Bob Murdock at the 2015 HAVlife Martini Shake Off. Photo by Joshua Ford (Ford-Photo.com).

When Bob Murdock died on June 6, the outpouring of shock and grief was stunning. Many of us knew him as the stalwart bartender at Blue Cat, but these remembrances testify that he was so much more.

Bob Murdock at the 2015 HAVlife Martini Shake Off. Photo by Joshua Ford (Ford-Photo.com).

The River Cities’ Reader’s 2016 Summer Guide – featuring more than 1,400 events through August – is on stands now. Pick up a copy today!

2016 Summer Photo Contest

The River Cities’ Reader’s summer photo contest has returned, with three new categories for your submissions: “Red,” “White,” and “Blue.”

Illustration by Nathan Klaus and Freepik

The national Tax Foundation wants the Iowa legislature to perform a little magic.

Peter Eldridge Bawden, LaMark Combs, Thomas Gibbs, and Tim Lane

The River Cities’ Reader asked the five candidates for Scott County sheriff to answer three questions in advance of the June 7 primary election.

iStockphoto

In his annual “state of the judiciary” speech to the General Assembly in January, Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark S. Cady highlighted a new initiative.

“Three counties – Johnson, Linn, and Scott – are collaborating with Georgetown University on juvenile-court pilot projects,” he said. “These projects seek to eliminate racial disparity in the juvenile-justice system and its adverse consequences to our state.”

Orascom's Lee County facility

On April 7, three of the five Scott County Supervisors – Carol Earnhardt, Jim Hancock, and Tom Sunderbruch – approved a stunningly short-sighted change to the Scott County Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) that allows for spot zoning anywhere in the county’s unincorporated areas. Supervisors Diane Holst and Brinson Kinzer respected the community-at-large’s wishes and voted against the change in the spirit of true representation.

The county’s current Agricultural Preservation Zoning District prevents spot zoning – developments that don’t conform to the surrounding land use – on any agriculture property outside city limits. But the three supervisors provided the necessary votes to begin the approval process for a new zoning designation called an Industrial Floating Zone (IFZ) to skirt that protection. April 7’s vote was the first of three readings over the next four weeks that will change the CLUP to allow the county and Quad Cities First – the economic-development arm of the Quad Cities Chamber – to market prime farmland for a “megasite” (1,000 acres or more) to potential industrial operators.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority established 17 regional marketing groups – including Quad Cities First – to help attract industrial development to Iowa, and it’s offering marketing grants of up to $50,000 per project. The fund expires in November, so the pressure is on to get the IFZ passed before that deadline. (See RCReader.com/y/ifz1.)

The Greater Davenport Redevelopment Corporation – a partnership of Scott County, the City of Davenport, the Quad Cities Chamber, and MidAmerican Energy – owns and operates the Eastern Iowa Industrial Park, but it’s running out of sites to market, and none is large enough to qualify as a megasite. Ergo the Industrial Floating Zone, which by circumventing current protections for prime farmland will open up the entire unincorporated county to potential industrial development.

And this is precisely what makes the Industrial Floating Zone so egregious. Most counties and municipalities allocate specific acres of property for site certification as a megasite. Certification criteria demand that qualifying properties have infrastructure already in place. With the IFZ, this is not the case. It’s all up for negotiation, and no surrounding properties are protected from the intrusion, leaving an entire rural community economically insecure going forward. And county residents can bank on their tax dollars paying for necessary infrastructure as part of the incentives used to entice an industrial operation here.

The Sesser Egyptians circa 1940. Gene Moore is in the back row, fourth from the left.

Gary W. Moore had lots of dots to connect about his father’s life. The problem was that, for many years, Gene Moore refused to talk about them.

Illustration by Nathan Klaus

In a recent interview, Rock Island County Board Chair Ken “Moose” Maranda trotted out an old saying: “County government is only as good as the taxpayers want it to be.” He continued: “And that’s because of statute. Everything has to go to the public.”

Somewhat charmingly, Maranda actually says “statue” when he means “statute,” but his meaning is still clear: Because Rock Island County is not a home-rule government, it’s constricted by state law in ways many municipalities are not. So if it wants property-tax revenue beyond state caps, it has to get approval from voters via referendum.

If the City of Rock Island is unwilling to devote the resources to operate and upgrade the Hauberg Civic Center, it’s hard to imagine a better owner than Bridges Catering.

Bridges – now based in Princeton, Iowa – is an established family company whose owners have deep roots in Rock Island. It plans to renovate and maintain the Hauberg mansion consistent with its historic character, expand public access, and use the site for both food preparation and events with fewer than 100 people. Shifting the mansion, its carriage house, and grounds into Bridges’ hands would add property and sales taxes to Rock Island’s coffers, and eliminate from the budget an event-rental facility (operated by the Parks & Recreation department) whose financial performance is in the red and getting worse.

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