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Hayek highlights budget, crime

BY KATHRYN STINSON | FEBRUARY 19, 2010 7:30 AM

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Preventing crime and balancing the budget are the two key issues facing Iowa City, Mayor Matt Hayek told the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce on Thursday evening.

He addressed a number of the city’s challenges at the chamber’s annual banquet, spanning from tough budget decisions to developing projects that will aid the area as it continues to expand.

“Iowa City is a very attractive community, and we are in great shape compared with so many places across the country,” Hayek said. “But, the steady automatic growth we have historically enjoyed is no longer so automatic and is not sufficient to fund our operations and long term projects.”

Nancy Quellhorst, the president and CEO of the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce, said Hayek was selected to speak because his message was timely.

“Iowa City currently faces a selection of a new city manager, a budget that needs to be balanced, and rising crime,” she said. “As a result, the city’s leadership is critical to the future of our community.”

Hayek contended that the community’s crime rate is rising.

“Crime in Iowa City has increased in number and severity,” he said. “The situation cannot be tolerated and must be a primary focus of our attention and resources.”

(On June 9, 2009, The Daily Iowan reported that despite the public’s perception, the crime rate for Iowa City is going down, according to police.)

The city plans to expand resources to combat the city’s crime issues, Hayek said. This includes hiring six new police officers to enhance patrol operations in higher crime areas; one will specialize in juvenile crime.

City officials also re-established the position of crime-prevention officer, who will connect police and other departments with neighborhood groups, schools, and landlords, he said.

Hayek also noted positive developments in the city, including his excitement about the possibility of the UI School of Music and Hancher Auditorium moving downtown.

It’s also important for the city to use effective planning as the project develops to minimize the amount of taxable land loss, he said. These revenue cuts could be eased if the buildings offered commercial or office space on the bottom floor.

However, Iowa City City Councilor Mike Wright, who attended the banquet, said he didn’t like the idea of the UI taking property off the city’s tax roll.

But he did agree with Hayek that careful planning for the facilities could be beneficial.

“I’m afraid we are not going to know that until it happens,” he said.

Councilor Susan Mims also expressed mixed feelings about losing tax revenue with the new music facility location.

“At the same time we are excited it may spur more private development,” she said. “That it will bring more foot traffic with the students and professors is certainly positive for all the downtown business.”


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