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items tagged with City of Davenport

Putting the Brakes on Traffic Cameras: The Iowa DOT’s Regulations Are a Good Start, but the Issue Begs for Legislative Action
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: News/Features

Category: Feature Stories

2015-06-25 11:10:59

Davenport started Iowa’s debate over using cameras to ticket vehicle owners for speeding and running red lights, so it’s appropriate to look at one of its intersections as an illustration of the current situation – 11 years after the city began automated enforcement.

From 2001 to 2004 – before any traffic cameras were installed – Kimberly Road and Elmore Avenue averaged 7.0 red-light broadside crashes per year. From 2011 to 2014 – years when speed and red-light cameras were in operation – it averaged 1.0 red-light crash annually, a drop of 86 percent. The percentage decrease is slightly greater if one only considers red-light crashes in the directions of camera enforcement – east- and west-bound speed and red-light cameras.

From the city’s perspective, this represents clear evidence that the traffic cameras have improved safety at the intersection.

Yet earlier this year, the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) ordered that the City of Davenport turn off traffic cameras at Kimberly and Elmore, which it did in April. While the city presented data on broadside crashes – those in which somebody running a red light was a direct cause of an accident – the state looked at all crashes within 150 feet of the intersection.

And here the picture becomes muddled. In three pre-camera years, total crashes averaged 10.3. The DOT evaluation found 15.5 total crashes per year after camera activation, including 23 in 2013.

Gary Statz, a traffic engineer with the City of Davenport, said those numbers aren’t really in conflict: “In 2013, we had a spike in crashes out there, and I don’t know why, but we just did. So the average of [total crashes] those two years was pretty high, and they came to the conclusion that the cameras weren’t effective ... .

“My argument would be that most of the crashes had nothing to do with the cameras. The red-light crashes were almost nonexistent, but we had a lot of rear-end crashes that were well back from the intersection. Traffic backed up further than people thought, [and they] just weren’t prepared to stop. That seemed to be most of them. ...

“I found the vast majority of the rear-end crashes occurred well back from the intersection” but within 150 feet of it. “We only found three [in 2013] ... that occurred during the yellow or at the beginning of the red. ... When it happens five seconds after it’s red, and it’s 10 car lengths back from the stop bar, you can safely say the camera had nothing to do with it.”

Ultimately, though, the City of Davenport opted not to appeal the DOT’s order at Kimberly and Elmore. “I didn’t really agree with what they said,” Statz said, “but we didn’t argue it.”

This anecdote highlights a few key elements of the present battle over Automated Traffic Enforcement (ATE).


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Davenport’s Planned News Site: A Bold, Unworkable Idea, Repackaged PR, or ... ?
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Commentary/Politics

Category: Guest Commentaries

2014-08-06 15:47:40

How would the City of Davenport have covered the recent vetoes by Mayor Bill Gluba of the Dock development plan and the St. Ambrose University rezoning request for a new stadium? And how would it have covered Gluba’s proposal to bring illegal immigrants to Davenport, which was – to put it mildly – poorly received by the city council?

These were the questions that came to mind with the revelation by the Quad-City Times’ Barb Ickes (on the same day as the vetoes) that the Fiscal Year 2015 city budget includes $178,000 for what she described as “a news-based Web site ... [to] shine new light on positive and negative city happenings.”

It’s clear that the site is an attempt to, at least in part, bypass the traditional news media and speak directly to constituents about good things city government is doing and positive developments in Davenport – without that pesky “other side” of the story. And, given our local television stations’ tendency to air unsourced and vaguely sourced stories, one might infer that another motivation is giving those broadcast news operations easily adaptable material that would warmly present Davenport.

But this idea was also pitched by city staff quoted in the article as “bold” and a “deep dive,” words that suggest ambition beyond marketing. As Davenport Business Development Manager (and former daily-newspaper reporter) Tory Brecht said: “As far as we can tell, no U.S. city has embarked on this effort.”

The news site is supposed to be launched in the next few months, and of course it’s impossible to pass judgment on it without actually seeing the thing.

Yet the twin aims of the initiative seem fundamentally incompatible, and it’s hard to envision how the nobler of these goals can be accomplished given the inherent lack of independence in a city-run “news” operation.

And that’s why I return to the Dock, the St. Ambrose stadium, and the Gluba immigration proposal. These were the city’s big stories last month, and one can’t envision a Davenport news site ignoring them while retaining its credibility. But I can’t for the life of me figure out how it would have covered them.


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How Public-Safety Pensions Are Increasing Your Taxes
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: News/Features

Category: Local News

2012-02-02 12:25:27

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.


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