Nick's Council Connection (15Sep2014)

Council Meeting Date: September 15, 2014SEAL_IOWA.png

Council Meeting Location: City Hall, 220 Clay St, Cedar Falls, IA 50613

The televised Committee of the Whole meeting continues, this week Ron Gaines presents the 'state of the department' for Community Development. In this post, I comment on process, dragnets and Iowa State Competitiveness Initiative.

 Committee of the Whole (5:45pm, Council Chamber, ELECTRONIC AGENDA)-

In Committee, Ron Gaines presents commentary and goals for Community Development (formerly Developmental Services), the second director presentation for the annual, fall goal setting session (we covered Public Safety last week). For the next several meetings, department directors will give 'state of the department' presentations outlining policy and capital needs. Council digests all this into the all-important goal setting document for fiscal year 2016 (FY2016 starts on June 1st, 2015, which is right around the corner). Click here, 2015 Goal City Council Goals, to see last year's product. 

As we do every Committee meeting, we also review and sign-off on 'Bills and Payroll' prior to formal approval in the formal Council Meeting.

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

Special Order of BusinessCapitalApprovalProcess.JPG

F.1 &2) These remarks review the process for major project approvals, in this case, Greenhill Signals. In my last post, I briefly discussed the background of the project as it relates to the first approval step, a motion to receive and file plans, specifications, and costs for the project. At that time, we also established a public hearing date and time for the project's bid announcement.  Between then and now, Council is tasked to review the project and ask questions or request project modifications. This week's agenda item, F.1, opens the formal Public Hearing which gathers open forum style feedback from any interested party. With the hearing input, agenda item F.2 is the Resolution formally approving the Plans, Specifications and Estimated Costs, including any amendments thereto while also calling for contractor bids and bid opening. Shortly after, there will be one more resolutions formally accepted the contractor bid on the project. Ordinarily, it takes at least 6 weeks from project approval to contractor selection. And this is how it works.

 New Business 

G.1.c) We 'receive and file' meeting minutes from the September 8 Special Committee of the Whole meeting. In this session, neighborhood groups and business organizations were invited to address council on any subject of interest - concerns and celebrations. Overman Park Neighborhood Association, College Hill Partnership, Community Main Street and North Cedar Neighborhood Association all made short presentations followed by great discussion. We covered a number of topics from city 'way finding' (currently in the Capital Budget) to recognizing citizen efforts for the North Cedar Natural Resource Area. This input is very important as we prioritize projects heading into the fall goal setting session.

PatrolDog.JPGG.1.e) This item Approves a vending permit for 'Patrol Dog', a new mobile food option for College Hill. Patrol Dog - operating on Banni's Liquor Store. As the name implies, it will be a hot dog option operating out of a 4'x8' trailer with a 3-burner steam table, 3 sinks for sanitation and a cooler. These entrepreneurial food operations really excite me - I love business start-ups and culinary diversity.


Resolution Calendar

G.2.i & j) This items deals with the annual contract with the Governor's Traffic Safety Bureau which funds 225 overtime hours and DepartmentPublicSafety.JPGother little items. The grant provides $9,780. As I wrote in 2013, "This item ... establishes dragnets to identify impaired drivers and other infractions. The application contains quota-like language.  This is a federally funded grant. Considering that the federal government is flat broke, I have a hard time justifying a dragnet as an essential health, safety or welfare priority versus all other funding needs in the country. On October 5th, a dragnet funded by a similar grant from last year resulted in 98 traffic stops and two arrests. I can't support the grant in good conscious in absence of a conclusive cost/benefit analysis." Dragnets of this kind are all too familiar today, militarized police check-points claiming to do good, but they operate under the assumption that we are doing bad. We are free people living in a free society; we should not routinely be treated as suspects.

G.4) This item establishes an exception to allow liquor permits on city owned property within a certain zoning district. This allows the Old Post Office to pursue a pool of larger prospective tenants that may may be involved with the sale or service of alcohol such as a wine bar or spirit sales. Our permitting prohibits permits from being granted to establishments operating next to municipal/public property, such as schools. Obviously, this is in the downtown commercial district and no 'age-sensitive' public operations are taking place. Having an establishment such as this near to City Hall could be therapeutic for some, just be responsible. 

-Nick's Briefs-

SEAL_IOWA.pngIowans First - Our staff and council work diligently to promote quality of life. This is a ubiquitous term and encompasses many aspects of city life from economic opportunity to social interaction. As a council, I feel we are doing a fine job managing the factors within our domain of control. But we are not a city-state, we are Iowans first. As citizens, our fortunes are as tied to our state as they are to our city.

Too often, our state government acts in ways that are contrary to universal prosperity and quality of life. And to understand government, we must understand politicians. Politicians' number one goal is to preserve their status quo, which is their position of power (or aspiration of greater power). They do this by pandering to their base, all while remaining loyal to party elders (the caucus) to stay in their good graces for the next election cycle. They take oaths to their party's outdated, mildly relevant ideology which is nothing more than a line-up of divisive positions so they can rally their base for the get-out-the-vote effort. Politicians purport to act in the best interest of citizens, but this is a disguise while they serve special interest groups and their backroom caucus. Politicians lose sight of the fact that they are as responsible for the future as they are to their special interests. So, if we want to create the greatest state with abundant economic opportunity, social vibrancy, and attractive living amenities, we must serve the generation that we relate to least - for our time, it is the millennials. If we can attract millenials, our state will grow. Millennials are socially liberal, technology enthusiasts and highly skeptical of 'institutions' from church to government. This isn't a millennial piece, so if you want to learn more, I suggest reading this article, Generation Independent, by Nick Gillespie.

Back to Iowa! I offer a thinking platform for our current and aspiring legislators below, I call it the Iowa Competitiveness Initiative (because we are competing for people, talent and capital with other states) and hope it stimulates some thinking. I believe this platform is compatible with millennial views, but its value crosses all generations and people that want to embrace a stronger economy, better education, civil liberties and good government. With Iowa values, ethics and ingenuity, anything is possible. Of course I keep a white paper in my head for for every initiative below including detailed reasoning, intended impact and why it would make Iowa more competitive. I would love to hear your thoughts.



Economic Prosperity

  • Implement Tax Reform –flat tax, low corporate tax, property tax equity.  

    • Flatten income tax, eliminate loopholes

    • Eliminate Corporate taxation

    • Shift to consumption taxes

  • Rationalize regulations, maintain right-to-work, foster entrepreneurship, end crony capitalism

  • Invest in prudent public infrastructure to move people, products and information

World-Class Education

  • Encourage school choice, fund the student

  • Return curriculum and programming control to local levels that encourages innovation, leadership, merit pay and fiscal accountability

  • Rebalance funding for Regent institutions - commit to making UNI the preeminent PK-12 institution for teacher training in US.

Civil Liberties

  • Preserve, expand and celebrate individual liberty and rights, defend the constitution.

  • End the war on drugs, implement sensible solutions for decriminalization

  • Stop legislating morality - embrace inclusiveness, choice and social tolerance

Effective Governance

  • Properly fund justice department, implement tort reform

  • Right-size state spending, drive efficiencies

    • reduce number of counties, eliminate non-essential programs, institute cost-benefit measures for program justification)

  • Strategic regional investments, proven QoL investments

  • Environment – institute environmental policies protecting shared resources (water, air, and soil)

    • Make polluters pay a lot

  • Restore home rule doctrine for all political subdivisions (local versus state control) for labor management, budgets, pensions, intergovernmental cooperation

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