Champions needed to address homelessness

Champions needed to address homelessness

Gazette Column
DES MOINES — From tiny homes to renovated hotel properties, people across Iowa and the nation are coming together in new ways to tackle the issue of homelessness. Yet in the Corridor we seem to be missing a foundational piece of the puzzle. In the small western Iowa town of Mapleton, five churches support “God’s Little House,” a property that was once slated to become a parking lot. Now it provides emergency or transitional shelter for area residents in the wake of natural disasters or visitors in other times of need. Between now and Christmas, volunteers in Des Moines will be spending part of their weekend pulling an 8-foot by 12-foot tiny home, dubbed “Tabitha’s House,” to church parking lots. Once in place and plugged into a wall outlet, the…
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Make Cedar Rapids zoning inclusive

Make Cedar Rapids zoning inclusive

Gazette Column
DES MOINES — The City of Cedar Rapids is in the process of updating its zoning code and, after attending the 2016 HousingIowa Conference this week, I’ve got an idea. I’d like to say that what I’m proposing is something new and radical. But it isn’t. In fact, it is a type of zoning that’s been used in Montgomery County, Maryland, since 1974. [caption id="attachment_150" align="alignright" width="640"] Housing development in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Presenters at the 2016 HousingIowa Conference made a pitch for inclusionary zoning. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)[/caption] Iowa City has discussed it for more than a decade, and has managed to partially implement it. Inclusionary zoning, also referred to as inclusionary housing this week at the conference, is term for local planning ordinances that require a given share of…
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Viola Gibson’s legacy lives through us

Viola Gibson’s legacy lives through us

Gazette Column
Visiting Oak Hill Cemetery was necessary this week so that my daughter and I could pay respects to one of the newest inductees into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame. Four Iowa women will join the Hall of Fame during a ceremony in Des Moines next weekend. Only one is from the Cedar Rapids area and, unfortunately for us all, she died in 1989. Nonetheless, because of her work on civil rights and passion to make this a more equitable community, Viola Gibson remains a nearly household name. My husband is a local, a graduate of Kennedy High School (Go Cougars!), but I didn’t meet him and move into Iowa in time to know Viola Gibson personally. It wasn’t until 2000 or 2001, when the Cedar Rapids Community School District…
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On the road to Philly: Jason Brown

On the road to Philly: Jason Brown

Gazette Column
Convention is culmination of yearlong commitment Touring musician Jason Brown is nearing the end of a monthslong political journey, and he knows these last few lengths will be the most challenging and rewarding. Brown, 32, is a longtime Democrat and supporter of Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid. He devoted himself to the campaign “and the People’s Movement it represents” more than a year ago, taking time off from his music and livelihood in hopes of making a difference. “This campaign and movement speaks to my heart and my values like none before,” Brown said. “In my short life, we’ve never had a candidate that goes down the line on progressive issues without compromise; someone like Bernie Sanders that is simply authentic and speaks our language.” At the 1st District Democratic Convention…
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One less housing option

One less housing option

Gazette Column
Enacting justice reforms that include early release of nearly 1,000 non-violent drug offenders will spike demand for affordable housing. And, in Cedar Rapids, there’s one less option. In a column published the week Gov. Terry Branstad signed the criminal justice reform bill, I noted opportunities for ex-offenders to access housing and employment are few and far between. Not only will the state need to revisit the nearly 650 “tough on crime” era laws that restrict the rights of former offenders, but more integration opportunities need to be developed if society expects assimilation and productivity. To that end, my last column included a call for more ex-offender housing options like the Mary Lundby Townhomes in Cedar Rapids. “Check your facts,” a reader and former Lundby Townhome resident replied, adding the that…
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VIDEO: Cedar Rapids bus riders talk pluses, minuses of system

VIDEO: Cedar Rapids bus riders talk pluses, minuses of system

Gazette Blog
Hoping to provide elected officials with a better understanding of how existing public transit services in Cedar Rapids impact the public, columnist Lynda Waddington recently rode the bus and spoke with other riders. Here are a few of the people she met, and what they think about the service they rely on to get to work, school and elsewhere. Read more about Cedar Rapids bus service in this Q&A piece, in which Lynda answers questions about her time on the city buses. This blog post by Lynda Waddington originally published on The Gazette site on May 23, 2016. Photo credit: Lynda Waddington/The Gazette
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Answering your bus questions

Answering your bus questions

Gazette Column
Many readers have submitted questions regarding my two-week stint on Cedar Rapids Transit. Here are your answers. • Will you continue to use the city buses? I won’t ride every day, at least not under current system conditions. I have a job that sometimes requires me to work outside of the office. Using transit for meetings, interviews and other off-site tasks is too cumbersome and time-consuming to be practical. That said, I do have an aversion to winter driving. On work days when I don’t have outside appointments, I can see myself using the bus to commute to and from work. • What do you most like about public transit in Cedar Rapids? Hands down, the people — riders and drivers. There is a sense of place on the buses,…
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Transit blog, day nine

Transit blog, day nine

Gazette Blog
The changing face of 'those people' One of my main take-aways from this project has been that many people — roughly four out of every five I’ve spoken with — have developed a certain perception of who uses public transit. Some believe transit users are all homeless or nearly so. One woman told me that most bus riders are people with alcohol addictions who have had their driver’s license revoked by the state. Still others have implied the system would be more efficient if it only stopped at Goodwill or other places that employ people with disabilities. An added tax on retirement housing complexes and nursing homes should be explored, one man wrote, since the elderly are primary transit consumers. Large, local businesses should sponsor transit services, noted another, because…
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Transit blog, day eight

Transit blog, day eight

Gazette Blog
There is sort of an app for that At the beginning of this series I said that after I used the Cedar Rapids Transit app more, I’d offer a review. Today seems like a good day. The first thing you need to know is that the website — rideCRT.com — and the companion mobile app aren’t homegrown. They are part of a system offered by Utah-based Ride Systems, which reports it works with more than 150 transit agencies in North America — municipal, academic, corporate, airport and resort. I’ve used their site to access a tutorial for the app, and have also embedded that video below. (If you aren’t into new age music, you might want to watch with the sound muted.) I can’t say that I learned anything from…
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Transit blog, day seven

Transit blog, day seven

Gazette Blog
Not all stops are created equal Until I met Marion resident Ann Roberts (day three) I didn’t spend much time thinking about bus stops. I’m guessing most people who don’t ride the bus don’t really see the stops, since many are little more than a small sign on a poll. Route 5S, for instance, has a total of 114 stops along its route, which runs from the transit hub, along First Avenue and out to the Marion Wal-Mart near Hwy 13 — roughly one stop every two blocks. Placing a shelter or even seating at each stop on each route wouldn’t be practical or possible. Some are located in the parking area (between street and sidewalk) of residential roads, others adjacent to private property. And, when you are riding the…
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