Change in public interaction planned for future Council Meetings

Change in public interaction planned for future Council Meetings

The last three City Council meetings have been tough.

Lots of good questions. A number of resolutions passed. Progress made on several projects. Even a bit of emotion on sensitive topics.

But they’ve also been exhausting.

Each of the last three meetings has exceeded three hours in length. And that’s not a good thing.

I like to meet and discuss issues with people and to work until the work is done. But once a meeting gets into its third hour, something changes. People get impatient, decision-making gets rushed, words are said that are best left unsaid and the structure starts to break down.

I thought, after the first two meetings, that we would be able to work through the meetings more quickly – but our third meeting was the longest one of all. And for the first time in a long time, people were getting angry.

Don’t get the idea that I don’t like conflict. Quite the contrary. I work in a creative field that requires people to be passionate about their ideas and to argue for them (and against others). That kind of conflict can be great when it comes to synthesizing new ideas from the options available.

But anger gets in the way of all that.

And the kind of anger that was on display at our last meeting came from a place of fatigue and frustration as well as a result of passion for one project or another. There’s something good that can be mined from that – but one part of it, the fatigue, is a problem that needs to be managed another way.

That’s why I listened to what members of the City Council, some audience members and those with experience in other city administrations had to say and have modified the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting. I hope the modified agenda will still encourage public interaction/discourse, as well as streamline the reporting and discussions so we can accomplish the same amount of business in less time.

Change in Public Input Opportunities

When I first joined Riverdale as its mayor, I wanted to find a way to encourage greater discourse between the City Council and its residents. That’s why I’ve always asked residents for the topics they wanted to discuss and attempted to involve them in conversations on those topics at the appropriate time within the agenda.

That’s now going to change (a little).

After we go through the consent and regular agendas (making modifications where needed), I’ll ask those present if they wish to address the Council on any matter on the agenda. Depending on the number of people who wish to speak, I’ll set a time limit for each speaker (every speaker will have the same amount of time) and set the order. Speakers will introduce themselves and the topic they wish to speak about (for the record) and can then make their statement. I will keep time.

A couple of things to know about how I intend to keep time:

1. I’ll let you know when you’re coming to the end of your available time;

2. I’ll let you finish your thought when your time expires; and

3. If you’re just repeating what other people have said before you, I’ll ask if you have anything new or further to add – and if you don’t, you’ll be asked to sit down.

The next section of the agenda is intended to be for informational purposes. These are activity reports and project updates. Members of the Council are allowed to ask questions for more clarity, if required.

The next section of the agenda focuses on Council actions: ordinances, resolutions and motions. For each action, someone (either me – as mayor – or a city staff person) will provide a little background on the action first (what is the action, why is it proposed, how much will it cost, when will it be done). A motion and a second are then required to consider the action by the City Council. The Council will then deliberate and take a decision (i.e. accept, reject or table).

After all the actions have been taken by the Council, we move on to the discussion phase of the meeting. The Council discusses a variety of issues by department with some input from staff or other subject experts who may be invited to provide additional background information. We will work to identify a “next step”on each issue for future consideration/action by the City Council.

Following my wrap-up/summary (the REPORT FROM THE MAYOR), we open the meeting up to more public input. This is an opportunity for those present to offer their thoughts, observations, etc. on the business conducted at the meeting and to raise any other issues they would like the City Council to discuss in a future meeting. The time available for this portion of the meeting will be set by me, as the mayor, and will then be equally divided among all residents who desire to speak to the City Council.

A special note about “Closed/Executive Sessions”

You’ll note that on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting (11/26), the City Council is planning on going into a “Closed Session.” These sessions are held in accordance with the State of Iowa’s Open Meetings Laws and are available to City Councils when discussing legal strategy and/or personnel matters (when requested by the subject of the discussion). No action is taken in these closed sessions and the minutes from these sessions are not available for public review.

I look forward to seeing you at our next City Council Meeting. Hopefully, we’ll have you home in time to watch the 10pm news.

Meeting Notice: Mayor’s Town Hall Meeting (11-24-19)

Meeting Notice: Mayor’s Town Hall Meeting (11-24-19)

There will be a town hall meeting in the Community Room at City Hall on Sunday, November 24 at 2pm. While the meeting is informational in nature and serves as an open forum, there are usually a few items on the agenda the mayor wishes to address. Please come with an open mind and questions for city representatives and your neighbors.

PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS THE LAST TOWN HALL MEETING OF THE YEAR.

The agenda for the meeting follows:

MAYOR’S TOWN HALL MEETING
Riverdale City Hall, 110 Manor Drive
Council Chambers Room

DATE:    Sunday November 24, 2018
TIME:    2:00 P.M. – 4:00 P.M.

WORK SESSION FOR THE MAYOR, COUNCIL, RESIDENTS OF RIVERDALE AND ANY OTHER INTERESTED PARTIES.

THE PURPOSE OF THE WORK SESSION IS TO INFORM AND TO HEAR INPUT FOR FUTURE ACTIVITIES OF RIVERDALE

Agenda:

  1. Welcome and Introductions:
  2. General Discussion:
    • Snow Removal/Management
    • Fiber Optic Service Update
    • Woods Estate Update
    • Budget Intake Sessions
    • Havens Acres/MRT Status Update
    • Other Capital Projects Scheduled for 2020
    • Christmas Tree Lighting
    • City Calendar
    • Website Enhancements
  3. Open Discussion
  4. Adjourn

If you can’t make it, but have a topic or two you think needs to be discussed, please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

See you then!

The value of volunteerism.

The value of volunteerism.

I lost a friend of mine last week.

The man the Quad Cities (and a good number of folks who live outside the region) knew as “Happy Joe” passed away last week. The world is a little less fun without Joe’s bright personality, humor and unbridled passion to help people of all ages and abilities as a result.

I knew Joe most of my life. And I feel fortunate to be friends with a number of his children and employees. For a while, I even helped advertise “Happy Joe’s” and tell its story that connected food and fun in a truly unique way.

But probably the most meaningful interaction (and enjoyable adventure) I had with Joe started in 2012, when I was asked to help the Whitty family launch the Happy Joe’s Kids Foundation – an organization focused on building on Joe’s life-long passion for including and cherishing kids of all ages who have special needs. This foundation was (and continues to be), without question, a true and pure reflection of what drove Joe all of those years he was at the helm of Happy Joe’s and, later in life, working with his kids and long-time employees to continue building the business as an advisor and “top advocate” of the Happy Joe’s brand.

And while I’m not here to shill for the foundation, I am here to promote what its success represents – the good things that can come from just one individual dedicated time and effort in pursuit of a cause that’s bigger than them.

I’ve been blessed in my life to spend time working for a variety of organizations, like the Happy Joe’s Kids Foundation, that I feel make a difference in the lives of people. Whether it’s the Pleasant Valley Schools Foundation, the Boy Scouts of America or my church – I’ve always been happy to contribute my time and talent to further the mission of those organizations.

In a similar vein, I’ve had the honor of serving as the mayor of Riverdale for the past two years. Sure, there’s a stipend that goes with the job, but I was never interested in serving because of the money, anyway. I was asked to run and did so without having any prior experience on the City Council or in an elected position. It took some time to get up to speed on the job and I’ve managed to shake a few things up along the way.

But in my view, Riverdale was in need of a wake-up call. Plans needed to be created. Processes need to be documented. The status quo needed a shake-up. And while we managed to accomplish all of those things, there’s still a lot of work to do.

There’s much more needed here than volunteering to come to a couple of meetings a month. And although it seems like progress is slow, it is coming.

Whether or not I’ll continue in that position depends on Tuesday’s vote. But know this, it’s been an honor and my pleasure to work with members of the City Council, to get to know my neighbors and to begin the process of taking Riverdale to the next level of responsive and responsible governance.

Win or lose, I’m committed to doing what I can to help Riverdale get there. I’m hopeful I’ll be able to continue pushing forward as Riverdale’s mayor through 2021. But the event I don’t get re-elected, I’ve promised to help my opponent get up to speed on the wide variety of issues and opportunities facing our City. Similarly, my opponent has promised to stay involved with the City if I win – which is essential if we hope to build a community culture of pitching in and making a difference in the quality of life we enjoy here in Riverdale.

It all starts again on Tuesday. Please be sure to vote. Take part in our democratic process and voice your interest in our community’s future.

Because no matter how the vote turns out, Riverdale wins.

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 at City Hall and let me know what you think.

See you there.

Meeting Notice: Mayor’s Town Hall Meeting (11-24-19)

Mayor’s Town Hall Meeting (10-20-19)

(Updated: 10-21-19) Click here for my notes from our town hall meeting in the Community Room at City Hall on Sunday, October 20 at 2pm. 

