Learn how to put art to work

Learn how to put art to work

Gazette Column
People want to live in communities that make them feel connected to one another, neighborhoods and towns that are diverse, vibrant and inviting. If Iowans can cultivate and nurture those types of spaces, cultural and economic stability will follow. It’s what community leaders instinctively understand, but sometimes have difficulty initiating. Development of inviting and welcoming spaces can’t be accomplished by one group working alone. It needs the voices and shared vision of local residents, government leaders, business owners and the nonprofit sector. Four gatherings will take place next week that can help build the understanding and collaboration necessary for these types of community changes and enhancements. Just as important, attendees will learn what it takes to compete for a pool of project funding through the National Creative Placemaking Fund. The…
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‘Circulator’ worth Marion investment

‘Circulator’ worth Marion investment

Featured, Gazette Column
City Manager Lon Pluckhahn and Marion Economic Development Corporation President Nick Glew made the pitch to Cedar Rapids Transit: Expand public transit services farther east, across Highway 13, to the police station and 184-acre business park known as the Marion Enterprise Center. [caption id="attachment_252" align="alignleft" width="640"] A sign promoting one of the vacant lots in the Marion Enterprise Center business and industrial park stands near the intersection of Partners Ave. and N. Gateway Dr. in Marion, Iowa on Nov. 1, 2016. Municipal and economic development leaders are exploring the possibility of expanding public transit services east to encompass this area. (Lynda Waddington/The Gazette)[/caption] Brad DeBrower, CR Transit manager, answered that call, providing statistics and options to the Marion City Council. One clearly rose above the rest. Marion can expand access…
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Bring kids together on Friday night

Bring kids together on Friday night

Gazette Column
By my estimation, high school football games are the greatest student solidarity builders since elementary school. It’s one of the reasons I love them. I need to note up front that I grew up in the South, where football is practically a religion. I also exited high school at a time when graduation requirements didn’t regularly force students to choose between interests. For the student body at my school, Friday night football games were a little magical. It was the first time since elementary school when we all were able to sit down at the same table, so to speak. And, sure, a football game was played, but the game was only one piece of the attraction. Students who excelled in vocal music sang the national anthem, which was performed…
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Appreciating the triangulation of Pokemon Go

Appreciating the triangulation of Pokemon Go

Gazette Column
A mighty battle took place in uptown Marion a few nights ago. A local father and his two young sons stood at the edge of City Square Park, iPhones in hand. For this family, the visit was one of purpose and excitement. After playing the augmented reality game Pokemon Go for a couple of weeks, they had finally reached a high enough level to attempt takeover of a virtual gym and place their mark, however digital and temporary, on the local landscape. Their target was the Marion Heritage Center, controlled at that time by Team Valor, otherwise known as the “red” team. The boys and their father were Team Instinct, or the “yellow” team. I was walking loops around the park, catching wild pokemon and gathering supplies while trying to…
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‘Fab Five’ shows Corridor’s 2016 battleground status

‘Fab Five’ shows Corridor’s 2016 battleground status

Gazette Column
Iowa Democrats have their eyes on the Corridor, and are betting on the rise of the “Fab Five.” With a majority of races up and down the ballot mostly set, Democrats gathered in Marion Thursday night to preview the 2016 coordinated campaign with an initiative led by Hillary Clinton’s state team, “Iowa Women Win.” The focus is, of course, on the fact that two women — Hillary Clinton and Patty Judge — earned the Democratic Party’s nomination in races at the top of statewide ballot for the first time in Iowa history. The “amazing women of Iowa’s past, present and future” is a theme the campaign hopes will energize those drawn by the historic nature of Clinton’s candidacy as well as those who have been turned off by Republican nominee…
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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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Transit blog, day three

Transit blog, day three

Gazette Blog
Who are the people in your neighborhood? Remember yesterday when I warned that today’s transit blog installment might arrive a little late? Even I didn’t expect it would be quite this late, but today was busy and fruitful. This morning I had the pleasure of visiting with other transit riders while waiting on and riding the city bus. “I love the bus,” Marion resident Ann Roberts told me while we rested on a bench at the Marion Square bus stop. She lives on 35th Street, just down the road from the Marion Hy-Vee, and has been a part of the community for two years, having moved here from the Quad Cities. At age 67 — “soon to be 68" — Ann has never had a driver’s license, and relies on…
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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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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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Paranormal investigation at Abbe Center? Why not?

Paranormal investigation at Abbe Center? Why not?

Gazette Column
Supervisors approved use of doomed facility with little fanfare The shuttered Linn County facility that formerly housed Abbe Center for Community Mental Health has remained useful as a training site. Last year it was used by multiple law enforcement and first responder agencies to stage an active shooter situation. Last night, a much quieter training took place. Coralville resident Greg Reisner has been a part of the Johnson County Paranormal Team since its inception in 2007. The organization is comprised of volunteers who provide their services without charge to residents and business owners throughout the Midwest. They’ve served as advocates for such activities, providing presentations about their investigation methods and the equipment they use at Eastern Iowa public libraries. Reisner also hosts an educational and entertainment show on Iowa City…
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