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Davenport Alderman At-Large Election Guide PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
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Tuesday, 02 October 2001 18:00
Introduction The October 9 Davenport primary election features a crowded field for both mayor and the city’s two at-large city-council seats. To help voters make informed decisions about the candidates, The River Cities’ Reader sent questionnaires to the seven people vying for Davenport mayor and the five people aiming for the city’s alderman-at-large seats. Their responses are presented in full.

In addition to these races, primary elections will be held in the city’s Fourth and Fifth wards. For more information on those contests, visit (http://www.scottcountyiowa.com/auditor/candidatelist-primary.html). The general election is November 6.

Vote for two candidates. The top four finishers will advance to the November 6 general election, and two seats are open.

What are the three most pressing issues likely to face the city during your term, and what specifically would you support to address them?

Steve Ahrens: Grow and diversify the city’s tax base by aggressively seeking to attract high-wage jobs to Davenport. We need to be competitive by offering responsible, limited incentives to companies that are willing to invest in Davenport. We also need to get on the radar screen of these solid companies.

Focus on a positive, sustainable solution to address streets and sewers. By putting more property on city tax rolls, particularly commercial and industrial property, the city can more adequately fund a long-term, rather than band-aid, solution to streets and sewers. There is also going to likely be an investment cost by the city if we are going to attract people and businesses.

Develop a plan to ensure that our police department has the resources it needs to provide citizens with the protection we need. The trend to civilianize the police department, thus putting more uniformed officers on the street, is a good one. Ultimately, more officers will be needed, and redistribution of the sales tax should be seriously looked at at the appropriate time once we have heard from Chief Bladel.

Roland Caldwell: I believe the three most pressing issues will be dealing with a potential budget deficit, funding infrastructure improvements, and adopting community policing in neighborhoods that are highly impacted by crime.

State rollback multipliers might actually cause a decrease in real tax collections in the next fiscal year despite an increase of 10 percent in the total value of assessed property. Such a decrease would drastically limit the city’s ability to fund vital services. I do not support deficit spending such as practiced by the Davenport School District, nor do I support balancing the budget on the backs of employees. Instead, the city council should require the city administrator to look for savings in administration, such as merging departments. Further, the city should sell the 53rd Street frontage of the land the city owns at 53rd Street and Eastern Avenue. This could save $300,000 per year in interest expenses and possibly recoup almost $1 million in other expenses spent on the 53rd and Eastern project. The council can also set an example of responsibility by limiting spending in the council budget. Aldermen should stop spending tax money on mailings to promote their meetings or city projects that occur in their wards. This is just a form of taxpayer-financed campaigning. The council should also rescind the recent salary increase for the council and thereby save thousands of dollars in the operations budget.

I support maintaining the current level of spending for street repairs, which is double the amount spent two years ago. To address sewer problems I support continuing the newly created sewer maintenance program. I propose seeking a federal grant support to fund the $10 million to $15 million needed for the westside sewer tunnel, as this amount is simply unaffordable for our taxpayers without assistance. To increase the level of spending needed to adequately deal with other sewer problems I believe that we need to seek more public input on funding options. Without more public input there will not be sufficient public support for any option.

The only successful way to adopt community policing is to hire more police. I support pursuing federal Weed & Seed grants for short-term funding. For long-term funding I support a referendum on changing the sales-tax formula to fund more police. We also need to begin the process of building a new police station.

Tina Marie Clawson: The economy as a country and the state is declining and we have declared war; so, our city economy will be clearly the most pressing issue – trying to maintain a balanced budget and keep current services being offered.

Our infrastructure – repairs and maintaining.

A 20-year comprehensive plan, written and implemented.

Jamie L. Howard: I feel the three most pressing issues that are likely to face the city during the next term are the water and sewer inadequacies, economic and community development, and addressing the proposed budget deficit.

Our priority should be to address our sewer and water insufficiencies. The city might have to tap into its bonding authority to address this issue.

