Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Facebook Frustrations and Condo Dreams

In many ways, the rise of news site comments and Facebook contributed to the decline of local blogging. Even in the height of the QC blogosphere, however, and even with the crazy comments this blog used to get, I always felt like the blog comments were better than the comments on the newspaper websites. One of the arguments back then was always whether or not to allow fully anonymous comments, which certainly has its pros and cons. Many insisted that the quality of comments would go up if people were forced to use a consistent screenname, or even their own real name. I opted to continue allowing anonymous comments, which is still true today, because I felt it allowed more insider info that people would have felt uncomfortable logging in to post.

Now, over 10 years after the launch of QuadCityImages, Facebook has proven that no matter how much peoples' identities are revealed, they will still say incredibly stupid things. I won't even get into the current national political scene, but locally, I've spent far too much time trying to argue with people on Facebook who seem to have no grasp of reality. This post on KWQC's Facebook page is a perfect example. The news story posted was essentially a reminder of old news, regarding the 400 River project, but over a hundred comments poured in about how stupid people felt the proposed condo building was. Here are some examples, with names removed so as not to embarrass them further.

The comments ranged from those above, doubting that anyone would want to live downtown, or not understanding that some people in the QC can actually afford $500k+ homes, to people with no concept of how capitalism or city planning work whatsoever. Stuff like wondering why "they" don't build "affordable housing" instead. Over the years I've learned that a lot of people seem to think the city just plunks down businesses, factories, and homes like they're building a Lego city. I'm sure many of those commenting would be shocked to find out the going rate of apartments in the newer market-rate downtown apartment buildings, as it wouldn't fit into their stuck-in-the-1980's view of Davenport.

All that said, the 400 River condos may well not happen. Even if there are 36 people who are willing to spend $465k and up for the units, they may read the kind of garbage above and worry about their chances to resell them in the future. I am extremely hopeful that the building is built as planned, because it looks great, it would be the biggest skyline-changer since the Figge, and also a slap in the face to all the people underestimating downtown Davenport over the last decade. I applaud longtime downtown (and QCI reader) JJ Condon and his partners for having the vision to put something bold on the table. Now let's hope they can make it happen.

If it doesn't work out, there's always a $695k condo still available in Kone Center.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Where in the QC is this? #20

Bringing this feature back again. Where in the Quad Cities was this taken? Since there aren't that many readers here, I'll also be posting it over on Facebook.

The Answer?

Finally, the Clayton House/Best Western/Clarion/Hojo/eyesore will be history starting Wednesday at 11am.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

2015 City Election Thoughts

It's election day in Davenport, and we've actually got some excitement this year. There are a lot of good candidates running in a number of wards, and also, Phil Yerington! But seriously, here are my semi-rambling thoughts on some of the races in Davenport.

Topping the list is the closest battle for Mayor in years. It's one of 2 votes I'll have to make today that I've really struggled to decide on. In general, I've been pleased with Mayor Gluba's performance over the years. I didn't even have a problem with his 2 vetoes, as I've lost patience with St. Ambrose's misplaced suburban sprawl model of central city development, and the Dock proposal could have indeed used some added protections for the city. However, as I posted back in June, Gluba has been acting increasingly erratic in some of his leadership. The final straw, in my opinion, was his sudden and unilateral request for Craig Malin to resign over mistakes with the casino/Elmore contract. If Gluba wanted Malin to resign, he should have put forth his resignation at the same time, as his was the only signature on that casino agreement.
On the other hand, Frank Klipsch has done a lot of good with the Y over the years, but is running as a bit too much of a Republican in our non-partisan city election. In the excellent WQPT discussion with the Mayoral candidates, Klipsh says "City government should not be involved in owning and operating entities that could, in fact, be done by the private sector." My first thoughts were some snarky things along the lines of "Like opening partially-taxpayer-funded YMCA's attached to North and West High Schools?" I'm not sure where the line is. Davenport is in need of new revenue streams, and there are only so many places to create them. While I can understand folks' opinion that the city shouldn't get involved in new "business" areas, I don't always agree with it. Dubuque has shown the a city owned casino can work, and I will always believe Davenport missed a huge chance to have a Restoration St. Louis-quality casino downtown. Instead, "the private sector," potentially interested in protecting their Riverside Casino profits, is building a casino that will leave Davenport still in 3rd place in the QC casino competition on Opening Day. I do, however, like Klipsch's ideas for the riverfront better than Gluba's crazy skybridge restaurant idea.
It's a tough choice, but I'm leaning towards voting against Gluba's recent unpredictability.

