116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Name: Marty Hoeger
Address: 2655 Long Bluff Rd. NE, Cedar Rapids
Seat seeking: District 1
Occupation: Business Development, Graham Construction
Educational background: High School, Kirkwood Real Estate Program
Why are you running for City Council?
Hoeger: As a person who has been born and raised in Cedar Rapids I have seen many changes in our community. No changes greater then the rebuilding efforts from the floods of 2008. As an employee of the city during the floods of 2008 I witnessed the devastation that so many in our community went through from small business owners, large corporations and the personal losses in the neighborhoods. I feel we need people on city council that has the experience to keep moving this community forward in the rebuilding efforts and to finalize flood protection for both sides of the river.
What are the three largest issues facing the city? How will you address them?
Hoeger: Flood Protection for both side of the River: We need to continue to work with our State and Federal representatives to focus on our rebuilding efforts of our community and protect what reinvestment has been done. I also think an annual forum should be held for the citizens to communicate to them what is being done at the federal level and the status of flood protection.
Safety: We need to work together as a community to assure that every neighborhood is safe. I will push for more funds in the budget for law enforcement recruitment. I believe that we need to have more police coverage in areas of the city that are prone to more crime.
Retain and Recruit Employment: I want to first focus on how we can be a partner with existing companies help them grow. We can do this many tools locally and with state programs. As companies locally grow then we should begin to recruit companies from outside the community that would compliment the industries that are currently here.
The city is facing some major revenue losses. The Iowa Supreme Court is considering whether to uphold a lower court decision to turn off traffic cameras on I-380, which have generated more than $3 million per year for the city. Now, the state is threatening to do away with the backfill, which in Cedar Rapids is worth about $4 million per year. What is your plan to balance the budget if those losses come to fruition?
Hoeger: I have never agreed with putting the revenue of the traffic cameras into the general budget for this reason. We need to look at how the city was budgeted before the traffic cameras and work our way back to that budget. I understand that it would take time to get back there but with our 2017 adopted budget being over $525 million the hope is that there are were to right size the budget without compromising safety and services.
Some big fish have expressed interest in opening shop in Iowa, including Amazon and Toyota and Apple recently announced plans to build in Waukee. What specifically would you do to put Cedar Rapids in the best position to land a major new company?
Hoeger: Most of these companies will reach out to IEDA at the state level before discussions begin at the city level. We need to make sure that we have a good working relationship with IEDA so that the City of Cedar Rapids is always at the table of discussion when these companies look at Iowa. We also need to market Cedar Rapids to companies that would compliment our current industries in our community and show them our values and culture is what makes this a great place to live and work.
There's very real possibility one of the area's largest employers, Rockwell Collins, could see its HQ leave Cedar Rapids. This would lead to a negative impact on jobs and philanthropy to local nonprofits. What would you do as an elected official to prevent this from happening or to minimize the impact?
Hoeger: We need to reach out to United Technologies and let them know that we want to partner with them on every level to keep the Head Quarters here in Cedar Rapids. We need to sell our city to them no different as if we were trying to recruit them here as a new company. We cannot take anything for granted that they will continue to operate here as Rockwell is currently.
One of residents top complaints in road conditions. Now we are a few years into a 10 year, 1 cent local-option sales tax targeting street repairs. It's called Paving for Progress, and we've started to see streets improved, such as 42nd Street. What is your assessment of Paving for Progress? Is it working or isn't it? And, do you favor extending the LOST tax to continue the program?
Hoeger: I agree with the 10 year 1 cent local-option sales tax for infrastructure needs. Our streets and sewers have been neglected too long we need to use tools such as this to catch up and fix them quicker. As far as the Paving for Progress is concerned I am not sure how they selected the order of which the streets are repaired. For example it appears that the stretch of First Ave from 27th Street to 40th street is under construction every summer which is hard on local business but roads such as O Ave NW which is a main artery coming from Edgewood Rd to downtown has been in disrepair for over 20 years. I think we need to do a better job selecting the work that is going to performed.
Another frequent complaint from residents is the city's efforts to become more walkable and bikeable, notably building sidewalks in established neighborhoods and road work downtown which has included converting one way streets to two way streets, removing stop lights in favor of stop signs and adding bike lanes. Do you support these efforts and why? And would you do anything specifically to speed up or halt these initiatives?
