How I solve the city’s budget crunch

Now that the Cedar Rapids City Council has come up with $2.2 million in new and increased fees, I’m off the hook for solving all of the city’s budget problems (whew!) And I agree that fees are the way to go – for the most part – in making up for shortfalls by having primary users pay for those services.

That still doesn’t solve the Twin Pines golf course renovation dilemma, for which I’ve been challenged to come up with a solution.

The Council heard a loud public outcry against a proposal last year to sell part of  Twin Pines’ 150 acres to pay for up to $2 million in golf course renovations. I’ve heard little about a proposal for the same purpose to sell land next to Squaw Creek Park that the city owns, most of which is planted in prairie grass, along with 100 plots that city residents lease for gardens. I don’t imagine that Linn County will be jumping in with a pile of money to buy and preserve that land – but what about it, current and future Linn supervisors?

Perhaps Cedar Rapids could sell clubhouse naming rights to help fund the golf course renovation. Or  look to the example set by the city of Marion in funding its library, through a public-private partnership, starting with the help of a generous donor. Let’s see… are there any big-time golfers from Cedar Rapids who might be approached about such a proposal? Or they could look to the major effort led by our own Chuck Peters in finding $500,000 in community support for the four Marvin Cone and Grant Wood paintings that the Chamber planned to auction. Even the brick-by-brick naming approach could be a start. If the cause is a worthy one, people will support it. 

 I wouldn’t mind having a closer place to lease a garden in the city.  Cedar Rapids might offer empty city lots for community gardens, as Boston and other cities have done. But that doesn’t turn back the clock should the 90 or so acres near Squaw Creek Park be sold to developers. Once green space is gone, it’s gone forever.

 I realize my friends at the gardens – the potato guy; Hippie gardener, chemical granny and others – may not have the same voice that golfers and other Twin Pines supporters do. (Some of us would oppose selling public green space at either site.) And I’m pretty sure we won’t hear from the ground squirrels, monarch butterflies, goldfinch and other wildlife we regularly see in and near our gardens. So, I’d like to ask the golf course task force and City Council to take a look for themselves before they make a shortsighted decision to sell the land.

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.” (Ecologist Baba Dioum)      


2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Steve Hanken said,

    I suppose fees for everything make sense, but then what were taxes for in the first place? I thought the common pot of taxation was generally acepted as a way to not have fees in the first place. I had hoped, foolishly I am beginning to believe, that a city manager would come armed with some specific ideas on lowering infrastructure costs without creating a whole new “department of consultants”. The old saw about minding the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves comes to mind.
    There are ways to make the cities money go much further, and there are ways to curtail waste that have been completely overlooked. Suggesting the first hot button issue that comes along for a cut, wether it be selling golf course land, or shutting down the library just makes the process more difficult. The need to increase property taxes makes sense, but I am sure there is lots of opposition to this. Fees, sales taxes and all the other silliness is really the same thing when you get down to it and it takes more bean counters to keep track of all those fees, and more department people to collect those fees, and people to enforce those fees , on and on. So you lose in the end. How about a suggestion box for city employees to contribute ways they see that can save money? Cost sharing seems like a good idea, since there are already departments that collect large amounts of money beyond property taxes to provide sewer, water, trash pick up and the like. All those departments rely on the streets department to get them to where they need to go, seems only fair that they pay for that out of the money they have so streets will have something to work with. Lots of better thinking need to be applied before we pull out “lets sell something that will bring the issue to a head” thinking.

  2. 2

    Steve Valley said,

    Cedar Rapids is a great City with hard working citizens. Our new City Manager Form of Government thus far has shown it is no better than the Commission Form of Government it replaced. It appears that a small group of people has taken control of our City Council. The Downtown area now seems to get all the focus. The homeless people were booted out of their eating place and the low income people were tossed out of the Osada Project. Now the City Council wants to help a small group of investors turn the Osada Project into fashionable Condos surrounded by a walking bridge and many other structures. There seems to be an endless supply of revenue for these projects. However the Citizens are being told the City has no money for its current infrastructure and needs to impose hundreds of new special taxes to make ends meet. Our City has become, “THE CITY OF FIVE HUNDRED TAXES” Someone needs to brng some Common Sense back to our City. We must solve our Basic Needs first .

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