Monday, December 29, 2008

An interesting donation

Former resident offers $50,000 to fix Clinton church's bell tower -QCTimes

Its always neat to read about someone making something of themselves and then returning to make a difference for their home town. In this case, a man whose father was a pastor at a church in Clinton returned to the city for the first time in 42 years, and decided to put up $50,000 towards repairs to the church bell tower. I just read this article last night, and was interested to find out that the person donating the money, Curtis Priem, is one of the co-founders of NVIDIA, which makes graphics chips for computers and video game consoles. I've been using NVIDIA graphics cards in every computer I build simply because I prefer them to the competition. Now it looks like I have another reason to support this company.

Now if we could just get the CEO of McDonalds to put some money into the city he went to high school in...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Holidays 2008

I hope everyone had as great of a Christmas as I did.

I'd also like to suggest everyone take some time to remember those who had to work on Christmas and Christmas Eve. Police officers and firefighters who keep us safe, the military of course, those in the medical professions, the oft-maligned Public Works employees out plowing the streets, newspaper delivery folks, Walgreen's employees, and anyone else who had to spend time away from their families to keep our world in order. This year I was lucky enough to be at home, but many others weren't.

I'm hoping to put together my occasional New Year's Eve wishlist for the Quad Cities, and even better, I'm hoping to post it sometime before May.

Again, I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Skatepark In Winter (2008-2009 Edition)

Last February I took this picture, before the lights were installed and construction on the pavilion began.

Here's how it looks now:

This was the first time I'd been down there at night with the lights on, and I was surprised how bright they are. Its like daylight when you're under them. I was kind of surprised that some hearty skateboarders hadn't shoveled some ramps off, but this ice/sleet/snow/cement mixture that came down the other day isn't easy shoveling. Since the contractor didn't get the pavilion done by the end of the skatepark season, its fenced off with portable fencing.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Idiot Governor Open Thread

Nothing QC-related from me today.

Someone requested a thread about Blagojevich, so what the heck. What is there to say? The guy's either an idiot or crazy, and I don't think we'll see anyone jump up to defend him. When I first read the news I was pleased, because the sooner he's out of office, the sooner Illinois can get back to business like WIU:QC and Chicago-QC rail service, not to mention reopening parks and historic sites.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Just a few things

Hearing the long list of school closings as I drove home in the rain seemed silly, but I hear its a lot worse up north already, with more to come. After local drivers' performance yesterday, I suppose I can't blame the school districts for wanting to keep kids out of the demolition derby. Hopefully the weather doesn't get too bad and we can drive safely out there.

Scott County vehicles to be fueled by Davenport -QCTimes
This is a great example of inter-government cooperation. There are rarely lines at the city fueling stations, so why not get more use out of them (and make some money from a service the city already provides) by letting county vehicles use the pumps. My only question is why we built a brand new fancy fueling station in the middle of the Centennial Park-Crescent Park RiverVision area? I suppose that so much has already been changed from the old plan below that a bit more isn't a big deal.

Dogs might get to roam free at proposed Davenport off-leash area -QCTimes
My only question is why not fence off the fourth side and just call it a dog park? Reading this article after reading the article above (more traffic on Marquette Street) makes me wonder if having the only avenue of escape for dogs facing towards a street is the best plan. I'm historically more of a cat person, so maybe there's something here I'm missing. Again, we're a long way from the original RiverVision concept. (See above)

Ales may default on Marycrest building -QCTimes
One of the final pieces in the complete collapse of a rehab empire. Tax credit addicts beware.

Rock Island's historic Mitchell House open for tours -QCTimes
If only we had hundreds more people with the resources to do things like this, SoLo would be a very different place. Stuff like this proves that there is still hope for a lot of nearly-given-up-on buildings around the QC area.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Canadian Pacific Holiday Train in Davenport

Here are a few quick images from tonight's visit of the Canadian Pacific Holiday Train to downtown Davenport. There was a great crowd considering that the temperature was around 25 degrees with a windchill of 10 or 11. They had metal firepits and propane outdoor heaters scattered around. It really made me feel like people in the QC will come out, even in the colder nights of winter, for the right kind of event. I'd like to see more stuff done around the holidays here. I think it would be great if we had a New Year's firework display over the river like they did in 2000 every year.