Hoeger: I agree with adding more bike lanes to make it safer for the growing population of bicyclist in our community. I also agree with the two way conversion downtown however the implantation of this plan is confusing and not safe. For example you have sections of 3rd Ave downtown as a two way and sections of 3rd Ave in the Med Q as a two way but from Third Street to Seventh Street it is one way. I understand it has to do with the railroad crossing as to why that area still is it is one way but we should not convert it until it is all ready for conversion. 2nd Ave is all one way downtown until you get to the bridge then turns to 2 way. Again this should have better planning. Better way finding techniques are needing to educate the community of what is going on.
Cedar Rapids is some $200 million short of the money needed to build a flood protection system. Elected officials and city staff have tried a variety of methods to shake loose federal money for flood protection. They've lobbied local congressmen and senators, lobbied in Washington, D.C., worked with the Army Corps, and pushed unsuccessfully for a local sales tax increase for flood protection. What would you do differently to get federal aid for flood protection? What if any back up plan do you have to fill the funding gap?
Hoeger: We need to continue to push flood protection at a federal level. We also need to tell the story of 2016 flood near miss. This could have been another devastating flood in our community and we need to remind them that 2008 was not a once in a 100 year event. If we do not have federal funding in place we will need to look at the option of a local-option sales tax again to try to provide some funding for ourselves.
Last year and earlier this year, the City Council faced a difficult decision when Commonbond Communities wanted to build an affordable/homeless housing complex called Crestwood Ridge Apartments in a northwest neighborhood that vehemently opposed the project. While several neighbors pointed to concerns about traffic and stormwater runoff, others said that type of project would bring down property values and could introduce questionable people into the neighborhood. City Council members were torn about whether to side with the electorate or endorse a project many acknowledged was needed in the community. How would you have voted and why?
Hoeger: As a person that has spent the last 7 years building and development affordable housing in our neighborhoods this issue concerned me at several levels. First this issue was a rezoning issue. The discussion should have been around whether or not multifamily should be allowed at that location not who would be living there. I would have voted yes that is the correct location for multifamily. There is multifamily to the north and all along Edgewood Rd. The developer of this project was also needing city support for his state incentives. That discussion should have happened at another time for the neighbors to weigh in on. That would have been the time for them to express their concerns of who lives there.
Cedar Rapids has leaned heavily in recent years on Tax Increment Financing to incentivize development with programs for downtown development, job creation, restoring brownfields and grayfields, historic restoration, sustainable improvement, community benefit, and urban housing. Virtually every high profile development has included some form of public subsidy. As one example, the city is proposing a $20.5 million public subsidy for a 28 story, $103 million downtown high rise with a grocery store and hotel called One Park Place. Is this the right approach? Is it too generous? Please explain.
Hoeger: TIF is a great tool for reinvestment in an area if used correctly. On this project we had three developers that wanted to develop the site. The project that was selected would be a great project for Cedar Rapids however I do think that the subsidy is too much and I question the marketability of the project in downtown Cedar Rapids. We had two other really nice projects that asked for a lot less subsidy and would have started construction already instead of having the project stalled as financing and market studies are being conducted.
Following a series of shootings involving teens, a joint task force of city, school, police and community leaders joined forced to develop a plan called Safe Equitable and Thriving Communities. City staff and council have said they will work to implement the plan although some have questioned the level of commitment and progress and whether the city should bring in outside help. What do you think of the city's progress on the SET program and what approaches would you advocate to address youth and gun violence?
Hoeger: I think we have very talented staff at the City of Cedar Rapids. The issue is that they get torn in many different directions and it is sometimes hard for them to stay focused on the task at hand. We need to identify a staff person to run this program and safety is all they do. I do not believe we bring some one from outside our community that will move away once they feel the project is completed because public safety is never completed.
Are there any other issues you believe are critical for voters to know?
Hoeger: I feel we need to do a better job of partnering with the Cedar Rapids Community School District. We need to have a better working relationship with them. We are seeing to many of our citizens move to neighboring communities and districts such as Linn-Mar, Marion and Prairie. We need to be a partner with them as they enter into their master planning for K-12 and facilities study.