If you paid attention to the Davenport Promise proposal, the arguments in favor of a 1-percent sales tax for school construction in Rock Island County will sound familiar: This is the way we can be competitive with surrounding areas; this is the way to attract and retain residents; this is what we need for the future workforce.
There are three key differences, however: The Rock Island County proposal - which is on the April 7 ballot - is easy to explain and grasp; the vote will be held in a Democratic and union stronghold; and it involves a new tax, rather than shifting an existing one.
The first two factors should work in favor of the referendum, and it will almost certainly get more support than the Promise, which only garnered 39 percent of the vote on March 3.
But the sour economy hasn't put voters in a giving mood. The Illinois General Assembly in 2007 allowed counties to seek a sales-tax increase for school construction; eight of 10 referenda have failed.
The leaders of the Rock Island County Kids First organization - the primary force pushing for the sales-tax increase - said they are concerned about the Promise results, but they also highlighted the differences.
Deadline for New Iowa Urban Neighborhood District Designation Brings Focus to the Campus to Campus Plan in Central Davenport
The city's news release stated that the Campus to Campus Plan is an "effort to continue the revitalization of the corridor between St. Ambrose University and Palmer College of Chiropractic."
The news release continued: "Representatives from various businesses and institutions within the area have been invited to begin the process by first defining the project area and sharing initial thoughts about how stronger connections can be created. Invited participants include the anchoring institutions of St. Ambrose University and Palmer College of Chiropractic, Davenport Schools, [and] businesses and organizations of the Hilltop area. Wider public participation will be sought once the project’s parameters are further defined through the input gathered at this initial meeting."
Several dozen people including business owners, city staff, and aldermen met from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 5, at J.B. Young Junior High School Cafeteria, 1702 Main Street in Davenport.
What emerged at the meeting was the city's application for a Main Street Iowa designation as an Urban Neighborhood District Program (UNDP) was due in three weeks, and some decisions on project boundaries needed to be made.
The UNDP provides for technical assistance from the state and funding assistance for a full-time project director for three years. The literature provided at the meeting stated that there could be up to four urban neighborhoods accepted into the program in 2009. The program fully adopts the four-point focus of "The Main Street Approach": Organization, Promotion, Design, and Business Improvement.
A paid program director selected by the community is paid for by the Iowa Main Street program, within the Iowa Downtown Resource Center and administered by the Community Development Division of the Iowa Department of Economic Development.
Everyone needs deadlines though, right? And many of these groups have been around for a while; it's time they got coordinated, and this might be the catalyst to make some real progress between three major stakeholders: St. Ambrose, The Hilltop Association, and Palmer College, as well as the several public and private schools within the discussed areas.
The program director would live in the area and help plan and implement the Campus to Campus Plan in conjunction with existing revitalization and beautification entities such as the Edmond Gaines group and the Hilltop Association.
What was at stake were the geographic boundaries of the "Urban Neighborhood." St. Ambrose was the north anchor and Palmer was the southeast anchor, with many schools in between, as well as the Hilltop Association on Harrison Street just north of Central High School.
After breaking everyone up into smaller groups with color-coded maps of the central city, staff were working toward consensus on a geographic area from the stakeholders. The discussion included whether residential neighborhoods were included in these designations. Pam Miner said that it might be necessary to remove residential from these plans, depending on the way the grant is given.
Third Ward Alderman Bill Boom advocated a two-tiered approach, with a contingency for a residential component. The Hilltop Association was identified as a potential source for some matching funding for a full-time project director.
The Main Street application is due April 1. There is a presentation to the state on April 28. Funding announcements will happen between May 18 and 22. The one-sheet issued by the city states that the Next Campus Town Strategy Meeting would be the week of May 25.
Pam Miner, City of Davenport Planning & Economic Development Director "It's not a pot of money they are going to throw at us. It's technical assistance and more resources as far as help. The community is putting in their efforts either in cash or by donating an office space, computer, or telephone. Those kind of things count. The Edmund Gaines project that is already organized to do some lighting -- that can be somehow be creatively put in there as well."
