Cedar Rapids Headlines 1/4/13-1/5/13

City Warns Fines Will be Issued if Sidewalks Aren’t Clear

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – It’s been over two weeks since the storm that dumped about five inches of snow on the Cedar Rapids area. Yet, in many neighborhoods there are sidewalks that still aren’t cleared.  Complaints are now piling up at the city’s public works department. The city says they’ve cited around 200 sidewalks that haven’t been cleared.  City Ordinance states residents are supposed to have DSCN1871their shovels out within 48 hours of a storm. Public works are urging residents to take action, before they get hit with a fine of as much as $200.   If would like to report a sidewalk in your neighborhood that hasn’t been properly cleared you can call the city’s public works department at 286-5802 or email street@cedar-rapids.org.

Cedar Rapids looking for input on rental housing code changes

Landlords and tenants both should find a City Hall-sponsored forum next Wednesday evening useful, as the city prepares to amend its existing rental housing code.  Landlords, not tenants, usually turn out to make comments to city officials.  The code amendments specifically under review will require landlords to conduct background checks on tenants. In that regard, city officials have proposed offering a service for a fee to help landlords make criminal background checks  In addition, the city is looking to require landlords to attend periodic training classes. The city also wants input on the frequency of city inspections of rental properties and the size of inspection fees.

The public-comment session will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the council chambers at City Hall, 101 First St. SE. 

The city’s rental housing code, Chapter 29 of the city’s Municipal Code, is being amended in tandem with a new Chapter 22A of the code to address nuisance properties.  The City Council voted unanimously last month to adopt Chapter 22A over the objections of some landlords. The council must vote two more times on Chapter 22A. The chapter establishes a mechanism for tracking calls for city services at specific properties — services from police calls to zoning and housing code violations. At some point, a property can be labeled a nuisance, which will confront the owner with city fees and the need to develop a plan to remedy the nuisance.

Car Break-Ins Up 5% In Cedar Rapids

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – For all of the gadgets and options available on cars in recent years, Cedar Rapids police are asking people to simply use the standard door locks to cut down on thefts.  “You’ve got locks on a car,” said Sgt. Cristy Hamblin of the Cedar Rapids Police Department. “Use them.”
In 2012, 950 formal reports of thefts from vehicles came into Cedar Rapids police. Naturally, warmer months lead to more of what Hamblin calls these “crimes of opportunity.” In the summer months, June had 96 reports, July had 118 and August had 122. Overall, last year’s reports was more than a 5 percent uptick from the 2011.

Police Respond to Bank Robbery in Downtown Cedar Rapids

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Police in Cedar Rapids are on the scene of a bank robbery in downtown Cedar Rapids.

Police responded to the Banker’s Trust location at 221 3rd Ave SE at 4:15 Friday afternoon. According to police, a man entered the bank and demanded money while displaying a handgun. The subject had a face mask on and fled on foot with an undisclosed amount of money. The investigation is ongoing at this time.  Check back for updates

Iowa public school enrollment up sharply, but Cedar Rapids sees steep decline

UPDATE: A new public school enrollment report from the Iowa Department of Education shows a rising tide does not lift all boats.  Iowa’s kindergarten through 12th grade enrollment had its first significant year-to-year jump since 1996 – adding 2,741 students, a .6 percent increase, for a total of 476,245 learners – but 167 of the state’s 351 school districts lost students between the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years. The Cedar Rapids Community School District shed 127 students in that time, second only to the Davenport Community School District’s 191-student decrease.  “This statewide increase is refreshing news for Iowa after years of declining enrollment,” said Jay Pennington, chief of the Iowa Department of Education’s Bureau of Information and Analysis, in a statement earlier today. “However, the reality is that this increase most likely is temporary.”  The picture is less rosy from a five-year perspective, with Iowa showing an overall loss of 774 students, a .16 percent decrease, since the 2008-09 school year. In that time, the Cedar Rapids district’s enrollment shrunk by 851 learners, the largest drop in the state and almost three times the size of the time frame’s second biggest decline, 286 students in the Clinton Community School District.  “The district had been going along losing about 100 to 120 students a year, a very modest decline historically,” said Dave Benson, superintendent of the Cedar Rapids district. “The [2008] flood hit, and over a two year period we lost over 500 students, attributed to the loss of housing in the community due to the flood. That accelerated that loss.”

Benson urged people to keep the enrollment decline in perspective, because while the district has tallied a 4.9 percent loss in the last five years, that number is “negligible” in comparison to other Iowa school systems. In fact, the Stratford Community School District showed the biggest percentage drop over the last five years, hemorrhaging a full quarter of its 213 student enrollment – five times the Cedar Rapids district’s percentage drop. Stratford’s actual student decrease only amounted to 53.

“We can attribute a large part of that loss to a single historical event, and I feel that puts that loss into a little bit of perspective,” Benson said.

