reasonable amendment to restore sensible development and building rights in the floodplain area.

UNI_Ave.jpgE.15) This item is an authorization to proceed with property acquisition for the $32.5MM University Avenue redevelopment. Through the process, staff has alleviated many property owner concerns related to the takings (slivers of property to be purchased) and access points. At this point, I do not believe a single operating business will be dislocated. Further, right-of-way impacts have been minimized while still preserving the functional characteristics of the new corridor design. This item authorizes staff to begin acquisitions to meet a construction target for this fall.

New Business

F.2.J) This item relates to a grant agreement with Iowa DNR to begin recycling styrofoam. The $20,000 grant will pay for styro.jpgapproximately half of the densifying equipment to be installed in the newly remodeled recycling center on State Street. In short time, residents will notice additional collection points throughout the city for this voluminous material. Not only will this divert waste from the landfill, the densified material has a commodity value similar to other recycled materials.

F.2.u) This item sets a hearing for vacating certain right-of-way on 20th Street to facilitate dry-run creek stabilization and ecological improvements. The city and the impacted property owner cooperated to accommodate on-street parking (versus front-yard gravel), a public sidewalk (none exists today), and additional green space. This right-of-way vacation and development agreement should improve both functional and aesthetic characteristics of the area. 


- Nick's Briefs - 

War on Drugs Rages On in Cedar Falls - On June 1st, the majority of city council reaffirmed its support for the Drug War. I have voted against allocating Cedar Falls police officers to the TriCounty Drug Task Force each year of my political service. The TriForce reflects our militarized approach to long-outdated, ineffective, social engineering. Starting decades ago, and formalized by the Richard Nixon administration, the War on Drugs has been a colossal trillion dollar failure ruining lives, preempting civil liberties and destroying economic and health benefits in a regulated marketplace. It is administered at every level of government, including our own. For Cedar Falls part, we have victimized hundreds of citizens (mostly young people) for non-violent choices.

In March, I analyzed drug arrests in Cedar Falls. Not surprisingly, drug arrests disproportionately impact the youthful and the non-white. And when a person has a blemish of this kind on their record, economic opportunity is severely diminished. In 2014, 75% of Cedar Falls' marijuana arrests were between the ages of 17-26. It should not surprise anyone that the Northern Iowa Student Government passed a resolution in support of decriminalization last April, the first of its kind in the state of Iowa. I continue to profess, if you have not harmed or threatened another person or their property, you have not committed a crime.cannibas.jpg

In the last council meeting, I again questioned the transparency of the TriCounty Drug Task Force. While the Cedar Falls police department produces an excellent annual report, the TriForce makes a flattering press release once every other year or so. Upon our Police Chief's request, the TriForce provided a single page of arrests counts and asset seizures for the last three years. It appeared to be produced on a Magnanox word processor from 1985, the smell of white out still in the air. There was no analysis of demographic data (age, race), prosecution outcomes, budget detail, etc. By the stats provided, their goal appears to be to arrest people and seize assets. 

Upon Councilman’s Darrah’s request, they also provided a xeroxed mission statement. Distilling it down, it appears their purpose is to funnel tax payer money, seize assets, and prosecute people to attack illegal drug enterprises. The TriForce's stat sheets do not mention a word about criminal enterprises.

We are failing at every political subdivision. We are perpetrating a meaningless war on choice. We are denying people medicine. We are locking up non-violent citizens. We are blacklisting kids from future opportunity. I hope we continue to discuss this issue and pursue local solutions until the higher beings of political power recognize their folly or new (and real) leadership pushes them out.

Showing 5 reactions

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  • Barry Wilson
    I agree that the drug war has been a failure and has impacted our youth without having an effect on those who profit most from the drug trade. I do think it would be good to have better information on impact that what you were given. I’m glad you are raising the issue. I’m thinking we would be surprised to find who the really big dealers in the trade are.
  • Steve Jensen
    Not everyone puts their garbage container out every week so by the 2nd or 3rd week, they could have a full cart. Forcing ANYONE to push or pull a heavy cart or even a light cart across the street, in snow and ice and get it up on the opposing curb, to save a few bucks, is ridiculous. No one has mentioned what you do about the curb/parking covered in packed snow from a snowplow. Why not get rid of the garbage trucks entirely (to save a lot more bucks) and force people to take their bags of garbage down to the transfer station? Or better yet, why not force the residents to take their garbage bags out to the dump themselves? Look how much more money the city could save by firing the garbage truck drivers since there would no longer be a need for garbage trucks!

    I love the choice of words of “decriminalize” a law rather than “legalizing” drugs. Once you fail to enforce a law against a crime, you are starting a downhill slide which can eventually destroy a society. Alcohol is a “legal” drug and it has destroyed many, many, many lives and Mr. Taiber & others would be happy to make it worse by “decriminalizing”/ legalizing another nasty drug.
  • Eric Giddens
    Dear Mr. Jensen,

    I just want to say that the proposal to adopt single-side garbage collection seems to be very sensible and reasonable to me. Of course, no one would want a “70 – 85 year + man or woman or a handicapped person in a wheel chair or someone on crutches” to have to do any more work than necessary to have their garbage collected. It is not the responsibility of the City, however, to make accommodations for these people. Assistance of this kind is the role of the community…neighbors, friends, family members. I would argue that these folks should even have help getting their “100 pound +” garbage containers to the curb even if it is collected on their side of the street. (By the way, do people REALLY throw away 100 pounds of garbage a week?…sounds like these people should consider recycling and composting to me, but that’s an aside.)

    And a note about your insulting remarks regarding Councilman Taiber’s efforts to decriminalize (not legalize, as you have incorrectly stated) marijuana (and no other illegal drugs, as you have incorrectly implied)…the reason that you have seen “too many lives ruined” is that the system as it is does not work. If we do not change our policies, you will only continue to see more and more lives tragically ruined which, like the little old lady pushing her 100 lb. garbage container across the street in the dead of winter, nobody wants to see.

    Best regards,
    Eric Giddens
  • Rick Brown
    One comment on the war on drugs………..we all know someone that has been affected by addiction. These drugs and so-called drugs have been illegal all of my life and we still know people that are addicted. This is evidence that the war on drugs does not work and never has. I don’t want to pay for this failed policy anymore!
  • Steve Jensen
    Let me try to understand. You want 70 – 85 year + men & women or a handicapped person in a wheel chair or someone on crutches to pull a 100 pound + garbage container across a snow and/or ice covered street and pull it up a snow covered curb so you can save a few dollars?? Then you want them to cross the street to collect that container and pull it back down the curb, back across the snow/ice covered street??? Exactly where does one put that full garbage container when there’s a foot or more of packed snow from the snowplows along the curb???? My wife fell one winter day getting the mail when she slipped on the ice covered street and suffered for years from the compound open fracture she sustained in that fall. She was in her 30’s when that happened. She wasn’t pulling or pushing a heavy awkward garbage container. You really think its worth it just to save a few bucks that CF residents would never see on their bills anyway?

    It would be particularly difficult for people living along University Ave to pull their containers across 6 or 4 lanes of traffic and a median strip or do you start making exceptions????

    You have some bizzare ideas including your attempt to legalize currently illegal drugs and you really need to back off on these idiotic ideas. I’ve seen too many lives ruined after people could not handle the “soft” drugs and went on to the hard stuff.