Tag Archives: City Council

List of Demands


Iowas_Cleanest_Pot_Holes

Now that the city has the money to “fix streets” I DEMAND that they fix 35th Street NE, Oakland Road NE, and O Avenue NW BEFORE they do another streetscaping project!

Worship Those Who by Taxation Falsely Profit


Worship Those Who by Taxation Falsely Profit

Worship_Cedar_RapidsCedar Rapids, Iowa: The new city gateway sign is 42 feet long and features an 18-foot-tall vertical panel of a downtown skyline, Cedar Rapids’ name atop an image of one of the downtown bridges and stone formations and native plantings at its base.
It’s hard to see the stone and landscaping for the chain link.
http://thegazette.com/2013/06/24/cedar-rapids-new-150k-gateway-sign-challenged-by-dot-chain-link-fence/

The taxpayers of Cedar Rapids paid over $156,000 to erect a monument of misplaced faith. Praise be to the forces of nature that keep obscuring it with weeds.
The sign is not representative of the entire community. Nowhere on this sign does it say welcome. When visitors come to Cedar Rapids, they are not welcomed. The spires of Downtown stand as temples telling all where they should worship the powers that be.

All that matters to the elite ruling Cedar Rapids is the Downtown District. Downtown has become a holy relic not unlike the mummified foreskin of some ancient saint.

Iconic views of the holy must be presented to the ignorant traveler. May they know to bow their heads when passing the altar upon which local taxpayers are sacrificed.
Woe be unto heretics. Those who blaspheme the sacred writ of ancestral swamp sand trust funds handed down through the ages must be punished.

Be they ejected from chamber of the City Council priests who serve their Chamber Pot lords. If still learn the heathen rage, far worse shall befall them.

As it was in 1920, Cedar Rapids Downtown District shall be forever and forever. Sales tax increase without end. Tax and spend. Tax and spend.


Freedom of Information Doesn’t Mean Free Information


Freedom of Information isn’t Free

Cedar Rapids, Iowa
May 26, 2013
How much did taxpayers pay to rebuild, purchase and demolish those buildings on 1st Avenue and 1st Street SW in Cedar Rapids, Iowa? Too much! But, the only way that the people who paid for it can find out about it is by obtaining public information.

How many people think that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) means free information? You would think that freedom of information would mean free information but it doesn’t; it only means you’re free to ask for the information and pay for said information.

That’s right, if you want any real information you will have to pay for it!

The equivalency of the Federal’s FOIA is the State of Iowa and City of Cedar Rapids’ “Open Records” law and ordinance, respectively.

But, just how “open” are these records?

information

Lisa Kuzela

Lisa Kuzela:

Lisa Kuzela was the Vice Chair of the Local Option Sales Tax Oversight Committee (L.O.S.T.) when she asked for pertinent public information regarding where some of the funds from the L.O.S.T. account had been appropriated.

Kuzela asked for a list of the homes purchased with the L.O.S.T. funds and was told that it would “cost her $110 for six hours of time to compile the data”.

They then used the excuse that it was a “privacy issue,” even though the same requested information for properties purchased with FEMA and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds had already been publicly listed. So, why not make available those purchased with L.O.S.T?  There was never any justification for their excuses.

Don’t take my word for it go check it out yourself!
Click here for information about The City of Cedar Rapids Greenway Area Address List.
Click here for information about The City of Cedar Rapids Construction Area Address List.


Assistant City Manager, Sandi Fowler, discusses Fees for Public Information

Kuzela is often charged for information requests from the City. On top of the research hourly fees, she is charged for scans – yes, scans! She is charged twenty-five cents per page to scan even though there is no ink or paper!

This clearly violates Iowa’s Open Records Law, State Code 22.3(2): “The fee for the copying service as determined by the lawful custodian shall not exceed the actual cost of providing the service. Actual costs shall include only those expenses directly attributable to supervising the examination of and making and providing copies of public records. ”

Kuzela states “when I pointed this out to the City, they said that the reason they have to charge the same for a scan as a hard copy is that the machine counts the scan the same as a copy. I told them I’ve never heard of such a thing and no one should have to pay for something when there’s no expense for it. However, I’ve gone along with this absurdity and been paying $0.25 per scanned page so I could get the information.”

