District 3 candidates zero in on housing, crime, public works

Keith Rippy, Dale Todd, Justin Wasson vie for open Cedar Rapids seat

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Three candidates are vying for the open Cedar Rapids City Council District 3 seat Nov. 7, each with his own thoughts on addressing issues of crime, public works and affordable housing.

Candidates running for the seat being vacated by Pat Shey are Keith Rippy, 66, chief executive officer of Area Ambulance Service; Dale Todd, 60, regional director of development for Hatch Development Group; and Justin Wasson, 29, a small-business owner.

Rippy said there’s no one solution that fits all for every neighborhood in the district, which borders the Cedar River mostly in the southwest quadrant. However, the universal issue he intends to address is neighborhood quality of life, which entails affordable housing and public safety among others.

Citing the “broken window” phenomenon — a theory that criminals are attracted by signs of disorder, such as broken windows and weed-filled yards — Rippy said departments and organizations need to work together to improve distressed neighborhoods.

“That not just brings the police in, but code enforcement, Save CR Heritage and the buildings department to cultivate collectively to try to deal with those issues and to try to deal with an abandoned house or an absent landlord or junk vehicles, that sort of thing,” Rippy said.

Rippy, who served in law enforcement for 20 years, said he is a supporter of community policing and building more affordable housing across the city.

“Both personally and professionally, I have firsthand knowledge that affordable housing does not increase crime, does not attract an ‘undesirable’ element,” Rippy said. “In fact, quite the contrary. Areas that have affordable housing typically have much lower crime rates than other areas of a neighborhood. I would very much support that.”

Todd, a community activist who served as parks commissioner for Cedar Rapids from 1998 to 2002, also is a proponent for improving quality of life for the city’s core neighborhoods.

“Before we move forward as a community, I think we need to have tough conversations as a community about the issues of crime, violence, housing,” Todd said. “All of those things that work to destabilize neighborhoods, that’s noise that’s going to get in the way of us moving forward.”

In housing, Todd said he plans to tackle nuisance properties and discourage absentee landlords from operating in the district.

Todd said he also intends to propose policies and programs to combat opioid and heroin addiction in the city.

“It’s important to develop the resources and the plan now because we are typically two to three years behind the East and the West Coast,” Todd said. “When you look at what’s happen in some of these Rust Belt states, it’s pretty scary.”

Wasson, who owns and operates Affordable Pressure Washing, agrees that public safety is a concern that needs to be addressed.

However, Wasson said his first priority would be streets throughout District 3, which he said are underfunded and declining in quality.

He said repairs of these roads should take priority over some non-essential projects being taken on in recent years, like beautification.

“I want more emphasis on repairs,” Wasson said. “We’ve got a lot of streets in this town that are really bad.”

Wasson also is a supporter of a reconsideration of the city’s zoning code, which he said is restrictive for those who wish to invest in certain neighborhoods.

“I think our restrictive zoning ordinances are doing two things: It either stops the project altogether or it creates a black market where you just go and do it anyway and you don’t pull permits. Neither of those are good,” Wasson said. “There’s ways you can structure zoning to encourage investment, rather than to be restrictive, and that’s what I want to see.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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