116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Gazette news articles have well-documented the successes we've had in this region with urban and rural stakeholders working together to improve water quality through the Middle Cedar Partnership Project. Best management practices have been implemented in key areas in the watershed, and Cedar Rapids has contributed as well with a planting project on City-owned farmland near the airport.
It's early in the process, but we're confident these strategies will result in significant reductions in nitrates and phosphorus in the Cedar River.
As mayor, I've championed this cooperative approach here locally, rather than the more punitive and combative approaches other areas have taken.
As president of a non-profit think tank called Engage Iowa, I'm championing an approach I believe can make the entire state of Iowa healthier and wealthier.
Engage Iowa's proposal directs funding from sales taxes to both water quality initiatives and lower income tax rates that would keep Iowans wealth from fleeing the state for more tax friendly areas. The proposal (which you can read in its entirety at www.EngageIowa.com) also suggests a corporate match component that would make this a public-private cooperative effort.
Since the time Engage Iowa presented the state's first real proposal on water quality, other ideas have come forward. I'm glad others have joined the discussion, and I see merit in some of those ideas. But what Engage Iowa has proposed has a better chance than any other plan to get implemented. Tying improvements to the health AND wealth of Iowans together helps develop a broader coalition of support for each. Plus, the corporate match component adds both private commitment and $40 million in additional funding that no other plan has. That is creative public policymaking that lately has been in short supply.
Using Iowa's Nutrient Reduction Strategy as the implementation tool and the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund as the funding mechanism takes advantage of already-approved initiatives that have broad support.
Most importantly, the Engage Iowa proposal makes urban, suburban and rural interests partners in the solution rather than enemies across battle lines. I simply don't understand or agree with proposals that don't have us all working together. Iowa farms are the lifeblood of the Iowa economy. Cedar Rapids is at the center of an Iowa agribusiness economy that produces food and energy for the world. We shouldn't be fighting one another on this issue. We must come together and find meaningful, workable solutions that help everyone.
No one disputes the science behind the best practice water management practices. The issue seems to be in whether we can get the practices to a large enough scale to make a difference. The watershed projects Cedar Rapids is part of are just taking root. But I'm confident they will quickly show measurable positive results. I think the same can be done statewide, focusing on the health and wealth of Iowans and doing it together as partners.
' Ron Corbett is mayor of Cedar Rapids and president of Engage Iowa. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org