June 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 looped 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.
E.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.
F.2.J) This item relates to a grant agreement with Iowa DNR to begin recycling styrofoam. The $20,000 grant will pay for approximately 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.
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.