On Monday July 14, 2014 Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba hosted a roundtable discussion at the Davenport Public Library. The purpose of the meeting was to address the influx of migrant children coming in from Central America into the United States and how a Quad Cities based "Caring Cities" campaign could assist.

The meeting was approximately 50 minutes long. This video has been edited down to 17 minutes.

In attendance and identified on the video are:
Mayor Bill Gluba, City of Davenport
Glenn Leach, Davenport Catholic Diocese

Mike Reyes, League of United Latin American Citizens

Cheryl Goodwin, President Family Resources
Mr. Ortiz, Outreach and Community Enrollment Coordinator for Community Healthcare
Rick Schloemer, Scott County Housing Council
Stephanie Lynch, Doctoral Candidate University of Iowa
Amy Rowell, Director of Moline World Relief
Byron Brown, Retired ARMY, CEO at TGR Solutions

[Note: Not every individual seated at the table is identified by name in the video. We are happy to update this story with any missing participants.]

Hunger is a human problem with millions of faces, but two related numbers can illuminate the size of the problem in the Quad Cities - and the heartwarming community generosity that's fighting it.

The first number: Christian Care served nearly 56,000 meals last year at its meal site, according to Executive Director Elaine Winter. The second: "Our budget [for food] is about a thousand dollars a year," she said.

The site at 2209 Third Avenue in Rock Island serves 19 meals week. (There's no lunch on Saturday or Sunday.) On average, then, it was feeding more than 57 people per meal. The cash cost per meal? Less then two cents.

What this one site illustrates is that food assistance beyond what taxpayer-funded government programs provide is a real, persistent need in the Quad Cities. And the community - through churches, charitable organizations, and individuals - has been meeting the need.

The bad news is that hunger appears to be growing.

The grim math for Hope Creek Care Center is pretty simple. Changing it is not.

Right now, the 245-bed Rock Island County-run nursing home in East Moline is paid $127.48 by the State of Illinois for each Medicaid recipient it houses. The cost to care for each person, said Administrator Trudy Whittington, is $200 a day.

And because by law government-run homes can't turn away Medicaid recipients, typically more than 60 percent of Hope Creek residents are on the state/federal public-aid program.

So Hope Creek is nearly $4 million in the red each year from that disparity alone, and the current property-tax subsidy for the nursing home doesn't cover it. And that doesn't even consider other factors related to state government - such as late reimbursements and delays in approving Medicaid applications.

In that context, Rock Island County officials on October 10 bluntly announced that "after providing an option for the long-term-care needs for residents of our county since 1839 in one capacity or another, the county is looking to divest itself from the nursing-home business due to forces beyond our control that have made that commitment impossible to continue. ... The Rock Island County Board will take official action at their November 19 meeting to explore the potential of leasing or selling Hope Creek Care nursing home."

That statement brought immediate backlash - by the union representing Hope Creek workers, and by people concerned about the fate of Medicaid recipients who live at Hope Creek or might need to in the future. The county quickly retreated, and County Board Chair Phil Banaszek appointed an ad-hoc committee to look at other options.

Whittington said selling or leasing Hope Creek is Plan D and Plan E at this point - but the county would be remiss if it didn't do its homework on those alternatives. "We have to start looking at what Hope Creek's options are," she said last week. "If we don't do something, those may become our only options. ... That is ... our last resort."

The Rock Island County Board could as soon as its November 19 meeting take some sort of action on Hope Creek. The most likely course is approving a referendum question for the November 2014 ballot to raise property taxes in 2015 to further subsidize Hope Creek.

Developer Tim Baldwin in the Democrat building. The skylight, he said, will be integrated into the design of one apartment.

It would be natural to look at the volume of housing being developed in downtown Davenport and infer some coordinated process or a major new incentive program. Roughly 300 market-rate apartments are either recently finished or in the development process.

There's undoubtedly a trend here. The Downtown Davenport Partnership - part of the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce - noted in its strategic plan from earlier this year that "nearly 100,000 square feet of office space is currently planned for conversion to residential units."

That includes 11 different projects from seven different developers.

And while the Downtown Davenport Partnership has been a key player, its director - Kyle Carter - said his organization's role has been to "help guide that process. Not own it, guide it. ...

"We always give advice when these developers are shopping," he said. "But the vast majority of those plans are developer-driven. If anything, I'm the tour guide. I'm the guy that is showing the buffet of options down here. So I will certainly push for projects that I think are more catalytic, or locations that will have bigger benefits for the whole down here."

In other words, local government, a downtown organization, or a plan with the scale or taxpayer cost of River Renaissance isn't behind this housing boom. It's largely happening on its own.

This past weekend, we brought our daughter to Davenport's Putnam Museum and did the full tour. We saw Flight of the Butterflies 3D on the Giant Screen, walked through the new Bodies Revealed show, and saw all the cultural-, regional-, and natural-history displays that visitors have known for decades, from the mummies to the Asian artifacts to Bix's cornet.

But what kept Emily's attention was the Spark Learning Lab, a modest career-themed room with the goal of preventing high-school drop-outs.

Our daughter is five and in no danger yet of dropping out of any school - or pursuing any career beyond princess-ing. And the Spark Learning Lab is geared toward fifth- and sixth-graders. But she loved the lab's drawing program with the dual touch screens (one on the computer and one where the picture was being projected), the construction-plank set (which she's playing with on this issue's cover), and the feature that allows visitors to build tube structures and - with the help of a blower - either launch table-tennis balls or keep them aloft.

One station in the room lets visitors connect batteries to simple electrical devices, and another shows how structures they build with Lincoln Logs or those aforementioned planks might fare in an earthquake. The "concentration station" fosters communications skills, as one person describes a block structure and a partner tries to build its twin using verbal instructions alone.

If you want to see where the Putnam is headed, you can look at the conceptual drawings - posted in several locations - of its planned STEM learning center. The $1.5-million project is currently in the fundraising phase, and the museum expects to open it in June 2014. Putnam President and CEO Kim Findlay said adding the STEM center to the Putnam now is "the right time and the right thing for the community and the museum."

But you'll get a hands-on sense of the Putnam's direction in the Spark Learning Lab. Larger-scale hints are available in the interactive components of the current Destination: Space exhibit, with its compressed-air tennis-ball launcher, and a bicycle wheel and rotating platform demonstrating angular momentum.

Implicitly and explicitly, all of these draw a line from playful exploration to science to careers, and that's what the STEM center will do on a much grander level. It's an attempt to transform the nearly-century-and-a-half-old Putnam from "nice to necessary," to use a phrase that's common in the museum field these days.

At a recent visit to the Family Museum's new Fox Hollow, there was a robber at the grocery store, grabbing (fake) money and announcing his deed. This probably wasn't what leaders of the Bettendorf museum wanted to happen with their renovated facility, but dictating any aspect of open-ended play is antithetical to the enterprise.

So Museum Director Margaret Kuhl laughed when told about the Fox Hollow crime wave.

"We don't have any police officers on duty," she conceded. "Maybe somebody from the fire department could have helped. ... We have that neighborhood concept of everybody looking out for each other."

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.

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.

(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.

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.

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