Nick's Council Connection 18May2015

epic.jpgMay 18, 2015 (Council Chambers, 220 Clay St, Cedar Falls, IA 50613)

This week, we review the Highway 58/Viking interchange and Center Street. We create a GIS position. And we deliver transparent government through continuous innovation.

-Committee of the Whole (5:45pm, Council Chamber, ELECTRONIC AGENDA & PACKET)-vikingrd58.JPG

In Committee we get verbal updates on the Highway 58/Viking interchange and ongoing Center Street developments. The Highway 58/Viking intersection, one of the most congested and dangerous, is on the DOT's Transportation Improvement Program (linked here). With the 10 cent/gallon increase in gas tax, new funds are available to put shovels in the ground. The DOT has $16MM scheduled in 2016-2017, not a year too soon. This project has been expedited due to CF's willingness to commit minority funding (including $10 million in TIF revenue) and project management resources. Why $10 million? The cost sharing guarantees an overpass versus at-grade lane and signal modifications which was originally proposed by the DOT as a stop-gap safety measure. As a council, the intersection's improvement is one of our top project priorities to support safety and ongoing development through the corridor. 

The Center Street review should cover planned investments in traffic calming, storm water management and other street-scaping efforts. 

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

New Business

GIS.jpgG.2.f) This item formalizes the job classification for a GIS Analyst. I spoke about this in my April 6th post:

In summary, GIS relates information to its geospatial properties allowing it to more effectively be visualized, analyzed and managed. Think of it as layered maps tied to relational data...  Nearly everything the city has geospatial relationships that can be represented, interrogated and analyzed through GIS. Property boundaries, underground infrastructure, traffic lights, crime incidences, traffic accidents, street/sanitary sewer/storm sewers - these are all objects in a system with unique properties. Today, they are managed in disparate systems with minimal connectivity. With this system and a little training, information and analytics will be at our fingertips (yep, all public data!). Better data equals better decisions. The GIS systems will be the new source of truth... GIS will improve staff efficiency, citizen engagement, planning and execution.

fairview_1.jpgG.2.g) This item relates to a state-mandated requirement to formally designate a cemetery trustee. This is purely a compliance matter and demonstrates the micro-management stupidity of state government. In summary, the state requires a specific trustee be appointed to oversee funds of the cemetery. As fiduciaries of all funds in the city, this is already done as a matter of normal business course - we do not need another state-mandated formal trustee designation to micro-manage a small city fund. But then again, how would state bureaucracies justify their existence otherwise? By all accounts, the city is a excellent steward of our municipal cemeteries - funds and infrastructure.

- Nick's Briefs - 

City Transparency - I am very proud of the steps the city has taken in recent years to disseminate information. Prior to my service, council packets (a ream of paper reports) were only published and distributed on a limited basis (no doubt due to cost). But today, council information and our discussion is widely available mainly in electronic form. In 2010, Steve Jobs introduced a revolutionary product that changed digital mobility as we know it, the iPad. By 2012, City Council adopted full electronic council packets (including iPads) making them widely available on the world wide web and saving a lot of money in the process. Also in 2012, we experimented with full broadcast of Committee Meetings (the meetings before the meeting). While I would love to have more discussion and debate in formal council meetings, this offers a venue that is more conversational and deliberative. These remain important meetings in decision making, but they are open as ever.

If council meets beyond the camera, we are covering executive session topics or doing small group sessions with consultants, the Mayor or City Administrator. The City also makes extensive use of website (i.e. University Avenue), cable programming (Channel 15, Silverlight), and Currents (the quarterly magazine) to share information with CF citizens.

This isn't to say we are perfect. I continue to push for more open government. All data should be open, accessible and analyzable. I recently analyzed arrest records (all public data) to develop a greater understanding of the demographic characteristics. The dataset required hours of reformatting just to make it analyzable. And still, I have validation concerns, but I could draw important inferences. There are many more datasets from which we could employ individual and crowd analytics to drive better policy and decision making.

By my measure, we are one of the most transparent cities in Iowa. We always seek new ways to engage and communicate. On a representative level, every council member has their own way of connecting. Personally, I try to extend engagement through this blog. Each of councilperson and all of staff are committed to open, communicative, and accountable government.

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  • Mac Eblen
    Bravo for the overpass at the intersection of viking and hwy 58. will this structure be more or less costly than the ‘mayors’ bridge’? GIS is totally new to me. it sounds logical; also it made me think of 3D printing. many thanks for your continuing efforts to ensure openness in city government, making data for all aspects of city business available to all citizens.
    one small quibble: i dislike your using the word ‘stupidity’ in reference to state government. although i agree that our state government does stupid (and often harmful) things, i believe that such labels have no place in civil discourse.
  • Cedar Falls City Hall works all summer. Your Council Connection is posted.