RICK LUBBEN

1. City residents have expressed a need for improved communication with the City. What, specifically, will you do to improve communication between the City and its residents? What role, if any, does social media play in your plan?

It is with all good intention that the city council, the mayor or city staff try to resolve routine citizen concerns without waiting for the next council meeting.  That’s OK if it’s asking a Public Works employee to fill a pothole or if there is some general concern to be addressed.   The first inquiry regarding matters of policy should always be to City Hall–where answers must be consistent.  The vast majority of concerns can be addressed by doing that first.  If the concern cannot be resolved that way, then the City Council will address it.  One learning example was the conflict over 2013 pool hours.  The pool manager, leaders of the swim team and the Parks & Rec Commission have been requested to meet and recommend mutually agreeable pool hours for 2014.  Hopefully, this will eliminate future conflicts.

   City government cannot improve communication if the public is not willing to receive it.  Notices are posted, they are published in The Progress Review, as are the minutes of the Council meetings.  The City uses its own webpage and a Facebook page as information venues.  Often, citizens come to City Council meetings only when something affects them personally.  Many times, the Council hears:  “I didn’t know about this.” Or, “I don’t get The Progress Review.”  I honestly do not know how to help communication in that situation–we have to meet halfway.  I am aware of the La Porte City Residents Speak page on Facebook.  It is fine for people to speak out or vent, but a call to City Hall might answer–or at least redirect–the discussion.  When it comes to policy matters, Facebook chat is probably not the best forum to use to clear up any confusion or dispute.

 2. Increasing concern has been raised about the condition of the City’s streets. Where does this issue rank in your priorities for the City over the next four years? How will you go about determining what streets get repaired and when?

We in LPC are in a difficult situation.  Parts of the sewer and water systems are nearly 100 years old.  Our concrete streets are about 60 years old.  All of these structures appear to be wearing out at the same time.  LPC has 26 miles of streets.  A full depth (utility and concrete street) reconstruction of one city block costs about $250,000.00.  Laying down a coat of asphalt–while far cheaper–does not last as long as concrete.  So it’s always a tough call whether to lay asphalt or rebuild.

   Street repairs should be of the highest priority.  But, money is the problem.  LPC receives about $225,000 each year in Road Use Tax revenue.  Some of these funds pay wages, Public Works operations, snow removal, etc., so not all of that money is available for major street repair.  Major repairs require selling bonds or using money from the General Fund through taxation.  Looking ahead, funds are limited and major repairs will usually happen only when the City sells bonds.

   I hear the complaints–“Fix my street!  (But don’t raise my taxes).”  The City Council has been prudent in bonding for street repairs.  Engineers will tell you to fix your best streets first, then move on to the next best, saving the worst for last.  Generally, the plan in LPC has been to fix the most well-traveled streets first and then look for other streets in need where the repairs fit within the remaining available funds.  The Public Works Dept. has a list of the streets in need of repair, but there is no specific repair schedule.  Repairs always depend upon funding.  The next chance for major street repairs (without raising taxes) may be a few years away.

 3. La Porte City’s proximity to Waterloo creates particular challenges for local business owners to compete with and succeed. A thriving business district can strengthen the local economy, ease the property tax burden of local homeowners and allow the City to continue providing a wide range of services for its citizens. In your opinion, what role, if any, should city government play in attracting and retaining local businesses? As an elected official, what will you do to promote economic development in La Porte City?

LPC’s proximity to Waterloo–especially the Crossroads area–makes it very difficult for local businesses. Unfortunately, the city government is limited in what it can do to keep or grow commercial businesses or to fight the market forces of supply and demand. City departments buy goods and services locally as much as possible.  If all residents of LPC would follow this example, it can only help.

   Economic development assistance has been used in the past to help qualified local businesses. There are several things the City has done and is doing to try to improve the commercial district in La Porte City.  Currently, the City is involved in a project seeking a grant which will pay 80% of the cost of improvements to the facades of buildings in the business district.  A large majority of our business owners have indicated interest in such a program, so the general appearance of LPC’s downtown is likely to improve.  For many years, the City has had a loan program available to help eligible businesses make improvements.  Efforts are currently being made in to assist the reopening some former businesses that have closed.

   Generally, the City Council’s role should be viewed as more of a supporting resource to a group like the Chamber of Commerce. I believe the Chamber is more directly aware of local commercial issues and needs. Ideas for promoting local businesses or commercial improvement need to be made known to the City, which then may be able to participate as a partner in appropriate circumstances or to make business owners aware of various grant or loan programs.