Canadian Pacific recently acquired the Iowa Chicago & Eastern (IC&E), which runs through Davenport. That's why we were added to their route for the Holiday Train. The last stop Friday night after Davenport was Muscatine.

One of the boxcars slide open to reveal a stage, and a band singing Christmas songs. They gathered a pretty good crowd around them.

The train was led my one Canadian Pacific locomotive and one IC&E locomotive.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Monday Morning Assortment

As a night shift person, Black Friday can just be considered more convenient shopping hours. Unfortunately, for the 2nd year in a row I made the mistake of visiting Younkers to try and spend their "$10 off anything over $10*" coupon. (*Excludes... everything.) It wasn't a good experience. First they mark anything remotely close to $10 to $9.99, and then everything else they call a doorbuster, great value, or red tag clearance and exclude it from the coupon. All I can say is that if they're going to act like lawyers about excluding things from their coupons, they should be equally worried about accuracy when it comes to labeling their products and displays. I spend 2 minutes looking around the display of Hawkeyes sweatshirts to make sure it wasn't excluded, only to find out that it was technically a doorbuster even though there was no sign and the price was inaccurate. I think I'll take a pass on shopping there for a while.

Speaking of old news, last Wednesday night (Thanksgiving Eve?) there was a police chase through Davenport. I never saw it in the paper, but maybe I missed it. Apparently the Illinois State Patrol initiated a stop, the driver didn't stop, and somehow made it into Bettendorf. When I first started listening to it on the radio, Bettendorf PD was chasing the car up Iowa or something and across Locust. They went up Tremont, Arlington, and Carey at what seemed like high speeds until they reached 29th, which they took east to Eastern. There they went north, and the driver made the mistake of turning down E 35th, which goes nowhere but back to Kimberly Downs. The interesting thing was that Davenport PD was essentially pacing the chase, but was clearly not involved. It sounded like they helped block the car in at Kimberly Downs, though, which is where they finally caught it.

I felt like the chase could have ended much sooner if DPD had been allowed to participate instead of just follow along. I doubt Bettendorf officers know the streets of Davenport as well, after all. I know I harp on this a lot, but the car running from the police could have 2 bodies or a kidnapped kid in the trunk, and unless it was known to be involved ina serious crime, Davenport officers would be forced to let it escape. The risk to citizens of being hurt by a police chase is outweighed by the risk to citizens of letting criminals get away. Fortunately this time they were caught.

Davenport lauded for green projects -QCTimes
Of course since this is a positive story about Davenport, there are zero user comments. This and other good publicity about Davenport's change from an abandoned industrial town to an evolving progressive city on America's greatest river is all part of changing perceptions of those both around the Midwest and here at home. I'm still waiting for a lot of people to realize how good we have it here, although the economic disaster on the coasts might cause more to take notice of our relative stability here. Reading some of the posts on's forums dating back to 2004 compared with current posts show a definite change in some of the Des Moines-area members' opinions on the QC area.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

2008 Festival of Trees Holiday Parade

Here are a few images I got today down at the parade. I wanted a different perspective than I'd been getting the last few years on 2nd Street, so we spent most of the time in the Skybridge.

As always, click the images for an larger version.

It wasn't a bad day parade compared to some we've had lately, and I felt like there were more balloons than last year. This is just one more event that the QC should be proud to have.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Promise will be decided in March

Davenport Promise program headed to ballot -QCTimes

People have asked where I stand on this, and I have made various comments about it in the past, but when it really comes down to it I'm undecided. I have several thoughts on both sides of the issue:

My biggest criticism of many of the people who oppose this idea is their frequent repeating of this idea that college shouldn't be publicly financed. For one, it already is. But even more importantly, why is the space between 12th grade and "13th grade (Freshman year in college)" inherently important? Its a completely arbitrary line to draw between one type of school that people apparently are ok with taxes going towards, and another level of school where the idea of taxes going towards it seems to enrage them. When trying to get a job in today's market, a college degree is the equivalent of a high school education 40 years ago. Modern times require more education, yet our attitudes towards how college is paid for haven't changed.

Another criticism is that this is only going to draw students away from other schools, like Bettendorf or North Scott. I'm fine with this, because they've been doing their best to steal away our students and residents for years. If all the QC-area communities end up doing this, it will put the QC as a whole on the map.

