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|What an Elected Official Should Not Be|
|Commentary/Politics - Editorials|
|Tuesday, 07 May 2002 18:00|
Davenport Aldermen Barnhill and Moritz reluctantly voted against a proposed mixed housing development along North Pine Street, between Valley and 58th streets, during last Wednesday’s regular council meeting. The vote appeared inevitable, especially after Mayor Brooke expressed his assurance that the development would fail with such a high protest rate (never mind the inappropriateness of the development for the neighborhood, or the water retention problem that duplex construction could potentially create).
Even though they voted against the project, both aldermen maintained it was a good development without giving a single reason for their support. Conversely, the neighbors adroitly explained precisely why it was not. (The neighbors objected to the developer’s proposed 67 townhouses and 14 duplex condos that were included with 38 single-family homes on approximately 32 acres.)
Nine aldermen voted with the neighbors this time, which stopped the development from occuring—all except one, of course. No one ever personified what an elected official should not be more than Alderman McGivern. Not only did he vote against the neighbors, unabashedly favoring the developer for the umpteenth time, he managed to fully disclose his disdain for Davenport’s property owners in a prepared speech that showcased his despotic philosophy of governing:
“I would like to remind the council that city staff recommended this development…the Plan and Zone Commission unanimously approved it. The problem is at the city council level. Most of us waffle because the neighbors scream loud enough and we vote. That’s the truth. There has not been one bit of dialogue up here tonight about the merits of the land use.” [Excuse me, but when has Alderman McGivern ever entered into any discussion about the merits of land use in the context of development proposals before the council?]
“It’s all been about how loud the neighbors can scream or a level of trust. That’s not our job. Our job is land use, policy, making decisions—and we failed. By defeating this tonight, we take another step in pushing development to cornfields, where no one can protest. That’s the truth. By defeating this, we create an environment where developers won’t bring new products to town. Davenport will become more of a town where it is a great place to work and shop but not live. That is the truth.” [This coming from the city council’s strongest advocate of urban sprawl and paved-over cornfields.]
“We are not at loggerheads with the neighbors and developers. The neighbors are at loggerheads with themselves. They want to say no and that is all they want to do. The developer did make a mistake. He should have hired an attorney so his words and ideas could not be misconstrued.” [Gee, Bob, any suggestions on whom to hire?] “That’s the truth. We lose this kind of development not because of the process, not because of staff or Plan and Zone, but because the city council fails to lead.”
What Alderman McGivern means is that the city council failed to take his lead in approving any and all development regardless of the consequences to existing properties. As for the “truth,” he wouldn’t know it if it bit him on the nose. Alderman McGivern is perhaps the single most shortsighted individual occupying an aldermanic seat in Davenport. Certainly, he is one of the most narrow-minded. He has become almost Gregorian in his relentless chants endorsing development of any kind. Davenport is experiencing a run on development, good, bad, and ugly. Alderman McGivern supports the large majority of it without a current comprehensive land use plan, or the necessary cost-benefit analysis per development to determine if any of it is sustainable. Sadly, with zero population growth in Davenport, for new development to survive, established neighborhoods must necessarily perish. Alderman McGivern ignores this economic reality.
The community spirit demonstrated by the North Pine neighbors in protecting their land was an obvious annoyance to McGivern. He couldn’t have been less interested in what the residents had to contribute, or the factual information they provided him that exposed the proposed development as a potentially unfit “land use.” Instead he characterized them as “screaming loud enough.”
The positive outcome of all this is that the North Pine neighbors organized and did their homework to protect their properties. These residents armed themselves with the facts, so in making their case they could not be ignored. They should be thoroughly applauded because they are true civic heroes. The protest rate was 69 out of 125—more than 50 percent. Three neighborhood meetings could not resolve the differences between the residents and the developer. There may be room for improved negotiations at this level of the process. Contrary to Alderman McGivern’s assessment, resolution can usually be had when parties come together with a common goal of improving property values rather than degrading them.
Even though nine aldermen dimly voted against the mixed housing project based on the protest rate rather than the appropriateness of the development, it is still a victory for the North Pine neighborhood. And it is a wonderful testimony to what citizens can do together to protect themselves from self-serving politicians such as Davenport’s 6th Ward Alderman, Bob McGivern. That’s the truth!
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