The Committee and Council meeting are full of goodies. In Committee, we discuss Cedar River improvements, rental conversion incentives, and the golf course's cash hemorrhage. In council, we adopt pay resolutions for the first class of Public Safety Officers ('PSOs'), propose naming recognition(s), and approve Viking Road and University Avenue next steps. And more...
-Committee of the Whole (5:35pm, ELECTRONIC AGENDA & PACKET)-
First we review Cedar River design considerations for dam safety, whitewater (Prairie Rapids Project), and riverbank improvements (see committee packet for a full read). I am excited. This is a signature project that will redefine our connection to the river.
Second, we review an incentive program proposal for rental-to-single family conversion. My first thought... free market interventions, no matter how well intended, too often fail. Here's the proposal...
- $10,000 home improvement loan is forgiven after 5 years of single-family occupancy
- Payback obligations reduce 20% each year
- Targeted for certain neighborhoods and characteristics
- Several other qualifying criteria
City Council allocated $100,000 over 5 years for a reverse-conversion incentive program. Based on this amount, the city can 'incentivize' two reverse-conversions per year. For reference, we average 106.25 single-family to rental conversions per year (over the last 4 years). My gut says we are trying to empty the sea with a bucket. While I appreciate the creative effort, if our goal is to convert old neighborhoods to single family-owned homes, I fear it will require a much more draconian policy (fraught with socio-economic discrimination elements). There are better ways to accomplish neighborhood stabilization. Our code enforcement policies have been a great start with notable results; it may be all that is necessary. But here's another way of thinking about this program... it is a lottery (and government has no business running lotteries). Each year, two lucky property owners (of thousands) will be awarded this money. While we have the illusion it will be done on a 'merit' basis, the applicants with the best handwriting, most compelling pictures and best language skills will win. Or maybe we draw from a hat (again, a lottery). Government should not be put in a position to pick winners among private people, entities or interests. At best, it is inefficient, at worst it is preferential and exclusionary.
Third, we consider options for our municipally-owned golf complex. The division bleeds dollars while private courses break-even or better. We cover all options, from maintaining the tax-payer subsidy to full privatization. It will be an interesting conversation.
-Regular Council Meeting (7:00pm, ELECTRONIC AGENDA & PACKET)-
G.2.f) The city of Cedar Falls and Teamsters have taken great strides to modernize incident response and improve organizational efficiency. This resolution increases pay for police officers promoted to PSOs (firefighters can also join the PSO rank with qualified training). PSOs are fully trained in police and firefighting skills and are available for first response, on-call and back-fill for traditional fire and rescue incidents. This resolution is consistent with council goals to promote efficiency and organizational effectiveness. I wrote about the new job classification in my June Connection.
G.2.g & j) There comes a point when we need to break with tradition. These two resolutions formally name the Mayor's Conference room and the city's Administrative Offices after our sitting mayor and administrator. It will be the 4th and 5th naming recognition in the last 4 years. While their services are worthy of honor and recognition, I am opposed to formal tributes of this kind (i.e. naming rights).
First and foremost, we should leave political recognition for the future, not the present (especially a sitting politician that could run for elected office in the future, not to mention signing a naming resolution of his own name!). Second, unless the contributions of a single individual are recognized 100 years from now (i.e. William Sturgis (1st resident), John Overman (1st Mayor and tamer of the Red Cedar), Peter Melendy (founder of the College), etc.), we should refrain. Third, recognition often assumes the person was the primary contributor, when most accomplishments were made possible by teams of people, volunteers and visionaries.
Take the Duke Young Conference room for instance. I have no clue who or what Duke Young did. I am sure it was great, but unless the recognition is coupled with understanding, it loses meaning. In the absence of meaning, there is no reason. Without reason, the act is senseless. Council should avoid senseless acts. The logical approach is to wait and let future councils and citizen groups weigh the merits of such recognition.
G.2.q) This item sets the all important hearing for the PSE for University Avenue Phase I (PSE = Plan, Specifications and Estimate). This is the bidding document where the rubber meets the road, or in this case, the force of construction equipment meets the road in a bid to improve flow, safety, transit accommodations and corridor aesthetic. This PSE covers the road segment between Dallas Drive and McClain. For $14.5 million, we replace the road, storm sewer, sanitary sewer and update all utilities. In a couple years, the heartbeat of central Cedar Falls will beat again pumping vitality in one of the most important arteries in the city.