The agenda for the meeting follows:

MAYOR’S TOWN HALL MEETING
Riverdale City Hall, 110 Manor Drive
Council Chambers Room

DATE:    Sunday October 20, 2018
TIME:    2:00 P.M. – 4:00 P.M.

WORK SESSION FOR THE MAYOR, COUNCIL, RESIDENTS OF RIVERDALE AND ANY OTHER INTERESTED PARTIES.

THE PURPOSE OF THE WORK SESSION IS TO INFORM AND TO HEAR INPUT FOR FUTURE ACTIVITIES OF RIVERDALE

Agenda:

  1. Welcome and Introductions:
  2. General Discussion:
    • Fiber Optic Service Update
    • Woods Estate Update
    • Election Plans
    • Holiday Lighting Event on December 7th
    • City Calendar Photo Submissions
    • Website Enhancements
    • Parks Planning Proposal
    • Erosion Issues from Storm Water Runoff in NW Riverdale
    • Manor Hill Rear Yard Drainage Issues
    • Coyote Trapping/Deer Hunting
    • Trick Or Treating Hours
    • Snow Plowing
    • Flood Response Planning
    • City Hall Hours of Operation/Personnel Staffing
    • FY21 Budget Public Intake Sessions
    • Technology Project
  3. Open Discussion
  4. Adjourn

If you can’t make it, but have a topic or two you think needs to be discussed, please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

See you then!

The Mayor of Riverdale now sits on the Executive Board of the MRCTI.

The Mayor of Riverdale now sits on the Executive Board of the MRCTI.

There was some business conducted in Memphis, TN last month that affected life in Riverdale. Believe it or not.

The Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative represents 240+ cities up and down the Mississippi River.

Nearly a month ago, the board and members of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative (MRCTI) elected me to serve on the Executive Committee of that organization for the next two years. I am to represent all of the communities along the Mississippi River from the state of Iowa.

It’s tremendously flattering and I’m all in with my friend, Bob Gallagher, the mayor of Bettendorf, who is serving as one of the Co-Chairs of the MRCTI for the next two years as well.

But there’s a caveat. There’s always a caveat.

I’ve already notified the leadership of the MRCTI that I have an opponent this November. And if Beth Halsey wins the election, I have no idea if she’ll want to remain active in the MRCTI as I have been.

What is the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative?

The MRCTI was formed in 2012 to address economic and environmental concerns tied to the Mississippi River and the 120+ cities and towns on its banks. With its current membership standing at 90+ members, the MRCTI’s membership represents diverse geographies, cultures, political parties and economic interests in a constructive, collaborative environment. Believe it or not, when it comes to dealing with state and federal leadership, these politicians listen to mayors – because everyone knows that it’s on the local level where the hard work gets done and the impacts are felt directly by the 50+ million residents of these communities.

According to the organization’s website:

The MRCTI builds the capacity of member mayors, empowering them with the tools and support to undertake effective local initiatives which attract green jobs, move towards sustainable economies and achieve local environmental protection goals.

Ultimately, MRCTI’s work helps protect and restore the Mississippi River as a natural system that can support human culture and economies, as well as the River’s unique ecosystem and wildlife.

Why should Riverdale be in the MRCTI at all?

I’ve been asked this question on more than one occasion. And true to Riverdale residents in general, it’s usually phrased in a more direct manner: “So what’s in this for Riverdale, anyway?”

Simply put, I’m a guy who believes you have to think globally in order to act effectively on a local level. Knowing what the “big picture” is – and, more importantly, helping to shape that big picture – helps to crystalize a vision and effective action plan. Establishing and maintaining relationships with other mayors isn’t a bad thing either.

Thanks to the MRCTI, I’ve been able to expand my relationships with the other local mayors of the Quad Cities and, as a result, Riverdale is now looking at saving thousands of dollars on some city services because we’re able to cost share with other governmental agencies and organizations. On a regional and national scale, it’s been able to put Riverdale in direct contact with a variety of commercial and governmental influencers that could benefit Riverdale in the long run – specifically when dealing with rail issues, flood mitigation, and possible transit issues.

Thanks to the MRCTI, I’ve been able to continue working on relationships with federal legislators and, most recently, spent two days in Washington, DC working with FEMA, the US Army Corps of Engineers, EPA and USAD to discuss flood mitigation and drought prevention efforts that could have a direct impact on the wetlands near Havens Acres and the various creeks that run through Riverdale.

