Transit blog, day two

Transit blog, day two

Gazette Blog
All routes lead downtown If you want to ride in Cedar Rapids, you can’t escape the hub. My not-so-stellar Monday kept true to form as I made my way back home to Marion last night. Initially, I thought I’d walk to street level at The Gazette office and catch the Route 3 bus, ride it to First Avenue and 19th Street and then transfer to either Route 5S or 5N for the return trip to Marion. The plan was possible, but ultimately not practical because of the timing. Route 3 stops near that intersection 30 minutes before either of the other buses arrive. Making the transfer requires crossing busy First Avenue on foot and waiting at the Route 5 bus stop. There’s a bench at that location, but not much…
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Transit blog, day one

Transit blog, day one

Gazette Blog
Not off to a stellar start This Monday morning lived up to its bad reputation. And, no, it wasn’t completely the fault of Cedar Rapids’ public transit. Nonetheless, let’s start this off on a good note: I didn’t have to charter an ark or a speedboat to get to the bus stop. The rain finally agreed to a much-needed break, and I was crazy grateful for a blue sky and a few sunbeams. I had a simple agenda planned for the first day of my public transit experiment. I wanted to catch the bus in uptown Marion, ride to the transit hub in downtown Cedar Rapids and switch buses for another short ride to the bus stop about a block from The Gazette. Before anyone points this out, I’m perfectly…
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Time to rethink Cedar Rapids public golf

Time to rethink Cedar Rapids public golf

Gazette Column
It should come down the basic economic principle of supply and demand. People are simply no longer playing golf at the rate they once were. That’s true in Cedar Rapids as it is throughout the country. Municipal courses — many the result of residential developer deals during the 1990s that gifted courses to municipalities — have relied more and more heavily on taxpayer subsidies. Supply has outpaced demand, resulting in deficits. That’s a problem when a community has a single public golf course. It’s a disaster when a community operates four — more than any other community in Iowa — that compete against a dozen privately run courses and country clubs. Des Moines has three municipal courses, as does Waterloo and Davenport. In some cities, like Des Moines, local officials…
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C.R. transit consumers speak out

C.R. transit consumers speak out

Gazette Column
Last week I announced a C.R. transit experiment, and asked readers for their advice and suggestions. They didn’t disappoint. With new money soon arriving for public transit services in Cedar Rapids, many local groups are studying all aspects of what currently exists. Surveys have been completed. Public meetings have been held. Yet my experience is that most of the people who seek and are elected to public office — those folks that tend to hold the purse strings for public transportation — have few, if any, firsthand experiences of what it is like to use and rely on public transit. So, I announced last week that I’ll be riding city buses, beginning the week of May 1, as if I was part of a one-car family. Alternate transportation would only be…
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Veteran who died at Normandy finally honored

Veteran who died at Normandy finally honored

Featured, Gazette Column
No one knows exactly how many veterans are buried in cemeteries in the Corridor without headstones or other markers of their sacrifice. On this day, however, we know there is one less. Leonard L. Kelly, area veterans believe, may be the only Cedar Rapidian to receive mortal wounds on the beaches of Normandy during the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion of World War II. He suffered for two weeks before dying, according to War Department communication with his family. It took another five years before his body was returned to Iowa and subsequently buried in Cedar Memorial Cemetery. What happened afterward is mostly a mystery. [caption id="attachment_775" align="alignright" width="300"] Elmer P. Kelly, brother to World War II Sgt. Leonard L. Kelly, made application for a military headstone or marker in…
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Calling all CR Transit riders

Calling all CR Transit riders

Gazette Column
When was the last time you took a ride on a city bus? If you are like the city council and school board candidates I’ve asked, the answer is “not lately,” “ahhh,” or “can’t remember.” Regular riders often fall into two categories: those who are most passionate and those who are most needy. About five years ago, with a wrecked vehicle and no steady job, I had a toe in each bucket, and decided our family could manage with only one car. My husband would drive to work, and I’d ride the bus. The plan was nearly ditched the first day when I needed to visit Linn County offices, then located at Westdale Mall. After seeing the children off to school, I walked to the closest bus stop from our…
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Recovery slow for Congolese immigrants

Recovery slow for Congolese immigrants

Gazette Column
Caring for dead, injured depleting community's resources They had only been in the United States for a few weeks when an encounter with a patch of ice in the early morning hours of Feb. 4 changed everything. Nancy Lusemo, Serge Baketela and Mirielle Mbambi were three of nine people carpooling in a minivan and on their way to work in Tama when the vehicle lost control on the ice. They survived, which should make them the “lucky” ones, but the moniker smacks of indecency. Three were transported to area hospitals and released relatively quickly. Three others — Michka Kebeya, Platini Namputu and Dickson Mandiki — died in the four-vehicle crash. Kebeya was Lusemo’s husband. The couple and their five-year-old son had only been in Iowa about two months. All of…
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Study shows wisdom of Cedar Rapids’ Hy-Vee incentive

Study shows wisdom of Cedar Rapids’ Hy-Vee incentive

Gazette Column
A decision by Cedar Rapids city leaders to use taxpayer dollars to keep a Hy-Vee neighborhood grocery store drew significant ire, but a new sociology study proves the funds were well spent. There are several similarities between Topeka, Kansas — the focus of the study — and Cedar Rapids. Census figures for 2013 show the cities with a population of roughly 128,000, with a population density of about 2,000 people per square mile. Both cities are predominantly white, although Topeka is more quickly moving toward diversity. Median income levels are similar, as is the percentage of residents living at or below the poverty line. Given the similar demographics and geographic proximity, it shouldn’t be surprising the communities are also wrestling with similar cultural issues. Both are, for instance, searching for…
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Let’s redo school lunch

Let’s redo school lunch

Gazette Column
Policies set by school districts to address negative school lunch account balances are drawing headlines, and make clear that it is time to rethink the program. In Kentucky, several parents complained after an elementary school student’s lunch was taken away and tossed in the garbage because of an overdrawn lunch account. A Michigan high school student suffered a similar fate when his account reached a $4.95 negative balance. In Massachusetts, as many as 25 middle school students were forced to dump hot lunches because their lunch accounts were in arrears. The list goes on. When lunch accounts dip into the red, school children across the nation are being denied lunches or offered a paltry alternative, which some have dubbed a “sandwich of shame.” School districts trying to operate within tightening…
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Unique federal program focuses on CR families

Unique federal program focuses on CR families

Gazette Column
Local advocates plan for when funding, resources end Cedar Rapids is one of only five cities in the nation chosen for a federal demonstration project to help homeless or near homeless families with an open child welfare case. Kelli Malone, chief program officer at Four Oaks, serves as project director of Partners United for Supportive Housing in Cedar Rapids, or PUSH-CR. The program currently serves 66 families — 80 parents and caregivers and 139 children. “One of the goals of PUSH-CR is to keep enrolled families preserved and unified,” Malone said. “If children are already living with relatives or in foster care at the time of enrollment, we want to get them back as quickly as possible with their family.” It’s this aspect of the program, and the supports in…
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