On the other side of the issue, I very much disagree with the study that was commissioned to prove that the Promise must be done. The idea that Davenport will lose 9,000 residents without the Promise is bizarre to me. We're on an upswing without the Promise, and our downtown is being revitalized and re-populated without the Promise, so why would these things suddenly reverse? The Promise may very well help Davenport, but I can not agree that we are doomed without it.

Finally, there's the money. People say that private money is unwilling to invest in this, and that's untrue. However, it doesn't appear that any person or company, or group of people or companies, is going to be able to come up with the large amount of cash required to fully fund the Promise. So we're left with some form of tax money. I don't care for temporarily (hopefully) gutting the capital improvement budget to pay for this. I think I'd actually rather see a partial-cent increase in the sales tax rather than a partial-cent decrease in capital projects. I would suggest that putting $1 million into the skatepark may have attracted as many new residents as $1 million in college tuitions. Others will say, to hell with amenities, its all about sewers and roads! I have never in my life met a person that moved to a town because it had smooth streets and free-flowing sewers. People move for quality of life, and that includes parks and amenities. And potentially, free college tuition.

One more thing I want to point out, is that Promise only pays tuition. When I went to WIU in Macomb, tuition was a small part of the cost compared with room and board, books, and meals. My point is that the idea we're giving people a free ride to go off to college is simply not true. A free ride to stay here and go to Scott Community , maybe.

This ended up being longer than I intended, but its a pretty important issue for our community. I'm currently undecided, so I'm hoping one side or the other can convince me with well-thought out and reasoned arguments.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Where in the QC is this #20 Answer

Ok, the winners anonymous at 9:07am on the blogspot comment area, and Mayor Melissa at 11:33am over at Quadsville. It is indeed the LeClaire Park bandshell. While I'm guessing this is similar to what LeClaire Park looks like today, it was taken back in March of 2007. I hadn't noticed the odd seat staggering myself until looking at the image I used for the contest. It seems like every 3rd row would end up staring at the back of someone else's head...

Thanks for playing, folks. Hopefully I'll do another one of these in the near future.

Where in the QC is this #20

I haven't done one of these in a while, so I dug through my 12 gigabytes of QC images for something I could use. The only clue is that its somewhere located within the circle made by I-80 and I-280. It may be too easy, but I never can tell.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Post-Election Open Thread

I suppose I'll allow political comments on this post as well, but then I should be returning to more local issues. In that vein, here's a picture I took this morning of the new lofts getting finished up across from the Freight House at River Drive and Scott Street. I like the color scheme. It definitely looks a lot better than it did as the Salvation Army.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election 2008: QCI Off Topic

I'm going to suspend my "No National Politics Rule" for this post. I generally avoid getting into the deeply partisan world of Democrat vs Republican contests, partly because I don't want all that I have said and will say to be judged against my political views. I feel that what I want to say today is important enough to risk that.

I'm an Independent. I've stated many times before that I don't believe political parties in general are good for America. I won't get into that now. I am not and have never been a fan of George Bush, so I did not vote for him in 2000 or 2004. Many of you will say that he's not running today. To them, I put forth the parable of the house-sitting companies.

"The Parable of the house-sitting companies"
Lets say you're going away for a number of years. You want to hire a company to maintain your home and yard, and basically house-sit for you while you're away. When you return 8 years into your absence, you find that the crew sent out by the company did a terrible job, burning down part of your home, flooding another part, and somehow turning all of your neighbors against you. Unfortunately, you still need someone to take care of your place. The company you hired before (We'll call them "Grand Ol' Property Maintence") says, "Hey, don't think about the last 8 years; we'll send a different crew out for the next 4. They're totally different from the previous bunch, we swear." Do you give them another try, or do you maybe say "No, you've lost your chance at earning this job for a while. I think I'll try the other company in town." The end.

The Republican candidate needs to be defeated in this election to show the formerly-honorable GOP that they've strayed far from their roots. When Bush won 4 years ago, I was saddened by the results but also by what I saw coming in 2008. I have been a fan of John McCain, and I correctly assumed he would be the Republican nominee to succeed Bush. Unfortunately, I knew I would have to vote against someone who I respected because I believe that the current administration has done so much damage that the pendulum needs to swing back the other way. Unfortunately, John McCain has made it all too easy to vote against him this time around. He's not the man he was in 2000. Actually I believe that he is that man somewhere deep inside, but he's sacrificed his character to win the election.

