Want to make Riverdale work? You’ll have to get involved.

Want to make Riverdale work? You’ll have to get involved.

Do you want to live in a vibrant community that’s family-friendly and has lower property taxes than other communities in Scott County?

That’s not the Riverdale of today. But it could be the Riverdale of tomorrow.

There’s just one missing ingredient:

You.

Here are the hard facts we have to take into consideration when we think about the city in which we live:

  • Changes in the Iowa tax code means that the big property tax bill ALCOA used to pay has grown smaller and that means the City of Riverdale gets less from its largest corporate neighbor now than it did in the 1980’s (or 60’s).
  • Regulations on everything from environmental protection to building codes to street safety now require cities like Riverdale to re-evaluate everything we’ve done for the past fifty years and make sure we’re compliant with these new 21st-Century standards.
  • A city of only 450 residents doesn’t have the economic resources of those cities that surround us like Bettendorf (30,000 residents) or Davenport (100,000+ residents).

Resources are scarce. Whether we’re talking about money (i.e. taxes), personnel or time. So, if Riverdale is going to continue to improve, we have to take a hard look at our citizens to find ways to encourage their involvement in our day-to-day, quality of life.

You and your family members can make the difference here in Riverdale – the difference between just getting along or making Riverdale someplace special.

I can promise you one thing: I’ll continue to work with our Council members and concerned citizens to address the issues we feel are most important and to insist (yes, insist) that everyday citizens get involved and contribute a little time and experience to help our city thrive.

Not sure we’re addressing any issues that are really important (or interesting) to you? That’s easy enough to fix.

Come to our next Town Hall Meeting (scheduled for Sunday, August 26th at 2pm) at City Hall and let me know what you think.

See you there.

Rules of the road – or, at least, the bike path.

Rules of the road – or, at least, the bike path.

Riverdale is a small city. But the bike path is a big deal.

And we’ve had more than a few residents express their concern and point out the safety hazards of how the MRT (Mississippi River Trail) crosses Manor Drive and, to a lesser extent, the Scott Community College Entrance on State Street.

I’ve also had a few “close calls” with bikers on the trail as they crossed my driveway – hidden by shrubs and scrub trees until the last possible moment. I’ll try to get that vegetation removed (it’s not mine), but the fact I’ve almost hit a biker or two makes the concerns raised by our citizens emphasizes the problem.

I also walk the bike path through Riverdale and Bettendorf several times a week and I’ve noticed a disturbing trend that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later …

… nobody seems to know what they’re doing when it comes to riding or walking on the bike path.

I remember learning in elementary school (and Cub Scouts) that you were supposed to walk against traffic. That was true whether it was a city street or a private drive. By walking on the left-hand side of the street, you could see the on-coming traffic and avoid it if you had to. You also didn’t have to worry about having people come up behind you on bikes and startle you with a friendly “passing on your left” or, as I’ve more recently experienced, a not-so-friendly “hey, move over.”

The problem is, most people don’t seem to follow this rule when they walk or jog on the bike path. I suppose it’s possible they’ve never been taught the rule in the first place. But every time I walk my 5.4 mile route, I play a slow motion game of chicken with other walkers and joggers two or three times an outing.

Sometimes I get a friendly smile and nod, but usually people look put out that I’m on their side of the bike path.

It’s a little ridiculous.

Why is this a subject worth debating? I don’t think you have to look any further than the incident on the MRT in Davenport last June, when 76 year-old Ruth Morris was ridden down and killed by a bicyclist from behind.

So, what can we do about it?

I’d say the first line of defense (or offense, depending on your perspective, I suppose) is to re-evaluate the signage we have along the MRT. We have other issues with regard to directional signage, too, and I think all those can be addressed with some deliberation and creativity.

We can then take our ideas and put them into action with new signage along the MRT and other bike paths and by taking our work to Bettendorf to see if they would be interested in doing something along the same lines. Let’s face it, by working together, Bettendorf and Riverdale can make the entire community safer and more “citizen-friendly” whether you’re on a bike, walking or jogging along the trails.

But I suspect I’m only touching on a few of the possibilities. Let me know what YOU think we could do to make the bike trails safer for everyone who uses them by commenting below.

 

Does the mayor have a political agenda? You bet.

Does the mayor have a political agenda? You bet.

People love to speculate about other people’s motives for doing what they do. It’s natural. It’s human nature.

And it can be a colossal waste of time and energy.

Politicians are particularly susceptible to such speculation: Who’s ox will get gored next? Who’s pocket is he/she in?

And while I’m all for understanding the context and details of a subject – and try to keep an open mind as new facts pop up during the process of deliberation and decision-making – I’m horrible at “reading between the lines” to understand what motivates a person to say one thing and do another.