This is another interesting race, and difficult choice for me personally. I would love to have Barnhill, Gordon, and Gripp all on the city council, but that's not possible since Barney chose to run for At-Large. I'll probably go with Gordon and Gripp, despite the latter's lack of consideration of the benefits of a publicly-owned casino. He's far from alone on that front. Hopefully Alderman Barnhill can get some kind of recognition for his years of service on the city council if he is defeated. One thing I'm curious about, with 3 "mainstream" candidates for At-Large, is whether that voting block could be split to the point where Phil Yerington can pull in enough naysayer votes to make it onto the council. That would certainly bring back some unneeded excitement to the council chambers.

1st Ward
Rick Dunn has always been awesome for the 1st Ward, especially back when they lacked competent representation of the Council. I can certainly see why he's not opposed, because while I may not agree with some of his opinions, he does a great job of representing his ward.

2nd Ward
Bill Edmonds is quite a character, but I can't say I'd be too sad to see him off the council. I don't know enough about Maria Dickmann to form much of an opinion of her as a potential council member, but I suspect Edmonds will be reelected anyway.

3rd Ward
I've supported Bill Boom in every election, and this will be no different. He represents the 3rd Ward well, and has been a huge, huge supporter of downtown Davenport.

4th Ward
I feel like Alderman Ambrose has been saying less crazy stuff in the last few years, but maybe I'm just not paying as much attention. David Sodemann spoke briefly at a Hilltop meeting I attended, and he seems like he'd bring some new ideas to the Council. I don't think the 4th Ward is particularly demanding a change though, so again, the incumbent will probably win.

5th Ward
It was a tough choice between Sheilia Burrage and Barney Barnhill back in 2013 for my 5th Ward vote, but this year Barney has simplified that by running for a different job. Rita Rawson has been involved in city politics for years, but I was quite pleased with Alderwoman Burrage's performance as 5th Ward's representative in the past, so I hope she can pick up where she left off.

6th Ward
Jeff Justin has been a great guy to have on the council, and seems to represent the 6th Ward perfectly. That probably explains why no one chose to run against him. He also actually responds to emails!

7th Ward
Looks like Mike Matson will continue to represent the 7th Ward.

8th Ward
And finally, the 8th Ward. I don't know much of anything about Bob Babcock, but Kerri Tomkins hasn't overly impressed me on the council, especially her attempts to kill various downtown riverfront amenities. I suppose it doesn't hurt to have someone on the Council keeping the pro-Downtown folks honest.

That's it folks. I may not post often, but I sometimes make up for it by writing 1000-word essays at the last minute. The most important thing, of course, is to exercise your rights and vote for your local representation. As I always say, if you don't vote, don't complain about what you end up with!

Find your precinct here, if you don't already know it.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

A few local election things

City Elections

People are starting to announce that they're running for city council in various wards. Per QCTimes columnist Brian Wellner's twitter account, Bob Babcock will run in the 8th Ward and David Sodemann will run in the 4th Ward. This is in addition to already announced candidates Maria Dickmann in the 2nd Ward, and Kyle Gripp for At Large. I would imagine that most of the existing council will run for reelection.

Speaking of the At-Large election and the existing council....
Davenport Alderman Gene Meeker won't seek reelection -QCTimes

This would seem to open up the door for Kyle Gripp to slide into Meeker's spot, unless a more experienced, funded candidate pops up. I was a year ahead of Mr. Gripp at Central, so I'm seeing a lot of Facebook support from my circles, but I'm not sure whether he has widespread support or not. It doesn't matter unless others run, of course. I do like his enthusiasm for Davenport, but when he mentioned his disapproval of a city-own casino as one of his reasons for running, that lost him some points in my book. The process was certainly handled badly, but if done correctly, a city-owned, Restoration St. Louis-built, professionally-managed downtown Casino could have been great for Davenport. Instead we're getting a cookie cutter interstate casino, although at least it seems to be leveraging some development nearby. Additionally, its great that RStL has continued forward with the City Square and Scott Community College projects where the casino would have been.