If a citizen cares enough to request information they should not be charged for it if they are not requesting a hard copy of said information!

Kuzela goes on to say that within the past week, “they suddenly claim that the documents are off-site, so if I want the information, I have to pay them the time to go to another location to retrieve the documents at $20 per hour. This is over and above their hourly fee for the time it takes to scan (even though we have automatic feeders, now). This, too, is in addition to $0.25 per page to scan.”

What is wrong with the efficiency of our city if this information isn’t readily available – especially in the day of digital? Who are these people working for if they can charge taxpayers for public information – especially at a higher cost simply because they haven’t been well-organized in storing it?!

Aren’t we already paying them to do their job, and isn’t this part of their job? This all just sounds absurd to me!

But, it even gets worse!

Kuzela explains that “even though they’re emailing me the information (and therefore no supervising of staff is necessary while I review the information), they are now also saying that I have to pay a fee for ‘supervising the examination.’ So, does that mean I have to pay for an employee to supervise another? They haven’t responded to this question.”

I’m simply not buying that in this day and age when everything is digital that they don’t have this information scanned already and easily accessible! It’s obvious that the goal here is not to help the taxpayers get information, so they can oversee how their money’s being spent, but to prevent it. The City continually comes up with different excuses to make it as costly as possible in order to deter Kuzela from obtaining public information.

Click here for a link to Lisa Kuzela’s fundraising page.
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RE: Northwest Recreation Center Site Selection Task Force


Letter to the city council and the Northwest Recreation Center Site Selection Task Force

I know the Northwest Recreation Center Site Selection Task Force meets tomorrow and that they are in charge of selecting the site for the Time Check Recreation Center replacement and I want to make certain my concerns are heard if I am unable to make it to the meeting.
Is the plan still to build on this “preferred” spot that just flooded?

559739_10151293993466370_810435224_n

The “preferred” site for the replacement of the Time Check Recreation Center

“Sina said the city might need to cut down 600 trees to make way for the recreation center on the Q Avenue NW site” http://thegazette.com/2011/09/26/panel-recommends-ellis-for-rec-center/
Couldn’t we instead appeal to FEMA to go with the Ellis Blvd site by Time Check Park? At least it doesn’t flood “every year”. I would be willing to write in favor of that site but I will fight tooth and nail against anything being built in Ellis Park especially after the last few days!
Here’s a video I made today hoping to have input (even though we already went through the neighborhood planning process and had our opinions asked over and over until we’re blue in the face). I am concerned that our input as a community still hasn’t been taken seriously. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecckNCbx1Dk

Please take this into consideration when choosing the site.
This ice jam flood reminded many of us who went through the 2008 flood just where the river fed into the neighborhoods before coming out of it’s banks! Please train someone to run the dam to control this better in the future.
Thank you,
Ajai Dittmar

 


Flooding Flashbacks


The city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa flooded in 2008. It was horrible. Thousands of people were impacted and the city has milked FEMA for all they could since it happened.
ellis
Why isn’t the water going into the “greenway”?

My neighbor Connie (who was not in a good mood) wanted to check out the neighborhood! I want to apologize to anyone that I might have sounded grouchy towards.

The river is supposed to crest by 8 pm and it’s after 9 pm now and we haven’t been swept away and the basement is still dry! It would have been nice if the city would have managed the 5 in 1 dam better and dealt with the sewers properly.


Lisa Kuzela files conflict of interest charges against Mayor Ron Corbett


PRESS RELEASE:

lisa1Lisa Kuzela files conflict of interest charges against Mayor Ron Corbett

On Monday, February 25, 2013, Lisa Kuzela submitted to the Iowa State Ethics Board claims of conflicts of interest that Mayor Ron Corbett has violated Iowa Code 68B.2A which prohibits outside employment and activities. Those charges have been forwarded to the Linn County Attorney’s office.

