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Community Issues to Watchdog in 2001 PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Editorials
Tuesday, 02 January 2001 18:00
Happy New Year to all! Some consider this year the true beginning of the Millennium. 2000 went by like wildfire, and things occurred in a blink of the eye, especially at Davenport’s City Hall. The Council has now served its first year, and their actions, or lack thereof, can be evaluated. People will have different opinions of this council’s efficacy, especially because it has dealt with several highly controversial issues. There is much to pay attention to in the near future, as well. It has never been more important to keep a vigilant eye on City Hall than now. There are many deals in the works whose impact would be huge, both positive and negative, to Davenport.

Council action winners, in my humble opinion, include:

1) The decision to give $6.5 million to the Davenport Museum of Art for a new, supposedly world-class museum to be built downtown. The Council did its part in spades, and it could well mean the difference between a stagnant and thriving downtown. Unfortunately, the Museum Foundation and property owners cannot seem to negotiate the land deal necessary to break ground. This is reported to be, in large part, due to what landowners claim is a lowball offer. The properties’ combined assessed value is approximately $460,100, and the Museum’s offer in place is $1,050,000 for all the lots combined. One can’t help but wonder how this is being divvied up between the landowners. Lot owners attorney Steve Schalk and realtor Tom Williams (partners in 200 River Drive Partners, which owns two of the six remaining lots to be purchased) are asking for twice what the adjacent property sold for less than a year ago. (The adjacent 12,660- square-foot property sold for approximately $30 per square foot, and 200 River Drive Partners is asking for at least $60 for nearly identical land with the same use—a parking lot. The $30-per-square-foot selling price already represented a substantial premium over the assessed value of $12 per square foot with an additional $11,000 for the parking. 200 River Drive Partners’ assessed value for their similar 11,340-square-foot property is also $12 per square foot for the land, with an additional $10,200 for the parking. Keep in mind that assessed valuation should represent close to 100% of the current market value.) So where is the justification for $60-plus? Because they can?

Attorney Schalk is representing the property owners as one aggregate buyer, countering the Museum Foundation’s offer with their own of $1.5 million. It is baffling to me that the property owners consider the Museum’s offer of $1,050,000 low when their combined assessed property value is approximately $460,100. The Museum’s offer is twice what the properties are worth if we believe that the assessed values are anywhere close to market value. Personally, I believe the market value was established earlier in the year when the adjacent lot sold for $30 per square foot, putting the additional properties aggregate value at $772,200 for the remaining 25,740 square feet to be purchased. However, the owners’ counter offer of $1.5 million makes the per-square foot price nearly $60. This deal should be closely scrutinized. We have been given the gift of $12 million by the Figge Foundation, along with the City’s grant of $6.5 million, and we still don’t even own the property!

2) The decision to build two new parking ramps in downtown was probably the biggest boost to downtown revitalization. There is very little parking to accommodate the businesses that already exist, let alone substantial growth of any kind. Parking ramps constructed correctly should be the kick-start so desperately needed to encourage redevelopment in Davenport’s downtown. Because of the ramps, coupled with the new museum and DavenportOne’s D1 initiative to link the amenities in downtown to one another by renovating the Redstone and creating skywalks to the riverfront, we finally have a vision that will restore the downtown and brand it as City Central, the flagship downtown of the Quad Cities and a Mecca of culture and arts.

Other positive actions include amending the discrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation; increasing street resurface spending by $1 million; helping to bring the IMAX project to fruition with close to $2 million in grants; finally delivering us from an ineffective city administrator, and giving us a can-do police chief in Mike Bladel; initiating a solution to the Trust & Agency problem; approving the Eastside Aquatic project; fully supporting the televising of all council meetings and proceedings; and for patiently working for peanuts at a rate of pay that is almost insulting for the time, energy, and resources managing a city the size of Davenport demands.

Council action blunders include:

1) First and foremost, abandoning CURV once they were elected. Nearly all of the new council members ran on fixing the City’s ill-conceived 53rd & Eastern Mixed-Use Development project. CURV single-handedly stopped the project, saving Davenport taxpayers approximately $85 million in bond obligations, including interest. CURV accomplished this tremendous civic deed with expenditures from their own pockets. This Council had the opportunity to finally put the ordeal behind us by settling the lawsuit with CURV (which is still pending), and declaring victory over this entire issue. Instead, they behaved with inexcusable cowardice, without so much as the courtesy of a response to CURV, one way or the other, and that is where it stands to date. Nothing could have been more damaging to these councilmen, both in terms of leadership and character. They still have time to do the right thing; but will they?

2) The Sentry TIF is unquestionably in the same diabolical league with the Brammer fiasco. This same council, which adamantly declared the elimination of the abuse of TIF as a campaign priority, turned coat and endorsed such abuse when they approved the Sentry Insurance TIF. This is corporate welfare at its worst. But the issue is not over, and there is much to be examined about this particular deal, including the other economic incentives used to accomplish what was clearly a land deal for the benefit of the developers. In addition, it further contributes to sprawl and is being used now to partially justify a significant development of housing (110-plus residential lots) and commercial use north of 53rd Street, between Jersey Ridge and Elmore, that couldn’t be less justifiable if Davenport’s current demographics are considered. The development is currently being considered in Planning & Zoning and should be of great concern to the public. Issues include traffic, population growth and comparative need, impact relative to taxbase, benefits versus cost of services, to name a few. The next meeting on this project is scheduled for Tuesday, January 16, at 4pm in the basement of the main Davenport Public Library.

3) The Council’s inability to settle a zoning issue with private citizen Niky Bowles because of egos. As a result, her research unearthed the case of illegal zonings throughout Davenport since 1997. The matter is still unresolved. Bowles has re-filed for C1 zoning with enough restrictions to render it C0, an acceptable zoning for the property when viewed against the Comprehensive Land Use Plan and existing development around the Bowles property.

Other issues and deals to follow closely include the new Comprehensive Land Use Plan currently in the works; options under consideration for the city-owned property at 53rd & Eastern; increasing council and mayor pay to a respectable amount ($18000-$20,000 and $58,000-$60,000, respectively) to keep and attract qualified people to public office (please support this action at the Goal Setting Sessions on Sunday and Monday, January 14 and 15); the creation of performance criteria for all city department heads; filling the position of City Administrator; monitoring the actions of the Greater Davenport Redevelopment Corporation (GDRC); monitoring the Davenport Museum of Art to protect taxpayers’ investment and to maintain the museum as a municipal entity; monitoring the VIP application and any funding that may result; closely scrutinizing the Davenport School District and their budgetary activities; the implementation of sustainable growth principles and ordinances for future growth in Davenport; and the list goes on. Accountability is the name of the game, and the only way accountability is achieved is through the public’s involvement, vigilance, and insistence.
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