Summer Update - 2017

CityHall.jpgThe city of Cedar Falls is on a great path. Rather than get lost in the doldrums of summer, I decided to commit electrons to our going-ons. There's lots of talk about fireworks and the mayors position, please read on...


We gave it a whirl, the old college try. Sadly, proponents didn't respect their neighbors, and opponents didn't have much tolerance for their neighbors. I predict restrictions. Personally, I don't have a clear, philosophical guide on the issue. On one hand, I want people to enjoy unencumbered liberty. On the other, I respect the right to the peaceful enjoyment of one's property. 

fireworks.jpgOf course there are ancillary issues such as litter, nervous animals, safety and PTSD, but the crux of the concern surrounds peace of the home. Littering is illegal. Justifying local ordinances for the psychological welfare of animals is just bizarre. Saying fireworks are dangerous is a fact, but safety is a matter of personal responsibility - play with fire, you could get burned. PTSD should be managed like other human conditions (and maybe we should blame our interventionist foreign policies of the past half century). However, before we take drastic measures to reduce new freedoms, we need to explore the postulates of the current law. First, it is new, people are going to explore pyrotechnic freedoms. As a result, there are many more fireworks being lit than ordinary. Second (and related to the first), people are more willing to spend disposable income to enjoy the freedoms. Third, people may not be fully familiar with state law which is somewhat arbitrary and unnecessarily complex. 

So yes, there were times the fireworks infringed on rights to peaceful enjoyment. There were times fireworks were lit at illegal hours of the night. But before limiting the freedom, we need to recognize the extraneous circumstances.  Once the initial excitement has been flushed from the system, a more modest exercise of freedom is expected. To address the concerns, I would be willing to reduce the launch period and set consistent hours. We also need to be more vigilant and pursue violators in the sky. This is the balance, and neither the proponents or opponents will be happy. Another way to measure compromise is the relative unhappiness of the parties in the final outcome. 



For 129 years Cedar Falls employed a part-time mayor. In 1971, the position became full-time so the mayor could make a living and earn benefits. Since that time, we have seen good political leadership at most times. Administrative leadership has had mixed results. The fact is, Cedar Falls has been operating with a weak mayor since I was born. Mayoral duties have been rightfully delegated to professional staff members.


In some minds, the mayor's position holds a mythical status. I don't know if our magic is attributable to the mayor or many dedicated, civic-minded citizens and our built-in assets. Because I don’t believe in sorcery, I lean to the latter. 

No matter our course, changes need to be made. First, we need to eliminate redundancies in our code and better define the mayor's role. At present, staff (mostly the administrator) and mayor share administrative duties by code, but 99% of admin/operational duties are performed by staff, for good reason. Second, we need to develop reasonable powers. Did you know the mayor holds the highest policing authority in the city? Uh yeah, you might want to be careful if the mayor comes knocking! Third, we need to be more clear on our expectations of mayor. And with those expectations, we need to set proportional compensation, including benefits. I have reviewed the code and will make many suggestions - no matter the full or part-time conclusion.

At the core of it, the mayor is the city's cheerleader, 'special projects' manager, ombudsperson, and 2-times-a-month meeting manager. The mayor should also be the figurative economic development head. At present, these duties are not defined nor are expected work hours, vacation, or any other administrative stipulations. The mayor does other stuff at his/her discretion, but if it isn’t in the code, it can’t be expected. Sure the mayor must withstand a citizen referendum every two years, but if I can get re-elected, anyone can! Seriously, if the mayor rises or falls by city sentiment each election, citizens are implying causation (for good or bad) where none exists.

The full-time expectation (whatever full-time is) is an effective deterrent for many qualified people. The position is reserved for the retired, financially independent or underemployed. Full or part-time, I doubt 'the magic' is at risk. If someone runs for mayor, hopefully, they are doing it with civic intentions in mind, not a career. But at $130,000/year (salary and benefits), we have the second highest paid mayor in the state, it is no drop in the bucket. 

No matter the outcome, the current evaluation process will lead to better role definitions and expectations for the mayor and administrator. I said it in 2011. I said it in 2014. I will say it in 2017. We need to take the final step in our journey to a professionally-managed city.

Showing 3 reactions

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  • Kenneth & Debbie Friend
    We (my wife and I) enjoy hearing celebrations of Independence all around us. What we don’t enjoy hearing is dogs barking anywhere within a block of us. Any ordnance to ban other people’s fireworks (noise, litter in my yard, etc.) should include other people’s dogs (noise, poop in my yard, etc.).
  • Eric Landergott
    One can celebrate freedom without explosives. I’m taken aback by your stance on this, loud noises don’t signify anything other than loud noises. While I appreciate your wanting “unencumbered” freedoms, truly unencumbered freedom is anarchy, which I’m not a fan of. And help me put with your view of concern for animal welfare as bizarre. We do share this planet with them, so is our need for explosions more important? That thought process in itself seems much more bizarre or the thought of ptsd being the responsibility of our interventionist policies, so it’s not taken into account on a local level for those that served and are affected?
  • Craig Fairbanks
    Hey I didn’t like all the noise with the fireworks on the off days, but then I thought about how much fun it was to be a kid and lighting a few off with dad and friends. Just making memories besides for the tolerant people that we all have now become do we have to be so offended and intolerant of everything that gives others joy and most of all freedom. Leave the law alone and lighten up.