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Fall 2011 Best of the Quad Cities PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Feature Stories
Written by Administrator   
Thursday, 22 December 2011 08:50

For many years, we asked our readers to fill out surveys to determine the best of the Quad Cities. We gave them categories and lines on which to write, and we tallied the results, and the winners were the top vote-getters in each category.

Our approach this fall was different. We reduced the categories to 20 and asked people to submit Tweets, videos, and short essays in support of their nominations. The aim was to give voice to individuals over the masses, and to allow people to argue for their favorites instead of merely noting them. The ultimate goal was to get past the obvious and automatic responses that seemed to often rise to the top in past surveys – to spotlight hidden gems in the Quad Cities.

Study Vs. Reality: Why Consolidated Dispatch in Scott County Won’t Save Money PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 23 November 2011 06:20

Emergency-response dispatching console, located inside the Scott Emergency Communications Center building at 1100 East 46th Street in Davenport.

Leaders in the consolidation of Scott County emergency dispatch and record-keeping claim a number of benefits: that it has been and will be a good deal for taxpayers; that it has resulted in better interdepartmental communications between emergency responders; and that it will eventually reduce the amount of time between when an emergency call is made and when appropriate personnel are dispatched.

But is it, as originally advertised, saving money?

The answer to that question depends on how you look at it, but for property owners in Scott County, the bottom line is that their tax rates are higher as a direct and indirect result of the consolidation.

The Scott County overall tax-levy rate rose by 90 cents per $1,000 of valuation in Fiscal Year 2011, as the levy for emergency management rose from 5 cents to $1.05 – nearly all of which is funding consolidated emergency dispatch. Scott County dropped its levy rate outside of emergency management, and Davenport and Bettendorf have also lowered their property-tax rates, but the net financial effect of consolidation has been property-tax rates that are anywhere from 65 cents to 90 cents higher depending on where one lives.

911 Whitewash? Leaders Say the Transition to Consolidated Emergency Dispatch in Scott County Has Gone Well. It Should Have Gone Better. PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 10 November 2011 11:00

(This is the first of two articles on the Scott Emergency Communications Center. This piece focuses on implementation problems with emergency-response consolidation. The second part will deal with the price tag and to what extent taxpayers have gotten what they were promised.)

Let’s start with the metaphors.

We’re roughly six months into the transition to a consolidated Scott County emergency-dispatch and -records system, said Davenport City Administrator Craig Malin on October 6. “This is the part of the movie where ... the anxiety is. Then there’s the resolution at the end, and there’s a happy ending. We’re at that point where we’re going to be focusing on what the issues are.”

“In a crawl/walk/run category, we stood up and got wobbly,” said Bettendorf City Administrator Decker Ploehn, also on October 6. “But we’re still standing. But we’re not walking yet. But we’re pretty much not crawling, either. So we’re working our way forward, and we hope to get to running. And I think we’re going to get to running; we’re not there yet.”

The Scott Emergency Communications Center (SECC) brings under one roof – at 1100 East 46th Street in Davenport – what had been four dispatching centers, serving Scott County’s 12 municipal and county law-enforcement agencies, 16 fire departments, and five ambulance services.

All those agencies are now using the same radio system, and law-enforcement agencies are also using a single record-keeping system – both of which allow for improved interdepartmental communication. Agencies went live with the system from early April through early May.

Still to come – probably early next year – is the consolidation of each organization’s dispatchers into a single dispatching entity, and the separation of call-taking and dispatching functions. The latter of those is expected to shave 30 seconds off the time it takes to dispatch emergency responders.

And late next year, Medic EMS will decide whether to fold its dispatching operations into SECC or just continue to have its dispatchers working out of the SECC building.

By the standards of local government, the project is complicated. “It takes a good solid year to iron out” issues and difficulties, said SECC Director Brian Hitchcock, who previously oversaw consolidations in Ashland County, Wisconsin, and McHenry County, Illinois. “Every one of those has issues and bugs that have to be worked out. ... We all wish it could happen overnight.” He noted that every consolidation takes a different amount of time to work through, but that the one-year estimate runs through next April.

