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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Iowa nuns pledge to ‘mend gaps’

Iowa nuns pledge to ‘mend gaps’

Gazette Column
PHILADELPHIA — Just when I had written off the idea of finding Iowans volunteering with one of the advocacy groups in town for the Democratic National Convention, a group of wagon-pulling nuns rolled up and offered a cup of lemonade. Needing to meet a deadline and in a hurry, I initially refused. The nuns persisted. They were sweet and kind, so I snapped a photo to post on Twitter with my thanks. But when I tried to post it, the only group with the “Nuns on the Bus” name I found was based in Ohio. “Is this organization out of Ohio?” I asked. “No,” a sister replied. “Is that where you’re from?” I explained that I was a member of the Iowa media in town for the convention. She smiled…
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On the road to Philly: Pasquale Luz

On the road to Philly: Pasquale Luz

Gazette Column
One man proudly representing generations of immigrants Family photos tell the story of just how many of Pasquale Luz’s 24 years have been spent in politics as well as how important it has been for his family, descendants of immigrants, to let their voices be heard. Currently a resident of Dubuque, Luz grew up in Chicago where his mother, grandmothers and aunt were very involved with the National Organization for Women. “As far as I can remember, I’ve always been involved and attending political rallies,” Luz said. “My mom has a picture of us marching on Washington, D.C. before I could actually march. I was carried along the route.” When he was older, Luz worked on political campaigns and for the local Democratic Party going door-to-door and making phone calls.…
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Investment must follow Iowa justice reform

Investment must follow Iowa justice reform

Gazette Column
What will Iowa communities do with the nearly 1,000 non-violent drug offenders made eligible for early release by the justice reform bill signed into law by Gov. Terry Branstad this week? Or maybe the better question is what will those rejoining society do with themselves? Many ex-offenders return to families or friends in old neighborhoods, although that often means renewing connections to the people and circumstances that led them to crime. Others are no longer welcomed in those spaces, either because relatives and friends refuse or housing policies prohibit tenants with certain criminal histories. Either way, ex-offenders are released from prison with few resources. Even when housing is available, there is no money for rent and deposits. While Iowa isn’t the worst of the states when it comes to restricting…
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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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HUD ex-offender housing rule a smart move

HUD ex-offender housing rule a smart move

Gazette Column
America should be a country of second chances. This should be a nation in which each individual is judged on his or her own actions and merits. We don’t need to blindly trust, but we must step away from stereotypes that keep certain segments of the population from reaching their full potential, or bouncing back from past mistakes. This week the nation took a significant step toward that a goal when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released new guidelines for housing providers. Instead of universally and automatically banning anyone with a criminal record from renting or purchasing a property, landlords must now consider each individual’s specific circumstance. Landlords of federally-subsidized housing or in the private rental market who use blanket bans of potential clients with criminal records…
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Why ’70 Acres in Chicago’ matters in Iowa

Why ’70 Acres in Chicago’ matters in Iowa

Gazette Blog
Documentary screening, discussion planned for Friday night My first introduction to Cabrini Green, a 70-acre housing complex in Chicago, came via sitcom. This was likely your introduction too, even if you didn’t recognize it. The name Cabrini Green was never used in the 1970s sitcom “Good Times,” although the housing project was featured in video during the opening and closing credits. And while some of the challenges of living in poverty within a housing project were part of the scripts, the show barely scratched the surface and provided a warped view of the real people who made a life there. “Good Times” was set in inner-city Chicago, a CBS sitcom spun off the earlier shows “Maude” and “All in the Family.” It featured two families — the Evans and Woods…
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Marion should maintain housing discrimination high ground

Marion should maintain housing discrimination high ground

Gazette Column
There are economic advantages to keeping municipal ordinances aligned throughout a metropolitan area, but such benefits should never outweigh protections against discrimination. Area landlords, speaking during a public comment period at the March 3 Marion City Council meeting, advocated for eliminating a piece of the rules governing the community’s relatively new Civil Rights Commission. It’s a battle the same landlords fought and won five years ago in Cedar Rapids, and it appears that past success is a key reason for wanting changes to the four-year-old Marion rules. Garry Grimm, a Cedar Rapids resident and landlord in both Cedar Rapids and Marion, told council members that there’s a difference in how he promotes properties and screens prospective tenants in the two communities. “For Cedar Rapids properties, if they call and ask…
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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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Larger issues hidden in Chauncey’s shadow

Larger issues hidden in Chauncey’s shadow

Gazette Column
When a city or region grows, change is inevitable ­— and often painful. Iowa City’s growing pains have most recently been displayed as part of discussions on development of the northeast corner of College and Gilbert streets. On Tuesday night, I listened as a final set of residents sounded off on a proposal to rezone the property — the latest speed bump on the path to construction of the Chauncey, a 15-story, mixed-use high-rise. Nothing new emerged. Those opposed to the Chauncey development remain concerned about traffic, parking, use of taxpayer funds, affordable housing and, of course, the shadows cast by another lofty building. Proponents wrapped their comments around praise for past projects by developer Marc Moen and the need for a “vibrant downtown.” It was another opportunity for residents…
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