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|New Council Should be Monitored Closely|
|Commentary/Politics - Editorials|
|Tuesday, 04 December 2001 18:00|
Davenport had another dismal civic failure on the part of its citizens with the disgraceful voter turnout for the mayoral race November 6. A pitiful few bothered to vote, practically guaranteeing a continued apathy on the part of our elected officials toward the broader public concerns.
I have little if any sympathy for any of you who did not vote, especially when you chose to abdicate your civic duty regardless of the September 11th disaster. You deliberately and consistently choose to be part of the voiceless herd, and so you shall be.
For the rest of us who voted because it is essential to our democracy, and because by doing so we can initiate change at the grass-roots level, our duty is not finished. We must now be vigilant and hold those we elected accountable in their actions and voting records. Some of the incumbent aldermen were re-elected even after demonstrating the worst possible conduct these past two years. Two of the worst offenders are Aldermen Moritz and McGivern. Alderman Moritz won by a sliver of a margin this time, reflecting the dissatisfaction of her constituency. The results should send a very clear message to Moritz that she is on thin ice with the voters. She declined to participate in the surveys sent to each of the candidates, thereby demonstrating her lack of respect for voters and their right to know her campaign platform. Moritz was highly instrumental in the sudden termination of city attorney Mike Meloy, an abuse of power so vile it makes her presence on the city council offensive to those of us who consider such conduct unacceptable for any elected official. But then none of the other councilmen intervened on Meloy’s behalf, instead burying their heads in the sand even though most disagreed with the action, including Aldermen Englemann, Ambrose, McGivern, Caldwell, and Nickolas. Sadly, nearly all these aldermen have been re-elected. Mortiz’s two accomplices responsible for Meloy’s termination after 21 years of unblemished service, Aldermen Sherwood and Brown, will not be returning to the council. Alderman Brown was defeated by Barney Barnhill, the incumbent alderman he beat in the last election. In fact Davenport has two ex-aldermen from the previous council reseated in this election. While it can be argued that this is a regrettable step backward for Davenport, hopefully Mr. Barnhill and Mr. Vance learned from their past abdications of the public trust and will serve differently this time around.
Alderman McGivern has been consistent in his support of special interests, especially relative to real estate development. Unfortunately, his opponent did not run a very effective campaign, evidenced by the high margin by which McGivern won his race. (It will make for an interesting research project to examine the 6th Ward voting profile, one in which I am keenly interested.) Quite frankly, even I would prefer the likes of McGivern to candidates who don’t make every effort to communicate their understanding of the issues. But make no mistake, Alderman McGivern is a special interest advocate and should be monitored closely in the next two years. Rumors abound about his political aspirations beyond the council, so his continued advocacy may know no bounds. With development at critical mass along 53rd Street, and the series of problems and safety hazards that have been created as a result, we need to take a stand on development in this sector of Davenport. Alderman McGivern’s stated philosophy is that there is no stupid growth, so he cannot be counted on as a steward of the land in his ward. It is more important than ever to begin cultivating other possible candidates for the 6th Ward. This holds equally true for the 1st Ward, especially because Moritz’s voting record very closely mirrors that of McGivern. They, along with Aldermen Sherwood and Brown, comprised the voting clique of four. Now that Sherwood and Brown will be absent from the council, it should prove interesting to see who, if anybody, will replace them in the voting clique. The voting patterns are easily discernible, so it should not be difficult to identify. The Reader will do its best to post the voting records of each of the aldermen so that the public can hold each elected official accountable. The council meetings are televised in all the Quad Cities except Moline, so call the cities for broadcast schedules, or visit their respective Web sites. Residents of Moline should lobby for televising its meetings, as well.
The larger issues to scrutinize are as follows: the public process and progress of the River Renaissance project in Davenport’s downtown, including the new Figge Arts Center, the public skywalk, the parking ramps, the ag-tech venture capital building, but most especially the River Music History Center; the development of city-owned land at 53rd and Eastern Avenue; the progress of the Industrial Park north of town; the ongoing plethora of development proposals before Planning and Zoning, especially as they relate to traffic and safety issues along 53rd Street, not to mention sustainable growth principles and urban sprawl, and the use of TIF and other development incentives; the encouragement of development of the west side of Davenport; the establishment of an updated, functional Comprehensive Land Use Plan as promised that addresses the entire city, not just the 6th Ward; the continued support of a Living Wage in Davenport for businesses that utilize public assistance; flood protection that truly protects without sacrificing the river as one of our primary amenities; stormwater management in lieu of the EPA mandate; much needed sewer repair in the older sections of the city; street repair; the necessity of constructing 67th Street and who it will benefit most; the city’s purchase of the old Wal-Mart store once it is vacated per Alderman McGivern’s proposal; John O’Donnell Stadium and the future of baseball in Davenport; urban housing projects that appeal to a younger and/or hipper homeowner; and contract sales of homes, to name a few of the more pressing issues in Davenport.
Meanwhile, there is a great deal of hope placed in Davenport’s new city administrator, Craig Malin, and his ability to provide the necessary leadership so that the council will have to cease and desist micromanaging our city, especially for the singular benefit of developers. Malin is currently undertaking a project that should redefine development standards for Davenport and hopefully implement guidelines that are progressive, yet affordable, and sustainable, yet practical.
Finally, our new mayor will be “team player” Charlie Brooke. The looming question is: What team? In the spirit of cooperation and good faith, let’s assume the team is all the residents of Davenport, not just the special interests that have prevailed for so long at city hall. There is no doubt that Phil Yerington’s legacy as mayor will be that of reopening the doors of city hall, restoring accessibility to city government to the people. After the dismal closed-door philosophy that characterized his predecessor Pat Gibbs, Yerington is fondly known to Davenport’s residents as the people’s mayor. At a minimum, Brooke must be compelled to maintain this open-door policy. If he is able to expand this to an even greater sense of public ownership and accessibility, then he will surely be embraced as Yerington has been.
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