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Column: Thoughts on the new Cedar Falls council
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Column: Thoughts on the new Cedar Falls council

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This applies to Cedar Falls mostly because our city produced some rather startling results during the last election, indicating the town is not as settled as the average person might suspect. Of course, that leads an ex-councilman to make a few suggestions for the current crop of leaders who can avoid another repeat of that house cleaning in two to four years.

In examining the temperature of the town, I always have been conscious of the fact today’s citizens aren’t as “connected” to City Hall as they were when I served on the council. As a matter of fact, we have been disconnected. Not long after the new bunch took over, the inside doors were locked, and you had to get permission to address an exalted employee — even to pass out candy at Christmas. Not very convivial.

The citizens got clamped down during meetings and were time limited. If you laughed at something someone said or applauded and remarked, the magic gavel pounded you into submission. No jocularity here folks. We must keep charge! I recognized the tension in the air. Just like the orphanage I was in as a kid.

During the last five years, people worried excessively about the money being spent, over the cost of our prize-winning traffic snarl on which some persons still won’t drive. The prize? A nice trip to Singapore (I don’t know who paid), which doesn’t help pay for that extravagance, and, therefore, isn’t worth the fancy embossed paper it is written on. People still try to make suggestions at staged exhibits but they walk away from these affairs admitting it didn’t mean anything worthwhile to try. “They do whatever they want. They don’t listen to us.” That goes especially for the school board.

What the new bunch can do Jan. 2, 2020, is simple. Unlock the doors! Lighten up the rules for addressing the council! Yes, you may be there an hour or two longer, but you signed up for the chore — begged for it — and celebrated getting it. When I won my seat in January 1978, I received a check for $150, and had no idea why. I thought it may have been a bribe. I didn’t know council people were paid. And I can tell you that during that first year we had three sessions that lasted until almost 1 a.m.

One thing I want the new council to take very seriously: Beware of Waterloo bearing gifts. I came to this town in the late summer of 1952 to attend college and, as a stranger, I became aware Waterloo always has had some deal that would get them into Cedar Falls’ treasury. I recall Tom Hagarty and I fought like tigers to keep them from absorbing our Visitors and Tourism Bureau because we knew ours was better than theirs and didn’t want to pay them to ruin a good thing. I quietly moved behind the scenes to prevent us paying extra for the enlarging of their Orange Grove lift system, and we built our own, which serves south Cedar Falls at half the price. Several times I have rebuffed joining our fire departments, but I’ll bet they no longer have an interest in our hybrid whatchamacallit. We joined our 911 people with theirs and the county supervisors promptly gave the county workers super-seniority. Sorry folks. I simply don’t trust them, and you shouldn’t either. The Cedar Falls’ safe way is to pay our own way.

Another organizational thought. The council I joined had seven committees. Each member chaired one with two members and, if it had any meetings, we reported it at the next council meeting, pass or fail. It worked much smoother than what we have now. Sometimes we make changes just to give an illusion of progress, and all we’re doing is just that, an illusion.

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Stanley Smith is a former Cedar Falls City Council member.

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