I am an Independent, but the Republican Party keeps trying to make me a Democrat. When I opposed the Iraq war, they called me a traitor and said I didn't support the troops. Apparently they don't remember opposing nearly every military action taken by Clinton. When I was outraged by the United States of America using torture, I was told that I was sympathizing with terrorists. I hear Republicans accuse Barack Obama of being a terrorist, a Muslim, a socialist. Since when do others decide what religion we are? Now we have to prove what religions we aren't? I'd like to see John McCain prove he's not a Dark Lord of the Sith. As Colin Powell said, even if Obama was a Muslim, so what? Has religious freedom been eliminated as well? I hear Republicans shout "off with his head," "traitor," and "kill him," at rallies, yet there is no national outrage. During this election, several McCain folks have called Obama supporters "un-American", "unpatriotic", and said they're not part of the "real America." I am not some raving Democrat activist, but I am still deeply bothered by these things. I don't see Barack Obama questioning people's patriotism or love for this country.

To me, all of these things are deeper than politics. On a purely political level, I agree and disagree with some of both Obama and McCain's policies. I lean towards Obama's economic and diplomatic solutions, but I also value McCain's experience as a veteran, war hero, and long-time Senator. I would have loved to see a clean election about the real issues facing America. A real discussion about taxes, health care, diplomacy, etc. Instead we've had a race to the bottom of garbage campaigning, led by former Bush campaign strategists. Barack Obama could be a great President. The John McCain of 2000 could have been as well. However, since he seems to be once again Missing In Action, I'll be voting for Obama today.

Whoever you vote for, I'd urge you to remember that both sides are trying to do what they believe is best for this country. Neither side has a monopoly on patriotism or love of this country.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fall Drive Images

Here are some images from a Sunday drive we took to check out the fall colors.

We drove up the Iowa side, taking Highway 67 all the way up through Clinton to Iowa-64, which we took through Sabula and over to Savanna, Illinois, where we took IL State Route 84 to Mississippi Palisades State Park.

I really like the 3 previous ones, because of both the scenery and my love of trains. They were taken from the Lookout Point overlook.

This is the bridge between the island town of Sabula and Savanna, Illinois.

This one, looking down the walkway towards one of the overlooks at Palisades, was taken by my girlfriend. We both liked it so much that I had to include it.

We came all the way back down Highway 84 on the Illinois side, which I hadn't been down in years. I was impressed with downtown Savanna, which I think was one of the neatest of the river towns we went through. The image above was taken of the Dutch Windmill in Fulton, Illinois. We were about half an hour too late to get inside, if its even still open for the season. As we got back to the QC, we stopped at Sneaky Pete's in LeClaire for supper. It was actually the first time I'd been there, and I was impressed with the place, the view, and the food. I'm also very impressed with what LeClaire has done with the downtown, but I may post more about that later.

Overall it was well worth the drive, especially now that gas prices are approaching $2 again. The crazy wind isn't helping keep the leaves on the trees, but I'd say that the fall colors should last at least another week up there.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Chilly Saturday Assortment

Just a few things from around the QC

The Leader, not the Reader

A few posts down, one of the commenters was wondering about a rumor that the River Cities' Reader was going away. It turns out, at least according to this blog post by Dispatch-Argus columnist and blogger Shane Brown, that its the QC Leader that is going away. This was formerly just known as the Leader, and recently underwent a makeover that turned its exterior appearance into a blatant ripoff of the RCReader. Quite a few years ago, I delivered the Leader on Wednesdays in a few Davenport neighborhoods. It was amazing to me the lengths people went to to avoid getting this free newspaper. People would yell at me not to deliver it to them anymore, I'd tell them they had to call the cancellation number, they'd refuse, etc, etc. Its not a good sign of a newspaper's quality when people are willing to get in an argument to avoid getting it for free.

Convicted felon runs campaign against Scott Co. attorney -QCTimes

Prior to this article I was leaning towards voting for Pries, because I believe there needs to be some serious change down at the courthouse. However, the fact that the Steen smear-factory is against Walton makes me wonder if I've underestimated him. The important thing is that we all vote out Judge Christine Dalton Ploof, so she won't be handing out light sentences and giving 65th chances for the Quad Cities' worst criminal. Every time Pachino Hill goes to trial it should be looked at along the lines of using tax evasion against Capone. Find something to get him in prison. Now I sound like some of the attack brochures... I'm still undecided on the County Attorney thing.