For the slight investment, I think it’s time and money well spent – even if the only direct benefit we get is continually improving relationships with Davenport, Bettendorf, Rock Island and Moline.

The end up

So, where do things go from here?

Again, a lot of it depends on the election. If I win, I’ll ask the City Council to re-commit to the MRCTI and to plan on participating in their next meeting – scheduled for March in Washington, DC. I’ll serve on the organization’s Executive Committee and continue to work for enhancing the Quad Cities’ clout among US mayors on the Mississippi.

If I don’t win, I’ll review the opportunities with Beth. It will be her call, but I hope she’ll continue to be involved and learn as I have. It’s an enjoyable and terribly educational experience that, I believe, has improved my long-term vision, increased my contacts, improved my relationships with other mayors and legislators and helped make me a better mayor.

I think it could do the same for her.

Click here to view the latest announcement from the MRCTI.

Coming to terms with one of Riverdale’s legacies.

Coming to terms with one of Riverdale’s legacies.

We had a town hall meeting yesterday and four or five people were able to make it. I was grateful. We had a lot to discuss (you can find the notes from the meeting here) and it would have been nice to have had more people there – but I know the fall is a busy time and the announcement may have slipped by some people.

Never fear. We’ll have another. On October 20th at 2pm. At City Hall. You’re welcome to come.

One of the issues we talked about, albeit so briefly it didn’t even make the summary of the notes I posted, related to meetings on subjects that matter to the City and concerns people have about both attending and participating. One person at the meeting said he only knew two things about Riverdale before he moved to our community: that there were problems with the bike path and that we sued each other over open records and open meetings.

That’s not the kind of legacy I think any of us want.

Saving the bike path discussion for another day (we’re actually working a plan to resolve that issue, believe it or not), I would like to address the “elephant in the room” that’s so big, it actually seems to be blocking the door and keeping people out: Riverdale’s history of litigation.

I’m not going to delve into the history of what happened, what decisions were made, what it cost our community and who was right or wrong. That’s in the past. But what does need to be discussed is how our city and its leadership makes sure our dealings are transparent and in compliance with state law concerning both open meetings and open records. This blog post is an attempt to start that conversation constructively – so please don’t consider this to be the “last word” on this matter, merely my opinion.

About Open Meetings and Open Records

Open meeting laws (also called sunshine laws) require most federal, state and local governmental meetings be open to the public – along with their decisions and records.  This is so the public is able to access the internal workings of government at all levels and is tied directly to the First Amendment of the US Constitution and our rights to free speech. (Here’s a link to an interesting article on the subject.)

In short, these laws are based on the principal that “the people” have a right to see “the people’s business” being done. And while any sausage-maker will tell you that the process isn’t necessarily a pretty one, it’s worth the effort.

I think the fear about the “spectacle of sausage-making” is often what drives political leaders to want to conduct their business out of sight. Disagreements, even principled ones, can be an ugly affair and a poorly-phrased expression can lead to hurt feelings, anger and embarrassment. I believe it’s the desire of most political leaders to appear competent and collegial – that’s not always accomplished during the deliberation of a confusing or particularly thorny issue.

Add an audience to that and the tension, anxiety and frustration levels all rise exponentially.

But open meetings and open records ARE the law. So we, as elected officials, have to get over ourselves. We have to be ready to express our thoughts, opinions and concerns fulsomely (in total) without concern for ridicule or disagreement. And we have to be willing to suffer the consequences of taking unpopular positions when we stand for re-election.

That’s not an easy thing to ask of a part-time mayor or city council member. But it is the job.

Haven’t you ever wondered why I try to keep our meetings light and loose?  Maybe too loose for some, but it’s my desire to encourage our council members AND the residents present at official meetings to take the time they need to fully express themselves. Only on very rare occasions have I felt I had to cut someone off from rambling on incoherently or being disrespectful.  I’ll do it, I just don’t want to make stifling discussion or debate the standard for how our public meetings should operate.

As a result, our meetings tend to run a little long. My apologies for that.

But, back to open meetings. If you check out this handy guide on the law, you’ll note that these rules apply to certain kinds of meetings: “a gathering in person or by electronic means, formal or informal, of a majority of the members of a governmental body where there is deliberation or action upon any matter within the scope of the governmental body’s policy-making duties.” (Section 21.2)

What that means is that the open meetings and open records rules apply to meetings of the City Council of Riverdale where they deliberate or take action on any city-related policy. Those meetings could be regular or special council meetings, Planning & Zoning Commission meetings, Zoning Board of Adjustment meetings/hearings and public hearings of special actions taken by the Council (like approving a conduit bond or our annual budget).