Economic and community development is a priority in our city as well. It is a necessity to grow our tax base. This would allow us to spread the costs of services over a wider base and lessen the costs to the individual taxpayer.

With a possible decrease in tax revenue, our city is facing a possible deficit in the budget. We must look at all services and departments and evaluate them to see where they can be more efficient and cut costs. We also need to revisit our health benefits and health-maintenance programs and make necessary adjustments.

Todd Allen Pirck: Streets, sewers, runoff/drainage problems. Cut off development of new sweetheart-deal roads. The city has been collecting a sewer-use fee for more than 25 years, and it’s time to use that money for its intended purpose: to fix the sewers. I have ideas to address flooding problems without creating a new storm-utility tax as proposed.

Public safety. We need to reorganize the fire-department EMS service, invest in paramedic vehicles, stop sending the fire trucks out on medical calls (24 times a day on average), negotiate with medic services to better serve the community. All the ambulances are stationed at Genesis East. We need to convert the fire stations to public-safety facilities that would also include police substations. For many years, I was the lone voice at City Hall hollering for an outdoor emergency weather system, and the only candidate in the last two regular elections to list it in a platform.

Budget problems. I would replace the city council, John Martin (legal department), Clayton Lloyd (economic development), and Jef Farland (leisure services); hire from within staff; reorganize the economic-development department to spark common-sense growth and real tourism; and cut off welfare payments to DavenportOne. These guys are supposed to be our smart business leaders. It’s time that they were made to stand on their own without city handout and work to remove the downtown business tax, which has proven to hurt development. This is a huge reason we have a problem downtown, and DavenportOne’s primary source of power. No more sweetheart deals!

List three specific city services or projects for which you would support increasing funding, even if it required reducing funding to other programs or projects.

Steve Ahrens: Initiate the updating of the city’s comprehensive plan.

Identify and implement a long-term solution to address streets and sewers.

Develop a plan to equip the police department with the necessary resources it needs to be effective.

Roland Caldwell: More police.

Infrastructure improvements.

Tina Marie Clawson: Street repairs – widening Rockingham Road, turn lanes, etc.

Sewer upgrades and repairs.

Police and safety. We are not currently ready to build a new police station, but this is one thing I would like to see in our future plans, with a museum for fireman and police history.

Jamie L. Howard: First of all, I would not want to cut funding from any other program or service, especially if it is working. We have identified our water and sewer inadequacies. We have to explore sources of funding, including the possibility of tapping into our bonding authority.

I feel we need additional police officers to help keep our city safe. I feel that our chief of police should have the opportunity to evaluate his department and give to us his recommendations on how to accommodate the need for additional police officers.

I also feel that renovating John O’Donnell will help us keep minor-league baseball in our city. Hopefully this would generate substantial revenue that can be used for further economic-development efforts.

The three services/projects are tied directly to our quality of life.

Todd Allen Pirck: Police, fire department, EMS substation transformation.

Hire more cops.

If it were clear that a large majority of people in the city opposed a proposal that you strongly favored, what decision would you make and how would you justify it to your constituents?

Steve Ahrens: First of all, I think it is quite difficult to be able to clearly tell when a “majority” of the community has reached clear consensus about a particular issue. That being said, I believe that once elected by the people, elected officials are entrusted to carefully research an issue and articulate their position accordingly. One is never going to achieve complete satisfaction and consensus with every issue. However, elected officials should provide leadership by working toward this end so that we have a better sense as a community about where we are going.

Roland Caldwell: If it was clear that a large majority opposed some proposal, I would not vote for it.

Tina Marie Clawson: My personal opinion about a proposal would take the back seat to the majority whom I would be representing. I would take the people’s side and vote in their favor, if I had a clear majority before me. When representing the people, that would be my justification.

Jamie L. Howard: I believe that if a proposal is needed and all my questions are answered satisfactorily, then I would have to support the project. I would work to share my information with my constituents so they would understand my position. I think most of the problems we have had come from inadequate communication between elected officials and the voters.