DavenportOne awards grants for fa├žade projects -QCTimes

This seems like a great use of the extra tax that downtown businesses pay. If this kind of gradual upgrade of the downtown appearance continues throughout the years, it will make a huge difference in the perception of downtown Davenport by both visitors and citizens. I think the conversion of the Salvation Army building into lofts and the hopefully-soon Freight House streetscaping will make a big difference in that end of downtown as well. In other Downtown Partnership news, the sidewalks in front of the 4th Street Lofts are being redone to match the rest of the downtown streetscaping. This was done in front of the Crescent Macaroni building a few years ago.

Monday, October 20, 2008

More Steam Train Images

This weekend was the "Rail Ride for Flood Relief" event in the Quad Cities. Two steam engines took passengers on 90 minute trips towards either Walcott or Silvis, and there were also a few dinner excursions between the Quad Cities and Iowa City.

This QJ steam engine was built in China during the 1980's. They were purchased by the Iowa Interstate Railroad in 2006. Here's a PDF file showing them being unloaded from flat cars in Rock Island. Back when they visited during RiverWay 2006, it was said that they were bought to resell. One of the more recent articles said they were bought for spare parts and "to operate and display on occasion." Personally I think that the owner of IAIS just thinks they're cool, and this is his hobby.

The Iowa Interstate Railroad has also been buying up some old passenger cars, including a couple that have been repainted in IAIS colors, which I didn't get a good picture of.

On the left is one of the IAIS's 12 new GE Evolution locomotives (bit over $2 mil each), which you may have seen in some of GE's television commercials. They are much more fuel efficient than previous locomotives. These are the first brand new engines ever purchased by the railroad. On the right is IAIS's chairman and owner, Henry Posner. He donated all of the coal, fuel, equipment, and man-hours that were involved in this charity event, which allowed all the money that came in from ticket sales to go straight to the Salvation Army and their flood relief efforts. He was the hero of the weekend, and it was interesting to see that he didn't dress like the stereotypical railroad baron.

Here are a couple of views of the Davenport skyline, as seen from the train crossing Arsenal Island and the Arsenal Bridge. If the QC ever finally gets Amtrak service to Chicago, the state of Iowa is interested in extending service over to Iowa City, Des Moines, and eventually Omaha. If this happens, these will be the tracks that Amtrak would use, and this is the view of Davenport that the passengers would get. Its a little better than the view from I-80.

There would also be plenty of views like this between Davenport and Iowa City, although its a pretty nice view in its own way. This was taken near Walcott.

Finally, here's a video I took through the unfortunately dirty windows during the return crossing the Arsenal Bridge.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Steam Trains (More Later)

I was fortunately able to take the 3PM steam locomotive-powered trip to Walcott yesterday, and it was great. I'll have more images, a movie, and such later.

For now here are the QCTimes and QCOnline articles.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Flames, Trains, and sparse blogging

Saturday night was the first home game for the Quad City Flames, and I'm happy to say they won 3-1. I'm not as happy to say that they only had a bit over 5,000 people show up at the game, with only around 2,000 coming to Sunday night's. I think they need to contact Main Street Baseball and ask them for some pointers on increasing attendance at minor league sporting events. Growing up I was never into hockey whatsoever, but whenever I go to a game at the iWireless Center or Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, I find myself paying more attention than I do in nearly any sport. So if any of you out there haven't been to a game, and feel that hockey on TV doesn't do anything for you, I would absolutely recommend going to a live game to see the difference.

Iowa Interstate Railroad wants to raise $75K for flood relief -QCTimes
The steam engines are coming back to town! Well, two of them at least.
When they were here in 2006 for the RiverWay celebration, I deeply regretted that I didn't get the chance to take any of the excursions that were offered. I'm hoping to make it on one of the $40 trips to Walcott and back this year. The fact that its for a cause that we all know first hand is deserving makes it ever harder to pass up. I especially look forward to the view from the upper deck of the Government Bridge. Check out Rock Island's city website for tickets.