To complicate matters, I often forget there are people who are exactly the opposite of me. When I work with them, they’re always trying to “figure me out” and try to get ahead of the ball (so to speak). I suppose if they could, they would have an advantage when it came to influencing my decisions. But there’s one problem.

I’m not a “hidden agenda” type of guy. I like to lay stuff out for people to see and then engage in lively conversation about issues and opinions in order to clarify positions and strengthen arguments. Quite frankly, I enjoy conflict – when it’s friendly and civil – because competing ideas almost always yield a synthesis that’s better and stronger than the original parts.

So, while I don’t have a “hidden agenda” I do have a political one – designed to encourage civil discourse and creative conflict. The results of these kinds of interactions can be ideas that re-shape a community, save money and position us for the future.

My Political Agenda

Simply put, my goal as an elected official is to advance an programs and opportunities that focus on three areas:

  1. Communicate Clearly
  2. Engage Fully
  3. Act Intentionally

Clear Communications – I think it’s imperative we, as the leaders of the City, provide frequent updates on all issues to our residents and businesses. That communication needs to be clear and to the point. And issues need to be identified in a way that everybody can recognize the problems as they are and contribute to a solution.

Full Engagement – I’m always looking for ways to engage our citizens more fully. We need your input, opinions and help to make Riverdale a great place to live and raise a family. Look, we don’t have the financial resources (money) to pay for anything we want – we have to rely on our neighbors for help.

Encourage those you know in the City to subscribe to our e-newsletter and read our website or participate in Facebook discussions – that’s a great first step. And then, when you see a task force or committee doing something that interests you, join in. The more people involved in making Riverdale work as a community, help build a sense of community.

Act Intentionally – I’ve been around the block long enough to know that there’s a big difference between “just doing it” and “really doing it.” If we take on a project, we need to make sure we are in agreement as to what outcomes we want to achieve. And the path we take to achieve those outcomes should be clearly understood by everyone involved.

When we can work together toward a common set of goals and with our eyes (and minds) wide open, we can get their sooner and reap greater rewards in the process.

So “that’s my deal” – that’s my political agenda. I hope you’ll be a part of Riverdale’s success and join our team.

Why “good enough” really isn’t good enough.

Why “good enough” really isn’t good enough.

Time flies. Whether we’re having fun or not.

That’s the cruel reality to life. Nothing is permanent. And because of that, we have to focus on what matters and how to keep those “most important things” front-and-center in our lives, whether that’s on a personal scale or a larger one like a family, a club or church, or even a city.

Riverdale was founded over fifty years ago. And after a contentious birthing process that included a trip to the Iowa Supreme Court, our little city came into being in a bubble of sorts. Thanks to the property taxes collected from the ALCOA Davenport Works, residents in Riverdale enjoyed low residential property tax rates and a well-equipped, volunteer fire department.

Decades passed and people moved on. Our collective memory started to fade. And when the state’s taxes on machinery and equipment were finally phased out, Riverdale residents were shouldering a much larger financial burden that made municipal property tax rates (and property tax bills) go up.

The rates Riverdale residents pay in municipal property taxes is now very much like what the other residents of Scott County pay (2018 property tax levy rates in Scott County can be found here) – but, for some reason, many people don’t seem to recognize that fact. Or what that new revenue paradigm means for the City.

It means we can’t keep doing things the way we used to. We have to work smarter and with greater focus.

It means that time has marched on and if we want to keep up, we need to know where we’re going, how we’re going to get there and what it’s going to take to make sure everyone comes along for the adventure.

That’s why we have a new website. That’s why we’re more active on social media. That’s why I’m asking our Council Members and residents to meet more frequently and participate in more committees, task forces and participate in special events.

By doing more things together, we build a better sense of community that will help us be a better community.

It’s different than the way we’ve done things before.

And it should be.

And now, a few words about the subject no one wants to talk about … politics.

And now, a few words about the subject no one wants to talk about … politics.

Yes. Politics.

But this isn’t a political post.

I’m not going to rant one way or another about our nation or our state’s ills. Or the problems with leadership. Or the strength of one party against another.

As mayor of a small community, I want to address the necessity of politics and how some simple, political principles are necessary for a community to operate openly, honestly and fairly.

When political subjects are brought up nowadays, it seems like everyone is very quick to judge and to shut down (or shut out) points of view that don’t square with their preconceived notions of what’s “good” and what’s “bad.” Sometimes those notions are complete and well-informed. Usually, they’re not.

I come from a fairly conservative background. I’m a believer in making sure you know you can pay for something before you buy it. I also believe that we all have a duty to leave our place in the world a little better than the way we found it – that we have a stewardship responsibility to tend to our home and those around us in a way that’s compassionate, caring and considerate.

And I believe in making sure people are accountable for the things they say and do. And for the promises they make.

Unfortunately, my background doesn’t square very well with either national political party, but I believe it squares with my friends and family here in Riverdale. And that’s why I agreed to run for mayor in the first place.

