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Maximum Obfuscation: Rock Island County Asks Voters for a Blank Check; You’d Never Know It from the Referendum PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Local News
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 24 January 2013 08:33

If a government body wants to spend tens of millions of dollars for a construction project, there are lots of ways to gauge the public temperature.

It’s hard to imagine a more roundabout approach than the one chosen by the Rock Island County Board.

Last week, the board voted to put a referendum on the April 9 ballot, and if your eyes glaze over while reading it, that might be the goal. The measure asks: “Shall the County Board of The County of Rock Island be authorized to expand the purpose of The Rock Island Public Building Commission, Rock Island County, Illinois to include all the powers and authority prescribed by the Public Building Commission Act?”

Of course, most people don’t know what the Rock Island Public Building Commission is, or that it even existed – let alone its current or potentially expanded authority.

And there’s no way to know from the words what the endgame is. There’s no mention of a new or renovated county courthouse or county office building, or of a location, or of a price tag – which could be anywhere from $13 million (the low estimate for a new court facility alone) to $50 million (the high estimate for a new courthouse and county office building in downtown Rock Island).

In short, the referendum appears designed for maximum obfuscation – a seemingly innocuous question about an obscure public body. The move could easily be interpreted as a deceptive attempt to gain public support for something the public otherwise might not support.

 
How Public-Safety Pensions Are Increasing Your Taxes PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Local News
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 02 February 2012 06:25

State public-employee pension systems are grossly underfunded in general and are financial time bombs for most states. According to the 2010 paper “Are State Public Pensions Sustainable?”, 31 state pension systems will run out of money by 2030 at current benefit and funding levels. (Illinois topped the list, going broke in 2018; Iowa is in better shape than most states, with an estimated expiration date of 2035.)

What’s happening in cities across Iowa with police and firefighter pensions, though, shows the flip side – the short-term budget pain that accompanies a well-funded system when investments perform poorly.

In Davenport, the cost of police and firefighter pensions will increase from roughly $3.3 million in Fiscal Year 2010 to $5.5 million next fiscal year and an estimated $6.6 million in Fiscal Year 2014, according to city Budget Director Alan Guard. Over the four-year period ending in 2014, Guard said, the cumulative additional cost is $7.75 million.

In Bettendorf, the cost of police and fire pensions increased from roughly $747,000 in Fiscal Year 2010 to $1.22 million next fiscal year and an expected $1.36 million in Fiscal Year 2014, according to City Administrator Decker Ploehn. Over the four-year period ending in 2014, the cumulative additional cost is $1.62 million.

 
Expressions of Survival: The Quad City Phoenix Festival and Christian Care's "Walk the Walk" Raise Funds for Domestic-Violence Awareness PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Local News
Written by Mike Schulz   
Friday, 29 July 2011 06:00

(A sidebar about Christian Care’s August 6 “Walk the Walk” event can be found here.)

Quad City Pheonix Festival organizer Emily JawoiszA celebration of survival in the face of seemingly unbearable hardship, August 7’s Quad City Phoenix Festival – taking place in Rock Island’s Schwiebert Riverfront Park – will find local performers, artists, self-defense instructors, and guest speakers raising funds for area shelters, halfway houses, and domestic-violence awareness programs. And as the phoenix is a mythological bird that famously rises from the ashes to become a newer and stronger version of its previous self, the festival’s name, says organizer Emily Jawoisz, is perfectly apt.

 
New Way: Davenport’s Smart Transportation Plan and Its Roadblocks PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Local News
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 05 August 2010 05:18

In an interview promoting his 2007 lecture at the Figge Art Museum, urban planner Jeff Speck promised that his ideas would be "controversial." He explained to me that "most cities, for better or for worse, are being designed by their public-works departments, who state as the highest objective the free flow of automobiles."

Three years later, the City of Davenport is on the cusp of approving a 10-year comprehensive transportation plan called "Davenport in Motion" that draws from the philosophy Speck promotes. The shock is that it's barely controversial at all.

 
Moritz Improves Election Security, But Audits Require State Action PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Local News
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 08:09

Roxanna MoritzThe irony was clear. Earlier this month, Michael D. Elliott came in third place by one vote in the Third Ward primary for Davenport City Council.

Elliott ran for Scott County Auditor - the election administrator for the county - in 2008 on a platform that included election transparency and integrity, including a push for post-election audits. The recount he requested in the city primary gave him the opportunity to test the system.

The recount returned the same results, and Elliott said by e-mail that he was satisfied with the policies and procedures put in place by Auditor Roxanna Mortiz, who defeated him and Steve Ahrens last year: "The process was thorough and documented. Obviously the counts came out correctly. I was also there at one of the precincts to watch the poll be closed, so I pretty much got to see the entire process in action. I am very confident that the system works as it should. ... Moritz was very open and patient and did an excellent job throughout this small election. I'd say it was a good trial before our larger municipal election" next week.

 
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