The Hot Beat


The second-day story, with your help. Call Gazette reporter Adam Belz at (319) 398-8273 or e-mail him:

Hot Property #1: 1410 Bever Ave. SE

1410 Bever Ave. SE

1410 Bever Ave. SE

This is the address that got 71 police calls in 2008.

It’s a white two-story house owned by Vinnie Huskey Properties LLC, a company incorporated under Kevin Bachus, with a home office in Solon.

The home is right next to the Rose Apartments and it’s supposed to be empty. The city’s housing code enforcement office has posted a big yellow placard on the front door that says the place is “unsafe” and “unsanitary” and should not be lived in. The date of the notice is Feb. 27, 2009.

So imagine my surprise when I’m standing on the front porch, writing this down, and I hear somebody coughing inside. (Sorry. I didn’t knock.) All the windows are blocked with blankets, so you can’t see anything inside, but the place is run-down and the yard is mostly bare dirt.

The street was empty, pretty much, except for an old guy with a big beard sitting on his porch a few houses down on the opposite side of the street. He pointed out that several homes on Bever Avenue there are empty.

A man was stabbed in the chest at 1410 Bever Ave. SE in early February. It was the site of a shootout in May 2006, and the site of various assaults and other problems over the years.

Check out the Top 100 map here. When I profile a property, I’m going to mark it red on the map to and link back to my blog. Zoom in to your neighborhood and check it out.

Also, leave a comment. I’m going to try to talk to as many owners and tenants as I can.

Update: Police checked this house this afternoon and didn’t find anything, after a neighbor called in that somebody might be in there. Police said that while nobody was in there, somebody could well have been earlier. I’ve called Mr. Bachus and left a message, but haven’t gotten a call back.


Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,

The Hot 100 — now we’ve got the whole list, mapped

Update, Thursday at 11 a.m.: Forget about the color code I mention below. Obviously, I have not mastered online mapping yet.

Here’s a map of the top 100 properties Cedar Rapids police were called to in 2008.

We will work on some stories based on this data, but for now, let me give you some pointers on the color code.

Yellow: less than 75 calls
Peach: 75-100 calls
Orange: 100-150 calls
Red: 150-200 calls
Dark Red with black outline (that’s the Cedar Valley Apartments at 3000 J St. SW): more than 300 calls

I kept the hospitals and big retail centers out of the mix by making them transparent, but you can still click on them and get their basic information.

As far as I can tell, there’s only one single-family residence in the top 100. That’s 1410 Bever Ave. SE, which police visited 71 times in 2008.

Source: CRPD

Filed under: Public Safety, , ,

Supes to parents: Don’t let your teens party in the bungalow, or on the back 40

The Linn County Supervisors want to pass an ordinance that would penalize adults for either hosting or turning a blind eye to a party on their property where underage kids drink.

The county attorney’s office will write a draft for the supervisors to vote on. Supervisors say that will take a couple months.

“It’d be really nice to get this done before graduation and prom season,” Supervisor Linda Langston said.

Washington County, which is one of only a handful of local governments in Iowa with such an ordinance, has successfully prosecuted at least one case, said Jennifer Husmann, of the Area Substance Abuse Council.

She has pushed for such an ordinance in Linn County, arguing that it would keep young people safer and help them avoid addiction.

“We really wanted a preventative law,” Husmann said. “Hopefully it’s a helpful tool for law enforcement.”

The supervisors don’t know yet whether they can pass an ordinance that applies to each city in the county. The county attorney’s office will figure that out for them.

Filed under: County Government, , , , , ,

Is the recession saving lives on Iowa roads?

As of yesterday, 88 people had died in car and truck crashes this year in Iowa.

That’s fewer fatalities by April 21 than in 2008, 2007, 2006 or 2005. It puts the state on a pace similar to 2004, when 388 people died on Iowa roads, the lowest number since World War II. (A monthly death count from 1938 to 2007 is available here.)

Scott Falb, a researcher for the Iowa DOT, thinks people are driving less — and driving slower — in 2009 because of the recession.

“I think they’re being a little more cautious with gasoline and it’s having an effect on their safety as well,” he said. “The same things that save you gasoline save lives out there as well.”

The worst year for Iowa traffic deaths was 1970, when 912 people died. Since then have come lower speed limits, child safety restraint laws and tougher drunk driving laws. Deaths have steadily declined.

