Statewide conversation on affordable, supportive housing begins

Statewide conversation on affordable, supportive housing begins

Gazette Column
Spotlight reveals challenges within the Creative Corridor DUBUQUE — Every county in Iowa lacks a sufficient number of affordable housing units, which, in turn, contributes to the prevalence of homelessness most apparent in the state’s population centers. Although intensity varies, this lack of housing is a statewide challenge that affects the ability of communities to attract business and sustain a workforce, the need for taxpayer-funded safety net programs and overall health and well-being. So, this week, the Iowa Finance Authority launched the first of three statewide conversations on housing with a specific focus on the overwhelming need for supported living arrangements. “What we’ve learned from recent experiences in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City,” explained Carolann Jensen, chief programs officer with the IFA, “is that the push for housing, especially supportive…
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Does Cedar Rapids need to address panhandling?

Does Cedar Rapids need to address panhandling?

Gazette Column
With an eye toward the city of Cedar Rapids’ latest ordinance intended to curtail roadside panhandling, I took to social media and the streets Thursday with my writing hand extended. “Does the city need to do something about panhandling?” I asked friends and strangers alike. “And, if so, what?” My very non-scientific survey revealed that most — roughly 90 percent of the more than 100 people who engaged with me — don’t believe panhandling is a problem in Cedar Rapids. Several of these individuals spoke of panhandling situations in larger cities, where they’d been aggressively pursued by panhandlers on sidewalks or had received some unwanted service from a roadside panhandler, such as windshield cleaning. Those are not experiences they’ve had in Cedar Rapids and, more simply, they don’t see the…
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Get more creative in protesting

Get more creative in protesting

Gazette Column
If those opposing a certain political candidate or personality didn’t line up on sidewalks shaking signs and screaming chants, how could they still be seen and heard? Various forms of that question have arrived in my inbox over the past week, responses to a comment I made at the June 29 Pints and Politics event. When asked about protesters during President Donald Trump’s recent visit to Cedar Rapids, I lamented that Iowans against Trump and/or the current GOP agenda weren’t more “creative” and “constructive” in voicing their displeasure. “If we don’t choose to take a stand directly outside or near the venue,” a reader said, “it will appear to the media and the rest of our community that there is no resistance. It will be presented as if all Iowans…
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Affordable housing tour offers necessary spotlight

Affordable housing tour offers necessary spotlight

Gazette Column
Work on a project for months, put your heart and soul into it and, even so, you’ll be hard-pressed to pick it out of the pack. This is the lesson lost to those who skipped the Cedar Rapids Metro Affordable Housing Bus Tour last Thursday. “I think we’re coming up on it now,” Jeff Capps, executive director of Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity, said from the front of the bus, holding onto the back of a front seat while bending and swiveling to peer out the windows. “Pretty sure we’re getting close now,” Renie Neuberger, Affordable Housing Network director of real estate development, said later in the drive while striking a similar pose. “It will be on your right. It’s painted green,” directed Ron Ziegler, executive director of Hope Community…
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CR Transit changes nearly here

CR Transit changes nearly here

Gazette Column
Proposed changes to CR Transit passed their first public hearing hurdle this week. The upcoming changes are a result of recommendations from the 2016 Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) transit study, as well as current fiscal reality. In short, most transit riders will see improvements, but not a much wanted broader expansion of service. What’s included? Glad you asked. • Alternative Transfer Locations (aka Mini-Hubs) — Riders are going to see more crossover of routes, which will allow transfers to more easily take place outside of the ground transportation center in downtown Cedar Rapids. These will be located at Lindale and Westdale malls, and at the east and west side Wal-Mart stores. • Circulators — Looping routes will be implemented for Marion (Route 20) and the northeast side/Hiawatha (Route 30), making…
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AAUW: Remarks as prepared for delivery

AAUW: Remarks as prepared for delivery

Speeches
I'm honored to be standing before a room filled with women whom I have long admired for their intelligence, generosity and resilience. And, yes, I know that I'm supposed to come up front and re-introduce myself, give those of you who don't know me a better understanding of what this event's organizers have gotten you into. ... I promise I will get to that in a minute. First, I need to make a confession. This speech is the latest of many I've written for tonight. I penned the first one months ago, the day after I agreed to speak. That was January, before the theme of this event was chosen, and days before the presidential inauguration. When I came back to those pages, I found them to be passionate -- oh my,…
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First in a series: Weighing the benefit of a ‘Fresh Start’

First in a series: Weighing the benefit of a ‘Fresh Start’

Featured, Gazette Column
45-year-old Linn County ministry is only of its kind in the state Hundreds of people quietly working behind the scenes on behalf of Fresh Start Ministries can’t be easily labeled. Then again, neither can those who serve as the face of the organization, or those who rely on its services. To be sure volunteers include local pastors and church members. But there are also social justice advocates and social workers. Some business leaders are part of the mix, as are elderly and other shut-ins throughout the area. Past and current members of law enforcement are present too. A few who were once recipients of the program’s outreach have come full circle and now work to help others. Many, but not all, are Christians. I first became aware of the organization…
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Cedar Rapids women discuss why they’ll march

Cedar Rapids women discuss why they’ll march

Gazette Column
Trio will be among thousands participating in Women's March on Washington Calling these three Cedar Rapids women who will be part of the Women’s March on Washington “precious snowflakes” is a waste of time. The “snowflake” moniker, derived from the 1996 novel “Fight Club” and typically used to describe college students perceived as over-protected and too easily offended, was widely co-opted by supporters of President-elect Donald Trump to describe and dismiss those who showed somber emotions or actively demonstrated in the wake of the presidential election. It’s been so frequently used on social media in connection to the women marching on Jan. 21 that it’s effectively shorthand for demonstration participants. But when I asked Marilyn Davenport, Denise Mineck and Velga Easker what they would say to those that attempt to…
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Leadership is more than words

Leadership is more than words

Gazette Column
More ideas on how Cedar Rapids can attract and sustain affordable and supportive housing were introduced Wednesday, but it remains to be seen if any attracted a champion. Local groups affiliated with a five-year federal demonstration project, Partners United for Supportive Housing in Cedar Rapids (PUSH-CR), gathered other agencies to produce the Cedar Rapids Supportive Housing Forum. And, to the organizers’ credit, several key local players were present to hear from leaders in the field, local and national. Deb De Santis, president and CEO of New York-based Corporation for Supportive Housing, provided the keynote by outlining the benefits of housing that includes wrap-around support services and some of the innovative ways communities around the country are rethinking the problem of homelessness and funding projects. “People talk about the immediate cost…
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Jobs and housing go hand-in-hand

Jobs and housing go hand-in-hand

Gazette Column
Two news items caught my eye last week — one a human interest piece, the other a business announcement. Yet at their heart, they pointed to the same need. Gazette business reporter George C. Ford detailed plans by an Alliant Energy subsidiary to launch a 1,300-acre mega commercial and industrial park near The Eastern Iowa Airport. The development, made possible by an agreement to sell family farm lands, would benefit from the state’s first certified super park development, also nearby and being developed by the airport, and a first-of-its-kind freight and logistics hub planned by the Iowa Department of Transportation. The mega park known as Big Cedar, the transportation hub and complementary super park received praise from state officials, who dubbed the projects as critical economic drivers for the region…
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