Thursday, June 22, 2006

Consolidated Dispatch

A multitude of factors go into analyzing the Consolidated Dispatch issue in Scott County. It is tough to summarize in a blog format, but I believe the long-term benefits of a merger is in the best interests for all Scott County residents.

A public meeting was held tonight to review options and this will be coming before city councils and the county board in the near future.

New NFPA regulations and federal mandates are just around the corner for dispatch centers. All centers will need to upgrade. Issues like proximately to hazardous cargo (i.e. downtown train tracks) come into play. The County, Davenport, and Bettendorf all have current centers near tracks that transport "potentially" dangerous cargo. New radios and frequencies will have to be utilized in the coming years and you can bet as technology continues to rapidly evolve this cycle will continue.

This study began because it didn't make sense to buy into these upgrades and build new centers (or upgrade centers) three times: in the city of Davenport, in the city of Bettendorf, and in the County. One central center could do the trick. This has been done in many areas and has worked by improving efficiencies and effectiveness.

The three entities have a window of opportunity, BEFORE the new regulations take place. We are definitely coming to a crossroads. Davenport is scheduled to build a new center at this juncture, most likely in the North-Central part of town. Davenport has already approved dollars in the budget for a new center.

If we pool our resources the taxpayers will be better off in the long run. The study factored in the preservation of all current dispatch jobs. I would assume a new union might form for a consolidated group; also a governing board would (most likely) be implemented.

The major concerns brought up tonight included:

1. A fear for a lowering of the levels of service in certain areas.

My thought is if we have the same amount of folks on the job at the dispatch end of things we should run about the same. The challenge remains after the call is dispatched - then each city or the county is on the hook to provide levels of service (which is an unrelated issue).

2. The compensation/benefits for the dispatchers.

All have been guaranteed same levels of pay. A new union would then work out the benefit details and the union members would need to communicate their goals and objectives.

3. The costs.

All cities are mandated to improve services, with that comes costs. I believe it is better to share the costs versus replicating the costs multiple times.

4. The high number of calls in Davenport versus other areas.

The report showed that Davenport had over one call per resident, while other areas averaged a number under 0.5 per resident. This is a true statistic, but one needs to take this with a grain of salt. Davenport is the hub of the Quad Cities for: shopping, entertainment, restaurants/bars, traffic, and downtown business. Solely Davenport residents don’t make the 100,000+ calls. Folks, that reside in, Eldridge, LeClaire, Bettendorf, Illinois Quad Cities, and every place in between are making these calls as well. People come to Davenport from outside the city limits on a regular basis. These folks have fender benders, shoplift, create situations at bars, and can become unruly at festivals. All of this falls on the backs of the city. I would have preferred that this statistic would have had a disclaimer.

I know all elected officials are interested in looking out for the best interests of those they represent. I truly believe a partnership could be a win/win for all involved. Sometimes, in the QC's, we have "turf issues" there is no question of that. But, we have had some success in working with Rock Island. Moline and Rock Island have partnered on some initiatives. The Illinois chambers have merged, Bi-State's regional commission has grown in effectiveness, and the QC Development Group has formed consensus. All of these models have improved our efforts to partner and work together. Consolidated Dispatch could be the next step in this direction. It is my hope that we are able to turn this idea into a reality.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Open City Meeting/Idea Session, June 27th, 7 pm

I will be hosting an Open City Meeting - Idea Session in the 6th Ward, from 7-9 pm, Tues., June 27th, at the Duck Creek Park Lodge (Intersection of East Locust and Marlo). The lodge is the brick structure located just N of the main entrance into Duck Creek Park, a couple hundred yards N of East Locust.

The meeting will be split between current topics before the city and an Idea Session to generate your thoughts or ideas to strive for a better Davenport. I hope to have some city staff folks on hand, as well as another alderman or two. The meeting is open to individuals from throughout our community. Questions may be directed to me via email at or by calling 508-2842.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Tourism in our Own Backyard

Anytime a community can bring dollars in from beyond its' borders it is a benefit to the local economy. This can come in many forms: new developments, re-investments in existing properties, or through visitors to a given city. Cities that are able to rake in the dollars on all three fronts reap the most substantial benefits. Davenport has welcomed a number of new developments during the past 10 years and re-investments are gaining momentum. However, one might argue one of the fastest routes is through the promotion of tourism.

The topic merits discussion, I noticed this topic on a couple of blogs recently and after all, it is "the season."

Our tourism numbers are on the rise, according to the QC Convention and Visitors Bureau. Just last year, 300,000, overnight reservations were booked in Davenport hotels. This generated $1.2-million in hotel/motel tax. These visitors inject millions into the local economy, spending dollars in our city that would have been spent someplace else.