The consolidation – recommended by a 2006 study and put into motion by a December 2007 intergovernmental agreement – is also expensive, with capital costs of roughly $28 million. The building itself cost $7.31 million. New portable radios for all agencies cost almost $7 million, purchased without a formal bidding process. Installing a “central electronics bank and associated communications gear into and around the 911 center” cost more than $1.6 million, Hitchcock said. And the dispatching and record-keeping software that has been so problematic cost $2.7 million.

Fall 2011 Best of the Quad Cities: Deadline Extended! PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Tuesday, 11 October 2011 14:15

For years, we’ve asked our readers to complete Best of the Quad Cities ballots with dozens of categories. We’ve always been gratified by the response, but we’ve often felt that something was missing – the obscure, the unconventional, the idiosyncratic.

For the fall 2011 Best of the Quad Cities, we’re scrapping the traditional popular-vote format and allowing nominations by Twitter, video, and essay.

Our “winners” this time around will be the nomination authors – the people who offer the most creative, the most authoritative, and the most compelling arguments and anecdotes in the 20 categories listed below covering the areas of arts, culture, and entertainment; night life; shopping and services; and people. (Each submission should cover only one category, and you’re welcome to submit in as many or as few categories as you want.)

In the interest of getting more entries, we've extended our deadline. All entries must now be received by 5 p.m. Central on Friday, December 2. Our Best of the Quad Cities issue will be published on December 22.

Submission Guidelines

Twitter: Include the hashtag #BestQC followed by a space and the category number. Example: “This is my best argument for the best art exhibit, and I’m making sure that it’s 140 characters or fewer. #BestQC 7” (For some sample submissions, visit

Video: Submissions must be two minutes or less. Post to your favorite video-sharing service and send a publicly accessible link to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with “Best of the Quad Cities” as the subject line. Include your name and a daytime phone number in the e-mail. If you want, also post a link in the comments of this article. Be sure to specify the category in the video or its posted metadata. (For a sample video submission, click here or here.)

Essay: Submissions must be 200 words or fewer and sent to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with “Best of the Quad Cities” as the subject line. Include your name and a daytime phone number in the e-mail. You may paste your essay into the body of the e-mail or attach it as a text, RTF, or Microsoft Word document. Alternatively, you can post your essay on some publicly accessible corner of the Web and send a link to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it using the same rules as above. (If you want, also post a link in the comments here.) However you choose to submit, be sure to specify the category.

Fall 2011 Categories

1) Local band
2) Local venue that books the best bands
3) Local venue with the best sound system
4) Local stage production
5) Local stage performance by an individual
6) Local visual artist
7) Art exhibit
8) Educational exhibit
9) Local festival
10) Best-kept Quad Cities secret for arts, culture, and entertainment
11) Place for drinks
12) Bartender
13) Waiter or waitress
14) Place to meet people that isn’t a bar
15) Place for a first date
16) Place to dance
17) Locally owned store with things you can't find at chains
18) Antiques/collectibles/resale store
19) Auto service
20) Place for a wedding reception

THIS IS THE POLICE. DROP THE CAMERA: Illinois’ Eavesdropping Law Turns Smart-Phone Owners Into Felons PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Feature Stories
Written by Larry McDonald   
Thursday, 09 June 2011 05:47

In Illinois, you could get a lighter sentence for killing a cop than recording one.

Section 14-4 of the Illinois criminal code reads: “The eavesdropping of an oral conversation ... between any law-enforcement officer ... while in the performance of his or her official duties ... is a Class 1 felony.” Under Illinois law, a person is “eavesdropping” when he or she “knowingly and intentionally uses an eavesdropping device for the purpose of hearing or recording all or any part of any conversation” without the consent of all parties to the conversation.

A Class 1 felony is punishable by up to 15 years’ imprisonment. My irreverent sense of the humor often gets me in trouble, but I just can’t contain it here: You could get a lighter sentence for killing a cop than recording one. When Jonathan Posey was convicted of reckless homicide in the 2001 dragging death of Illinois State Police Master Sergeant Stanley Talbot in Rock Island, he only got a five-year sentence for that crime. Good for Mr. Posey, he wasn’t videotaping.

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