After months of behind-the-scenes wrangling, the Cedar Rapids City Council commenced a public discussion Tuesday on what’s next for the Safe, Equitable and Thriving Communities, or SET, Task Force and its recommendations for addressing violence, economic equality, housing and other stubborn community problems.
There were some signs of positive movement, tinged by our frustration with the slow pace of progress in charting a course for the task force’s work to continue.
Council consensus appears to point toward the creation of a joint committee with representatives from the city, Linn County and the Cedar Rapids Community School District aimed at figuring out “the best way to advance” SET recommendations. Several council members said they want the committee to recommend how best to “structure” what’s next for SET.
“I don’t think there’s any question everybody wants to move this thing forward,” said council member Tyler Olson, who drafted the resolution along with Mayor Brad Hart. We like the prospects for cooperation. We appreciate the city’s commitment to funding, although officials haven’t picked a number. We commend council member Scott Olson for insisting on a deadline to complete this search for structure.
After all, it’s been more than two years since SET was formed with a sense of urgency in the wake of a wave of youth violence. And it’s been more than 18 months since it issued recommendations, the product of a broad and deep effort to gather input from people not always heard in the halls of power. It’s been more than two months since city, county and school district leaders met with our editorial board and pledged to work out a plan for pushing SET’s agenda forward.
“I’m frustrated and a little bit disappointed in how this has played out,’ council member Dale Todd said.
We still support a plan advanced by a group of SET members, led by Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker, Todd and others, to hire a staff member charged with keeping task force recommendations on the community front-burner, while also searching for grants and other funding opportunities. Linn County supervisors voted to put $100,000 into the proposal, hoping the city and school district would follow suit with more “skin in the game.”
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If the city’s committee effort yields a structure that preserves that spirit of collaboration, shared funding and independence to advocate for SET beyond the agenda of any one government entity, we’re on board. Those core principles, in our view, outweigh any concerns about protecting governmental turf.
Bottom line, we want what’s next to be a real, genuine effort to realize the aspirations of SET and the community members who worked to shape them. We don’t want to see a fresh coat of paint applied to the status quo. And we want our leaders to find that lost sense of urgency.
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