The news is much better for the Iowa City Community School District, which gained the fourth largest amount of students in the state from 2011-12 to 2012-13, 321 additional learners, as well as over the last five years, counting 1,025 more students since 2008-09. School district officials are gearing up for a Revenue Purpose Statement vote on Tuesday, Feb. 5, where local voters will have the power to authorize early access to $100 million in sales tax funds. If approved, administrators have indicated they will spend that money on construction projects to address the district’s expanding student population.

Waukee, Des Moines and Ankeny reported the largest one-year enrollment number increases, while West Sioux, Moulton-Udell and Waukee reported the largest one-year percentage increases.

Iowa Gun Advocates Want to Abolish Gun-Free Zones, Including in Schools

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – In the wake of the Newton, Conn., school shooting that left 20 children and seven adults dead polls show public support for stricter gun control at a 10-year high.  However, gun rights advocates say they will push the Iowa Legislature to expand gun rights and abolish gun-free zones, including schools.  “The problem we have is there are too many so-called gun-free zones,” says Aaron Dorr of Iowa Gun Owners. “There are way too many areas where law-abiding Iowans are victims of the system because they are not allowed to defend themselves if something happens to them.”

That includes schools, Dorr says. The failure of gun-free schools should be evident in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, he says.

“Our position is that it is an undue burden to be shot in the back of the head while trying to protect students in your classroom because you are legally prohibited from protecting yourself,” Dorr says. Iowa Gun Owners is hearing from teachers “crying out to have the option of having a weapon in school because they are scared of being victims.”

“We’d have a problem with that,” Iowa Association of School Boards Executive Director Tom Downs says about the elimination of gun-free schools. The association also will oppose any attempt to carve out an exemption in the state’s concealed weapons law to allow teachers to have guns at school.

In the days after the Newton shooting legislative leaders said they thought it was unlikely the Legislature would approve more restrictive gun laws.

It’s more black and white for John Johnson of Cedar Rapids, the co-director of the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus and formerly with the now-defunct Iowans for the prevention of Gun Violence.

Johnson believes a majority of Americans support gun control, especially in the wake of a string of mass shootings.  The only demographic opposed is lawmakers,” Johnson says. “They’re basically cowards.”  Not all of them. Rep. Dan Mulbauer, D-Manilla, has called for a ban on assault and semi-automatic weapons and the confiscation of weapons owners don’t voluntarily give up.  Jeff Burkett of the Iowa Firearms Coalition, Inc., doesn’t see Mulbauer’s proposal as a live round.  “It appears he could use some education,” Burkett says. “It sounds like an emotion-based response” to Newtown.”  Johnson agrees it’s unlikely lawmakers will ban assault and semi-automatic weapons or require background checks for all gun ownership transfers or limit the capacity of ammo magazines.  Lawmakers “are basically gutless when it comes to standing up to the gun lobby,” he says.

2 cents myI live in an area where the sidewalks have been closed for more than four years.  I will not be shoveling my sidewalk until they are open. Meantime, the city searches for renters to talk about their nuisance policy that they want to implement.  I wonder when the city will take care of their own nuisance properties.  They own houses and garages that sit empty falling apart and are vulnerable to arsonists.  I don’t think it’s in their best interest to make up new rules that they can’t follow themselves!

Crime has only worsened in Cedar Rapids since the 2008 flood.  Many crimes that should have been reported by the police weren’t and bad people have gotten away with committing crimes.  Why the low key story on the bank robbery in downtown Cedar Rapids?  Seems to me like they are downplaying it.  There hasn’t been any video or even a description released of the suspect.

Our schools and enrollment.  I would like to see Benson let go and replace him with a local person who can and will make the necessary cuts we need in order to keep our schools open (we have a TOP HEAVY school district here in Cedar Rapids).  I would like to see a comprehensive report on why our enrollment dropping in Cedar Rapids but going up everywhere else?  Why are families leaving Cedar Rapids?  That’s simple to answer! No one wants to live in a city that doesn’t care about their young people! Cedar Rapids isn’t the family friendly place it used to be. There isn’t much to do here except go out drinking and that’s not good for children or families.

images (17)Finally, guns at schools.  I don’t own a gun and hope that I will never feel the need to own one.  However, I  do not want my child or her teacher to feel helpless if some nut job goes in there to shoot them up! While I am not in favor of the “police state” I am not opposed to utilizing our police to protect our most precious people, our children.

 

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About Ajai Dittmar

There is nothing 'radical' about wanting to save your historical neighborhood! There is nothing 'negative' for wanting an 'outside investigation' done a public service that has had a lot of embarrassing news, especially when they don't do their jobs! There is nothing 'odd' about wanting politicians to uphold the Constitution they swear to uphold when they are sworn into office! Follow @sibzianna View all posts by Ajai Dittmar

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