Monday, October 30, 2006

605 Main moving meeting

It seems like all the meetings I go to have an us vs them feeling to them, and this was no exception. Not a single person in the crowd said anything positive about the proposal.

Neighbors made the obvious and logical point that this neighborhood has plenty of problems already, and is trying to claw itself out of crime/poverty. However, Mr. Wayne made some good points about having a parole and probation officer presence, and his obligation to the taxpayers of Iowa to run an efficient operation. I'm still pretty neutral or undecided on the issue, because it does have two sides. The neighbors have legitimate concerns, but Mr. Wayne isn't just trying to screw them and their neighborhood over either. I don't see these groups ever agreeing though, and he practically said that towards the end of the meeting.

One thing I appreciated was Mr. Wayne's candid answers about things. Some people there seemed to feel he was avoiding questions, but I thought he did his best to answer most of them. When asked about the possibility of escape, he admitted there was some, and he refused to guarantee there wouldn't be problems. An interesting thing that was said was that this same building was looked at some years ago, but it was decided that the crime in that area was too bad to consider locating there. Many residents seem to feel that there has been no improvement, but there was a time when 6th and Vine was like the OK corral, and I wouldn't have parked there on trick-or-treat night for $100. Whether the problems have just moved to the surrounding streets and alleys is something the local residents would know better than me.

As Alderman Ambrose pointed out, the city council has no voice in this decision, although he said he would look for a "loophole." It will be interesting to see what the ZBA says, and I would also be interested to hear from some of the residents of the Perry Hill Apartments across Brady from the existing facility.

Freighthouse Study is here

To the relief of some, it seems the study pretty much recommends against turning the Freighthouse into an indoor market at this time. I haven't read through the entire thing yet, but that's my feeling after some skimming and reading of some sections.

It can be found here, or if that link doesn't work, go to www.cityofdavenportiowa.com, and click on Council Updates on the left under City Information/Document Center.

This week's regular update, found here, also discusses the fact that there is still a group interested in renovating the former Salvation Army building across from the Freight House into apartments.

Downtown at Dawn

I noticed that QuadCityImages was looking more like QuadCityText, so I took a walk at 6:15 this morning. Here are a few images I saw along the way. I took a moment to say goodbye to warm weather too, as I expect this will be the last time I can take a 45 minute walk through downtown without coming home a QCI-sicle.

The 110-year-old Government Bridge, looking pretty good for her age.

Another sunrise shot, and what we got instead of the pushpin. A streetsign with a bike wheel on top. Somehow I don't think they'll be talking about that one on the trip home.

A missing fire extinguisher on the Skybridge, and the future home of even more downtown residents: this Mississippi Hotel.

...And finally, the Figge, and the new police station progress.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

We all miss SoLo - Open Thread

I was tempted to post this open thread on SoLo, but I don't want to start trouble. I hope Ambrose Fulton is ok, and we should all wish him a speedy recovery from whatever he's dealing with.

Speaking of SoLo, Alderman Meyer has an excellent question/answer discussion with the folks at 605 Main. Its posted way at down at the bottom of the many comments on the last thread posted, which has turned into a giant everything thread. Check it out, as the responses from James Wayne of the Seventh Judicial District Correctional Services do a good job of explaining what the new facility would be entail.

Here's an image I snapped with my phone (hence the worse-than-usual quality) of a cloudy sunrise from the roof the other morning.
(I don't recommend clicking to enlarge this one...)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

3 Other news items from the QCTimes

Riverfront company requests extension -QCTimes

I actually wrote a letter to the editor back when all the QCT-created furor was going on about RiverGulf and Builders, in support of the industries. I still feel that industry has a place on our riverfront, as that's the only reason Davenport exists, but I've come to accept the decision about these two businesses. What the QCTimes article doesn't explain is why the ethanol plant opening is tied to RiverGulf's Davenport operation. I assume that they're just going to move all of their grain operations to the Buffalo site? Anyway, I say unless there are imminent (and finacially feasible) plans for that site, or the site across River Drive, give them a 1 year extension and tell them to get a move on.