Todd Allen Pirck: I will always vote the way the majority of the voters in Davenport want me to. They are the boss, and members of the city council are supposed to be public servants, not dictators. I have a good sense of the wants and needs of our citizens. If I am not elected, it will be more of the continuous cycle of disregarding the views of the public. You won’t see me posing for the cameras. I’ll just make you proud.

What specific proposals would you support to bring genuine economic growth - new jobs that pay well, companies committed to the community - to Davenport? What do you think are the most effective tools available to city government to spur economic development? What criteria should the city use to determine whether a project should receive TIF money or other economic incentives?

Steve Ahrens: As stated earlier, we must be willing to invest by way of offering responsible, limited incentives to solid companies looking to locate in the area. I do not believe we are currently on the radar screen, and we should be. We can offer a well-educated workforce, a growing amenities base, affordable housing, and enhanced infrastructure. The utilization of TIF in our community to secure quality jobs is a positive economic tool in our tool belt. Competition among municipalities in this region is intense, and we need to be able to compete so that citizens of Davenport can enjoy the quality of life in which we would like.

Roland Caldwell: The economic-development tools available to city government are all relatively ineffective. I supported the increase to $10 per hour in the minimum wage an employer would have to pay to qualify for TIF funding. I would also support expanding the availability of TIF funding to service-sector employers who will locate businesses in economically disadvantaged areas to increase employment opportunities or provide services not otherwise available to residents.

Tina Marie Clawson: We have to go and recruit companies to come to the Quad Cities. I don’t believe we should hand out TIF incentives to companies that won’t help with streets and locate in areas of needed development.

The most effective tools for economic development are working with neighborhood groups and supporting equal growth all through Davenport, not just in one area. Bridging east with west, north with south to build our city together, not divide us along ward lines and promises of development for a small percentage of people. Public-private development is the best and will utilize funding from several sources to spur our growth.

Jamie L. Howard: I feel projects like the River Renaissance will help to stimulate economic growth in our community. The AgTech Center proposed in the Vision Iowa plan has tremendous potential to create new jobs.

Businesses look at our workforce preparations, our technology base, and our local schools as critical factors for success in our economic-development efforts. We should market them well.

I base the TIF on two principles. We can TIF new and/or private development that expands our tax base, which increases our revenues. And we can TIF to provide the necessary public improvements to attract the development.

Todd Allen Pirck: I will bring many ideas to be considered, such as a downtown mall, a mini amusement park west of John O’Donnell Stadium, a new baseball stadium next to Brady Stadium, and a west-end shopping center. Every other candidate just votes on staff recommendations. We need creativity, and business knowledge, not more puppets. The best economic-development tool is an open market without the city expending funds. In this current economic climate, we shouldn’t be spending money to encourage new growth that will compete with and hurt existing locally owned business or create a monopoly for influential individuals. No TIFs.

Do you support the full implementation of Davenport’s River Renaissance plan? Which elements do you think are most important for the city’s downtown, and which are least important? Will you encourage voters in the upcoming referendum to support or oppose a county contribution to the plan of $5 million?

Steve Ahrens: I am in full support of the River Renaissance project and will continue to encourage others to support it by voting for the referendum. The most important aspect of the project is that it is a comprehensive plan to jumpstart revitalization for our downtown through tangible features, such as the AgTech Venture Capital Center, which will provide an innovative economic-development boost to our area. However, the most impressive aspect of the River Renaissance project relates to the private-public partnership and coalition of supporters that has been assembled. As our downtown begins to thrive again, these efforts will certainly have long-lasting, positive effects for all neighborhoods in Davenport.

Roland Caldwell: The Vision Iowa Board has required full implementation of the River Renaissance plan to obtain the $20 million state grant. Thus, I support full implementation.

The most vital parts of the plan are building two new parking structures. Businesses have left downtown locations because there is not enough parking, and more will leave unless the city creates more parking. Without adequate parking to boost employment, relative property values in downtown Davenport will continue to decline, and the city will collect less in taxes. This could force a decline in the level of service the city can provide to its citizens.

