Flood protection a priority for Cedar Rapids' District 1 candidates

Two Cedar Rapids City Council hopefuls compete in Nov. 7 election

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CEDAR RAPIDS — With no City Council District 1 incumbent on the ballot, two Cedar Rapids residents are competing for the seat in this November’s election, both stressing flood protection, street repairs and public safety.

Marty Hoeger, 45, business development manager for Graham Construction, and Ryan Russell, 36, operations manager for LimoLink in Marion, are running for the seat being vacated by Kris Gulick, who is not seeking re-election.

Flood protection is a priority for both candidates for District 1, most of which lies in the city’s northeast quadrant and hugs a big segment of the Cedar River.

“I think the No. 1 issue, not just for District 1 but for the whole city, is to keep moving forward toward flood protection for the city for both sides of the river,” Hoeger said.

Without that protection, Hoeger said, he fears businesses with facilities by the river eventually would leave, taking a toll on the local economy.

The flood system in Cedar Rapids would include a series of walls, levees, gates and pumps to protect the east and west side of the Cedar River from a 2008-level flood. It’s expected to cost up to $725 million, but there’s a funding gap of $233.5 to $336.5 million, depending on total project cost and if federal aid is received.

Both candidates acknowledge the fund shortage as an issue, saying the city needs to keep knocking on the doors of federal and state lawmakers to find money.

Russell said the city also needs to consider its own budget.

“If we prioritize flood protection, does that mean we need to reduce other projects or shift money around or cut money out of the budget that will allow us to continue construction improvements for flood protection?” Russell said. “That’s not me saying we need to start dipping into Paving for Progress, but let’s explore some options here.”

Hoeger said while the city needs to continue working with state and federal leaders, local leaders need to look at every avenue of funding, including a local-option sales tax.

Russell sees flood protection as contingent to development in flood-impacted neighborhoods. To encourage business owners and residents to build in these neighborhoods, they need “healthy assurance” the protections are coming.

A common complaint among residents are street conditions and both candidates support the Paving for Progress campaign, a 10-year, $18 million-a-year street repair program paid for by a 1-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2013. It expires June 30, 2024.

Both Hoeger and Russell support revisiting the program to prioritize some residential and other side streets in poorer conditions, along with the major roadways.

Russell is a proponent of having more officers on the street to address public safety concerns for District 1, but said the community needs to be more engaged in advocating for more safety. He said the work of the Safe, Equitable, Thriving Communities Task Force needs to be made a priority for the city.

Hoeger also supports more officers in the Cedar Rapids Police Department, and said he would push for more funds in recruitment.

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

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