Finally, I want to say a few things about my lack of posting. I feel there are a few reasons behind this. One of them is that frankly, city politics are less interesting since the new council came in. Suddenly we're not talking about awkward confrontations, DUIs, near-fistfights, sexual harassment, restraining orders, or lawsuits. Its kind of nice, actually. One thing I miss are the Council Updates being posted on the city website. I'm not sure why that practice was stopped, but if they're still being written, and are now secret, that's the opposite of transparency. While the decisions being made still concern me, its harder for me to jump on the computer and type out a post about rental policies surrounding St. Ambrose than it was to write about some of the various dramas with the previous council.

The second reason for my lack of blogging, and the more recent one, is that I've been following the 2008 election closely. As always, this blog isn't the place for national politics, but as someone who loves the strategy and details of politics, this election is an exciting one to watch. So instead of reading through the upcoming "requests for bids" on the city website looking for interesting tidbits, I find myself reading through polling data and doing electoral college calculations. If November 5th rolls around and I don't start writing more, then I suppose this excuse is a bunch of baloney.

I certainly miss some of the in-depth and fiery discussions that used to rage back and forth in the comments, so I'm hoping to get more involved in running this blog again one way or another.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A few good development things

Blackhawk Hotel redevelopment plan to be unveiled Wednesday -QCTimes
As I've said many times, this could be the biggest development for downtown Davenport in many, many years. Adding hotel rooms and the Gold Room onto the RiverCenter will make it more viable, and restoring the Blackhawk is important for downtown and its history. I look forward to riding in the glass elevator again someday.

Davenport Council: Taylor School, Showcase projects outlined -QCTimes
Things seem to be turning around on North Brady Street, and when 65th/67th finally connects over to Eastern, I can only imagine that area being even more successful. Maybe some of the positive changes can push into Goose Creek to help continue the slight improvement there in recent years.
Also, the Taylor School redevelopment should be good for that neighborhood, although I'd like to see the renderings of the addition.

Prairie Heights finally makes it into the newspaper!
After months of checking the Home section of the QCTimes with no mention of the QC's most innovative subdivision, PH finally makes a tiny appearance. One of the new houses in Prairie Heights is part of the QC Home Builders' Fall Harvest of Homes. Here's a bland video about it, showing a little of the developing almost-new urbanist subdivision.

Between the Blackhawk Hotel, Taylor School, the old hotel/cinemas site on North Brady, and the redevelopment of the old ShopKo/JoeVan site in Bettendorf, quite a few of the Iowa QC's ugliest or most endangered properties are being fixed up. All that during bad economic times too. The old cinema and hotel site and the old ShopKo are great examples of TIF being used for its original purpose of redeveloping blighted properties.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Cubs lose again!

As those crazy Cubs fans say, maybe next year.

Long-time readers will know that I'm a lifelong Los Angeles Dodgers fan, so I scraped together enough money to get tickets to Thursday night's playoff game at Wrigley Field. As much as I love Davenport's own ballpark, and as much as I root against the Cubs, Wrigley Field is still the best ballpark in America. Dodger fans like myself weren't very popular there tonight, as the Cubs lost 10-3. The way they were playing tonight, they looked like they'd be more at home in a Single A minor league stadium like Modern Woodmen Park.

Here are a few more images from the game:

Even though many new stadiums have tried, you just can't emulate the Wrigley feel.The Wrigley scoreboard, which everyone loves, at least when its not showing the Cubs losing 10-3.

Fans starting to head out, in the 7th or 8th innings. I thought it was Dodgers fans that were supposed to leave early?

Here's one of the few signs outside Wrigley I agree with. Wrigley Field will not be the same if its Dominick's Field, Boeing Stadium, or whatever else it could end up being. Maybe the corporate owners of Jim Beam should purchase the naming rights, and then leave it as Wrigley Field.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A partial Freight House review

This past Saturday night I had dinner at the Ripley Street Grille, which is the restaurant portion of the Freight House complex. As I've now visited 3 out of the 4 venues, I figured I'd give some of my reactions to each of them. I'm no food and drink connoisseur, (I like Ross', after all) so if you check out the place and totally disagree with my thoughts, don't be shocked. The new website for the entire Freight House complex is, and its got menus and calendars and all that good stuff.

