Nick's Council Connection (23 December 2013)

Council Meeting Date: December 23, 2013Bicycle_Lane_1.jpg

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

It's a holiday week, we go heavy on fruitcake, light on council content. In this post, I discuss a couple items but save the commentary for a bike gestapo piece, a shout-out to the school board and reflection on the public transit dilemma.

- Committee of the Whole (6:55pm, Mayor's Conference Room)-

 It doesn't get any lighter than this. We approve Bills and Payroll by collecting signatures of all council persons.

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

Like the Committee, the official Council Meeting is light on serious business. We approve liquor licenses, easements, stormwater management plans and more - standard operating procedure. A couple items that caught my eye before I go into my briefs....

New Business - Resolution Calendar 

F.2.d) In this item, the Parks and Rec Commission makes their recommendations for 2014 fee schedule. Golf Fees are absent from the formal recommendation. At the next Council Meeting (January 13th, 2014), Parks and Recreation members will discuss the merits to maintaining golf rates at 2012 levels with Council. The hope is to increase play by doing more marketing. In any event, golf revenues would need to increase 40% to close the $171K deficit (and this assumes no cost increases, including marketing).

F.2.e) This item pertains to a Request for Proposal (RFP) for design and engineering services for Recycling Center improvements. AHTS was selected for design services at $42,000. The FY14-15 Capital budget reserves $1.2MM for this project. The new facility will result in greater capacity and efficiencies including major investment in the transfer station operation.

 -Nick's Briefs-

BikeCheckPoint.PNGThe Bicycle License Movement - well, maybe not a movement, it is the law. A former council person wrote a guest column on  the subject wanting to use bicycle license fees to generate revenue. I counter the revenue argument (and licensing in general) in this post, May I See Your Bicycle License? It's generated a lot of interest, please read if you can.

School Board - Sometimes I let the passion skew my words (I even tried to blame ghost writers, but none exist on my staff). I must say, in the last two weeks, I have been double-down impressed by our School Board members. They reached out to me when I needed it most. I have full confidence in our School Board. From public meeting access to world languages, they are working diligently to address the challenges of the future. My only wish is that they could ring the bells of success a little louder, there are many reasons. This will come.

Public Transit Pinch - In the last council meeting, City Council couldn't close the $83,000 funding gap created in the latest federal MET_Bus.pngtransportation bill. Cedar Falls attempts to maintain budget discipline for operating and capital budgets. Operating budgets fund the cost of services. Capital budgets fund infrastructure, economic development and quality of life projects. The capital budget remains steady, we have approximately $11 million in 'revolving' debt. This is low compared to our peer group and is one reason why the city maintains an excellent bond rating. Costs to fund bus routes fall in the operating budget. This budget is under significant pressure due to escalating pension and health care costs.

Oh, my point - City Council had a difficult decision to make. The operating budget must be cut by $300,000 per year to stay within our legal general levy taxing authority in the next 5 years. This is real. We simply could not absorb the federally funded portion at this time. We committed to a slightly higher funding level, $87,000, but it falls short. MET took our allotment and optimized the schedule to serve the most citizens possible. This resulted in a split schedule. Adaptability will be tested, MET and the City are open to hear feedback.

Looking forward, I have had the opportunity to share awesome thoughts with former MET board member David Glenn-Burns. After a few months of operation, we are going to request a review of services that will include stakeholders from MET, the City, UNI, employers, and riders to optimize our service to meet the unique ridership needs of Cedar Falls. I am encouraged by the conversation and hope we can improve our public transit through proactive engagement, to design a system that maximizes value for the city and the transit user. 

Thanks to my Colleagues - Thanks to both Tom Hagarty and Mare Madsen Schmidt for their service to our city. Monday night will be their last meeting. Tom taught me much as the veteran council person. I appreciated his passion and knowledge, but most importantly, his love for our city. Mare was great in that she brought a new perspective to council and reinforced our city's vision. Both will be missed.

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