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For more information, contact:

Cassie Willis
Communications Liaison
City of Cedar Rapids
Mobile: (319) 538-1058
Office: (319) 286-5055
Twitter: CityofCRiowa


February 24, 2010, 11:30 a.m.

Mayor Ron Corbett Presents State of the City Address Today

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA – February 24, 2010 – Today, Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett provided
the following statement in his State of the City Address:

“These are critical days for our community and it is important to take stock. I am truly grateful for
the opportunity to be the Mayor of Cedar Rapids. Having been in this position for only eight
weeks really doesn‟t qualify me to give a State of the City Address. Eight weeks is not enough
time to make an in-depth assessment. However, since the charter requires me to do so, I will try
my best.

“I do not want to be overly pessimistic, nor do I want to be irresponsibly optimistic. I just want to
be realistic. I believe that we are somewhere between „running on all eight cylinders‟ and „life
support‟. If you are the owners of Blend restaurant, you are probably leaning towards the „life
support‟ view. If you are John Sadler, of Sadler Power Train, you are probably leaning towards
„eight cylinders‟. It really depends on the seat you are sitting in.

“We have some companies doing fine, while others are on the verge of closing down. We have
some citizens getting promotions, while others are still looking for a job. I hear from many
citizens - mostly people who are struggling and people who are facing challenges. Maybe that
skews me to think we still have a long way to go towards recovery. However, is that really what
you want to hear, where we are today, or are you more interested in talking about tomorrow, six
months, nine months, and one year from now? It is important to understand the current situation,
but I believe it is more important to know where you are going. I would like the balance of my
remarks to focus on moving forward, making progress and getting results.

“I believe, strongly, that people in Cedar Rapids want confident government in these challenging
times. Getting from point A to point B isn‟t easy though. I believe there are three important steps
that need to happen in order for success to be enhanced:

Step One: Do we have goals, objectives and a way to measure our success? The
answer to all those is, “Yes, we do.” I personally have one more piece to add to the trio
and that is a „guiding principle‟. I am going to mix a little spirituality, not really
religion, to this speech. This is just me talking, not the City Council or City staff. I
have a bible verse that I have adopted as the Mayor‟s verse. I have chosen Proverbs
31:8-9, as my guiding principle. This is the New International Version: „Speak up for

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those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak
up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.‟ I believe this is what life
is all about… helping people. And that‟s my role as the mayor of your city. This is
step one in achieving results.

Step Two: Do we have a common cause, a focal point? Each step gets a little harder.
Some of you may say, „Yes, we do,‟ while others may say, „No, we don‟t.‟ There are
days when it seems that we are packed to the gills with issues to address and solve.
How do you develop that common cause, that focal point? This fall, I went to the
production of the Broadway musical show, „Wicked‟. My daughter bought the CD
from the musical and she plays it all the time. One of the songs has a line that really
crystallizes the challenge, „Don‟t dream too far and don‟t lose sight of who you are.‟
On the one hand, there is the feeling that we can‟t dream, that we shouldn‟t get starry-
eyed. On the other hand, there is the feeling that we have to be practical or we put
limits on ourselves. Have you ever heard someone say, „We can‟t do that? This is
Cedar Rapids, Iowa!‟ Perhaps in your own life you‟ve hear, „I can‟t get a job there. I
don‟t have the education.‟

As individuals and as communities, we struggle with this dichotomy. Neither side is

right or wrong. You can‟t have all dreamers with no sense of reality, nor can every
body be so risk adverse that no chances are taken. Interestingly enough, we don‟t
always find ourselves in the same camp. It always depends on the issue. We need both
view points. This is why it is so difficult to find that common cause, that focal point.
In our roles as Mayor and City Council, it falls on us to bring these competing sides

„We really have two focal points. Let‟s see if you agree.

Our first focal point is flood recovery. This has been and will be our top issue for the
foreseeable future. We need to continue to support the flood community. They have
been through so much. Former President Bill Clinton used the line, „I feel your pain.‟ I
like to say, „I have seen the pain.‟

That is why we have fought so hard to get the fair market value set at 107%. Think
about how you might have felt when you heard every other town was giving 110% or
above. How would you feel? Most of the flood community felt like they were getting
short changed. Hopefully, we have started to show we are fighting for them.
Remember the guiding principle. We have much more to do.

Next is appropriating the local option sales tax revenues. We need to get that money
out to flood-affected people. The local option sales tax was designed to fill in the
cracks. I realize there are times when government gets accused of helping out the rich
and powerful. The little guy always seems to feel like he gets the short end of the stick.
Washington, D.C. has coined a phrase: „too big to fail.‟ Cedar Rapids should coin its
own phrase: „no one is too small or unimportant to let fall through the cracks.
Absolutely, no one.‟ Nobody will ever be whole, but we can ease the trauma. We will
get the sales tax appropriated and start the demolition of homes next month.