I'll save the Mayor stuff for another post.

School District Stuff

What kind of insane rule is it that Davenport School Board members can't comment on Davenport School Board business, especially with an election coming up? How are we supposed to know whether to vote for people if they can't comment on major issues, such as the potential JB Young closing. Its always been strange that School Board elections and politics get so much less scrutiny/interest from the general public, despite a similar amount of tax dollars going to them as to the City of Davenport for most Davenport residents. The idea that the electorate can't distinguish between one member's opinion and that of the entire school board makes absolutely no sense. Talk about the opposite of transparency.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Good ol' Days are back again

It was Throwback Thursday yesterday, except instead of old pictures, this one entailed a return to a City Hall full of casino-related drama and calls for Craig Malin to resign. Since "Casinos, City Hall Drama, and Calls for Craig Malin to Resign" could have been the title of this blog for most of its active existence, I figured I would put in my 2 cents on the matter.

If you haven't been following, here's a QCTimes article on the latest issue. Essentially, Mayor Gluba called a press conference to say that Craig Malin mislead the council on the fact that in addition to repaying the Dan Kehl for extending Elmore Avenue from where it currently ends all the way around to Jersey Ridge, the city would also be paying them back for the grading costs of their own land. The QCTimes have posted a bunch of relevant documents, including the addendum to the development agreement that spells out the inclusion of the grading costs. While there's some legalese, a careful reading of the addendum makes it pretty clear that the city is on the hook for the grading costs. Whose idea that was (I assume Kehl's), who negotiated it, who was told about it, or mislead about it, etc, are not included in the document. What is included... is this:
So... no matter how mislead he was, nearly a year ago Mayor Gluba signed off on a document that spelled out what he claimed not to know until 2 days ago. I'm not sure if he didn't read it, or was assured by Malin that it didn't mean what it clearly said. Now he wants Malin out, and is doing it in the typical press conference way that he does things. I've defended Mayor Gluba to a number of people on a number of issues, and I've criticized him as well. It seems like he's been acting a bit more erratically in the last few months, and I'm not including his vetoes in that. Nothing as serious as removing the City Administrator should be decided in 2 day's time, which appears to be what's happening here. There's no hurry here. Nothing will be gained by firing Malin today, vs next week or next month. Why not take some time and look into it a bit more?

Asking around yesterday, the consensus I heard was that he may have enough votes to carry this out, but it seems from their public statements that Aldermen Justin and Boom may not be voting for Malin's removal, and only 2 more votes to keep him (Meeker and Gordon?) are required for Gluba to lose this battle, further damaging is credibility. I honestly have no idea how the vote will go, and I'm not as in tune with what goes on at City Hall as I once was. If there's one thing anyone following Davenport politics over the last 14 years should know, it's not to bet against Craig Malin winning battles to keep his job.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Throwback Thursday! This picture was posted exactly 9 years ago. It was taken from the Crescent Lofts, and you can see that a lot has changed in that time. The new YMCA daycare is under construction, several buildings have been demolished within the W.G. Block property, and River Gulf Grain and Builders are gone from the riverfront. There will be even more changes in the next 9 years, as the new YMCA is built, Harbor View is renovated, the rest of the Block property is developed, and a new pedestrian bridge is built across River Drive. Pretty exciting stuff!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Summer Silents at the Bettendorf Library: Charlie Chaplin

 The Bettendorf Library is hosting a celebration of Charlie Chaplin's silent films this afternoon and evening. They've made this clever video as well. This is one of those great examples of the small world that is the Quad Cities, as this video involves people from my childhood and adult life who are connected by the Bettendorf Library.


There are activities in both the afternoon and evening - drop in for any or all! All library events are free, family friendly, and open to the public.

