By James Erb, Charles City Mayor
To say we are in the midst of one of the busiest and best summer seasons in the history of our town is only to state the obvious. A majority of the events were conceived of and originated in the recent past. In addition, the new sculpture, Revival, will be dedicated on July 1st and RAGBRAI will be staying overnight in Charles City as part of the bike trip across Iowa. This marks RAGBRAI’s fourth visit to Charles City in recent times; the other visits being in 1996, 2002, and 2010. This list of Charles City attractions is now a lengthy one which brings a large number of visitors to our town.
What needs to be recognized is that most of these activities would be impossible without the efforts and support of countless volunteers and contributors. So when you visit the various events this summer, take the opportunity to let the volunteers know how much their efforts are appreciated.
Needless to say, I wish every city issue was as straight forward as the tourism issues. However, a lot of our issues involve interaction with other private and public parties. Unfortunately, they are not going to be easy to resolve. They are the worst of issues.
Leading the list is the state budgetary shortfall. In fact this deficit has accumulated in three amounts, the third of which was just determined. The concern is that the state will attempt to “backfill” the gap in income/revenue at the expense of local government. To make matters worse, this may prove to be an ongoing problem if the state’s underlying revenue numbers do not improve appreciably.
The state is also confronting a series of water quality issues. Our city is currently preparing to build/rebuild our Wastewater Plant in order to meet state/federal requirements together with the needs of our expanding industries. The situation requires coordination with our rural citizens which thus far has been a voluntary process. The problem is that the state has recently lost nearly $760 million in environmental benefits from farm conservation programs as protective ground cover was plowed under to grow more crops. The city has been working with farmers by use of grants to encourage conservation practices. The clock is ticking on finding mutually acceptable practices to obtain sustainable outcomes. We cannot continue to rob Peter to pay Paul.
There also is considerable uncertainty surrounding the possible repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act. That act has provided considerable support for local rural hospitals and also providing for health care for the poor and disabled. This was one of many federal benefits that may be greatly decreased in rural areas if projected federal budget amounts are to be believed. Thus all local governments will be severely affected and no replacement funds are being proposed.
The basic remedy given for all this proposed loss is an increase in jobs. This again would require state and federal resources in order to provide worker retraining programs and/or post-secondary school programs to be delivered by local schools/community colleges.
So far no such expenditures are being proposed; rather some cuts are being proposed at the federal level.
Last but not least is the pulling of the United States out of the Paris Pact to fight climate change. Iowa has been making great strides in putting in place renewable energy infrastructure. Charles City has also been proactive in promoting street and housing projects to move us in a positive direction. Cities will need state and federal help to further meet climate goals. Getting out of the voluntary Paris Pact so that our only partner would be Syria is absolutely the wrong move.
Federalism has three governmental parts; federal, state, and local. It does not work well at all if one or two of those parts is not participating or may wish to turn everything over to private entities. We know partisan division will not work, but we keep committing the same sin over and over again!