The peak tourism season is just around the corner. Events like Sturgis on the River and the Midwest League All Star Game are due up in the next few days. Red, White, and Boom, the Blues Fest, street festivals, the Farmer's Market, the Bix Run and Bix Fest, the Mississippi Valley Fair, the Rib Fest, and the River Roots Live Festival are all additional examples of coming attractions. Some fly into town, others drive many hours, and still others come from surrounding counties to spend money in Davenport. The Fair, alone, averages over 30,000 visitors a day during "Fair Week."

In addition to this, conferences and conventions do come to town and use our facilities. The National Trials Symposium is an example of this and will be coming to Davenport this fall.

We have new attractions that we, as a city, should use as assets to promote our town: the IMAX, John O'Donnell, the Figge, the Bucktown Arts Building, the RME, the Skybridge, the Rhythm City Casino, revitalized parks, and an excellent trail system. Word is getting out that Davenport has more to offer, earlier this spring the Figge, which had 60,000 visitors during its' first six months, was featured on the cover of the 2006 Iowa Tourism Guide. The RME has shown recent signs of success with a half dozen sold out shows in the new Redstone Room.

Despite this success, I know many in the community believe we could do better. Some have mentioned marketing Davenport as "Iowa's Front Porch", still others believe River Vision holds the key to additional success, and others have told me the city should do more to strive towards hosting sporting events (i.e. ASA Softball).

Of course, a happy medium exists. Cities are challenged with providing numerous services in addition to amenities, while maintaining low tax/fee structures. A beautiful downtown is one thing, but you have to strive towards re-establishing neighborhoods as well. Citizens, obviously, count on police, fire, public works, and other services as well.

Heated debates have ensued on many of these topics. But, we do have options that cost little money. For example, providing a cleaner city that is friendly and welcoming, a more professional and efficient government and city workers. All of this adds up in the long run. If we are able to accomplish some of these goals, success for amenities will grow, and word will continue to spread about Davenport being a fun place to visit.

What are your thoughts on tourism? What events do you think Davenport could attract? Do you have a favorite amenity? How do you perceive tourism in Davenport? Please feel free to log in, thanks!

Friday, June 09, 2006

"A VERY good thing" for Davenport ....

The Roosevelt Community Center, and park, is a simple concept and a VERY good thing for Davenport.

Everything about the RCC centers on building a neighborhood and a community in the 1st Ward. The center, and surrounding park area (Harbor Road Park), exudes life day in and day out. Children play on the playground equipment, kids are hooping it up on the basketball court, and hundreds of children play on some of the best baseball and softball fields in town. And this all occurs outside the RCC.

Step inside to the former elementary school and you have a re-use at its' finest. The school has transformed into a community center with no shortage of activities: tumbling, martial arts, dance, after school programs, an egg hunt, bike safety programs, arts and crafts, cheerleading classes, and camps are all offered. In addition to this, the center hosts community meetings. The RCC is a flurry of activity to say the least. The Boys/Girls Club is also considering a move into the facility.

The RCC is an anchor within the Garden Addition; a proud neighborhood that has dedicated efforts to spruce up this corner of West Davenport. The people are friendly and have strong work ethics. This is evident by the stronger bonds forming with parents and the children. It might not be picture perfect, every neighborhood has its' challenges, but this neighborhood is doing things the right way. Pro-active efforts to reach out to the community and do the right things are quite evident.

Now the RCC is forming a committee to oversee and direct operations. The committee has an exciting vision that looks at the big picture and strives for the next level. Robbin and Rick Dunn are two of the leaders in the Garden Addition and have helped make sure the RCC continues down a path of success. With assistance from the Parks & Recreation Department and former alderperson Roxanna Moritz a foundation has been laid.

The RCC, and park, can be a model for other areas of the city. It is my hope that more centers, such as this, emerge and reach our children at the pivotal age to help them turn a corner and understand a true sense of community at a young age. I attended a meeting, earlier in the week, the RCC is looking to add landscaping, develop a community garden, and expand parking. These efforts are something I will support to the best of my abilities.

I am pleased to say this group is well on its' way to setting the standard for other neighborhoods and I genuinely thank them for their efforts!

More info:

1220 Minnie Avenue
Intersection of Minnie Avenue and South Concord St.
(Between Rockingham and West River)

Monday, June 05, 2006

The "Historic Shopping District" in the Village

Seeing the "Historic Shopping District" designation move toward official council approval has been satisfying throughout the course of the past week. I am hopeful this will pass through the final stages of our voting and come to fruition. The purpose is to "preserve and enhance the small scale or historic character of certain older commercial neighborhoods." The initial target has been the East Village, but the HSD designation could be implemented anywhere throughout the city. City staff has worked hard over the past few months with Village businesses, and ward alderman Bill Lynn (5th) and Charlie Brooke (6th) for a total team effort.

