During his third State of the City speech, Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart shared his top infrastructure goals for 2020, his thoughts on the city’s traffic cameras and various projects residents can look forward to in 2020.
Hart also acknowledged that during his two years as mayor there “have been — and will be — difficult decisions to make.”
“I’ve learned to trust our decisions, knowing we put in the time and effort to make the right ones and understanding that even then some people won’t be happy or satisfied,” Hart said during his speech on Wednesday. “There are also times when I am overwhelmed with pride for this great city of ours.”
Besides flood protection, Hart said his top infrastructure goal for the year is First and First West, eight acres of land that for years were reserved for a casino. The casino plans were rejected in 2014 and again in 2017.
Hart wants to “make sure we get the right development on that site.”
The city held an open house last November to get input on what residents want to see on that land. A request for proposals was issued in December 2019 and the city council is expected to choose their preferred proposal this spring.
During last year’s address, Hart announced the return of the city’s traffic cameras. Flash forward a year, and the traffic cameras have been on for seven months. (The city started using the cameras again in July.)
During this year’s address, Hart said the number of violations caught by the traffic cameras is decreasing “because people are learning to slow down.”
Data from July to December shows a drop in citations every month. In total, the traffic cameras generated 122,620 citations during those six months, and the city collected $3.1 million in fines for speeding or red light violations.
Regarding how the revenue is being used, Hart said, “We added 10 new police officers this year to proactively address neighborhood concerns and community policing issues.”
“We’re committed to using those funds for police and other public safety initiatives that support the well-being and safety of our community.”
This year will also see the kick off of a new volunteer program that is “very near and dear” to Hart — the Municipal Volunteer Program (MVP). The program will reportedly include volunteer opportunities with Animal Care and Control, CleanUpCR and the Cedar Rapids Public Library, among other organizations.
“My vision for the program is to create a system to enhance volunteerism in the community and support ongoing efforts,” Hart said, adding that more details about the program will be available in the spring.
Come summer, the city’s parks and recreation department will introduce a Rolling Rec Mobile in an effort to encourage fitness, reading and recreation activities among kids and adults. The van will be full of sports equipment, games, art activities and books, Hart said.
“It will have scheduled times at different parks in the morning, afternoon and evening Monday through Friday all summer long,” Hart said. “Activities will be led by staff with a goal to keep kids active, reading and building connections in the neighborhood.”
Hart also announced the city will extend bus service into the evening “to help make the community more accessible.” As part of the city’s fiscal 2021 budget, which is on track to be adopted in March and go into effect in July, the city plans to invest $904,000 to have the buses run until about 8:30 p.m., the Gazette reported earlier this month.
The Student Sponsored Fare program will continue year round, “so students can ride buses for free during the summer months,” Hart said. The program allows students to ride the bus at no cost and is in partnership with the Cedar Rapids Community School District, Kirkwood Community College and Coe College.
Since the program launched, student rides increased by 46 percent from 88,675 to 129,660, Hart said.
Hart wrapped up his remarks by thanking the city team and his fellow councilmembers, expressing how he’s thankful the council is nonpartisan.
“In this presidential election year, I am constantly reminded how lucky we are to serve on a nonpartisan basis, where we make decisions based on what is right for Cedar Rapids, not what someone in Des Moines or D.C. wants us to do. That’s important to me.”
“The vision of Cedar Rapids as a vibrant, diverse, prosperous, kind and generous city is already becoming a reality.”