Tag Archives: Local Option Sales Tax

Flash Flooding in Cedar Rapids


Flash Flooding In Cedar Rapids

First Avenue Bridge

1st Avenue Bridge

Do you live in Cedar Rapids, Iowa? If so, do you live in a flood zone? Was your home impacted by the 1993 floods? How about the 2008 floods?
Yesterday, May 30, 2013 a fast moving storm caused some flash flooding in Cedar Rapids. The city is frantically working  to prevent flooding, or so they claim.

Current Flood Warning

There is currently a  flood warning in effect.  KCRG reported last night that “several homes on 1st Street NW will be impacted”. Problem with that statement is there is only one home on 1st Street NW and “the basement is still dry.” The storm and flash flooding certainly impacted drivers though!

Flood Lessons

Like the city, homeowners also learned valuable lessons from the 2008 flood. Always trust your instincts and have a plan. I will be watching the river and updating my findings.  Flash flooding and river flooding are different types of flooding. The river rising is a drawn out event and predictable but flash floods happen quickly without much notice.  Both are potentially dangerous. If flood water is already starting to come up through your basement drain you might want to consider disconnecting your furnace and moving it to higher ground. If you don’t know how to do that call for help.
I
am no expert on the city but living on 1st Street NW as rebuilt homes were demolished after the 2008 flood I have a unique perspective on how things operate around here. I do not blame the city workers for doing things backwards because they are only following orders. I hope that a city worker who understands the frustrations of the people who live in the core neighborhoods will step up and run for city council.
We have got to get this city back to operating without any agendas but to equally serve and provide essential services to it’s citizens.
Everyone I’ve spoken to agrees that the city should have focused on flood protection before buying and selling Real Estate. Flood protection should have been the city’s first priority since the 2008 flood but it hasn’t been. Nope, instead of focusing on the real issues the Cedar Rapids City Council squabbled with people all over the city over buyouts in the name of flood protection while giving downtown players “sweetheart deals” for riverside property on the east side.

When we voted for the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) it was supposed to help rebuild flood impacted property and flood protection. FEMA did not require we move the Public Library and spend millions of our disaster dollars to acquire and remodel the event center three blocks from the river the city council did.  FEMA did not require properties be bought out the city did. Remember the buyout program was a voluntary property acquisition after the 2008 flood.

 


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

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memorandum of understw

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Casino or CasiNO


Do you gamble?  Do you drive out-of-town to gamble?  Would you continue to drive out of town to gamble if there was a casino in your hometown? On March 5, 2013 Linn County voters will be deciding just that in a special election.  I circled Cedar Rapids in red on the map of the casinos in Iowa below for people to see how saturated Eastern Iowa already is with casinos.  casino mapWhat would happen if the people of Linn County vote in favor of a casino?  Other casinos worry they could go bankrupt. Make no mistake the casinos in other communities want to keep your business!

Already this casino is generating jobs but not from the side you’d expect. While  a commercial airs over and over on the television advertising jobs the opposition is taking applications and searching for volunteers.  One of their arguments was that this won’t be a county owned casino and that the private investors and their non-profit are the ones calling the shots.When I questioned the “vote no” office workers about who was funding the “no vote” initiative  at their office yesterday they told me that some of the money was invested by outside casinos.  Here is their argument in a flier that I obtained from their office at 1134 9th Street SE, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52403  (parking in the rear). vote no The investors  are the  same old people who always find ways to make a quick buck or profit from public money.  Where will the money from Cedar Rapids casino go if people vote in favor of it? I obtained this information from the Vote Yes Linn County website: http://voteyeslinncounty.com/community-improvement

invest

Will this election mirror the last special election? Many of the people who signed the petition to extend the Local Option Sales Tax didn’t even vote in the election. Like other special elections that have taken place in Linn County over the last two years it boils down to trust.

Playing the same commercial  over and over on TV will wear on the public.  Where is the “vote yes” office located?  Where is the public face for the vote yes group and exactly who are they going to reach out to in the community for grassroots support? The labor unions were in support of the Local Option Sales Tax measure that failed not once but twice!

Where are the young local enthusiastic people who worked for the  “vote yes” campaign back in 2003 when this issue was on the ballot?  Those people were energized and were able to get people out to vote in favor of the casino because they were planning to work there when/if it opened. Would a casino improve Cedar Rapids?  Maybe. Would a casino with this set of investors be the wisest decision?  Probably not.

Office: 1134 9th Street SE (parking in rear)


My Top Five in 2012


March 6, 2012 The Local Option Sales Tax DEFEAT

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Voters took down the  Local Option Sales tax Election not just once but twice in two years!

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The mayor is still complaining because they weren’t able to secure the money they needed to continue to rob us.  If the money was used right there wouldn’t be so many houses that need worked on!