The pertinent subsections to the code are as follows:

According to:
Iowa Code 68B.2A – “Prohibited Outside Employment and Activities-Conflicts of interest:”
“Any person who serves or is employed by the state or a political subdivision of the state shall not engage in any of the following conduct:”
“Outside employment or an activity that involves the use of the state’s or the political subdivision’s time, time, facilities, equipment, and supplies …”

In addition, specifically regarding employment conflict…
“Outside employment or an activity that is subject to the official control, inspection, review, audit, or enforcement authority of the person, during the performance of the person’s duties of office or employment.”

Corbett was the Vice President of Human Resources at CRST. John Smith was President and CEO of CRST International, Inc. and is currently Chair. David Rusch is the current President and CEO of CRST. Corbett supposedly remains employed by CRST, although questions remain as to if he actually works there or simply receives a salary under a fictitious position.

Corbett has a personal interest through his official capacity of mayor which has benefitted John Smith and David Rusch at CRST which violates State Law.

The most recent actions he has taken in regards to the casino have prompted me to finally file an official complaint and request for an investigation.

My suspicion rose first when I learned who the investors were. They included John Smith and David Rusch of CRST.

Two weeks ago I learned about the Agreement between the Cedar Rapids Development Group (“investor” group) and the Linn County Gaming Association (nonprofit group) which states that if there is any debt incurred on the land or operations, then a “third party” will cover that debt. I knew what that meant. Again, the city taxpayers will be subsidizing another facility. But this time, it will be for Corbett’s employers.

Last week, I learned of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) (see attached) that Corbett approved at the October 9, 2012 City Council meeting.

This Memorandum is basically a no-competition declaration stating that the City will exclusively support the Cedar Rapids Development Group, LLC and the Linn County Gaming Association, Inc. They will not consider anyone else who wants to bid for the gaming license.

This created an environment in which there can’t be competition. A bid process would have been in the form of bidding a higher percentage of funds to go to the nonprofit who then allocates it to the community.

By doing so, Corbett not only dishonored the residents, costing them tens of millions, but he secured that those proceeds will stay in the hands of the investor group, of which Smith and Rusch are investors.

The MOU that Corbett supported therefore:
1) secured that this investor group, of which Smith and Rusch are members, Cedar Rapids Development Group, LLC, and no one else, would be sole ownership of the casino, entertainment, gift shops, etc. proceeds – as stated in the Agreement;
2) secured that a lower percentage of proceeds be distributed into the community;
3) secured that this investor group will make millions more (that otherwise would’ve gone into the community).

Note that I don’t think that a bid process is required under law or regulations in this situation, however, through Corbett’s official actions, he has granted favor to Smith and Rusch of who Corbett is employed.

This MOU agenda issue was a critical one for Cedar Rapids, yet was not only not discussed at the council meeting; it was noticeably inconspicuously placed on the consent agenda. No council member pulled it off to discuss, and it was passed by the simple vote of passing the consent agenda.

The Resolution was signed by Mayor Corbett October 9, 2012. (See attached)

Earnestly submitted by
Lisa Kuzela

Extended information: The casino conflict of interest has many tentacles …

In April 2012, I, along with others, attended and spoke at a House Ways and Means Subcommittee regarding Senate File 2217 – a $600 million bill for “flood protection” in which Mayor Corbett strongly lobbied for. At that meeting, there were two lobbyists from CRST. At the time none of us could understand why they were there.

This bill, signed into law April 19, 2012, was so broadly worded that it allows any project to be funded under this bill, as long as part of the major project qualifies as “flood protection.” This includes a casino.

Senate File 2217, Section 4 – New Section 418.1 Definition #5 “Project”
“A project may consist of one or more phases of construction or reconstruction that are contracted for separately if the larger project, of which the project is a part, otherwise meets the requirements of this subsection.”

