Food quest, flood questions, consultants galore

I digress yet again.

In search of lunch and a change of scenery, I packed myself up (notebook, camera, keys, ’91 Renegade) and drove into the still beating heart of downtown Cedar Rapids. Much of it still appears to be on after-flood (AF) life support in the form of electric generators, but there are fewer than there were a month ago and it’s quieter. Progress.

My food quest and decision to stop in at the River Corridor Redevelopment Open House resulted in a much more interesting day than I had anticipated.

  1. Got a look at flood management alternatives, the most likely ones to be adopted costing somewhere between $175 million and more than $1 billion. I told council mayor pro-tem Brian Fagan I thought #3 made a lot of sense. It would displace more homeowners than #2 and involve levees farther out from the river, but would result in surrendering a much larger area to nature in the form of green space. No solution will be without considerable pain and unhappiness. (The plan for a big upstream reservoir that would be completed in 50 years should just be dropped.)
  2. Fagan steered me toward one of our city government’s numerous consultants – the one standing by a display concerning transportation development – so I could tell the gentleman I’m in favor of bike lanes and interconnected trails. I gave the gentleman my 2 cents worth and didn’t charge him a penny. I also told the young guy from the city planning department that I would spring for the first couple of buckets of paint if he would go out and paint sharrows on the resurfaced stretch of 3rd Avenue. (I don’t think he realized I was serious.)
  3. While I was sitting at a table, filling out my comment form but otherwise trying to mind my own business for once, C.R. Gazette reporter Adam Belz introduced himself and asked if he could talk to me about the open house, the flood prevention ideas presented, and take my picture. This being the same Adam Belz who wrote the riveting report* on how our water supply was saved (I complimented him on it), of course I said yes and told him what I thought. We talked about live blogging and agreed it probably wouldn’t be real exciting during county supervisor meetings. I suggested that someone do a story listing all of the consultants we’ve now hired, what they’re supposed to be doing, and what we’re paying each of them. I’m not sure I’ve seen that all in one place. (You couldn’t walk more than six feet today without tripping over a consultant.)
  4. In a major flashback, while waiting to talk to the transportation consultant I ran into the guy who was the resident assistant on my floor when I was a freshman at the University of Iowa. (I always associate him with tequila, because he was present the only time in my life that I ever consumed it.) He thinks developing a more extensive trail network here is a fabulous idea. Smart guy, Tom Saxen, co-chairman of Play in Linn County.
  5. After leaving the open house, I ran into the kid brother of the guy who was my roommate when I was a freshman at the UI. (I had just said hi to his wife at the open house, too. Small town….) We were both having lunch at Victor’s, one of the first few eateries to open downtown AF. Get the ham/cheese on Italian or the tuna melt bagel for lunch or a breakfast burrito any time.

Our council has taken a lot of flak lately (check out Rick Smith’s Eye on the Island), some deserved and some not. At this point, I’m just glad I’m not in their shoes and I thank them for being there.

Pedal on, carefully.

* I was going to link to that article, because I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “riveting” to describe a newspaper story before, but I could only find it amongst the Gazette’s archives for $2.95. That is a shame. It ran July 6. There will be prizes.

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