Nan's Piano Bar
I didn't get much of an impression of Nan's, because I was only there for maybe half an hour on a night when there was no piano entertainment scheduled, which meant that the place was deserted. What I can comment on is that it was neat bar, appearance-wise. Its located on the 2nd floor of the Freight House, up the steps from the Ripley Street entrance. There were blue lights, exposed brick, and views of both downtown and the river everywhere you looked. I could tell that its probably a great place on nights with dueling pianos. I give it a B+ because it seems like a waste to have this great bar only busy a few nights a week.

Balls and Pucks Sports Cafe
I stopped down for a fairly quick supper a few weeks ago, and got somewhat of a neutral impression. The service was good, and my food was good, but it just didn't seem to jump out at me as a great bar. The folks I went with were less impressed with their food, and no one was impressed with the fact that their receipts include your entire credit card number. Hopefully they've fixed that. There was a selection of sports memorabilia on the walls, but unimpressive dining furniture. It seemed like extra space that they decided to throw a sports bar into, and I'm guessing that it works well as an area for people to wait in before shows at Penguins. Last Saturday when we walked past it seemed jammed, so maybe there's something I don't see. Until I get a different feel from the place (and check my credit card statement carefully) I have to give it a C+. It did have outdoor seating with a river view, at least.

Ripley Street Grille
I saved the best for last. Its a bit pricey for the pasta, steak, or seafood entrees, but the pizza and sandwiches were a good deal for a nice restaurant. Its not a place I would wear jeans to, but plenty of people were. I definitely like the exposed brick, and large windows that we could look out onto LeClaire Park, the Unity Fest, and the Mississippi from. I got the night's feature, which included pork, sausage, a vegetable medley and beans for $20. All of our food was good, but I will say that this isn't one of those places were the portion size is equivilent to 3 meals of food. That's probably good for our health anyway... and it was really just the right amount to leave room for dessert.

There were a few negatives, however. When calling to make reservations I was put on hold for 10 minutes, hung up, called back, got a busy signal, and then when I got ahold of someone I was told they weren't supposed to be taking any more reservations for that night. Since I'd been stuck on hold for so long they gave me one anyway. After getting there and getting seated, apparently there was a mix-up up front and no waiters were told that they were assigned our table! After 15 minutes or so without even being given water or menus, one of my fellow diners spotted someone working there who she knew, and he quickly remedied the situation. Once they figured out what had happened, the place was extremely gracious about everything, and I'm sure if I was the angry type they probably would have paid for the meal. As it was we got some free drinks and dessert. That sounds pretty bad when I type it all out, but it wasn't as big of a deal when you're out for an evening. If we'd been in a hurry, it may have been another story. I mostly chalked it up to them being new.

So overall, I feel they're probably getting a few kinks worked out, and seem to be shaping up into a nice restaurant for downtown Davenport. Without our unlucky mixup, my only complaint would have probably been that the prices were a bit steep. The Turtle Cheesecake pretty much made up for everything anyway, so I'll give it a B+.

I haven't been there yet, but I'm kind of hoping to go see Norm MacDonald there on the 23rd. It was absolutely jammed last Saturday, and the QCTimes' David Burke gave it the thumbs up, so I suspect it will do ok. Its a better location by far than being tucked away in a casino strip mall. I believe the new Freight House complex has a better chance of succeeding than any of the previous attempts.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A different perspective on traffic cameras

This was sent in by longtime reader Alfred. It certainly speaks to the argument that traffic cameras are the first step on a slippery slope towards constant surveillance. There's plenty of room for debate on this one.

For you people who are 1) exuberant about the city's spy cams, 2) tolerant of them because they do bring in money, 3) nonchalant about them because you "never" speed so why should you worry about them, or 4) just don't care one way or the other, this article ought to warm your little law-n-order hearts.

Alfred sent me the entire text of the article, but I'll just post a quick excerpt. Links to the full text can be found below.

The technology would be integrated with the Australian company's existing red light camera and speed camera systems. It allows officials to keep full video records of passing motorists and their passengers, limited only by available hard drive space and the types of cameras installed. To gain public acceptance, the surveillance program is being initially sold as an aid for police looking to solve Amber Alert cases and locate stolen cars.

"Imagine if you had 1500 or 2000 cameras out there that could look out for the partial plate or full plate number across the 21 states where we do business today," Elsadek said. "This is the next step for our technology."

