Robert Bates makes third run for Cedar Rapids council

Joins two other candidates challenging incumbent

Robert Bates, 47, is running for the City Council seat in District 3.

Bates ran unsuccessfully for council in 2005 and 2009. In 2007, he was disqualified from running after some of the signatures on his nomination papers were deemed invalid.

Bates, of 419 Seventh Ave. SW, is a gaming operator at carnivals and events. He also said he is an entertainer who can lie on a bed of nails and eat fire.

On issues, Bates said the city should have an indoor-outdoor zoo on the site of the former Sinclair packing plant in New Bohemia. From the zoo, a walkway over the Cedar River to vacant land near Czech Village could lead to a new extreme water park. Mount Trashmore nearby could be a spot for a go-cart course and skiing in the winter, he said.

Such features on the west-side of the river could prompt festival parades to include the west side on their parade routes, he said.

Bates said the downtown remains "on life support," and he said the city should encourage retailers like Family Video and Cost Cutters to locate there. The downtown needs a 24-hour cafe, too, where people could eat "that doesn’t cost them an arm and a leg."

He said he wanted to see an investigation of what he said have been missteps by the Police Department, and he favors the return of the department’s helicopter operation.

"It caught me," said Bates, who has long been upfront about his criminal record.

When he ran for the council in 2005, he had an outstanding felony theft warrant against him for a 1991 charge in Dayton, Ohio. He was convicted in April 2006 and received a suspended sentence and probation.

Bates has been known to make his presence felt during public comment sessions at City Council meetings. In September 2008, he was charged with disorderly conduct for comments made at a council meeting. Then Police Chief Greg Graham characterized his comments as "profanity, name-calling and shouting." The charge later was dismissed.

In November 2009, Bates was charged with two felony counts of threats and one count of first-degree harassment after a mental-health worker called authorities to say Bates threatened to blow up the courthouse. The Linn County attorney dropped the charges in 2012 after reviewing Bates’ medical records. The comments were idle talk, the county attorney concluded.

In October 2012, the Police Department recommended that the City Council create a criminal trespass ordinance to make it easier to ban a person from city property who had created a disturbance at City Hall or other city building. Two weeks earlier, Bates had vented after a council meeting, yelling at Mayor Ron Corbett and others.

"If you don't like what I say, is that disruptive?" Bates said at the time. "The First Amendment is there to protect unpopular people who make unpopular comments."

Bates said he was arrested this April and charged with fifth-degree theft and trespass, both simple misdemeanors, after he was found taking scrap metal from a Dumpster on private property.

"Apparently the parking lot was private property," he said. He pleaded guilty to trespass, and the theft charge was dismissed.

District 3 incumbent Pat Shey also is being challenged by Robin Kash and Alan Modracek.

District 3 has eight voting precincts, with the most voters residing in southeast Cedar Rapids, including downtown. The district also includes some voters in southwest Cedar Rapids, including Czech Village; a little of northeast Cedar Rapids, including the Coe College campus; and a little of northwest Cedar Rapids.

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