Matt Flynn, City of Davenport Planning Senior Manager "When you have organizations in place, there are a multitude of different programs that look [and ask], 'Well, where is the capacity to move forward?' I think it will give the Hilltop an advantage."
Ron Franz, Hilltop Association and Property Owner "When I sat down, I listened to what was said, and it was strategic gateway and 90,000 vehicles per day. If there's 90,000 vehicles every day over there, I'm going to be excited.
"The next thing I wrote was Urban Main Street designation. To keep focused when I sat down in here, that's what was told to me. So I just want to argue a bit ... we're getting too loud and going to miss our focus if we don't keep to what was told a strategic gateway. I've seen plans for a long time. I'd like to see something happen. A little narrower focus would probably make it happen."
Bruce Berger, Development Senior Manager "Regardless of the grant, I think, if all of you are in favor of these things, this probably needs to happen anyway. It's a lot easier if you have a staff person, and this thing can bring it together. But I think the Hilltop and each organization here has been saying,'Tthis is the kind of thing we need to be doing to get everyone moving forward in a direction.' Our suggestion would be regardless if the money comes through or not, let's keep this momentum going -- keeping the lines of communication going and discussing the improvements and existing ideas and how we can best get them implemented."
The Davenport Promise Referendum was defeated by voters 61% to 39% at the polls, Tuesday March 3, 2009.
The Promise program was modeled after the pilot program started in Kalamazoo, MI. Organizers wished to reallcoate 30% of the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) from the capital improvements fund to a new scholarship fund as an economic incentive for families to move to Davenport. The fund would be used to pay for up to $20K in college tuition for students that lived in Davenport and went to high-school in Davenport 9-12 grades.
The program in Kalamzoo was funded by private donations. The Davenport Promise, as proposed, would have been funded by a portion of the LOST.
Opponents of the Davenport Promise rallied around a new PAC formed by Mark Nelson, called Opt4Better. Opt4Better produced detailed financial analysis refuting the proponents proposed benefits. Opt4Better hosted several news conferences, launched a website www.nomorepromises.com, produced a slide show, recorded presentations, and engaged in a Quad City Times sponsored debate. The over arching theme of Opt4Better's counter campaign was that the proponents over estimated the benefits and underestimated the risks to taxpayers.
The Opt4Better volunteers gathered at downtown Dvenport's Front Street Brewery to watch the election returns. KWQC's Erika Cervantes interviewed Mark Nelson live for the 10 o'clock news cycle.
Over one hundred volunteers turned out from 3-8 pm at the QCCA Expo Center in Rock Island, IL Tuesday March 3, 2009 to help prepare sapling oak and pecan trees to be distributed and planted throughout six states this spring.
The effort is part of Living Lands and Waters 1 Million Trees Project started in the fall of 2007, with goal of growing 1 million trees in the next 5 -10 years.
Education Coordinator, Tammy Becker, stated, "The main motivation behind this effort was to plant trees to create a food source for wildlife. Because over the years we've lost a lot of our hardwoods that produce nuts and fruits. Trees also help clean the air we breathe and when planted near water they help reduce erosion and clean the water before it hits the waterway."
These trees were grown from seeds at a LLW nursery in Beardstown, IL and included six varieties of Oak and one Pecan tree.
According to Programs Coordinator Denise Mitten, organizers and volunteers were working on bagging and sorting close to 100,000 trees over two days. Volunteer efforts continue on Wednesday March 4 from 3 to 8 p.m. and organizers say the advance volunteer call ins for Wednesday's second shift are not as full as they would like.
Volunteers can show up to the QCCA Expo Center at 2621 4th Ave., Rock Island, IL or call 309-236-6279. More info can be found at www.livinglandsandwaters.org