What’s not included on the list are meetings where citizens are invited to participate in the discussion of their concerns and issues facing the community. Meetings like our town hall meetings, invasive plant task force meetings, parks planning meetings, city budget-setting meetings, etc. These are, technically, “citizen advisory” meetings and don’t HAVE to follow the open meetings/open records meetings.

But that’s not to say they won’t.

In fact, while we don’t HAVE to post notices, take notes or file minutes of those meetings, it’s a good idea that we do. “Transparency” is a best practice when it comes to government. We need to be in the habit of discussing serious issues openly and freely with our fellow citizens. And we also need to develop an ability to politely disagree and construct solutions that build bridges and solve problems.

Having to file lawsuits to get answers to legitimate questions shouldn’t be the solution.

What This Means For You

Riverdale is a small city with very limited resources. We’ve been blessed with a history of residents who have been willing to step up and pitch in when the City needs them. And as we face the coming years and the economic challenges ahead, we’ll need our residents to feel comfortable volunteering their time, talent, ideas and energy to the projects we think will benefit our little community the most.

But that won’t happen if people are afraid of getting sued because they didn’t post a meeting notice or take notes during a citizens advisory session. Hopefully, that won’t continue to be a concern going forward.

Riverdale needs you. We hope you’ll answer the call.

Thanks.

Meeting Notice: Mayor’s Town Hall Meeting (11-24-19)

Mayor’s Town Hall Meeting (09-22-19)

(Updated 09-22-19) A town hall meeting for the residents of Riverdale was held in the Council Chambers at City Hall on Sunday, September 22 at 2pm.

  1. Welcome and Introductions:
    • Mayor Mike Bawden welcomed residents in attendance and special guests Lisa Corsiglia from the US Census Bureau and Scharlott Blevins, Riverdale’s Assistant City Clerk.
    • The meeting was called to order at 2:02 pm and the Pledge of Allegiance was recited after introductions.
  2. General Discussion:
    • Fiber Optic Service Delay (now scheduled for mid to late-February 2020)
      Mayor Bawden laid out MetroNET’s latest installation schedule for fiber optic throughout the City of Riverdale. Also discussed the essential differences between Internet service provided through cable (Mediacom) and optical fiber. 

      The City is getting wired for optical fiber at no cost to its residents. Other providers (most notably Geneseo Telecom) required a payment from the City (or its residents) in order to have the fiber run to every home and business in Riverdale.

    • Woods Estate Update
      Mayor Bawden reviewed progress to-date for Woods Estates. Questions about grading issues and whether or not grass/ground cover has been planted throughout the project were addressed.

      Lots are currently shown as being for sale, although it was noted that the plat for the project (in general) and Phase I (specifically) still need to be reviewed by the City’s Planning & Zoning Committee and approved by the City Council before construction can begin. Questions about what part of the entire development is included in the first phase – the only map available in the meeting room was old, but the Mayor was able to give a general description of the land area included in “Phase 1” of the Woods Estates project.

    • Fall Fest
      Fall Fest will take place at Bicentennial Park on October 5th from 2-4pm. There was some question whether or not the time for the event was listed on promotional material. A quick check of the event page on City’s website shows that the times were, in fact, listed.
    • Website Enhancements
      The City’s website has continued to evolve and now has current information  on key issues and initiatives as well as information presented at recent City Council meetings.

      Have a suggestion for improving the website or our weekly newsletter? Let us know.

    • Wellspire, LLC Conduit Bond Hearing (slated for 09-24-19)
      The Mayor reviewed the plans for the City to hold a public hearing and, in all likelihood, pass a resolution to issue a “conduit” bond worth $10,000,000 on behalf of Wellspire, LLC at its upcoming meetings on October 8th (delayed from the original, 09/24 meeting date).

    • Parks Planning
      Mayor Bawden explained that he will be working with City Council Members Kelly Krell and Anthony Heddelsten to solicit citizen input and get the City’s parks plan developed and implemented. Concerns were raised about the amount of dead trees still standing at park edges and in the City’s wild places as well as having some kind of landscaping and maintenance plan in place and implemented for Volunteer Park now that some much-needed clean-up work was finished in the plan.