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March 2012 Officials Arrest Wrong Robert Bates

R0bert Bates wrongfully arrested– protests outside courthouse
Robert Bates was on top of his trailer hooked to his box truck in front of the courthouse on the 3rd Avenue bridge and there were “cops all around” after they arrested the wrong guy. When I got there I didn’t see any cops but I did see Bates on top of his trailer with a megaphone telling anyone who would listen his story.

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June 8, 2012

USS Liberty Memorial Service Held in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on the 45th Anniversary of the Horrible Attack

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June 24 2012 Dilapidated Tree Service Set on Fire for Second Time

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Neighbors Lit up over Fire by Public Works Building

There have been more than 40 Arson’s in Cedar Rapids and no arrests reported!

Aug 27, 2012 RON PAUL REVOLUTION

Snapshot 9 (11-18-2011 9-24 PM)Ron Paul draws more than 20,000 new voters into the Republican Party just in time for the caucus

Ron Paul motivated me to do things I’d never done for any other presidential candidate in my life.  He inspired me to become involved and to educate others about his message of liberty.  He is truly one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever met.  I have nothing but respect for him and his time served in Congress.  He is the Champion of the Constitution.

Though we were able to secure the number of states we needed to get Ron Paul the nomination the rules at the Republican National Convention changed at the last minute! There is a petition to reverse that decision if you are interested in signing it! http://www.rlc.org/sign-the-petition-to-reverse-the-rnc-rule-changes/?referrer=100000901083914

Branstad was obviously wrong about Ron Paul supporting Romney

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Cedar Rapids Headlines 12/25/12


Salvation Army’s Bells Go Silent As Goals Are Missed

The Salvation Army logo (Anglophone Version)

The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army bells heard outside of grocery stores across Eastern Iowa fell silent Monday evening. Salvation Army officials across the area say it’s been a “good” year, despite the fact that all of the areas biggest campaigns have yet to reach their goals.

Donations for the red kettle campaigns continue to be accepted into next month.

If you would like to donate visit Salvation Army at https://donate.salvationarmyusa.org/page.aspx?pid=207#location

What to do When You Need a Break From Christmas

Maybe Christmas isn’t your holiday all the talk of Christmas trees, even frosty the snow man is just too much for you, well there’s lots of things in the Corridor that you can do.

For starters how about a movie.  Then how about dancing under the disco to your favorite country tunes.

There may not be a lot of options but dancing and a movie seem like two that could bring some Christmas cheer.

Christmas Wish Granted for Corridor Woman

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (KGAN/KFXA) – The daughter of a woman battling cancer made a very simple holiday wish. That wish was for a white Christmas. Thanks to last week’s blizzard, that wish has come true. The family said it’s a better present than any colorful package they could unwrap.
“I love snow, I love snow!”  Evelyn Nuehring, 65, gleefully explained from her hospital bed at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids. Her bed looks out onto 10th and McKinley Middle School.
While it may seem that a white Christmas is common in Eastern Iowa, The National Weather Service defines a white Christmas as one where there is an inch or more of snow on the ground. In Cedar Rapids, that only happens 47 percent of the time, “47 percent, that shocks me, but like I said, she’s got angels up there,” Rehak said.
For Evelyn a white Christmas means everything. “Because I don’t know if I’ll be here next year, so I enjoy every moment that God has given me to see the snow and to have special friends around me,” Evelyn said. Evelyn was diagnosed with sarcoma, a rare cancer in July of 2011, She had it removed that fall, but it came back a little more than two months ago, attacking her lungs. While Evelyn’s diagnosis is hard to take, she is filled with gratitude.In her beautiful way of viewing the world, Evelyn’s strength shines just like the glistening blanket of white she so lovingly gazes upon outside her hospital room window at Mercy Medical Center.“Don’t go for the material things; go for the things that reach out and touch you, that make you the happiest. This world is a good world,” she said.
Evelyn’s daughter, Lisa Gutierrez is working to help fight sarcoma. She’s created a local non-profit. To learn more visit www.curesarcoma.com or email IowaChapter@curesarcoma.org.  See the whole story here: http://www.cbs2iowa.com/shared/newsroom/top_stories/videos/kgan_vid_13538.shtml
my 2 centsI have lost a lot of loved ones to cancer. The last story touched my heart.  It’s Christmas! I hope everyone has a wonderful day and is doing something more meaningful than dancing under a disco ball to country music at some bar! I will be spending my Christmas with my in-laws first exchanging gifts enjoying our morning in each others company and then later in the afternoon eating Hors d’oeuvre and turkey around a traditional dinner table.  Reminds me of my childhood while creating new memories for my children to cherish in the future.
199802_1017833544968_2487948_nThe Salvation Army sounded pretty confident they were going to make their goal when I saw them on TV.  Some people in my community love the Salvation Army for feeding them after the 2008 floods.  They didn’t feed my neighbors or myself down here by the river.  Nonetheless, they helped me with rent after the 2008 flood and so I felt obligated to go shake a bell  next to the “red kettle”. I wouldn’t have needed that help though had the Local Option Sales Tax been used correctly but that’s another story for another day.