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Two Sides of the Vision Iowa Petition Debate PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Guest Commentaries
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Tuesday, 21 August 2001 18:00
All of Us Deserve River Renaissance by Phil Yerington Congratulations to the people of Davenport, Scott County, and the entire Quad City area! The Vision Iowa Board has committed $20 million to the revitalization of downtown Davenport. The number-one goal established by the citizens of our community over the past two years has been fulfilled! This is truly a time for community-wide celebration.

Never before in the history of our community have the public and private sectors gotten together for an event of this magnitude. This project was organized by many people who want to see our city grow and become competitive with the rest of the bi-state area for new jobs, new activities, and new “places to go and things to see.”

Why is this a project that all of Scott County should support? It’s really very simple. Young Iowans are leaving our state and towns in increasing numbers. Many have told us that “there’s nothing to do here,” and that problem has plagued the entire state. Governor Vilsack created this fund to help solve this situation.

Keep in mind this $20 million is our money in the first place. Vision Iowa funding comes entirely from gambling dollars. Scott County gaming boats contribute roughly $28 million each and every year to the State of Iowa’s tax coffers. Twenty million represents the first money to return to our community from gaming taxes in more than 10 years! This is money dedicated to tourism and economic-development projects like River Renaissance and is not available for things like streets and sewers.

Those pushing the referendum fail to grasp the fact that cities all over Iowa are competing for the very opportunity that a referendum threatens to destroy. Davenport is one of only five cities to receive a Vision Iowa award from the state. There are dozens of cities in Iowa hoping we will reject the money so that it will go back into the pool to give to them to modernize and renovate their cities.

Do the residents of this county really want to reject this $20 million gift? Are we satisfied in being just an “okay” community where arts, music, culture, and recreation opportunities cannot keep up with the wants and needs of our children and grandchildren? This is a tremendous “jump start” to create a place that entices our young people to stay, or at the very least to return when they want to start families. How exciting to have new activities and places for all of Scott County, the state, and the world to visit and utilize as the 21st Century unfolds.

Finally, it’s about pride in our community and taking advantage of our most significant natural asset, the Mississippi, so that future generations will have an inheritance that will inspire them to achieve even greater heights.

Voters Deserve a Chance to Speak

by Richard Moroney

It’s not about the $5 million. It’s about this community’s need for debate and then decision.

In a lot of gathering places in our county – churches, bars, family kitchens, and places like talk radio and the Internet – there’s been plenty of talk about what the priorities of our local governments ought to be. As we all know, talk is cheap. Whatever your opinion of their efforts might be, you have to hand it to Tom White and a group of ordinary citizens who gather at Chuck’s Tap down on Division Street. Starting from few friends at a neighborhood bar and without the benefit of political parties or any organization, they decided to make something happen.

Because of them, a petition is now going around Scott County that aims to force a public referendum on whether the county can borrow $5 million to contribute toward the $113.5 million Davenport re-development project. This project is being paid for partly by Vision Iowa, partly by the City of Davenport, and largely by private funds. Relatively speaking, Scott County’s contribution is a drop in the bucket. Seems everyone agrees the county tax hike wouldn’t be that large. If there’d been a way to force a referendum on Davenport’s contribution, that would probably have been done instead. Tom and the crowd at Chuck’s are playing the only card they’ve got in their hand.

There are a lot of reasons why this re-development ought to go forward. Mayor Yerington and others have gotten their views out through the news media. There are also plenty of reasons why this re-development ought to be stopped and the funds used for other purposes. Those voices, too, have been heard in the press, although not quite so loudly. At this point, the elected officials have made up their minds and made their decision. But this is too important a question to leave it at that. Most of us, like lots of the people down at Chuck’s, have made up our minds, too. This time, it should be all of us making the decision. It’s a sure thing that this re-development will be a major issue in some of November’s campaigns for mayor and city offices. Some candidates might win or lose based on what they say about this project. But by then, it’ll be too late to change anything. Besides, those campaigns will involve so many other issues, including the personalities of the candidates, that it won’t say anything about the community’s priorities. There won’t be a debate solely on the fundamental, critical issue – basic services or development. The politicians try to sell us both, as if tough choices are never necessary. There will be no definitive decision on this particular issue unless the voters get to vote “yes” or “no.” This community gets the debate and then the decision that it needs and deserves only if the people at Chuck’s have their way and at least part of the funding goes to the voters for approval.

Our local politics have been too long divided over questions of fundamental priorities. It’s time to let the voters speak.
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