Monday, June 29, 2009

A mountain of interesting things?

I'd like to say I wasn't posting for some good reason, like I was out of power (which I wasn't) or distraught over all the celebrity deaths (sad to lose MJ, but not distraught) but the reality is just that life happens, and I didn't get time to sit down and blog.

The last commenter on the previous post pointed out: "QCI - there is a mountain of interesting things going on in City politics right now - get off your duff and give us your 2 cents!"

Well, I don't know about a mountain, but I'll give my 2 cents on a few recent things.

Centennial Park- The new system that closes the south side of the park to everything except fishing and boat launching makes some sense. I am surprised that bike riding wasn't also listed, but I suspect someone riding through on the bike path and minding their own business probably wouldn't get hassled about it. The idea of having a 24 hour park is great, and its working at the skatepark and the basketball courts. They're packed, and because they're packed, it tends to drive away most crime (except littering). However, the boat launch area is not packed with upstanding citizens, so less-than-upstanding citizens are congregating there and causing problems. As the rest of the park is finished up, hopefully the skatepark's success will spread throughout the area.

Wisor vs East Village- This is one case where I am quite happy with the council's decision. I'm not at all sure why they don't value historic buildings on Main Street as much as historic buildings in the Village, but hopefully they've learned from their earlier mistakes. There are plenty of luxury homes available in McClellan Heights. A couple new expensive infill homes were even built. If Mr. Wisor really wanted the ambiance of the Village and modern conveniences, he should have bought one of them. If he wants to build his own home, there are plenty of subdivisions available. If he really wanted to build condos and not a home for himself, than shame on him for lying. If he wants to buy and tear down the strip mall at River and Mound, and build architecturally appropriate condos, I'll be first in line to cheer him on. The city's Design Center even has a rendering of what it could look like, seen here.

Davenport NOW- Technically I was against this, but I'm not worried that it passed. Like the Promise, its not perfect, but it could bring new people to Davenport. It should even the competition a little bit with cities who TIF new subdivisions like LeClaire does. It sounds like the details still need to be ironed out, so hopefully they use some good lawyers to keep this from causing trouble down the line. All the people who have been asking why only big developers get tax breaks should now be running out to get building permits for new homes and renovations.

Malin contract renewal- This one's pretty interesting, in that it sounds like even those who wanted him fired are ok with him now. Even if Ambrose and Lynn still hated him, the majority is clear on the council, and they are not it. I still feel like the whole story about the pay raise controversy never came out in a way that explained why everyone backed off. From what I understand, Malin was in the right all along, and those that wanted him nailed for it (including Thee) were shown their mistake and decided not to continue with a losing lawsuit. Many on the previous council who wrote the contract certainly felt he was within his rights to take his previously-deferred raise. But who really wants to get into that whole mess again...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Vote for the Freight House Farmer's Market

Everyone should go to this website and vote for downtown Davenport's Freight House Farmer's Market for the Care2/LocalHarvest "Love Your Farmer's Market" contest. If we get the most votes, the market would get $5000. There are also random weekly drawings that would win the market $250.

love your farmers market contest - help your market win $5,000 - vote today!

Update: Just a few more votes and we'll be in the Top 100 markets in the country.

Update#2: Thanks to Darcy's mention of the poll in her market email, the Davenport Freight House Farmer's Market is now ranked #52 in the United States.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Quad City Air Show 2009

Here are a few (actually quite a few) quick images and movies from this year's air show. I went on Sunday, which involved both getting rain poured on us and then later getting sunburned.

This was easily the most impressive part of the show for me. A stuntman who had earlier performed as a wingwalker on top of the Stearman biplane actually climbed from the plane onto the skid of the "Otto" helicopter while in midair. He tried it a few times and finally made it on his third attempt. Here's a movie of the stunt:

Instead of Shockwave the jet truck, this year we got to see a jet school bus. There was also a jet outhouse, believe it or not. The helicopter on the right was the one used in the midair transfer stunt, and was otherwise directed towards the kids. If you click on the image you can see that the canopy has a face painted on it.

Attendance wasn't too bad, considering the weather. I also heard that Saturday's show was packed. On the right is an AV8B Harrier, which hadn't flown here since one crashed in 1992.

The A-10 Warthog, and a Stearman WW2 training biplane, which was used in the midair transfer.

And of course, the Blue Angels.

Here are a couple videos of the harrier. The first one shows it flying backwards, and the second video shows the aircraft making a vertical takeoff.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A few storm images

I was over checking out Bettendorf's version of downtown development (the new Hardees) when the storm hit yesterday. It didn't seem all that bad, until we left and started seeing all the damage. Fortunately nobody was too badly hurt at the air show or Sturgis. It could have been really bad. Here are a few quick images.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Who says I'm not against things...

A couple things in the news that I'm on the naysayer side of:

Property owner, historic group clash over Village's future -QCTimes

I've defended Mr. Wisor on some of his projects, like the building on Mound, but he's kind of worn out his welcome in the East Village as far as I'm concerned. Between more parking and more suburban-type structures, these are the last things the Village needs. The Design Center created renderings of various historic-looking infill buildings that could be built in the village, and there are plenty of vacant or underused spots for them. No need to tear down a historic building in Iowa's largest historic district to build a new house. If he really wants a half million dollar house, maybe he should walk a block up Fulton and see half a dozen of them. I hope the council has a spine on this one instead of ignoring the Historic Preservation Committee like they did with the Deutsh House. Why even have an HPC if the council ignores its wishes?
Also: Cruiser covered this yesterday.