 4. Beyond the issues raised by area citizens (questions 1-4), please make a brief statement in support of your candidacy.

Over the past four years, the City Council has done an outstanding job holding steady the city’s levy for its portion of real estate taxes.  While the city levy may have stayed nearly flat, other factors not in the city’s control–changes in assessed value, state rollback, county and school district tax levies–likely caused a rise in most people’s property tax bills.  Also, while the city levy stayed generally flat, not raising the levy limited the funds available to the city to provide additional services–such as street repairs.  If this policy has been unpopular, the City Council and I would consider suggestions regarding a change to the tax levy.

   In city government, no one person is responsible for completion of any project or resolution of any issue.   Anyone coming to public office with an agenda to turn the town upside down will soon find it takes more than one person to get anything done.  As a Mayor, you’re in the limelight regardless of whether you seek it; the Mayor is the lightning rod regardless of whether you deserve it.   As Mayor, you don’t get to vote on Council matters.  You can suggest, you can recommend, but you can’t bully anyone to get your way.  The true power of local government lies with the votes of the City Council.  It’s not about the Mayor.

   My training as an attorney has helped me work well within the processes of local government.  Also, while governing is a serious business, I do not let it overwhelm my personal life.   I am not going to do anything to harm my hometown.  I have always tried to be honest, accessible, reasonable and understanding when dealing with the public both as an attorney and as Mayor.  I see no reason for that to change.

   I appreciate consideration for your vote on November 5th.

DAVE NEIL

1. City residents have expressed a need for improved communication with the City. What, specifically, will you do to improve communication between the City and its residents? What role, if any, does social media play in your plan?

In answering this question, specifics would have been helpful. Contradictory information should never be case between the mayor, city council and the city staff. I would propose meeting with city management staff following a council meeting to insure all involved have the same information on any changes to policies or services. I would not rely on social media as all citizens do not use social media. However the La Porte City web site could be utilized to list changes and proposed changes, as well as the local newspaper. I also plan to have regular hours in the mayor’s office so citizens can talk face to face with the mayor.

 2. Increasing concern has been raised about the condition of the City’s streets. Where does this issue rank in your priorities for the City over the next four years? How will you go about determining what streets get repaired and when?

Repairing and rebuilding our streets is my #1 concern. This will be the major part of our Capital Improvement Plan. With as many streets that are in need of repair or rebuilding and the limited amount of bonding authority, we will have to have the best plan. The total coast of each street and infrastructure will have to be known before we can choose what can be done first. I will seek any and all grants for the city to free up money for our streets and infrastructure and road use money for our farm to market streets.

   Once the Capital Improvement Plan is done on the streets, a public hearing should be held to get public input for the next part of our plans.

   The current interest rates are now favorable to get the biggest bang for our buck. I would favor moving sooner rather than later for bonding for the streets projects and infrastructure. However, our bonding authority is hampered by the outstanding bonds on the Sweet Addition and also those bonds sold to reconstruct 2nd Street, which has very little to no traffic.

 3. La Porte City’s proximity to Waterloo creates particular challenges for local business owners to compete with and succeed. A thriving business district can strengthen the local economy, ease the property tax burden of local homeowners and allow the City to continue providing a wide range of services for its citizens. In your opinion, what role, if any, should city government play in attracting and retaining local businesses? As an elected official, what will you do to promote economic development in La Porte City?

City Government’s role in Economic Development is to create a modern and pleasing environment for businesses to open and operate. Given the condition of our infrastructure in the Main Street business district, I think we have our job cut out for us.

   We have a lot to brag about in La Porte City and we need to make others aware of our good points. We have a new water system. We can generate our own electrical power. We have a top-notch volunteer fire department. We have a bike trail that is envied by other cities. We have a great school system. We have a wonderful FFA museum. We need to find additional ways to better capitalize on these assets to support businesses and generate economic activity. I welcome all suggestions to improve our business climate.

 4. Beyond the issues raised by area citizens (questions 1-4), please make a brief statement in support of your candidacy.

During my working years I have spent time and lived in several cities in Iowa but have always returned to La Porte City, as it has always been home. I know La Porte City can do better than we are doing. We must concentrate on our positives, correct our inefficiencies and invest in our city in a common sense way for the future. It will not happen overnight but it’s time to start. Time for a change is now and I ask for your vote on November 5.