Swing of the Quad Cities might be sold -QCTimes

This is almost certainly a good thing. The article (purposely?) doesn't mention what they're paying now, which is $490,000 per year. The new owners would only have to pay $273,000 a year for the first 3 years, and then $385,000 for the next 22 years. Its like refinancing a mortgage from 15 to 30 years to lower payments, but unfortunately the city is the bank on this deal. The reason to accept this would be if the new owner is able to lower prices and get people back to the ballpark. Currently a night at JOD has been priced out of the market of families of 5 or 6.

"Pirate" station taken over? -QCTimes

Mostly I just found this hilarious. When the guys hadn't paid their rent for 4 months, the property manager not only locked them out, but he took over the radio station's operation and is taking payment from their advertisers! Seems like he's asking for his own FCC fine though. I love this comment (for once) at the QCTimes.comments:

Argh matey...ye pirate station be mine now! wrote on October 26, 2006 1:36 AM:
"I wondered what had changed...the music seemed to improve a bit (no more Jeremy Jordan's "Right Kind of Love") and it's started to sound more like a radio station (with weather reports, etc.). About being taken over, that seems kind of amusing to me. Live by the sword, die by the sword. That's the pirate way."

Seriously though, I thought it was interesting what these guys were trying to do, because if the President and others are able to refer to us being at war constantly, why wouldn't the FCC's war clause apply? Unfortunately they obviously aren't the most upstanding citizens to be making this argument.

Not the kind of residents downtown had in mind

Plenty of QCTimes articles worth talking about today, but I'll start with the one most likely to be talked about anyway, and maybe post something about the others later today.

Old Sears store may house prisoners -QCTimes

I'll just explain what went through my mind as I read this article.

First reaction after reading the first paragraph: This is a terrible, horrible idea. Turning the old Sears building on 4th Street into a halfway house is really not what downtown needs. Many people would have thought it'd be tough to find something worse than JLCS, but at least with the homeless its possible that they're not convicted criminals.

After reading that this would be replacing 605 Main: Oh... this is replacing the existing halfway house/probation office in the former hotel at 605 Main Street. The article doesn't say if the whole multi-story building would be abandoned, or just parts, but apparently it has mold problems. Moving a halfway house 10 blocks seems a lot less bad than bringing in a new one.

After reading that the number of inmates would increase from 84 to 120: Ok, I'm back to negative feelings. Moving inmates around downtown is one thing, adding 50% more is another. Sure it may be efficient to have them all in one place, but downtown has enough issues at the moment.

Final Thoughts: I've been in 605 Main, (as a visitor, not a resident) and its a piece of crap building. The outside hallways used to be outdoor hotel-type balcony/hallways, and were enclosed at some point, probably before I was born. The floors slope about 15 degrees, and you feel like the hallways could just peel off the rest of the building. So I understand why they want to move, even without society's new evil, mold. Putting a jail-type thing along the "Government corridor," as 4th is being reimaged as, does make some sense. The inmates are still considered incarcerated, so they aren't just out hanging around outside. Drive past 605 Main and you don't see crowds hanging out. I'd suspect they don't run off much, because that would land them back in all-the-way jail just when they're about to be released. It seems like a good reuse of this under-used building.

But..... MORE inmates? No way... not downtown. I'd support it if it were just moving them around, but adding 36 more is not a good thing. Also, even though I don't despise D1 like some do, why the heck are they so up on this project?? This is a long way from senior citizen housing, and while I can see the benefits for the Department of Corrections Services, what are the benefits to downtown, or the citizens of Davenport? Is there some grand plan for the property at 605 Main?

If they could just work out a way to house the new 36 inmate/residents outside of downtown Davenport, I could see myself defending this idea. The way it is... I'm at best neutral, and at worst completely opposed to it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Crime stuff, Phoenix, Guardian Angels, etc

I started this post originally as a comment on this thread over at Cruiser's blog. He's made several posts lately about the crime problem, so without trying to disagree or rebut what he's saying, I thought I'd take my too-long comment and make it into a post of my own. As usual, I'll preface this by saying I fully agree that Davenport has a crime problem, but disagree about some of the things being said about it.