Although the bill states the funds would be granted to the “governmental entity,” this city knows how to get around that. Three LLCs (Courthouse II LLC, Courthouse II Tenant LLC, and Courthouse II Manager LLC) were created for the former Federal Courthouse / new City Hall, in which they used all public funds to rehabilitate. By doing this, not only did the taxpayers end up paying more, but it bypassed any bidding process that was required by law with these funds and prevented transparency.

There’s already an LLC formed for the casino – Cedar Rapids Development Group, LLC. I predict they will do the same with the casino – providing even more funding to the “investor” group – all with our tax money!

Now that the casino project is being pushed and John Smith and David Rusch have been named as investors, I think I understand now why a trucking company located miles from the river was lobbying for a “flood protection” bill.

Currently, as I predicted, Corbett and Senator Rob Hogg are lobbying the Board (established under this bill) to have part of the casino project count as flood protection.

However, if this is granted by the Board then, according to the bill, the taxpayers, rather than the investors, can be paying for the construction of the casino project with the appearance that the investor group (LLC) is paying for it.

Sidebar: Each phase or subproject is capped at receiving $15 million through this law. In addition it requires a “local match.” However, the State received a waiver from HUD allowing the CDBG Disaster Assistance to count as a local match. Therefore, with this match, it allows Corbett to help fund up to $30 million per phase / subproject of the major casino project. Thereby, leaving the investor group, of which John Smith and David Rusch of CRST are investors, to invest very little, if any, toward the casino, obligating Local, State and Federal taxpayers to fund the construction of the casino.

Recently, it’s been published that Ron Corbett has historically opposed a local casino. I even heard him say so at a dinner during his campaign at the Islamic Center in Cedar Rapids. He said that the market is saturated and it doesn’t make sense to have another one here.

Now he suddenly supports a casino.

Of course this sudden change of attitude about such a major issue is usually explained away politically, but when all these facts are pieced together, questions can’t help but be raised as to why he is now using his elected position as mayor to push through the casino upon which Smith and Rusch are an investors.

Earnestly submitted by Lisa Kuzela, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

###

memorandum of understw

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Worried about Panhandlers while Violent Crimes go Unsolved


kgan post panhandlers

Seriously, we’ve had several shootings, a home invasion, a bank robbery right downtown and a carjacking that the media downgraded to “car stolen at gunpoint” and the City Council is talking about aggressive panhandlers?

The City of Cedar Rapids is revisiting the issue of panhandling tonight.  The City Council shot down a proposed ordinance to ban it three years ago.  Coming up on CBS 2 News at 10, Gabe Erickson talks with one man who panhandles to make ends meet.  What do you think? Does the city need to prohibit “aggressive solicitation”?  http://www.cbs2iowa.com/shared/newsroom/top_stories/videos/kgan_vid_13745.shtml

My post the other day, “Times are Hard” was merely to shed light on what one panhandler said about another panhandler (who in the past has acted aggressive towards me over “his spot”).  I want to make it clear right here and now I didn’t feel like either of them were being aggressive towards me at all in my video!  If the guy I talked to in my video is right then the man interviewed in the KGAN video owns a house and is saving up to buy land!


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.

 


Cedar Rapids Headlines 12/19/12


Blizzard Warning Issued, Conditions to Deteriorate Tonight

snowCEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Ready or not, here it comes. Heavy snow combined with strong winds will lead to blizzard conditions across much of Iowa tonight into tomorrow. A Blizzard Warning goes into effect for much of Iowa beginning this evening. Storm totals of 8-12” will be likely over much of the area, with isolated amounts over a foot in far northeast Iowa and southwest Wisconsin. Winds will increase to 30-40 mph in most spots, with gusts to 50mph, creating whiteout conditions and considerable drifting of snow.

Travel will be a nightmare so if you have things to get done the sooner you get them done the better! 

 

Cedar Rapids Council Ecstatic with Plan to Transform Westdale Mall

wdCEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa —CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Martians didn’t land, but you’d think they had after City Council members Tuesday night finished thanking and applauding Realtor Scott Byers and developer John Frew for jumping in to do the near impossible — bring new life to the long-failing Westdale Mall.