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Flood recovery reaches farther than people. We have our civic assets that need to be
rebuilt and restored. We have five priorities this year to launch:
o Paramount Theatre: This beautiful, majestic theater is one of the jewels of our
cultural community. It will be restored and have a little more leg room.
o Cedar Rapids Public Library: This will bring $45 million to the downtown. It
will be a gathering place teaming with people. I can‟t wait until kids are
checking out books. This will be the pride and joy of our town. Any of the
proposed sites will work, so let‟s focus on the asset.
o US Cellular Center and Events Center: The year was 1979 and I was a
freshman in college. I turn 50 this year. That is how long it has been since the
dedication of the arena. We need this convention center and arena upgraded.
Cedar Rapids has to be competitive.
o Central Fire Station: The old central fire station will be relocated. We will soon
have a new chief. Fire service is a basic function in a community. We will pick
a site and chose a construction manager this year.
o City Hall: The Veterans‟ Memorial Building is part of our history. I think the
Council will likely decide to move back and use the former federal courthouse
and Veterans‟ Memorial Building. We need to be back downtown.
There are other projects that will be worked on, but these are the big five.

That leads me to the final aspect of flood recovery: a permanent flood protection
system. We have a flood protection plan. We need to protect the town with a system
that is made up of both levees and walls. But as Coralville and Iowa City have found
out, a reservoir as a flood protection system has failed twice in the last 15 years. Flood
protection systems are never a 100% guarantee. This is why we also have to push for
more flood prevention upstream. This is a big issue. Actually, I think it is the biggest
issue facing us. As Mayor, I will consider myself a failure if I don‟t secure funding for
a protection system that would protect both sides of the river. It is easy to fall off the
radar screen in Washington, DC. If you watched any of the stories surrounding the
Super Bowl, you have seen that New Orleans is still recovering from Hurricane
Katrina after four and a half years. Unlike New Orleans, we will not have a Super
Bowl Championship Team to help us bring a renewed focus on our disaster. The effort
really falls on the political leadership of Cedar Rapids. Frankly, it needs to get done
this year. Our first common cause or focal point is flood recovery that focuses on
people, civic assets and flood protection.

Our second focal point is to restore the fruitfulness of our economy. A growing
economy produces fruit - the fruits of jobs, broad tax base, wealth and expanding
commerce. We are seeing quite a mixed bag from the business community today. We
can‟t afford to sit idly by and watch as we lose jobs and businesses close. That is why
we pushed the „buy local‟ effort in the first city council meeting of the year.

This is also why our budget for next year will include a zero percent increase in
property taxes on commercial and industrial property. Now is not the time to saddle
businesses who are struggling to make payroll and debt payments with higher taxes.
Getting the construction projects up and running will also help with getting people
back to work. It is not enough. Many of the flood-impacted businesses are on the brink
of bankruptcy. Their principal and interest payments need to be suspended for 48
months. The state needs to waive local match for any new or expanding jobs project

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until our tax base is restored. The downtown tax base needs to double and triple over
the next decade. Priority One needs to step up and do more recruiting. The
Entrepreneurial Development Center needs to get more businesses in the pipeline. We
are going to be taking more than 1,300 properties off the tax rolls. We need to grow.

As I ask others to step up, I am also going to challenge the city staff to hang out the
sign „open for business.‟ We need a culture change. No more reasons why it can‟t be
done but how it can get done. I don‟t like a City department being called code
enforcement. When you get a letter from the IRS, what is the first thing that comes
over you - a lump in your throat or a pit in your stomach? Why? You think they are
after you! What do you think when code enforcement sends you a letter or makes a
call? You get the feeling you are in trouble. That‟s what you feel. Let‟s change it to
code assistance.

We have to create and retain every job we can. You have all heard the news that this
will be a jobless recovery. Well, if the rest of the cities across America want to accept
that, so be it. In Cedar Rapids, we have always been leaders in job creation. It is time,
as Chef Emeril Lagasse would say, to „kick it up a notch‟ on business development
and job growth.

“Those are our common causes, our two focal points: flood recovery and restoring the fruitfulness
of our economy. Some of you may be thinking, „He didn‟t say anything about the next generation
workforce, trails, diversity, roads, public safety. He should have talked more about arts, culture
and the downtown.‟ Just because my speech today was light on those subjects doesn‟t mean the
city council doesn‟t support them or doesn‟t think they are important. It just means that we have
to have a focus. If everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority. Knowing that we have a
focus, does it start to give you confidence in city government? Now the final step to having
success in achieving results…

Step three: Engagement is the most important step. Elected officials can‟t accomplish
anything without the support of the people. You are the key ingredient. We can have
goals, objectives, measurements and guiding principles. We can have a common cause
and a focused agenda. I suppose we can make some incremental progress. To really
get results however, we need you! Not just to support, but to be active citizens. The
power lies with you. KCRG-TV9‟s Beth Malicki said on her show one time that it
would take an army to accomplish everything Cedar Rapids needs to get done. She is
right. You are that army.

“I believe Cedar Rapids is in good hands. Why do I believe Cedar Rapids is in good hands?
Because the future of our town is in your hands and I believe in you. The question is, „Do you
believe?‟ I just love that word, „believe.‟ People stand up for their beliefs. They speak out for
their beliefs. They will fight for their beliefs. And some will die for their beliefs. It conveys power
and emotion. Because when you believe in something, you make a commitment to that belief. I
believe in you, all of you.

“Take a look around you. Look at your colleagues, your neighbors, your friends and family. This
town is in your hands and theirs. Do you believe that Cedar Rapids‟ best days are still ahead? Do
you believe greater things are still to be done? If you do, then I ask you to stand. Look into the
eyes of those around you and say, „I believe in Cedar Rapids.‟”

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