There was some discussion about Sheriff Joe down in Arizona's Maricopa county. Basically, I said that his tough love brand of Sheriff-ing must not be working too great, because crime is terrible down there. The bad parts of the Phoenix metro make the worst parts of the QC look like luxury housing. I've spent at least a week down there every year for the last 5 or 6 years, and some areas are pretty rough. Someone asked for stats, and Cruiser posted them, showing that per capita, Davenport is worse than Phoenix on some crimes. Murder was one of the few that Phoenix was worse in, even taking population into account.

The fact that even per-capita they have more murders than us is the scariest part. Murders tend to look the worst for smaller towns, because it only takes a few, divided among a smaller number of people, to look quite bad. For example, if McCausland, Iowa (population 300) had 1 murder last year, it would be 5000 murders in Phoenix terms. According to Cruiser's stats, Phoenix only had 220 murders. Obviously Davenport is no McCausland, but the same kind of distortion can happen.

The fact is, stats can only show so much. Crimes that go unreported don't count at all in the UCR index, small towns' per capita crimes can provide distorted pictures, etc. It doesn't take statistics to know we have a crime problem, because its obvious just from living in Davenport. Stats tell us what we already know, and they give no help on solving the problem.

For example, stats don't tell us how nearly all of Davenport's murder victims in the last several years knew their killer. I honestly can't think of a murder in the last 3 years where they weren't associates or enemies. If you don't hang out with drug dealers, gang members, or insane teenagers, you have almost no chance of being murdered in Davenport. However, bullets don't care who they hit, so the rest of us can't sit back and say "let them kill each other off," because our kids could be killed by a stray round. Its just a complicated problem. If juries decide to turn loose people as bad as Pachino Hill, something's wrong with us (or our peers) too.

And for the record, I feel much safer here, and would MUCH rather work as a cop in the QC area than the Phoenix area. The fact that even lower-to-middle class families have burglar alarms should tell you something about people's feelings of safety in the PHX area.

As far as the Guardian Angels, Cruiser asked why Bill Davis would possibly be against them coming to Davenport's aid. I would guess that he's wary because its essentially a group of people who are at best amateurs, and at worst, cop wannabes or vigilantes, trying to "help" with the crime problem. If these people simply stand watch and call the police when they see a crime, there would be few problems besides how well a red-bereted "Angel" would play with a jury as a witness.

However, if this is all they're going to be, we already have the VIPS program. Why not just expand that program, which provides volunteers to patrol the skybridge, downtown, or other fairly safe areas, therefore freeing up cops to spend more time in the places that need them. If the Guardian Angels do anything beyond whipping out a cell phone and calling the police, such as apprehending people and making citizens' arrests, you've got a whole slew of possible legal trouble and liabilities. Expanding the VIPS program beyond the senior citizen activity that it currently is seems like a great idea, but when it comes to guys wearing berets marching down the street, we have to think twice.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Madison: Not a tropical vacation spot

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Weekend Open Thread

I'm skipping out of town today and heading to Madison.

Hey, whatever it takes to go a day without hearing the words QCRPA or Mike Loos...

Talk amongst yourselves.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

National Trails Symposium Image

2 Things happening today

From the National Trails Symposium 2006 site:


Building Trails Public Awareness Event

Location: Great River Hall
Time: 3:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Cost: Free -- Open to the Public

To provide the local community with an opportunity to visit exhibitors and learn about the Symposium, the Exhibit Hall will be open to attendees, guests and local trail enthusiasts free of charge. Music entertainment will be provided by The Flip Flops, a husband and wife duo, whose fun, frivolous and crowd favorites are sure to make for a festive evening. Dozens of outdoor recreation groups from the Quad Cities will offer table-top activities for everyone. There will be a special presentation on the American Discovery Trail and other programs on off-the-beaten-path travel. Iowa's centennial celebration of the Antiquities Act of 1906 will also be featured. An Iowa Congressman, John Fletcher Lacey, authored and championed the act, which allows Presidents to preserve federal lands. Many National Parks were first proclaimed as National Monuments. Federal and state officials will conduct a ceremony to honor this visionary Iowan since the National Trails Symposium is being held in his own state.