Bettendorf Room
3:00 pm: Lecture: Charlie Chaplin and Slapstick Comedy
On Faye’s Field
4:30 — 6:00 pm: Pie throwing fundraiser
4:30 — 6:00 pm: Face painting
4:30 — 6:00 pm: Kids' crafts
4:30 — dusk: Carnival picture "booth"
8:00 pm: Josh Duffee & His Orchestra
8:30 pm: Kid Auto Races at Venice, accompanied by The Josh Duffee Orchestra
8:50 pm: Silent Short film contest winners and awards
9:05 pm: The Kid, accompanied by organist Dennis Scott
In case of inclement weather, all activities will move indoors.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Davenport's new Ferris Wheel is almost done

Not much has been visibly happening on Modern Woodmen Park's new Ferris Wheel over the last week or two. Here's a shot of it from this morning.

But then what did I notice in the parking lot?

A flatbed full of Ferris Wheel cars waiting to be installed. Looks like this thing is going to be completely pretty quick. I'm looking forward to getting some new photo vantage points from the top.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Northeast Downtown Davenport Developments

With today's news that the former River Bend Antiques/Hibernian Hall building is being renovated into more apartments, I put together this map of what's been happening in this corner of downtown Davenport.

Blue are completed renovations, yellow-ish orange boxes are projects currently under construction, and red are announced but not yet started. Labels below the image.
These are all residential conversion renovations of existing buildings.
1. Renwick Building
2. Times Democrat Building
3. John Forrest Block
4. Mississippi Lofts/Adler Theatre
5. Hotel Blackhawk
6. Pershing Hill Lofts
7. 427 Pershing Avenue Lofts
8. 5th Street Lofts
9. Kerker Lofts
10. 4th Street Lofts
11. Crescent Lofts
12. Halligan Coffee Company Building

The block in the center of the image is the assorted collection of buildings formerly owned by TriCity Electric, which moved out to the old Showcase Cinemas site a few years ago. In other words, that block would be pretty ripe for the next set of red boxes, except for the fact that the railroad runs right through it.

Things are certainly going gangbusters for downtown Davenport lately, which might just be enough to bring me out of semi-retirement.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Don't forget, tonight is the Hilltop Campus Village's Fall Music Festival, featuring the Tons 'O Fun Band. Its free, fun, and a great opportunity to see the progress in the Hilltop. The festival is from 5-10PM at 15th and Harrison, across from the new Harrison Lofts.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Big things are coming

Monday, April 15, 2013

How are we getting beaten by Sioux City?

As our city council and RDA bumble and fumble along towards a crappy casino somewhere along the interstate, Sioux City of all places is enjoying 3 developers fighting over the chance to build a casino in their downtown. The decision should be coming this week.

The company behind one of the proposals, Penn Gaming, is currently operating Sioux City's riverboat casino. They're doing such a terrible job of it (sound familiar?) that the city has gone out to find a better option. Penn clearly doesn't get it, as they've submitted something along the lines of the truck stop casino our city "leaders" want to settle for.

The other 2 proposals are worth of Davenport's jealousy, and should make us wonder what the RDA and City of Davenport are doing wrong. Sioux City and its metro area are a fraction of the size of the Quad Cities, and have a far lower population within 100 miles than we do. They also have other casinos fairly close by, although not 3 in the immediate metro area like us. To be fair, the other difference is that their interstate is IN their downtown, so they can kind of have it both ways. That said, I don't see why we can't get something a little closer to these:

One is a Hard Rock Casino and Hotel, utilizing a mixture of new construction and reuse, in downtown Sioux City. It is essentially an addition to the historic Battery Building, as seen on the left. This brings the legitimacy of a national hotel and casino brand while also helping out a historic building.

The final proposal, and one that I would say is the best, utilizes one of downtown Sioux City's largest, and currently underused buildings, the former Warrior Hotel. It also would renovate an additional building next door.

The companies competing for the chance at this casino are publicly campaigning in a way that we barely saw with our casino competition. Some of them have even opened storefronts to push their plan, and have created videos like this one about the Warrior.

Of course, you could argue that we DID have a proposal that was as good as these, from Restoration St Louis, and you'd be right. So we have of course rejected that option, because heaven forbid that Davenport do the right thing lately.