LOST Thoughts

Cedar Rapids voters, those who bothered to show at the polls, sent some pretty clear messages tonight as they approved a one-cent local option sales tax for flood recovery efforts.

First, a clear majority of voters showed that they understand the scope of the problems still facing this flood-battered city.

In the end, serious misgivings about a higher sales tax and mistrust of city leadership were no match for a recognition of the massive, costly rebuilding/recovery effort that remains. It was a victory for future hopes over present anxieties.

(Of course, it was also a good night for apathy. Only one-in-four Cedar Rapids voters showed up at the polls.)

Still, I hope city officials are smart enough to heed the anger and disappointment they heard from residents on both sides of the issue during this campaign. We now need a decisive and transparent process for spending this tax money wisely, and as promised.

Citizens will be watching closely to see if it’s truly spent on “housing, housing, housing.”

Mayor Kay Halloran, who will appoint a citizens’ review committee to watch over how the money is spent, said tonight she’s willing to consider putting tax opponents on the panel. Most of all, she wants flood victims to serve. Both steps would send a good signal.

Tonight’s other big message was for Des Moines and Washington D.C. 

Local voters were repeatedly told they needed to step up and put “skin in the game” to show state and national leaders that Cedar Rapids is serious about recovery. The skin’s now in, so it’s their turn now to step up with needed resources. No more excuses, no more delay.

They did get the news. Gov. Chet Culver sent his congratulations soon after the votes were counted and pledged to work toward recovery.

Elsewhere, local voters shot down the sales tax.

It wasn’t all that shocking that sales tax measures failed in places such as Marion, Hiawatha and Robins. Take flood needs out of the equation, and you’re simply trying to pass a sales tax increase in the middle of a severe economic downturn. That’s a tough sell that didn’t sell.

Defeat in those towns actually means that Cedar Rapids will get a bigger take from its sales tax increase through the state ‘s distribution formula.

I was also struck tonight at how the tax was effectively sold to Cedar Rapids voters in a matter of weeks. I think that sort of undermines the idea that you need six to nine months of public input before you make an important decision, like how to proceed on city buildings. Just a thought.

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5 Comments

Filed under Cedar Rapids, Cedar Rapids City Council, Chet Culver, Uncategorized

5 responses to “LOST Thoughts

  1. Despite being against the tax I think that the opposition got the best of both worlds. The local governments know they are on thin ice and there will be people watching the dollars like never before.

    This actually was/is a tax that is necessary and it is being applied in the correct areas. It’s not coming down from the state or the fed’s its local. Local people/Governments helping local people.

    New taxes should ALWAYS be questioned. The immediate response from anyone in regards to a new tax should ALWAYS be NO until such a time that those proposing the tax can explain why money needs to be taken from the people. I think this time the explanation was good enough and I think the point was made that trust does not come easily for government bodies.

  2. Interesting thought – how long do you really need for a campaign and for voters to get enough information to make an informed decision? Having served on the Vote Yes campaign it was a bit of a grueling sprint, but preferable to a marathon, where you burn out yor volunteers over time and lose the public’s interest.

  3. you really need a minimum of 60 days to effectively organize and fund raise against a bill. in fact the state of iowa http://www.state.ia.us/tax/educate/78601.html says The vote cannot be held sooner than 60 days after the notice of the ballot proposition is published.

    those of us on the other side understand the strategy of the city/vote yes crowd, in politics you always rush a bill when you want it to pass, and delay when you don’t. i.e. “the Bush patriot act,the Bush bail out bill, the Obamanation bail out bill. all rush jobs.

    On our side we were slowly getting more and more honest city employees who are telling us what to look for. for example: i finally got some numbers on how much FEMA allowed New Orleans for cleanup per square foot, how much cedar rapids said they would allow and finally how much they really did pay. I’ve been told that the city will be on the hook for that over charge by a certain contractor. the numbers are staggering.

    hopefully our little group of “kooks” will still be around to keep an eye on things. I’m sure the mayor and current 6 council members will be gone in November, the other 3 may have time to save their careers…

    anyway Dorman, thanks for the DNR story,, yours and the DRM story really helped drive traffic to our site,raised awareness of our group and got us the robo-dialer donated to the cause. who knows, a little more time and we might have made a difference….

    best of luck to any flood victims, i truly hope the money is spent wisely.

  4. Todd

    Jen,

    Quite frankly its shameful that you and the other Vote Yes supporters basically shoved this down the throats of the people of Linn County without giving time for careful examination of the impact of what this 17% increase in sales tax would do to Linn County.

    In the rush to try to get as much $$ as quickly as possible in the name of flood relief, the people of Linn County might have just unleashed a set of unintended consequences that could have potentially devastating impact upon Linn County during this time of severe economic crisis in our country.

    I also hope you and your fellow Vote Yes supporters realize that the federal government will likely now cut back on the amount of flood relief being sent towards Linn County. They’ll simply say–why should the federal government pay for X,Y, and Z when you have your sales tax money being dedicated for “flood relief”.

    Again..unintended consequences. Instead of holding our elected officials accountable for getting the promised flood relief to Linn County in a timely manner, you’ve instead chosen to essentially cut off the nose in spite of your face.

  5. Jeremy and Todd, great comments.

    I think a lot of the opposition to these kinds of taxes and any new or increased taxation in general is coming from the people starting to revisit long lost principles of how our governmental bodies exist, how they were created, and what the responsibilities of each should be and in many cases which “responsibilities” are actually legal.

    When you have a conversation about LOST in regards to “showing the Feds and State politicians” that we “mean business” in order to try to secure funds from either of those bodies one has to ask the question as to whether or not the Federal Government should be providing Iowa or any other state with money to begin with. If you look at the Constitution the answer is no.

    This is why Conservative, Libertarian, and Republican (note the separation) arguments and discussions are so often lost on the general public (read Rush Limbaugh/Newt Gingrich CPAC speeches). So many of the principles that we try to discuss aren’t understood or generally accepted by some people because they haven’t been properly practiced in so damn long and this is why discussions and arguments against taxation and spending aren’t understood.

    “Why would you be against the stimulus bill?” I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked that, especially here in Seattle, and the answer is sometimes difficult to give because you can’t just give a simple answer you have to have and long and drawn out conversation about principles which more often than not results in the need to revisit general American History lessons.

    So, I guess my bottom line here is that you will start to see more and more people arguing against things like the new LOST simply because there are going to be more and more people revisiting long lost principles of government in this country. We currently are on the wrong path and we have been for quite some time (at least since the New Deal) and most likely since he creation of the Federal Reserve and the passage of the 16th Amendment. How do you correct such a major deviation from the principled government that existed in the creation of our Republic? Who knows, but it starts with people questioning the current methods and that’s where the CR Tea Party and the “National Chicago Tea Party” events/movement are being born.

    Way to long, sorry. Probably a lot of tangents as well 😛

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