From Alderman Hamerlinck's blog:

Ward Meeting
This Thursday I will be hosting our October Ward meeting at 5:30pm at the Elks Club (4400 West Central Park). All are welcome to attend.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

RiverVision: Centennial Park

When I was given a handout about Centennial Park at the skatepark event, I kind of thought to myself, "Yep, the same plan I've seen dozens of times already." Thinking about it more though, aside from the people who really follow this stuff, I doubt many people have seen the full River Vision plan. Here's a large image (if you click on it) of the current plan for Centennial Park. I believe the brighter areas are considered Phase 1, but someone correct me if I'm wrong.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Guest post: Health Savings Plans

A guest post by Pioneer98

Many politicians are touting health savings accounts as a way to help with rising health care costs, including ones currently running for office in our area. As someone who will be switching to a one of these health plans in the near future, I wanted to share what I've learned about them.

The pitch: Consumers will get a pre-tax savings account they can save money in, similar to a 401K, to spend on health care. Their employer will also contribute some amount to it, also similar to a 401K. Politicians and businesses are saying these savings accounts will give consumers more power over how their health care insurance dollars are spent. The idea is that this will give consumers more choices and put more price pressure on providers to offer services at lower costs.

The fine print: They fail to mention that these type of savings accounts are only available with a "high deductible health plan". This is actually written into the tax code for these accounts. The deductible is going to be much, much higher than traditional plans (mine is going to be about 6 times higher). Another key difference between these plans and traditional plans is that there is no longer a co-pay. Instead of paying $15 for a doctor's visit or $5 for a prescription, you will pay full price out of your pre-tax savings account for all services (until your deductible is met, of course).

Some benefits: You will be allowed to deposit an amount up to your deductible into this account each year. If you do not spend all the money you save in a given year, whatever is left will roll over to the next year. This is an improvement over flexible spending accounts, which are normally "use it or lose it". Another benefit is that, generally, preventive doctor's visits will be covered 100%, although it's not entirely clear what happens if a preventive visit turns into a "treatment" visit.

The bottom line: Most insurance providers will still offer a sizeable discount if you keep your business "in network". This is actually the fatal flaw of these plans. It will be nearly impossible to find a service out-of-network that will beat the discounted in-network prices. This basically eliminates the chance for consumers to have "more choices", which was the whole purpose for these accounts in the first place. Someday these plans may eventually lead to true competition and "price pressure". But as long as insurance providers are in on both sides of the plan (offering the insurance as well as offering the services), health care costs are likely to continue to rise.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Skatepark Grand Opening

It was 47º and windy when I left for the skatepark ribbon cutting, so I figured there'd be like a dozen skaters and the usual ribbon cutting folks and city officials. Instead, as I got near the skatepark I saw tons of cars and I'd say 200-300 people. There were probably 100 bikers and skaters.The kids seemed pretty good about taking turns so they weren't all crashing into each other constantly.
City officials, some kids, parents, etc, all freezing their ears off.
The fire department set up one of their tower trucks with the American flag hanging from the ladder.
The skatepark, with kids, the crowd, and downtown Davenport in the background.

The new parking lot, full of cars, and our city administrator as the only person over 40 (or maybe even 30) using the skatepark today. There were a ton of kids at this event, and they all seemed very excited about the new park. Its probably the first and only time that 100 kids cheered the Mayor.

Friday, October 13, 2006

A few coming events

From the city's site:
"Davenport's new Skatepark Grand Opening Celebration is scheduled for Saturday, October 14th. Festivities get underway at 1 PM at Centennial Park, located at River Drive and Marquette Street. The ribbon-cutting ceremony takes place at 1PM. Safety tips and information will be available. Concessions will be available. Enjoy the fun, music and giveaways at this free event!"