ATS likewise is promoting motorist tracking technologies. In a recent proposal to operate 200 speed cameras for the Arizona state police, the company explained that its ticketing cameras could be integrated into a national vehicle tracking database. This would allow a police officer to simply enter a license plate number into a laptop computer and receive an email as soon as a speed camera anywhere in the state recognized that plate.

Here's a link he sent me to a blurb on the subject from John C Dvorak's blog, who is a bit of a legend in the computer/nerd world.

Here's a link to the full article.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Downtown loft construction images

I went downtown this morning to get some shots of various things, but due to the low light at 7am the only ones that turned out were of the former Salvation Army building. I'll have to get back down there to take some better pictures of the new Freight House deck, the basically-finished police station, and the former cement plant property at 4th and Iowa.

Here are 3 shots of the former Salvation Army building, which is either called the Riverwalk Lofts, or Riverview Terrace Apartments, depending on who you ask. Neither name is all that great, although Riverwalk is probably better, as the apartments are nowhere near Riverview Terrace Park.The less-finished east side of the building, as seen from Ripley Street.

The west side of the building, taken from Scott Street. Most of the new windows are in on the bottom 2 floors, and they're either starting to paint the columns, or experimenting on colors.

I'm liking the blue-black-tan color scheme, but I don't know if its the final plan. They are some colors not really found elsewhere in downtown buildings. Getting a good mixture of colors and styles is what makes for an interesting downtown, in my opinion.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Another wild night, but with better aim

Yet another night of shootings and criminal activity.

Early in the evening you had the carjacking/car-chase/demolition derby thing running from the West Kimberly Walmart all the way downtown. The guy wanted out of Rock Island was caught. Maybe this will show some folks that a good way to catch bad guys is to chase them. Here's the Times article on that one.

Then after midnight there were a number of shots fired calls that may or may not have been real, including one officer's warning that some of these thugs have police scanners. At one point several officers heard shots fired, and the phone calls started coming in. When they arrived at the area of the shots, 10th and Grand, at a house referred to by the dispatcher as "the Howard house," they found 2 people shot. One officer said a shotgun may have been used. The QCTimes also has a small article about that one.

Then sometime between 3 and 4, there was some kind of incident on Division bear the Putnam. I heard about officers chasing people on foot, and then calling for Fire and Medic. Apparently a car had rolled over in the street near there. I was never quite sure what all was going on with that one, but one officer did report that one of the victims had run off.

This kind of publicity does untold damage to the image of Davenport, not to mention the quality of life of those living SoLo. It seems to all involve thug on thug violence, but since they're using guns, it endangers all of us. If we could somehow get them to fight their family/gang wars with swords and maces I'd almost endorse letting them fight it out at this point. Some of these folks just don't seem to understand that we're not living in a movie or video game.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Some Conceptual plans for the new library

I did manage to make it to the meeting, and I took some pictures of a few of the PowerPoint slides showing some of the conceptual plans.
This image is looking north at the library with greenspace behind it towards the Prairie Heights subdivision.

Here's an overall interior shot.

A couple of more detailed interior plans. One of the best ideas shown was combining the cafe (which hasn't done well at the Fairmount Library) with the Friends of the Library Bookstore, which is staffed by volunteers. This would allow different options on providing food service.

Here's the overall site plan. A couple people seemed concerned about the fact that there's only one driveway to the parking lot, but as I pointed out at the meeting, the Fairmount branch only has one as well. Sorry about the images being somewhat angled; I didn't sit facing the correct screen. I'd imagine the Times will have a better image in the morning, or even post the entire PowerPoint.

Update, 9-17 6:30AM
Here's the link to the QCTimes article about the meeting, which quotes Art McGivern without mentioning that he's part of the development on the other side of Eastern that will benefit from this library. I sure hope he's generous with the donations to Friends of the Library. After the meeting I drove around the Prairie Heights area, and saw that the first house looks occupied, and at least 2 others are under construction now. The baseball diamonds and their parking lots look to be finished as well.

Also, if you don't like backing up a quarter of a mile or doing a lot of 3 point turns, be careful which streets you cruise down in that area. For example, 67th Street west of Eastern does not yet go anywhere, or have a place to turn around. A couple of streets within the subdivision also end rather abruptly. Seems like they should make sure the Road Closed signs stay in place instead of laying off in the weeds.