Showing posts from August, 2014

Jazz Under the Stars Goes Downtown

KCCK-FM and a variety of corporate sponsors have hosted Jazz Under the Stars at Noelridge Park every August for as long as I can remember. This week, for the last concert of the year, they moved downtown to the new McGrath Amphitheatere on the west side of the river. Will this be a, or the, future venue? They're soliciting feedback.

The crowd seemed down a bit, maybe because school has started, or because of the unsettled weather. But they were a festive bunch nonetheless. Across the river, the Great America Building was all aglow. Looking downtown... the Veterans Memorial Building is at left, the Linn County Courthouse at right. The evening's entertainment was provided by Uniphonics from Iowa City. This is their instrumental section. The full ensemble including vocalists. I liked the new venue, but I like the park setting too. Maybe they could alternate weeks?    

Cedar Rapids comprehensive plan

Citizen reaction to Wednesday's Envision CR open houses probably depended more on one's frame of mind going in. If you'd just received a letter from your ex-wife's attorney notifying you that they were reopening alimony negotiations, and the dog threw up your phone just as you were leaving, and someone cut you off in traffic as you drove to the meeting, the displays probably seemed intentionally obscure and the plans suspicious. If you'd just acquired a handsome new bicycle, and the Sun broke through the clouds just as you stepped out of your home, and a little bird landed on your shoulder and mellifluously chirped the song you danced to at your senior prom, the displays and plans were evidence that exciting things are afoot in our town and the future is awesome.

Given that I'm as human as the next person--well, nearly so--and have my own personal frame of mind, I'm really not sure what I've just seen. Poster boards addressed a broad set of topics, inc…

Are we all Ferguson?

So much insight has already been offered on the recent shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the lengthy confrontation that followed between protestors and police, that it is redundant to add more words to the pile. I nonetheless presume to add some thoughts on a relatively uncommented aspect of the situation, that being the looting of area stores during the protest. I have spent relatively little time in St. Louis, and have never been to Ferguson, so I'm nobody's expert on this specific series of incidents. (Neither, of course, are a lot of others who have offered opinions.) But I think there may be a broader, or at least potentially broader, phenomenon at work.

I will allow three things by way of disclaimer: [a] By most accounts, Ferguson's city government and particularly its police department have handled all this exceptionally badly from the start (so in all probability your police department would not have so energetically contributed to the unfolding…

What is a complete street?

One appealing goal in our region's transportation plan, "Connections 2040," is to create "complete streets." The Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization devotes two pages to complete streets in "Connections 2040." The goal will be repeated in the city's comprehensive plan, Envision CR, which is still in the works (and which will be the subject of two open houses Wednesday 8/27, 11;30-1:30 at the library and 4:30-6:30 at the National Czech and Slovak Museum). But what makes streets "complete?"
The term "complete streets" has been popularized by the nonprofit Smart Growth America, which also sponsors the National Complete Streets Coalition. They begin by noting the widely-acknowledged fact that street development in America since World War II has focused on moving cars, and moving them as quickly as possible. In contrast, the defining principle of a "complete street" is one that is designed "with all users in …

Is a baseball complex a public good?

[ADDED 8/8/14: My Economics colleague Rick Eichhorn points out that a baseball complex cannot by definition be a public good, because it cannot be, in economist-speak, "non-rival and non-excludable." So to be precise, I am asking: Can a baseball complex provide a public good, that being economic vitality, from which all (baseball players or not) benefit, and which the market on its own cannot provide? As you will see from the following, I am dubious. Quite dubious, really.]

The Iowa Transportation Commission recently awarded a $1.266 million RISE (Revitalize Iowa's Sound Economy) grant to a baseball/softball complex planned northeast of Marion, on State Route 13 near County Home Road. The grant is in addition to a $750,000 grant from the City of Marion, and Linn County's effective donation of the (county-owned) land. The business owners hope to raise an additional $4.5 million in public funds, in all amounting to somewhat more than half the cost of the $11 million p…