Also from the city's site:
"The 5-Point intersection; Locust Street, Division Street, & Hickory Grove Road, will be closed for resurfacing starting at 8AM; Tuesday October 17th thru 6PM; Wednesday, October 18th. The detour for eastbound Locust Street will be Washington Street to Central Park Avenue to Lincoln Avenue to Locust Street. The westbound detour is the reverse. Detours for Division Street and Hickory Grove Road begin closer to the construction area. Motorists should be advised to find alternative routes during this construction."

From Alderman Frink's site:
"I will co-host an All Wards Meeting, with Ald. Ambrose in the 4th Ward, from 6-8 pm, Oct. 24th, at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in the 4-H Building. Topics will include the recent city survey and the city budget, as well as any other topic citizens wish to discuss. The meeting is open to citizens from throughout the community. This will be my sixth city meeting of the year in the sixth different ward. I will host meetings in the 2nd and 5th Wards before year end. Additional info: click here."

From the Adler Theatre's site:
"Adler Theatre 75th Anniversary & Grand Opening: Thu Nov 2 2006"

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The State of the Blog

The first post of the QuadCityImages blog was made on October 12th, 2005. It was around this time that one of the founding fathers of QC-area blogs, The Fly, decided he or she was going to go back to doing a 1-person blog. Colonel Davenport and I were downsized, so I figured I would spin off my own blog. I wouldn't have guessed that I'd still be doing it 400 posts and a year later, but I also don't regret doing it. I've learned a lot of things and met a lot of people who are all interested in making Davenport a greater city than it already is. One benefit of being non-anonymous is the ability to meet people in "real life" instead of just talking to them via email or comments.

I never really had much interest in how many hits I was getting, so I never added a counter to the site. My fairly unprofitable AdSense ads on the right side have a page that keeps track of things, including hits, so that does act as somewhat of a counter. Since adding the AdSense banner, I've had 62,912 hits. That certainly doesn't come out to the 1000+ hit days that Fly used to have when people got really riled up, but I feel that there are enough comments and readers to keep the blog interesting. We've all seen what happens when too many people comment, with the QCTimes' online comments.

I'm proud that you readers seem to provide much more intelligent discussion than the QCTimes and QCOnline commenters. I also do read every comment, so having 4 or 5 30+ comment threads can get kind of time consuming anyway. I'm also proud that I have never deleted a comment due to content, although WindingHills has gotten pretty close. I'm sticking with fully anonymous comments, even though it can be a source of frustration. Its the back and forth between you, the readers that keeps me going on here, and its been great so far.

Thanks for being good blog readers/commenters folks, and hopefully I'll still be around in another year.


QuadCityImages

Dreaming of a white... Halloween?

Sure, it might be over 2 months to Christmas, but the snow was flying this morning. It was coming down pretty good for about 5 minutes, and there were a few periods of light flurries throughout the night. Probably don't need to break out the shovels and snowblowers yet though...


Coming later today (or... early tomorrow):
The QCI blog 1 year anniversary post, The State of the Blog.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Malin Thing

Malin to get cost-of-living increase -QCTimes

In my view either:

A. Malin pulled the world's greatest bluff, daring the council to go to court over whether his raise was legit, and if it was, for him to get $600,000.

B. His raise WAS legit, and the council made a mistake earlier


I'd suspect the answer is B. Malin really isn't the thief type, despite what various disgruntled employees say about him. I always thought it was humorous that the same types of people who always railed against the city legal department on the blogs suddenly took Thee's word as gospel when it was against someone they hate even more, Craig Malin.

As people have said before, this whole thing came down to some aldermen wanting Malin gone. Also, the QCTimes played the part of instigator instead of investigator, throwing fuel on the fire and selling papers like hotcakes. Hamerlinck and Company don't like the fact that our administrator isn't a drone who takes no initiative. There's an argument to be made that a city administrator is only supposed to do what the council says. That said, our city could elect a council full of people who can't read a sentence, much less come up with an original idea. (At least one ward already has.) In that scenario, do we want an automaton that can only do what he's told, or an innovative city administrator that can come up with new ideas on his own? We have a professional run our city to keep our amateur city councils from doing too much damage, so I'm pretty opposed to the council taking power away from the pros and giving it to themselves.