      One resident offered to do a park walk-through with interested members of the City Council to identify critical areas that should be addressed by the parks plan.

  3. Open Discussion
    • Lisa Corsiglia from the US Census Bureau provided a timeline for the national census scheduled to take place in 2020. The official census day is April 1, but work has already begun to identify occupied homes to be included in the survey. Work will continue through mid-July in an attempt to get everyone living in a community to be identified in the census.

      The upcoming census will be the first one allowing people to complete the census online or by phone (in addition to the written form which will be mailed to every residence in the country).

      Look for more information about the national census on the Riverdale website in the coming weeks.

    • Need to clean the gutters at City Hall to prevent additional damage to the roof this winter.
    • The Mayor answered more questions about the MRT bike path and concerns of Haven’s Acres residents with bike traffic. The Mayor walked through the current plan in place for dealing with these concerns over the next few years.
    • Questions were raised with regard to how the City was going to make sure new homes in the Woods Estates development would be built within the City’s guidelines for property setbacks, storm water management, good quality topsoil, building inspections, etc.
    • The Mayor discussed the need to make sure the Planning & Zoning Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals are fully staffed and functioning for the next few years to accommodate the expected increase in requests from people building homes in the Woods Estates development.
    • The Mayor reminded those present that the next City Council meeting will be Tuesday at 7pm.
    • Shar Blevens asked for residents to take a look at the photo albums she’s assembled that document the history of the City of Riverdale. She needs help identifying residents and providing information about the events caught on camera.
  4. Adjourn
    The town hall meeting was adjourned at 4:15 pm.

The next town hall meeting for the residents of Riverdale will be held on Sunday, October 20th at 2pm.

So, do you think you could do this?

So, do you think you could do this?

It’s that time of year again … footballs are flying, marching bands are playing and politicians are going door-to-door asking for your help to get on the ballot and into office.

It’s election season.

And, yes, I’m going to be filing my paperwork today (Wednesday, September 18) to stand for re-election as mayor of Riverdale. If no one else files, I’ll be running unopposed and will be serving through the end of 2021.

I’m happy to do it. But I have a few concerns.

I’m concerned that by the end of that second term, there may be no one interested in running for mayor. Honestly, I don’t see myself doing it again as my workload outside of elected office continues to increase. It looks like I’ll be doing more traveling and more business outside the Quad Cities.

So, even though I’m happy to clear the decks and serve our community for a second term, I’m also going to be on the lookout for interested and engaged citizens who are willing to step in and play a more active part in Riverdale’s future.

It’s important that we have more people interested in our community’s future and how we can move ahead. It’s important that we have multiple points-of-view – because ideas are better and solutions are more effective when they are crafted in a way that reflects a diversity of opinion. Sure, sometimes it makes the conversations a little heated – but that kind of conflict (collegial, genuine and respectful) tempers ideas and makes them stronger.

And it takes many voices to make that happen.

I’m more than happy to help start those conversations, but Riverdale needs everyone to feel like they have an opportunity to lend an idea and a hand when it comes to making those dreams into realities.

So, where do we start?

The Iowa League of Cities has a fun program designed to get 7th graders interested in their cities’ governments. The League’s If I Were Mayor essay contest offers scholarships for winning essays – up to $500 if your child’s essay is selected as the best in Iowa. Entries are due by December 6th. You can get the details here.

I’m also offering to run a similar contest for all kids between the ages of 12 and 18. I can’t afford scholarships, but I can afford Whitey’s Gift Certificates. Any Riverdale resident (or grandchild of a Riverdale resident) between the ages of twelve and eighteen can submit an essay of up to 250 words via our website. If we publish the essay on the website, I’ll send the winner a $5 Whitey’s gift card as a thank you.

Tell me what you’d do if you were the Mayor of Riverdale and why by using the form below.  All entries are due by December 6, 2019.

I look forward to sharing some of the results with our community.

Please provide your street address so we can confirm you're a Riverdale resident (or the grandchild of a Riverdale resident).
Please provide an email address we can use to contact you or your parent/guardian/grandparent if we have questions.
In 250 words or less, let us know what you would do if you were the mayor of Riverdale, Iowa.

Permissions:

Mayor’s Town Hall Meeting set for Sunday, September 23

Mayor’s Town Hall Meeting set for Sunday, September 23

The monthly Mayor’s Town Hall meeting is set for this coming Sunday (September 23rd) at 2pm in Council Chambers at City Hall.

