Nick's Council Connection (25 November 2013)

Council Meeting Date: November 25, 2013NorthIndParkStreetSign.PNG

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

It feels like a good time to meet inside. This week I touch on public art, TIF balances, goal setting (at least the absent scorecard), and other city morsels.

- Committee of the Whole (5:55pm, Mayor's Conference Room)-

Four items being discussed: (1) Public Art Committee Presentation; (2) Animal Control Ordinance Review; (3) Administrative Policies; and (4) Bills and Payroll. I commented on (2) in my last post (click here to review, Item F.1.B). It was covered in both print and radio, so we'll just let that dog lie until Monday night.

The Public Art Presentation will be the most interesting of all. In it, Council meets with the Public Art Committee to discuss a 2013 Capital Improvement Item, Ridgeway Streetscape - $250,000. Public Art accentuates many places in our city, the best examples are in the downtown.  Since 2001, we've spent approximately $110,000 funded through the hotel/motel tax. The Ridgeway Streetscape funding source comes from the Industrial Park TIF, somewhat of a cash cow these days. It appears the focus will be on a monument-type sculpture in the round-about, including landscaping elements. I am supportive of public art, but admittedly, I am struggling with the precedent-setting cost. I'm eager to understand the project (few details were provided in the packet); any expenditure of this magnitude needs serious contemplation.

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

Special Order of Business

E.1) This item deal with Annexation of the Muncey Property. Previously discussed in my September 23rd Connection (Item G.2.q), my thoughts remain the same. I am supportive of the annexation because it represents orderly development (not the leap-frog kind). Most importantly, we must respect the Comprehensive Plan and community connectedness, this will be my focus as the development moves forward. 

Resolution Calendar

F.2.d & m) This items involves TIF Increment Certification. The State of Iowa has imposed new reporting requirements to curb TIF abuses. The requirement probably does less to curb it, rather now it is just disclosed! As it is, Cedar Falls makes responsible use the revitalization and economic development tool. The inner-workings are fascinating and complex, but I like the requirements for reporting of Projects, Expenses, and Job creation. Here are the raw stats for our 4 TIF areas:

College Hill (circa 2011): $15,992 (incurred debt); $15,992 (balance) - no current revenues to pay the debt

Pinnacle Prairie (circa 2010): $123,630 (incurred debt); $116,036 (balance) - revenues are minor due to TIF structure, a developer rebate form.

Downtown (circa 2000) : $10,510,648 (incurred debt); $3,995,235 (balance) - generating about $550K/year

Industrial Parks (circa 1992): $58,122,288 (incurred debt); $19,191,236 (balance) - generating about $7MM/year. 

F.2.n) This item deals with the SSMID, the downtown Self-Supported Municipal Improvement District. More specifically, this CMS.GIFitem sets the millage rate (additional taxes on district properties) of $3.69/1000 of taxable valuation. The rate was set to maintain the same level of funding as previous year (the rate needs to be adjusted for commercial roll-back impacts).  This is a voluntary, self-imposed tax voted by the property owners to support the Community Main Street Program which brings programming, infrastructure, and district operational support. I credit (and thank) the downtown property owners' willingness to take on this additional tax burden for the advancement of the district. Our downtown is a jewel, often emulated, never replicated because of the vision and talents of all who serve it.

F.2.P) I make note of this item only because it is unique. It deals with the city's Sartori Farm Lease. It consists of 390 acres (70 in set aside, 14.8 grass water ways, 14.4 filter strips, 290.8 tillable), we rent it for about $352/acre. This is the farm where our 'biosolids', eh sewer plant by-products, go to be returned to the Earth. It fertilizes next year's crop of corn syrup and/or edible vegetable oil, among other end-products. Will some farmer let me know if this is a good lease rate??  


F.2.Q) Hi-five to our Public Works department for negotiating a new White Goods demanufacturing agreement. It should save about $22,000/year by eliminating service charges.

F.2.S) This item requests approval for purchase of signage in the Northern Industrial Park. Signs & Designs proposed a monument-style, 2-sided sign. It features aluminum face routed letters, with acrylic and LED lighting. They are unique, yet compliment the style, materials, and quality of signs used in places like the Mayors' Bridge and Southern Industrial park.  At $34,000, this is well below the original estimate. 



-Nick's Briefs-

Goals and Things - Each Fall, Mayor, Council, and Staff grind through presentations and a 4 hour marathon goal setting session. The product will amount to a ~245 page document of mind-numbing detail.  You can see the 2014 snapshot, here. I assume the full document is too large to post as it would crash most computers. As an industrial engineer, I tend to focus on process and outcomes. Quite frankly, the process and outcome could use some work. Prior to the meeting, council throws-up accomplishments, new initiatives and ongoing concerns which are transcribed onto oversized sticky notes. From which, each council member sticks dots on their most important initiatives. What lacks in the process is a review of time, costs and categorical relevance.

You've heard me say this before - we need modern management and measurement. The process should feature well-organized, engaging discussion that can be distilled into a SMART council scorecard - Mayor, Council, and Staff priorities that are balanced in terms of issue/policy areas and resource availability. At one point, I thought we were onto something, see the scorecard sample below. This would be supported by director dashboards rather than regurgitated War and Peace novels every month.  But then the paper cutting cancer returned and we reverted to our old ways. I understand change is difficult, but when it results in Specific, Measurable, Accountable, Relevant, Time-based goals, it is a worthwhile endeavor. Just imagine how much council and staff time would be saved by focusing on doing rather than compiling and reporting.


In the Neighborhood - Rob Green, president of Overman Park Neighborhood Association, is spearheading an effort to connectOPNA_Boundries.PNG neighbors through Nextdoor. Overman Park residents can become a member of the online neighborhood to share events, advocacy goals, crime stats and much more. The tool is focused on neighborhood building and that's a cool thing. If you live in Overman Park, join here. If you live outside of the neighborhood, consider creating your own online neighborhood community at the site,, Rob will surely help! Thanks Rob Green!


Showing 4 reactions

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  • John Burnett
    I did not know that there was a roundabout on Ridgeway, huh! I would probably not get a lot out of a quarter million dollar monument there.
    Thanks for the Council preview!
  • Clint Fuller
    ? David Gibson? If you’ll remember correctly, Mr. Miller was vehemently opposed to them closing the NC Fire Station in the first place. What exactly are you trying to say here?
  • David Gibson
    Saw they thought to move fire station north. Anything to get it closer to the north side of the river would be good. Also, some communication between the R.R. and fire station as to where a train is when a call comes in would help as the long way around response times are lousy. I’m surprised Mark Miller is opposed to the idea yet all in favor of ruining North Cedar with “development.”
  • Rob Green
    Thanks for the NextDoor plug, Nick — just a note that the Overman Park boundaries shown above have been modified to exclude downtown (Washington St eastward, down to 7th) so that Community Main Street or whoever can set up a separate neighborhood there.