The River Renaissance plan is a compromise plan. It is a plan that can work to restore economic vitality to the downtown. The plan has drawn forth significant private investment as well as $20 million in state funding. Most of the city funding comes from user fees, mainly parking fees, and economic-development resources, such as funds from the downtown SSMID and TIF districts, which cannot be used for other purposes. Voters should support River Renaissance.

Tina Marie Clawson: I spent time with [Davenport Director of Community & Economic Development] Clayton Lloyd and [Riverboat Development Authority President] Mary Ellen Chamberlin about the project, because I was confused by the whole project. I now feel that if Davenport citizens want the tax base needed to fix our outdated infrastructure, we will need this project to get it going. I think the parking garages are very important. But what really turned me around about the project was the Main Street project. This will be a beautiful addition to our inner city. I encourage people to vote their conscience and do it after educating themselves on this project, not on incorrect facts. I also found out that the art museum will be funded through private sources, and with or without this state money, it will be built. Voting “no” will not stop the vision, only slow it down. But with money so tight, we should consider receiving this funding.

Jamie L. Howard: Yes, I do support the River Renaissance project. I feel the AgTech Center proposal is reason alone to support this project. I feel it is very important to keep revitalizing our economy. I have and will continue to encourage others to support the project as well.

Todd Allen Pirck: No. It’s just more expensive control and welfare for DavenportOne. I feel that the AgTech Venture Capital Center is beautiful, but it is a lie to say that there is no venture-capital money available locally. If it’s really a good thing, it will happen anyway without more taxes, and overall this project is encouraging a foreign-owned corporation to control Iowa ag technology and other local businesses. They are not a bank, they’re not giving loans, and they are controlling foreign partners. I will vote no on the referendum.

What specifically would you like the city to do with the land it owns at 53rd Street and Eastern Avenue?

Steve Ahrens: A resolution to this issue must be found in the near future as it has polarized our community for too long. The consensus where I believe we are able to find this resolution is to retain at least 160 acres for eventual use as a park and green space. The remaining land should be sold. The main focus for this land should be to maximize its use and to manage growth in this area in an effort to provide the greatest benefit to citizens of Davenport.

Roland Caldwell: The city should sell the frontage on 53rd Street for a guaranteed minimum price of $60,000 per acre. If sufficient funds are raised by the sale, Davenport would save $300,000 per year in interest payments and recoup almost $1 million in nonbudgeted expenses spent on the abandoned 53rd and Eastern project. Most of the remaining land should be put to public use for a park, school, or branch library.

Tina Marie Clawson: I would like the city to preserve some of the land for park and recreation. I would like to see a plan that would consider many uses and use wise planning.

Jamie L. Howard: At this point we need to use the service of a professional urban planner.

Todd Allen Pirck: Frontage corner back should become a park – just the basics at first. We can’t afford anything big and fancy at this time. Slowly develop recreation amenities. Existing parks need more attention.

To what extent to do you favor public participation in city-council meetings (e.g., allowing the public to speak on each agenda item, and public with business), and to what extent do you think that participation should be televised?

Steve Ahrens: Active participation by our citizens is critical as we grow as a community. I have consistently supported the airing of public with business because I believe it is valuable as an educational tool for the entire community. In addition, I have found it be very beneficial to hear from citizens prior to each discussion item on the agenda. I do not, however, support charging for access to green sheets, because I believe the city needs to turn to technology and be more creative in our dissemination of information.

Roland Caldwell: I support allowing members of the public to address the council on business items prior to voting on those items. Public with Business to Present should be limited to issues directly involving city government. I do not support creating an unlimited public forum. By law, the city cannot discriminate by viewpoint in an open forum, and extremist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan have taken advantage of the law in other cities to broadcast hate propaganda. All council meetings and meetings of city commissions and boards should be televised in their entirety. Green sheets should be placed in the library and on the city Web site to allow easy access by the public.