Byers, a Realtor at Gibbs Lamb Drown Commercial, is leading a group of local investors in buying the 72-acre, 33-year-old, half-empty mall from two out-of-state owners and Frew, president/CEO of Frew Development Group, will lead a $90-million effort to redevelop the site.

Council members Don Karr, Chuck Swore and Justin Shields are longtime west-side Cedar Rapids residents and they were particularly thrilled with the Westdale developments.

What about the “West Downtown”?

Trial Set for Man Who Attempted to Kill His Neighbors

jpCEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – A man who attempted to kill his neighbors last summer was found competent and his trial is set April 1, in Linn County District Court.  Pham is charged with three counts of attempted murder and one count of intimidation with a dangerous weapon.

He is accused of shooting multiple times at Brian Wilson, 39, his daugther Jayde Wilson and Tracy Moses last June at Moses’ home. Brian Wilson was hit three times and seriously wounded. Members of Pham’s family told The Gazette after the shooting they have been subjected to racial harassment for years because they are Vietnamese, first by Moses’ ex-husband when he lived in the home, and then by Brian Wilson.

Cell Tower Plan in Cemetery Beginning to Stir Up Opposition

cemCEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – The popularity of cell phones and portable electronic devices wouldn’t be possible without the cell towers that provide the wireless signal. But keeping the signal strong often involves wireless companies adding new towers. And that’s where the conflict can start.
The board operating the Czech National Cemetery, 2200 C St. S.W., is seeking permission to allow a tower for U.S. Cellular on cemetery ground. City staffers say it’s the first time they can remember a conditional use request for a cell tower in a cemetery.

Teri Petrzalek, who has family buried at the cemetery, only learned about the Planning Commission meeting a few days ago after a cemetery neighbor got a letter about the proposed zoning change. Petrzalek plans to attend the meeting to let the commission know not everyone is ok with the idea.  “I can understand they’re (cemetery board) looking for ways to generate income. But this is not an appropriate way to do it. It’s going to be intrusive, look terrible and it’s an affront to the people buried there,” Petrzalek said.

What do you think of this?  Comments and feedback encouraged!


Cedar Rapids Targeting Bad landlords Again


Cedar Rapids Targeting Bad landlords Again

Property market

Property market (Photo credit: Alan Cleaver)

The city is meeting at noon today so that they can pass more ordinances for us.  The city should take care of their own nuisances  like their closed sidewalks and abandoned houses/garages before making new rules for taxpaying property owners. We have a problem house in our neighborhood and the landlord continues to rent to the criminal element and I have never heard of anything happening to them!

The City Council today will consider passing a new ordinance entitled “Nuisance Properties,” which defines how many of which behaviors by tenant or landlord will prompt a property to be labeled a nuisance. Such a label could result in fines against a property and a requirement that the property owner remedy the problem.

The nuts and bolts of the city’s proposed ordinance will have city employees from a variety of departments, including police officers and housing inspectors, feeding information about property violations into the same database, which quickly will alert property owners — including homeowners — of problems at their properties. The city also will create a new city position of nuisance abatement coordinator, who will work with property owners on violations, penalties and plans to remedy the problems. A nuisance label will attach to a property, for instance, if a serious crime occurs at or near a property during a 12-month period or two less serious crimes do or three even less serious ones do.

Robin Tucker, a landlord and Realtor, on Monday said the city’s proposed nuisance ordinance places all the burden on the property owner and none on the tenant. The proposed ordinance is too “heavy-handed” and lacks an educational component for tenants, he added.

Council member Vernon said she isn’t surprised about the landlord concerns because the ordinance is a notable change in the way the city regulates property.  “But I think the general public out there welcomes it,” Vernon said. “The vast majority of our citizens and our tenants and landlords are great people. But we been inching and inching toward a higher and higher percentage of those who are not taking care of their properties. And we just have to stop it.”

I don’t think the general public has much of an opportunity to weigh in on this Mrs. Vernon since today’s council meeting is at noon-oops my bad it was at 4:00 pm today.