The sharpest decline in fatalities was between 1981 and 1982, which reinforces Falb’s hypothesis about recessions and driver safety.

In 1982, the U.S. suffered its worst economic downturn since the Great Depression (up to that point).

Filed under: 19467006, Public Safety, , , ,

County recorders in the limelight as opening day approaches for gay marriage

County recorder offices are hustling to get ready for Monday, when they will start issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.

Recorder’s Offices — the keepers of birth, death, marriage and real estate records — have come under scrutiny as supporters and opponents prepare for same-sex marriage to become reality at county seats across the state.

“We have really no idea how many to expect,” said Phyllis Booth, a Linn County deputy recorder.

Her office is getting the new paperwork ready, including an application that instead of listing bride and groom, lists bride, groom or spouse. It also refers to each couple as “party A” and “party B,” instead of “bride” and “groom.”

Iowa’s Supreme Court ruled April 3 that same-sex marriage is legal, striking down the state legislature’s 1998 Defense of Marriage Act and making Iowa the third state to allow gay couples to marry —after Massachusetts and Connecticut. The ruling goes into effect Monday.

Sue Meyer, the recorder in Clayton County in northeast Iowa, doesn’t expect a big turnout.

“We’ve had just one question. One person contacted us as to what will be the date and the procedure,” she said. “I’m not expecting a huge rush.”

Linn County will begin accepting applications Friday, though it won’t process them until Monday.

Gay couples from out-of-state can be married in Iowa as long as they either wait for three days after they get a marriage license, or get a special waiver from a county clerk of courts.

“We are getting inquiries. Now whether they’re from out of state or not is a little hard to say,” Booth said. “We don’t ask that question.”

The Cedar Rapids Police Department has notified the Linn County Recorder’s Office that Westdale Mall doesn’t want protesters in the building or on the parking lot, Booth said. The owners of Westdale, however, do not own the old Steve & Barry’s store, in which the recorder’s office is now located, on the ground floor.

Sen. Merlin Bartz, R-Grafton, and the Iowa Family Policy Center, a pro-life group that opposes same-sex marriage and gambling, are circulating a petition asking county recorders to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

But Marilyn Dopheide, president of the Iowa County Recorder’s Association and the Carroll County Recorder, said she doesn’t expect the petition will have much impact. Recorders can be removed from office for disobeying state law.

“I’m going to do what the Supreme Court says,” Dopheide said. “We have taken an oath to uphold the law. We don’t make policy.”

This is the view of Kim Painter, Johnson County’s recorder. She’s a lesbian who has been with her partner for 12 years.

She expects a “substantial number” of applications on Monday in Iowa City, some of them by mail.

“I’m sure we’ll have plenty of people that want to come back here who attended the University of Iowa, who either have family here or are just attached to the area,” she said.

In 2004, Painter turned down marriage applications from 52 gay couples, she said, even though she disagreed with the law that required her to do so.

“I’m glad that I did what I needed to do under the law,” she said, “because on Monday I believe all 99 recorders are going to do what they need to do under the law.”

(Linn County Recorder Joan McCalmant

Filed under: County Government, , , ,

Lori Barkema was essentially fired, law judge says

Former Gazette reporter Christoph Trappe uncovered an Iowa Unemployment Insurance Appeals decision that found Barkema was told either to resign, or be fired.

She resigned as director of the library without explanation a little less than a year ago, got $65,000 in severance, and disappeared. She and the board have revealed nothing of consequence about the incident since.

Filed under: Cedar Rapids Library, , , ,

Top 25! (properties that police were called to)

UPDATE: See the addresses mapped out here. Thanks to the commenter for doing this.

Below is a list of the addresses where police were called the most in 2008.

Wellington Heights and Mound View don’t break the top five, but eight properties in that area are in the top 25.

Big stores, the hospitals and high schools fill the top 25. The top residential address is 3000 J St. SW, an apartment complex in southwest Cedar Rapids.

I’ve highlighted the addresses by quadrant: Northeast, Southwest, Southeast. No northwest Cedar Rapids properties are in the top 25.

And I’ve underlined all the addresses that can be reasonably considered to be part of the area police have cracked down on in recent weeks. (First Avenue East between 12th and 20th Streets.)