The Village is alive and well. This designation could help build the next layer upon its' foundation. Just Monday night, I walked through the park and noticed - about 75 folks at the softball field, 20 on the basketball courts, cars parked all up and down 11th St., and some busy staffers at a campaign office. I'd guess, at least, 200 people enjoying the Village on a Monday night. All the ingredients for success are here: a beautiful park (Lindsay), scenic views of the Mississippi, and a collection of buildings dating back to the late 1800's. The business offer a wide variety of options: from day spas, bars/restaurants, art galleries, a candy/ice cream parlor, professional offices, a coffee shop, a financial services office, bank, dance studio, a water taxi stop, and more. Over 90 businesses call the Village home. The Village also plays host to art fairs, car/tractor shows, Civil War re-enactments, and a Christmas festival.

Granted the HSD designation did grow out of controversial new use to Turner Hall, but, in my opinion, this is the right direction to head for the long term stability of this neighborhood - one of the unique historic shopping neighborhoods left in the city. Perhaps this will open the door to new small and historic districts in other corners of our city.

The protest rate for the re-zoning and designation was a mere 0.6%. Obviously, this is something the folks in the surrounding residential neighborhoods support.

The Village was founded in 1851 as a pre Civil War logging town. Five years later the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi was built just south of here. The Village was the site of Camp McClellan in the 1860's, holding training grounds and prisoners from numerous conflicts. Over time the commercial businesses became established and residential areas grew around the area in the early 1900's. Businesses have come and gone, but the buildings have been preserved and in 1980, the Village was named to the National Registry of Historic Places.

The area has a great deal of potential to take the next step. Many businesses have started by re-modeling and preserving the historic nature of the area. The city has moved forward with improvements on the Eastern Gateway of River Drive.

This is a true part of our history. I'm supportive of new developments in other areas of Davenport, but the Village is unique and is a special place for many. My only wish is that this would have been done sooner, before some of the mass demolitions we had in years prior in other parts of town.

Galena has done well to establish their older parts of town; perhaps we will be able to ramp up closer to what they have to offer in the Village. After living out East for a number of years, I was impressed by the extra emphasis to preserve history. Areas like the Village have character and charm. This is a step in the right direction; hopefully we will be able to identify more HSD's in Davenport as time moves forward.

What are your thoughts for other potential HSD's in the city or improvements to the Village or Lindsay Park? Do you have any pros or cons for the new HSD designation?

More info, on the Village, is online at:

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Out and About/5th & 7th Wards

I spent my Thursday evening and Saturday morning out and about in the 5th and 7th Wards. I am supporting the petition drive to place the 4-year staggered term issue, for mayor and city council, on the ballot. My position has not changed since I completed a QC Times survey during last year's campaign. In that survey I stated:

"I support four-year terms. A reduction in turnover allows plans to be implemented with fewer interruptions. Most cities have four-year terms. We are definitely in the minority. I believe we would be better off on a multitude of fronts with this direction. I would support staggered terms for the aldermen. This would allow for smoother transitions for new councilpersons and for some mentoring to ease the learning curve. "

I believe the pros out-weigh the cons, with regard to this issue. I do respect the opposing position for holding elected officials to higher levels of accountability with the two-year cycle. It has merit. However, in the long run I think more continuity might exist and stronger binds could be tied with constituents in the 4-year cycle.

Door knocking and visiting with citizens is always informative. I target high-frequency city voter lists, provided by the county, so I am not going to every household on my rounds. This allows for interaction with more people that are likely to vote and with folks that may have stronger opinions for what is going on within their community. I went out in the neighborhoods surrounding Van DeVeer Park in the 5th and 7th Wards.

I spent half of my time discussing the 4-year term issue and the remainder of my discussions centered on current issues within Davenport.

The majority of folks, in these neighborhoods, seemed to think 4-year terms were a good idea, some were opposed and others undecided. It is tough to get a real feel for things with such a small sampling.

The "current issue" conversations included a mix of genuine concern and praise. Some are looking for a more professional council; others are concerned with spending, while still others believe the city is on the right track with services, development and new amenities.

I enjoyed meeting with folks and thanked them for their time. We have good people in Davenport and I enjoy visiting with them. Citizens care and want a better Davenport. I think this is what we all want in the long run. I am fairly certain the required signatures will be collected and this will be for the voters to decide. Regardless of the outcome, it will be up to the council to continue building relationships with citizens and to strive for that better Davenport.