I wonder if he'll still give the raises to charity...

Friday, October 06, 2006

Friday Stuff

Will Bettendorf's riverfront project really succeed without somehow taking business away from the RiverCenter or Adler? Will Bettendorf ever have a real downtown?

Anyone else planning on their first visit to K's Merchandise in months or years now that they're liquidating? If anyone needs figurines, lava lamps, or indoor fountains, I can't think of a better place to get them. Or family-sized deep fryers. It took Sam Goody to about 60% off before things started being a good deal, but K's is reasonably priced enough that even 25% will make some things good deals.

Also, what do you folks see possibly going into K's soon-to-be-vacant location at Kimberly and Marquette?

The Great Train Expo (model railroad show) is returning to the QCCA Expo Center after a 1 or 2 year absence. I emailed organizers last year and they said they didn't make enough money here, but they'd be just down the road in Des Moines for 2005. Apparently in 2006 they have reconsidered, and will be back in Rock Island.

Will my Dodgers win a single game against the Mets? (I sadly predict not) For those who care, here's a link to BridgeToSomewhere's baseball predictions of last February. He was surprisingly right about the Dodgers making it to the playoffs, but not too much more.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Sounds of Progress

When you work 3rd shift and sleep during the day, watching an excavator being unloaded across the street from your apartment isn't exactly a happy event.

I'm sure this means they're going to start work on the small surface lot behind the 4th Street Lofts. I hope they're able to leave the railroad tracks that run down the alley, even though they don't go anywhere. They add character to the neighborhood.

8:00AM Update: Now they've deployed some sort of self-propelled jackhammer that looks like a gym locker on wheels. Its a slow smashing, so my glass of water is doing the Jurassic Park thing on my desk. Good times.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Des Moines Reflections

I drove to Des Moines Saturday afternoon to meet up with some of the people from the AbsoluteDSM website and forums. The people who run the site aren't secretive about their identities, and many of us enjoyed the chance to put faces with screennames. One of the things that was interesting to me was the variety of people who attended. There was a group of people who are professionally involved in development, such as a city planner type person, real estate developers, property owners/rehabbers. There was also a number of people such as myself that don't work in the field, but who take an active interest in it. College students, a financial planner, an elementary school teacher, me, etc. Everyone there was interested in making their hometown, and home state, a better place to live.

We started off with a tour of some projects in the Drake area being done by one of the forum members and his wife. I think everyone there was extremely impressed with what they'd been able to accomplish. I heard someone say that they had renovated 10 homes in that neighborhood, and even moved a house from the Drake campus to an empty lot and rehabbed it. They also were planning to move 2 more houses in November to make way for a new Drake building. They'd built an attractive townhouse-style apartment building, a brick commercial/residential building that fit the surrounding block perfectly, and are currently in the process of renovating a historic dairy. More pictures of the tour, taken by someone with a real camera, can be found here.

After leaving the Drake neighborhood, which is known as Dogtown, we went to Raccoon River Brewery in downtown Des Moines. I drove past the Chipperfield library on the way, and its quite a sight lit up at night. The copper skin that's mostly opaque during the day becomes almost completely clear at night with the building's lights on. Even at 9:30pm on a Saturday, a crew was working to take down an old parking garage with a wrecking ball, but they knocked it off for the night around 10pm. Des Moines has really had a surge in downtown residential development, and more projects are still underway. Hopefully downtown Davenport can enjoy similar success over the next decade or two.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Couple Des Moines Images

I planned to write an entry this morning after work about the meet-up in Des Moines, but for some reason I'm exhausted so I'm going to bed. Here are the pretty much the only 2 pictures that I took.The meeting was at a "coffee shop and wine bar" (two beverages I don't drink) in the small campustown area near Drake University, so I took some time Saturday afternoon to walk around the area. I'd never been to the campus, and I must say it was pretty nice. Its not in the best area of Des Moines, but its improving. This is partly due to the efforts of the people who hosted the meeting.
Here are most of the people who attended, hearing about the renovation of a historic dairy building into apartments and street-level retail.

I'll probably post a bit more about this later today.