Commentary on public policy, place and social relations
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Nothing says community like...
...a great big pile of Christmas trees! This has been a Cedar Rapids tradition for as long as I can remember. We take our trees to the Sac and Fox Trail parking lot off Bertram Road. The Indian Creek Nature Center uses the mulch to build trails.
As Cedar Rapids prepares to elect a new mayor next month we should be encouraged by the optimism of Aaron Horn, the new chief operating officer of the startup cooperative NewBoCo: There's this high-level desire to see [startup growth] happen here, and if you don't have people trying to make that happen here, it just won't.... I just had this idea that why would I run off to Chicago or Silicon Valley to be part of startup activity when people were trying to do that here (Patane 2017).
Cedar Rapids seems to be out-performing its peer cities in the 2010s. We're three weeks away from a city council election, including eight candidates vying for an open mayoral slot. It's been a rather bloodless campaign so far, with no burning issue or group conflict to polarize the electorate. There's been a lot of talk about fixing streets and filling potholes, which speaks to a certain confidence in our future. Or maybe it's a lack of concern? We are so sure we're not St…
Last week I considered the plan to widen Interstate 380 between North Liberty and Cedar Rapids from four to six lanes. I tried to construct the strongest argument for the project, based on increased population and daily traffic, as well as reasons not to do it (induced demand, fiscal stress at all levels of government, environmental costs, maybe traffic safety). I explained why I thought the reasons not to do it were stronger.
Despite a public meeting this week, we're still without specifics on the cost, or on the metrics that justify the expansion. We need to know: How much time , are we buying with our X hundred million dollars, and whose time are we saving? Consider that this is a 12-mile stretch of highway, with a 70-mile-an-hour speed limit (though the design speed surely is higher). Driving either direction between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, and assuming no obstructions, you should make it through this patch in about 10 minutes. In heavy traffic, that time will increase, bu…
There can be no more caviling about the accomplishments of the Republican-led federal government in 2017: the tax bill that cleared December 20, and was signed by President Donald J. Trump two days later, represents major policy change. Unfortunately, in addition to achieving some legitimate objectives the bill pushes policy in some very dubious directions.
First, the good news. The bill includes a long-overdue overhaul of corporate taxation. The U.S. relies to an unusual degree on business taxes, and the complex provisions of the tax code had pushed the top rate (which nobody really pays) far above that of other advanced democracies. The current bill closes some loopholes and reduces the top tax rate from 36 to 21 percent, making American business taxation more transparent and possibly more internationally competitive. Some advocates expect this to result in more hiring with higher wages. (I'm dubious, given that corporate profits have already been doing well for most of this de…