Davenport Beach & Harbor -- that has a nice ring -QCTimes

Barb Ickes thinks that Mayor Gluba's son has a good idea here, and I can't completely disagree. A beach (while gross) and harbor would be good things for the Davenport riverfront. The problem is that while this is one person's suggestion, there were several hundred Davenport and Rock Island folks that got together a few years ago and decided what to do with this space. Its called RiverVision, and its already in the works. I'm curious if the Glubas don't know about RiverVision's plans for Crescent Park, or just feel that this harbor idea trumps what large numbers of Davenporters came up with.

Now, I can think of a place that already has a lagoon that could be reconnected to the Mississippi and used for boating and a beach, and that place is Credit Island. Replace the causeway with a bridge, raise some of the land around the lagoon, and you could have the same exact proposal another mile or two down the river. Seems like a good compromise to me, which I guess ruins my cred as a naysayer.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Why do we need NOW now?

Davenport crafts housing stimulus -QCTimes

Short answer: We don't need NOW now.

Long answer: We're turning the tide without it. Our population has stopped the slide that was happening through the late 80's and 90's, young people are becoming more interested in the QC area, and downtown is being revitalized. Just because Bettendorf is out subdivision-ing us isn't reason to do something this drastic.

On one hand, the Davenport NOW program is what a lot of people have been asking for for a long time. Instead of only giving incentives to companies or residential developers that come in and build big projects, the NOW program would actually provide them to the little guy. Is 50 new business created 10 jobs any worse than 1 AT&T type place creating 500 jobs? If Alexander Company can get property tax incentives to renovate a huge blighted building, shouldn't an average homeowner get some for fixing up a run down single family home? So I guess I don't think the idea is crazy. I just don't think its necessary.

I think Davenport is turning itself around WITHOUT this, just like it is without the Promise. Maybe rather than try to come up with a new gimmick every few years, we should sit back and give what we're doing a chance. Improving city departments and making them more professional, increasing the capital improvemt budget for streets, sewers, and parks, and revitalizing downtown... these things are working. I don't know where all these abandoned buildings and businesses are that Cruiser talks about. Sure, there are some around, but any city of 100,000 has vacant commercial property. I definitely don't feel like there's more now than there was in the 80's. I also know quite a few young people who left after college who are now returning to the Quad Cities. Lets show those people how much has changed since the 1980's before start giving away the tax farm.

In the rumors department, I'm hearing that this project is the Mayor's baby. Apparently most Alderman were somewhat willing to go along with it, but many are now having their doubts. This kind of seems confirmed by the tabling by the council, but possibly not. There are questions about the legality of the program, and how the "up front" tax break could work. How can the city rebate property taxes up front for 10 years when they don't know what the property value or taxes will be 5 or 10 years down the line? Will folks who take the "up front" money sue later if it doesn't cover their actual tax bill? So there are a lot of questions, and little public input.

I'd like to see the city skip the NOW program and at least wait to see the results of the 2010 Census. I feel like Davenport is going to end up with a surprising amount of growth. If the sad state of Illinois can ever make the new WIU riverfront campus and Chicago rail line happen, those projects could easily be the final piece that puts the QC area on the road to success. Davenport needs to sell itself and its amenities rather than just try to underbid the suburbs on tax prices.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Where in the QC is this #23 Answer

Anonymous at 8:22 was correct. The image is of Lincoln School, or "Lincoln Academy" along Pershing in Davenport. I was going to get a shot of the deer with downtown in the background, as I wasn't originally intending to do a Where in the QC with it. The deer wasn't much for posing the way I wanted it to though.

Where in the QC is this #23

Where in the Quad Cities is this deer wandering?

Coming soon: My take on the Davenport NOW idea.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Summer Events Suggestion Thread

I'm putting together a list of summer events worth traveling 2 and a half hours for, which I plan to post on the AbsoluteDSM website. Obviously this is a subjective thing, because while I may feel that its absolutely worth driving 2.5 hours to see the Quad City Air Show, others may not. Especially those without interests in planes or sunburn.

Here's a quick list of possiblities, which is certainly missing things, in order by date. This mostly comes from the QC CVB website.

Gumbo Ya Ya
Ride the River
QC Air Show
Sturgis on the River (off the river until Centennial Park is done)
QC Pridefest
Blues Fest
John Deere Classic
Bix Jazz Fest
Mississippi Valley Fair (although Des Moines folks have their own fair, I hear)
Ya Maka My Weekend
River Roots Live
Rock Island Grand Prix
QC Symphony Pops Concert
QC Marathon

Some of these may not be worth driving 2+ hours for. Others, like the fair or the marathon, are probably worth driving over for, but Des Moines has their own (bigger) version. I don't have any car shows on the list, but many could argue that some of those are regional events. What do you folks think belongs on the list vs what doesn't? If I were directing this towards Chicago folks rather than Des Moines residents, I'd expect it to be a different list.