Total Calls, Address, Location
342, 4444 1st Ave. E, Lindale Mall
335, 3601 29th Ave. SW, Wal-Mart Southwest
331, 3000 J St. SW, Apartments
313, 1026 A Ave. NE, St. Luke’s Hospital
281, 2645 Blairs Ferry Rd. NE, Wal-Mart Northeast
260, 701 10th St. SE, Mercy Medical Center
242, 1556 1st Ave. E, Hy-Vee
197, 2600 Edgewood Rd. SW, Westdale Mall
185, 1430 1st Ave. E, Road Ranger
167, 3325 Southgate Ct. SW, Motel 6
155, 1263 1st Ave. E, Apartments
151, 310 5th Ave. SE, Geneva Tower
140, 3100 16th Ave. SW, Budget Inn
128, 20 Wilson Ave. SW, Hy-Vee
124, 1261 1st Ave. E, Apartments
121, 1407 3rd Ave. SE, Apartments

121, 1415 Bever Ave. SE, Apartments
119, 1243 20th St. SW, Jefferson HS

112, 2030 Glass Rd. NE, Apartments
111, 4600 1st Ave. E, Sears
111, 401 76th Ave. SW, College Community Schools
107, 5910 4th St. SW, Lumberyard

107, 4545 Wenig Rd. NE, Kennedy High School
106, 1323 1st Ave. E, Who’s on First
105, 2205 Forest Dr. SE, Washington HS

105, 1530 1st Ave. E, McDonald’s

The following calls for service were removed from the total count as they were self-initiated or initiated by the officer. These calls included:Bar Checks; Business Checks; Traffic Stops; Accidents; School Checks; Motel Checks; Foot Patrols; Cops Projects; Selective Enforcement Projects; Transport Prisoners; Meet Officer; Investigation; Street Storage.

Thanks to Sgt. Cristy Hamblin for getting me this list.

Filed under: Cedar Rapids City Council, , , , , ,

Too much trash on County Home Road?

Supervisor Brent Oleson wants to institute a new ordinance requiring pickups and dump trucks to cover their loads when driving through rural Linn County on the way to the dump.

He said there’s a lot of trash on County Home Road near the landfill, and he wants the Sheriff’s Office to start fining people who don’t put a tarp on that bed full of scrap vinyl siding or old shingles.

Road ditches all over are full of trash — that’s what’s left after the snow melts in Iowa. But Oleson thinks County Home Road, which runs along the northern city limits of Robins and Marion, connecting Interstate 380 and Highway 13, is particularly bad.

“It’s hard for me to believe it has nothing to do with the landfill being there,” Oleson said.

Sheriff’s Lt. Greg McGivern said there is no ordinance for deputies to enforce. The supervisors directed the county attorney’s office to look into it, and perhaps write a new ordinance for the supervisors to pass.

Filed under: County Government, , , , ,

Flood insurance to cost a bundle for courthouse, jail

Flood insurance premiums for seven county buildings that were flooded — and yes, FEMA requires flood insurance for those if it’s goin to shell out millions of dollars to repair them — will be about $630,000 per year, Linn County Risk Manager Steve Estenson said this morning.

That’s more than 1 percent of the county’s annual general fund budget.

“Our two highest costs are of course the jail and courthouse,” Supervisor Lu Barron said of the two buildings on May’s Island, both of which sustained significant flood damage.

The premiums for federal flood insurance will be $50,000 per year, but the county has to insure its buildings for another $30 million in damage, and the premiums for that insurance are $580,000 per year, Estenson said.

Millheiser Smith, the company that came up with the quotes for the county, had to piece together that $30 million in coverage using six different insurers.

“They had challenges in finding insurance companies that would provide this,” Estenson said.

Estenson said there’s hope the county may not have to buy so much insurance, if the state insurance commissioner allows the county a waiver. Rick Smith gets a little deeper into this on his blog.

As it stands now, insurance has to be in place when the county reoccupies the flood-damaged part of a building.

Filed under: County Government, , , , ,

Broken glass in the flood zone

Got a story coming out about it in Saturday’s paper. A group is meeting at the Oakhill/Jackson community garden at 9 a.m. to sweep through that neighborhood and clean up glass.

Here’s a quick video outlining the problem:

Filed under: Cedar Rapids City Council, Flood

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