My friends, we have a lot of work to do in this city to make sure it’s better off than the way we found it – whether that was last year, twenty years ago or back when it was founded. The world has changed and Riverdale has changed with it. But some of the problems we see every two weeks at City Council have been around for a long time.

That’s why I’m putting such an emphasis on communications and open dialogue between people.

The political process is fueled by debate and respect. Listening to others and considering their points of view first is an innate part of the political process. Sharing information openly and freely helps inform those engaged in debate – so I ask you all to do two things to help make Riverdale a great place to live, work and raise a family:

1. Pay attention to what’s going on around you. Read and share our community’s news with your family and neighbors. Let us know what additional information you’d like to have available to review online. Make sure you’re informed.

2. Engage with us. Talk with your friends and neighbors. And those of us at City Hall, too.

By engaging in the process of informed, political debate, we can work together to create a new future that meets our expectations and lays the groundwork for great things to come.

Get political with us. We’ll all be better off as a result.

We want you to help us fight the oncoming invasion!

We want you to help us fight the oncoming invasion!

No, this isn’t a warning about pod people or Martians.

But the City of Riverdale is facing an unprecedented invasion and it’s up to all of us to deal with it.

The City is beginning the process of studying and addressing the invasive plant problem in our parks, yards and other green spaces. Species like Garlic Mustard (pictured below) are choking out native plants that provide ground cover and keep our soil from eroding off hillsides, etc.

Already this year, the City has spent over $15,000 to repair an eroded hillside. Imagine how much we might have to spend if this problem goes un-checked and we end up losing larger and larger swathes of growth of underbrush? By studying this problem now and exploring our options, we can avoid a potentially crippling infrastructure problem.

That’s why I formed the Invasive Plant Task Force and asked Council Member Kelly Krell to chair it. I urge any residents who might be interested in participating in the broader public conversation to attend the task force’s first meeting on August 3rd.

The group will study the problem, explore possible solutions and make a recommendation to City Council on what to do (if any action is required). Assuming we do SOMETHING, this group will also help coordinate the actions of the City, its residents and interested/affected businesses.

Your participation is greatly appreciated. Your voice will be heard.

Thanks.

What’s this? The mayor has a blog? What could possible go wrong?

What’s this? The mayor has a blog? What could possible go wrong?

Welcome to the City of Riverdale and my personal blog about what we’re doing and other issues I think worth noting and discussing with you as residents (and other concerned parties).

Please note that this blog space allows for comments – so first, a few guidelines:

1.  All of the comments made to on this blog are moderated by me. That’s not to keep the conversation limited to those who agree with me, but rather to make sure we avoid spam, claims made are factual and verifiable (if possible) and the tone of the conversation remains respectful. If you can’t keep your comments confined to those guidelines, you won’t see them appear on this blog. Period.

2.  Being mayor of Riverdale isn’t my full-time job, so if you post a comment or offer a suggestion, it might take a few days for me to review it and post it. Please be patient.

3.  If you’d like to write a guest post, please be my guest. You can email your post (and at least one photo or video to post with it) to me at: mayor@riverdaleia.org.

4.  I’ll be cross-posting these blog posts to my Facebook page (my mayoral page, not my personal page), so if you’d like to comment there, you can. Just keep in mind, the first rule applies there, too.

The purpose of this blog

So, why write a blog?

As many of you know, I’m a writer and I work in the marketing field. So I write. A lot. (I also like using short sentence fragments. Very much so.)

I also have a lot of opinions. (Just ask my wife.)

As a result, I like to share my opinions on matters and hear what others have to say. I appreciate a diversity of opinion and different points of view. I’m a real believer that by understanding all angles of a problem, a group can synthesize a more elegant – and usually more creative – solution that yields greater, long-term benefits.

That means that when I’m working on client matters or city issues, I like to take a lot of information in before I start forming and expressing an opinion. I’m also very flexible at the early stages, amending my opinion and planned course of action on things as I see and hear reactions to my suggestions.

I know that, at times, that can be very frustrating for people. But it’s how I work best, so please be patient and be kind.

Over time, as my knowledge increases and as my opinions firm up, I work at building consensus. This process means I spend time with people to make sure they see a connection between what they want and think and the suggestion/recommendation I’m supporting. During my career, I’ve found that most people have an innate understanding that getting 15 – 20% of what they want is better than being left with 100% of what they don’t want when it comes to policies and practices.

I see it as my job to make sure people understand the role they’ve played in a recommendation or course of action. To give them a sense of ownership. And to encourage their commitment to the solution – even if it’s not EVERYTHING they wanted at the start.

Politics – and to a large extent, the professional field in which I work – is like making sausage. It’s not always pretty or appetizing, but the end result can be pretty appetizing.

Won’t you join me at the table?