Tina Marie Clawson: I believe people should be allowed to speak freely on issues concerning our city. But I do think that citizens should use this time to promote positive messages and not be allowed to disrupt the meetings.

Public with comment should be aired, and I think the mayor (or chair) should have the responsibility to keep control of the meetings and have the ability to stop a person when they’ve gone over the line of decency that has been established.

Jamie L. Howard: I believe strongly in open government. I feel everyone should be allowed to speak publicly on agenda items with time guidelines that would be dictated by the mayor or chair of the meeting.

I feel it should be televised in its entirety if it is doable.

Todd Allen Pirck: Public meetings should be televised in their entirety, without elected officials censoring the public. Most action items require three readings by law, and the public has plenty of time to make their feelings known to the city council. Public with business should remain five minutes. Currently council meetings are constantly out-of-order by the council and public, and not handled in accordance with Robert’s Rules of Order and parliamentary procedures, which are the standards by which public government meetings have been handled in America for a long time. Most of the council just sits there and lets it happen.

How should the city pay for street and sewer repairs the city has identified as necessary?

Steve Ahrens: It is clear that our streets and sewers need to be a top priority. We need to be willing to invest as a city if we are serious about attracting people and businesses to grow our tax base. I would typically support an incremental approach of increasing the amount we spend each fiscal year without any increase in taxes. However, we know that under such a plan, it will be years before the aging infrastructure is adequately addressed. Therefore, I would be open to a viable solution that seriously invests in our infrastructure.

Roland Caldwell: The city has doubled its spending on street repairs in the past two years. We need to maintain this level of spending, and we can do this by allocating funds from the capital-improvement budget. I have addressed sewer repairs in more detail under my answers to the first question.

Tina Marie Clawson: We will have to look at our budget and see where we can pull funding sources from. We might need to implement a fee to help get our sewers and streets up to standards and maintain.

Jamie L. Howard: I would recommend that we first investigate to see if all the sewer fees go directly toward sewer improvements and nothing else. I also feel we might have to tap into our bonding authority to address our sewer and water inadequacies.

Todd Allen Pirck: Cutting off sweetheart-deal roads will leave more money for the priority projects in the existing city. The city currently spends enough on streets and sewers, but not in the right places, and sewer projects lack visionary consideration for certain increased use. The council in closed session killed a project that would have been the biggest project ever in this town, generating more than 500 million in accessible property that would bring infrastructure investment for the rest of the city as it was constructed, and you never even heard about it. So now some other town located along I-80 is going to get this development. It’s just a matter of time.

Do you support ordinances requiring those who do business with the city or receive city incentives to pay employees a living wage? Why or why not?

Steve Ahrens: I support the active recruitment of high-wage jobs to our community. I do not believe that it is appropriate to add additional restrictions on businesses making it more difficult to be competitive with other municipalities, especially in the current economic situation. In addition, I am concerned about the effect such action has on small businesses in our community. When faced with this, the small-business owner might well have to decide which one of his or her employees’ positions will have to be eliminated due to the increased cost to operate. This solves very little.

Roland Caldwell: I supported requiring a living wage defined as a wage of $10 per hour as a prerequisite for obtaining TIF funding from the city.

Tina Marie Clawson: Yes, I supported the “living wage” requirement and fought hard to place it within the Democratic National Platform while serving on the platform committee during the last election cycle.

Jamie L. Howard: No. I have steadily researched this issue, and it is a difficult issue. We all want a well-paid workforce. However, we can’t mandate a situation that would drive local companies into bankruptcy. High labor cost discourages employers from hiring, which means that those workers with limited skills and work experience are likely to be excluded from the job market and/or employers might have to force layoffs. The best thing that the city of Davenport could do is to recruit high-paying jobs so that everyone is awarded the opportunity to have a job that provides self-worth.

Todd Allen Pirck: Yes. Government wages should reflect salaries that at least match the wages we expect private companies to provide.
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