The Times' June 29 editorial was off-base by a wide margin. I and other city leaders value our employees and know what a good job they do. Our frontline service providers, our support personnel, and our managers are all doing more with less, and I know our citizens appreciate their efforts. However, it is an inescapable fact that personnel costs are the bulk of any city budget (80 percent of our operating budget, public safety expenses 58 percent of our general fund). That the Quad-City Times promoted the pursuit of staff efficiencies and health-insurance contributions and then took us to task for having such discussions with our employees was two-faced. With 30 positions cut in the past two years and health-insurance contributions already kicking in, our employees are stepping up to meet our fiscal challenge, which has been ignored by the Times.
As for the notion that stopping our progress on capital-improvement projects may be a solution, this rests on a false premise and raises false hope. The recent state action affects the city's general fund, not our revenue sources that finance capital improvements. We cannot simply ditch the Skywalk or Figge Arts Center or John O'Donnell Stadium or a new police station or the $41 million committed to streets and sewers in our capital-improvement plans and use the money elsewhere. Not only are capital-fund revenue sources not able to be transferred to operating accounts, we are bound by law to honor our River Renaissance and other contracts (to say nothing of the 73-percent voter approval of the program and that the skybridge is funded 40 percent directly from gaming sources and the rest from monies generated by gaming-tax revenues). A failure to perform any part of our River Renaissance contract would require us to forfeit the entire $20- million Vision Iowa grant.
Cutting back on capital improvements is also just plain foolish. Capital dollars are the catalysts for new private investment. Davenport held back for decades and the result was stagnation. Now that we're moving forward and have momentum, it would not be wise to cancel the attractions we are building. That would drive away people who can afford to move to more inviting locales, and we would stagnate again, in an ever-downward spiral of declining tax base and rising taxes.
The city council members and I recognize these are tough times, but Davenport is a great, resilient city. Working together, we can plan for the future and meet any challenge.
Charles W. Brooke, Mayor