Charles Heston’s “Riverfront Organizaiton” Memo Print
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Tuesday, 16 August 2005 18:00
MEMORANDUM DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Date: August 11, 2005 To: Mayor and City Council Levee Improvement Commission Davenport Riverfront Task Force From: Charles Heston Subject: Riverfront Organization After the July 26, 2005 joint meeting between the City Council and the Levee Improvement Commission, Tom Engelmann asked me to make a proposal. I have been staff to the Levee Commission on and off since 1979 and am familiar with, and staff to, the Davenport Riverfront Task Force since its inception in 1984. I am also a city employee since 1974, so I am biased on certain issues, and this memo is meant to be persuasive in certain respects.

Alderman McGivern’s proposals are intended, in my opinion, to bring the issues of riverfront improvement to the surface (which have languished since at least March 20, 2002) before he leaves office as the Sixth Ward Alderman. (This date was when the Commission made a PowerPoint presentation to the Council on funding and communication.) The Council did adopt the Hargreaves RiverVision report on October 6, 2004. Our limited partnership with the City of Rock Island will evolve also. A joint “regional” advisory committee will have its first meeting on August 18, 2005.

The Davenport riverfront above everything else is a “public” asset in the ownership of the City of Davenport. Davenport is a special charter city in the State of Iowa. Through special permissive state legislation in 1911 and 1937, the City of Davenport, through its Levee Commission has control of the bed, banks, rocks and accretions from the ordinary high water mark to the center line (thalwag) of the channel. The City has created land by filling behind local and federal seawalls, and the natural processes of siltation and erosion create and dissolve the edges of the river. I am not an attorney, but I know and can cite numerous examples where the City has exerted its cumulative rights to create, develop, maintain, and protect its riverfront from numerous natural and man made challenges. Finally, Davenport was also the first community in Iowa to implement riverboat gaming in large measure as a tourism and economic development initiative following several recessions in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

Riverfront development has, and will, continue to be a challenge. In part, this is because the community is fractured over what it wants. The basic options are cited below:

1. Natural asset, barren floodplain/mud flat

2. Community park/parkway

3. Multiple use riverfront

4. Public/private redevelopment/support parcel(s)

5. Gaming promotion/support venue.

With 9 miles of frontage and the notion that views to and along the riverfront are important (going as far back as the geologic bluffs of the river flood plain), this political debate will continue.

Also, this debate is about power/control and money/finances. I am not a fan of reorganization. I also believe that the strength of a community lies with its institutions, both public and private. Structurally, Davenport has a strong Council weak Mayor form of local government. When there are issues, we should not create another entity. We should attempt to understand the core problems, minimize the personality issues involved in any debate, and refine the checks and balances that make the process of governing “work.” The following organizations are now involved with riverfront development. I do not believe we need another one as has been proposed.

1. Mayor and City Council 1836

2. Davenport Park (& Recreation Advisory) Board 1898

3. Levee Improvement Commission (LIC) 1911

4. River Action, Inc. (RAI) 1983

5. Davenport Riverfront Task Force (DRTF) 1984

6. Quad City Riverfront Council 1986

7. Riverboat Development Authority (RDA) 1989

8. RiverVision Coordinating Committee 2005

On the financial side, Davenport is not blessed/cursed with families that currently control our public/political processes. In contrast, Hargreaves client lists could also be summarized as follows:

1. Louisville, KY Humana Insurance

2. Chattanooga, TN Heirs of Cocoa Cola

3. Crissy Fields, San Francisco, CA Heirs of Levi Strauss.

There have been successful community fund drives in the Quad Cities, and the riverfront has also been the beneficiary of past grants and gifts. The frustrating part of this equation is that there is a lot of public money generated along the riverfront, but it is not reinvested with any regularity to make this asset grow and prosper. Even the City Assessor since 1998 has looked to the riverfront to generate property taxes on public land. There should be some public commitment by the City Council to lead this initiative, and the level of funding has to be part of the regular/annual process with its other budgeting decisions.

I believe the riverfront will be improved to the greatest extent through a partnership between the City Council, Levee Commission, and Davenport Riverfront Task Force. The responsibilities are listed for each part of the organization. There are checks and balances itemized. I have purposely not tried to codify these responsibilities at this time, preferring a thorough discussion prior to this step.

A. Mayor and City Council:

1. Make annual appropriations to the riverfront through the operating and capital budgets;

2. Meet, monitor, and communicate with the LIC and DRTF;

3. Mayor should appoint members of the LIC with approval of the City Council on six-year staggered terms;

4. Give administrative control of the City leases to the LIC including Seventh Inning Stretch, Isle of Capri, truck yard, and Lindsay Park Boat Club;

5. Approve leases longer than three years on the recommendation of the LIC;

6. Issue bonds for some riverfront improvements;

7. Retain the police power of local government;

8. Assign the staff and coordination duties of the riverfront to the Director of Community & Economic Development under the management supervision of the City Administrator. The Finance Department will continue the role as Treasurer for fund #’s 714 and 740;

9. Retain the power to sell and dispose of land and other assets on the positive recommendation of both the DRTF and LIC.

B. Davenport Riverfront Task Force:

1. Evolve from a community task force to an independent not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization;

2. Receive one-third of the annual operating budget appropriation from the City Council. This may be used for seed money and certain administrative costs only;

3. Contract with fund-raising consultants and some day hire a development/fund-raising staff person;

4. Plan and prioritize projects greater than $100,000 value with consultants and/or city staff. Seek and administer grants;

5. Meet monthly, monitor and communicate with the City Council and LIC. Meet bi-annually in February and August with the City Council and LIC. Prepare an annual report in January and maintain minutes of the meetings;

6. Become an open membership/community organization;

7. When funds are raised and plans and specifications are completed, transfer the project funds to the LIC for contract administration. Cover one-third of the cost of all change orders.

C. Davenport Levee Commission

1. Continue this organization as envisions in the state statues;

2. Membership should be at least 7 members, all of whom are citizens of Davenport and appointed by the Mayor with approval of the City Council. No member of the LIC should hold any other elected or appointed office in the City, County, or State government during, or for one year beyond, their term of office;

3. Receive bond proceeds issued by the City Council for all riverfront improvements, and abate the debt which may be incurred under certain financing situations;

4. Meet monthly, monitor and communicate with the City Council and DRTF. Meet bi-annually in February and August with the City Council and DRTF. Prepare an annual report in January and maintain minutes of the meetings;

5. Initiate projects of a value less than $100,000;

6. Responsible for the administration of all leases and easements, public hearings, and recommendations to the City Council of lease/easement terms greater than three years. May enter into leases and agreements of less than three years duration;

7. Keep lease and easement income in Fund #740 and receive two-thirds of the annual operating appropriation from the City Council;

8. The geographic jurisdiction of the LIC shall be refined to include the north right-of-way lines of Highways 61 and 22 between the east and west city limits and south to the centerline of the channel of the Mississippi River. Funds may only be expended for projects and programs in this geographic area

9. Work with city staff to improve and manage the following programs: riverfront and horticultural maintenance, special events, summer concerts, snow removal, and flood-fighting and clean-up;

10. Administer all contracts for projects and cover two-thirds of the cost of all change orders;

11. Responsible for the maintenance of all assets along the riverfront except streets, utilities, and seawalls.

Please consider this as one of several proposals you receive for discussion. The next joint meeting of the City Council and Levee Improvement Commission is scheduled for Monday, August 22, 2005 at 5:00 p.m. in Council Chambers.
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