The agenda for the meeting follows:

MAYOR’S TOWN HALL MEETING
Riverdale City Hall, 110 Manor Drive
Council Chambers Room

DATE:    Sunday September 23, 2018
TIME:    2:00 P.M. – 4:00 P.M.

WORK SESSION FOR THE MAYOR, COUNCIL, RESIDENTS OF RIVERDALE AND ANY OTHER INTERESTED PARTIESTHE PURPOSE OF THE WORK SESSION IS TO INFORM AND TO HEAR INPUT FOR FUTURE ACITIVIES OF RIVERDALE

Agenda:

  1. Welcome and Introductions
  2. General Discussion:
    1. Fall Fest Review
    2. Woods Estate Update
    3. Comprehensive Plan Review
    4. MRT Signage
    5. Task Force Meetings:
      1. Invasive Plant Task Force
      2. Crime Prevention Task Force
      3. Waste Management and Recycling Task Force
    6. Citywide Clean Up Day (Oct 20)
    7. Holiday Plans
    8. City Website and E-Newsletter
  3. Open Discussion
  4. Adjourn

The posted version of the agenda will be made available in the near future.

Please come with your thoughts, comments and fresh ideas!

See you then!

Taking Riverdale “to task” is a part of our future

Taking Riverdale “to task” is a part of our future

I knew this question was coming, but, honestly, I’m not sure how my answer might be received.

It’s not in my nature to hold things back, so here goes …

Over the past few months, I’ve been asked these questions in one for more another: “Why do you keep calling all of these “task forces” together? We’ve never done that before. Are things really that bad?”

Those are good questions. And they’re all inter-related, although probably not for the reason(s) you might think. I’ll try to unpack the line of questioning in an effort to make it easier to understand what I mean …

“Why do you keep calling all of these “task forces” together?”

Okay, I’ll have to admit, calling a public meeting a “task force meeting” might be a bit hyperbolic. But doing so reinforces a sense of urgency that I find sorely lacking in local politics (not just in Riverdale, but everywhere). Plus, a “task force” is much more action-oriented than a “study group” or “public intake session.”

But it’s a dual sense of urgency and ownership around specific subjects that I’m trying to create among our residents and community leaders.

The fact is this: if people are moderately satisfied with the way their city operates and their lifestyle is not being directly impacted by city policies or procedures, they’re not likely to engage local officials – giving those officials a sense of general approval of their actions when, in reality, what those officials are actually benefitting from is more of a benign neglect.

Case in point: last year’s battle over the TIF associated with the Welch Farm development deal. We (the public) were told at a Council meeting that the City had, in fact, held a public information meeting on this controversial subject. Only three people showed up, so the assumption was made that nobody in the community was concerned or cared – implicitly giving the Mayor and City Council the green light to do the deal they eventually did – even over the objections raised later by a majority of residents.

(Sidebar) If you can’t tell by now – I’ll say it out loud: I’m not opposed to the development of the former Welch Farm. I think it was an inevitability that someone was going to buy and subdivide that property, resulting in more homes in Riverdale within walking distance of one of the state’s premier high schools. I’m just not a fan of the process used to secure the deal – a process that cut a lot of people out once they expressed an interest in getting involved.

In my opinion, the general rancor and hurt feelings that resulted from that episode will continue to affect the operation of the City of Riverdale for years to come.

The lessons I learned from the entire ordeal have, in fact, colored my approach to my term as mayor. Not in a way that puts me in opposition to Seth Woods and his team but rather in a way that has increased my sensitivity to making sure no reasonable concern or objection is ignored and marginalized.

My focus is on increasing and enhancing public engagement in the operation and growth of our City, even if that slows things down a bit and frustrates some in the process.

I’m also focused on calling out our residents when they become complacent and just want to “stay the course” because “what we have is good enough.” Let me just say this: what we have is NOT good enough and staying the course will steer us right into some rough waters that I doubt Riverdale can withstand.

As one of the leaders of our community, I feel it’s necessary for all of us to be involved in an active, continuing discussion about Riverdale’s current state of affairs and how we navigate our “ship of state” in the future.

Thus, my enthusiasm for “task forces” which are, in fact, public meetings meant to encourage public participation in understanding and researching important issues, brainstorming possible solutions and then having those solutions represented by a member of the City Council at a meeting where the Council can deliberate and take action accordingly.

“We’ve never done that before.”

Maybe not under this name or with this frequency – but Riverdale has, in fact, conducted public meetings where residents are encouraged to participate in the process. The last comprehensive plan for the City was such a process (and our review of the same will be a similar one). The public has also been invited to participate in budget work sessions, although with very few exceptions has anyone ever actively done so.

As if you can’t tell by now, that’s all going to change.

My goal is to create a community where it’s common for individual citizens to attend public meetings and participate in conversations about the largest issues we face.

Such involvement will, I think, result in more people volunteering time and effort to make little things happen all over the City that will improve the quality of life for those of us who live here without breaking the bank in the process.

Because, let’s face it, when you’re a city of just 425 residents, the bankroll just doesn’t go all that far. We need to make every penny count. And the involvement of our residents is part of a much larger solution to accomplish that.

The downside if we don’t get involved? I can see Riverdale stagnating, losing money and eventually…?

Yes. It’s THAT important.

“Are things really getting that bad?”

The short answer is “no”. But I have to put a caveat on that answer, because we’re not really sure.

Our short-term financial position looks good. Adding another 100 homes over the next few years will help. I’m continuing to work on improving the City’s relationships with Bettendorf, Davenport, Scott County, the PV School District, Scott Community College and Arconic (among others) because, frankly, that’s my nature.

But one of the frustrations I’ve had over the past eight months is that it now appears to me that the City has operated for a long time without a clear, strategic vision of the future. What I’ve found under every “rock” I’ve turned over are old ordinances, old procedures, undocumented processes, unreviewed job descriptions, a lack of vendor-supplied documentation, no written plans, etc.

Thanks in large part to the efforts of City Clerk Ron Fullerlove and City Administrator Tim Long, we are developing a much more precise understanding of the City’s financial standing, our strengths and our areas of exposure. But as that financial picture comes into view, the only thing I think we can promise is that things aren’t going to be like they’ve always been before.

Change is inevitable. And I fear that might be a problem.

“Maintaining the status quo” seems to have been the City’s plan for a number of years. Maybe because that was the easier course of action to take. Maybe because it seemed the only “sure” way to proceed because obvious questions couldn’t be easily answered.

Frankly, I’m not sure. And it’s not in my nature to let those kinds of questions languish.

So while we go through the laborious and sometimes uncomfortable process of reviewing, revising and reinitiating policies, procedures and the rest to bring Riverdale up to date, I’m also going to insist that our modernization process extend beyond the walls of City Hall to include every resident and business in our community. It’s a task we must take seriously and one we must work together to achieve.

Because, quite honestly, the future of Riverdale depends on it.

Does Riverdale need a neighborhood watch?

Does Riverdale need a neighborhood watch?

Does the City of Riverdale need a neighborhood watch?

I’ve been asking myself that question for the past week and a half and I still haven’t landed on a satisfactory answer.

Here’s what I do know …

It doesn’t seem too hard to start a Neighborhood Watch group. This page lays out the “five easy steps” for doing so. There’s even a handy checklist for doing so.

The concept of Neighborhood Watch has been around since the 1960’s and is considered to be one of the oldest and reliable crime prevention concepts in America. Some Neighborhood Watch groups have expanded their mission to include helping people prepare for disasters, creating emergency response teams and increasing terrorism awareness.

Simply put, Neighborhood Watch is a group of people living in the same area who work together (along with local law enforcement) to reduce crime and improve their quality of life.

Given the fact that Riverdale’s law enforcement is provided by the Scott County Sheriff’s Office and that the deputies most likely to respond to our calls are located as far away as Riverdale, I think it makes sense to improve our ability to work with them and assist where we can.

But like so many of the things a community wants to do, there also needs to be the will of its citizens to get involved.

Neighborhood Watch members have several responsibilities and only by following through on those responsibilities will things change for the better. According to the US Department of Justice: “It is the responsibility of members to stay informed about issues in their neighborhood and community.”

As Council Member Paul DCamp gets ready to chair the first meeting of our Crime Prevention Task Force, I ask everyone participating in that meeting to come prepared with ideas of how we, as your neighbors, can reduce the opportunities for crime first – before we get too far down the road with setting up a Neighborhood Watch program here.

Neighborhood Watch may be a part of the solution – but it’s not the only solution. Let’s make sure we think creatively and seriously on how everyone can be involved in a solution before we rely on a few enthusiastic individuals to help protect the rest of us.