The Hot Beat

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

“Sideways” director working on new film called “Cedar Rapids”

Alexander Payne, director of “Sideways,” the 2004 movie about two middle-aged guys touring California wine country, is directing a new movie called “Cedar Rapids.”

No word yet on why the name was chosen, or if it has anything to do with our fair city, but hey, news is news, right!

Shooting will begin in October. Variety is reporting that the film, which will star Ed Helms from “The Office,” is about “a sad-sack insurance agent who goes to an industry convention to try to save the jobs of his colleagues.”

Whatever. Maybe it’ll be like “Fargo” was for Fargo, and the movie will change our city forever. Wait, nevermind.

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

Dog kills cat, dog must go. But must it die?

Mitch Bingham will get a letter later this week ordering him to get rid of his dog.

The Blairstown city council will decide whether that means death or the pound, or a farm in the country for Sam, Bingham’s two-year-old Alaskan husky.

The dog attacked and killed a cat in Blairstown on Monday while Jess Mangiaracina, Bingham’s girlfriend, was taking the dog for a walk.

The dog spotted a cat belonging to Deb Johann, and got excited. It was on a leash, but Mangiaracina was caught by surprise and the dog broke loose and chased the cat, named Jill, toward a tree in front of Johann’s house.

“The dog kind of jumped up and snatched him out of the tree,” Mangiaracina said.
Before long, the cat was dead. Mangiaracina put the cat’s body into a garbage bag, knocked on the door and talked to Johann’s daughter. She then called Johann.

“I apologize, but your cat wasn’t in your yard. It was just running around,” Mangiaracina said.

Johann, who runs a hair salon out of her home, was upset. The cat was nine years old, and had been with the family ever since they’d lost everything in a fire nearly a decade ago. Johann said her cats never leave her yard.

“They might think this was a minor thing,” she said. “It was a cat. But it was our cat, and she didn’t need to die that brutal death.”

She asks that, at a minimum, the dog be taken into the country.

“An animal like that doesn’t belong in town,” she said.

The two families don’t agree on whether the cat was in Johann’s property when the dog spotted it, but when it comes to the dog’s future, it really doesn’t matter.

Blairstown city ordinance requires that if a dog attacks another domestic animal and was “uncontrollable” at the time of the attack, the dog is “vicious” and must either be destroyed or sent to a humane society. Rodney Kubichek, the mayor of Blairstown, said two years ago the city council was lenient and allowed a “vicious” dog simply to be removed from city limits.

“In practice, what’s probably going to happen is he’ll just have to get it out of town,” Kubichek said.

Filed under: Other, , , , , , , , , ,

News blogging goes wrong

KCJJ-AM in Coralville is reporting that a blogger for the Iowa City Press-Citizen has been charged with disorderly conduct for, among other things, blowing a high-pitched whistle to rile up neighborhood dogs.

She then complained about the barking dogs on her blog. Uh, and the blog is still running. She posted something today.

Filed under: Other

Really? Cedar Rapids ranks #4 among cities for young pros

Believe it or not, Cedar Rapids has been ranked one of the top cities in the U.S. for young professionals by a Madison, Wis.-based consulting firm.

Cedar Rapids ranks fourth among cities with a population of 100,000 to 200,000, according to Next Generation Consulting, a market research outfit that helps businesses and cities attract and retain young talent.

The only cities ranked higher than Cedar Rapids in its population bracket were Fort Collins, Colo., Charleston, S.C., and Eugene, Ore. Des Moines ranked twelfth.

“Take that, Des Moines,” said Christian Fong, chairman of Cedar Rapids’ Next Generation Commission, with a laugh.

The consulting company arrives at its rankings by measuring how healthy and green a city is, how much money people make, the city’s education and library system, its weekend and nightlife, cost of living, transportation and “social capital” — that is, how diverse and safe the town is and how many people vote.

Cedar Rapids performed well in cost of living and social capital, was above average in earning and life outside of work, and was average in education, transportation and health measurements.

Cities were rewarded in the rankings for doing well in several categories, and Fong wasn’t surprised that Cedar Rapids came out so well. Mountains and major metropolitan areas are great, he said, but ski towns don’t have a lot of good jobs, and it costs a lot to live in New York City.

“One thing that’s different about the next generation is our pursuit of really a balanced lifestyle,” he said, something you find in many Midwestern cities. “This is the one place in the country where you can uniquely have a great paycheck, a great career, great civic opportunities, great social opportunities.”

Next Generation Consulting has worked for the Quad Cities and the Technology Corridor Business Alliance in Iowa City.

Filed under: Other, , , , , , , , ,

Shifting gears

Anyone who follows this blog has noticed that coverage of the Linn County Board of Supervisors is no longer my primary responsibility. Things are changing quickly at The Gazette, and one of the changes is that my energy will be devoted to “enterprise reporting.” That’s our fancy term for stuff like investigations, in-depth stories and narrative news stories.

So I’ve changed the name. The Hot Beat will be a general interest, highly local news blog that tries to provide deeper reporting on everything from crime and traffic to local government and flood recovery. My hope is that it will be a real-time, relevant forum for readers to participate in the stories that matter most to them.

I plan to report stories in bits and pieces, ask questions of readers, and throw out ideas. I’ll post videos and photos. At the end of the day, I’ll still write a story (hopefully a good one) that goes in the newspaper.

You will have the opportunity to challenge the facts I come up with, to rip my analysis and to point out angles I’m missing. Please e-mail me if you have pictures or videos. I’ll post them and gladly give you credit.

Filed under: Other

Kids at Franklin raise money for Officer Davis

Students at Franklin Middle School have raised more than $2,000 to help Cedar Rapids Police Officer Tim Davis and his family.

The school community, coordinated by the Franklin African American Awareness Program, held a fund drive that raised $1487 from students; $313 from staff and $90 from the school’s student council.

“During lunch periods students spend a week collecting donations of coins, bills, and checks for the Davis family,” noted Kathy Dvoark, activities coordinator. ”A friendly competition between students in the cafeteria resulted in an ice cream celebration for some.”

Filed under: Other, , , ,

Talkin’ crackdown at St. Paul’s

I’ll be live blogging a Civil Rights Commission-sponsored forum tonight at 6 p.m. at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 1340 Third Ave. SE.

It’s planned as a community dialogue about recent crime along First Avenue East and the renewed police presence.

You can follow the live blog if you Click Here

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

Round 2: Marion, Hiawatha, Robins, Center Point dust themselves off

The Marion City Council will discuss tonight whether to put a local-option sales tax back on the ballot, perhaps as early as August.

Officials in Robins, Hiawatha and Center Point are also looking at such a move, after residents in those towns rejected the tax Tuesday.

The Hiawatha City Council met last night.

“We’ll talk about it for sure,” Hiawatha Mayor Tom Theis said Wednesday. “Voters didn’t understand it at all, apparently, and we’ve got to get the message out better.”

The earliest a city council could return the sales tax to the ballot would be Aug. 4, and if not then, Nov. 3.

They could go about it one of two ways, said Sarah Reisetter, director of elections at the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office.

First, supporters could gather signatures equalling 5 percent of the number of Linn County residents who voted in the Nov. 4 election, then deliver it to the Board of Supervisors. The tax would then go on the ballot for every town that hasn’t already approved it.

Second, they could ask the Cedar Rapids City Council — which is the governing body of more tha 50 percent of Linn County’s population — to put the tax on the ballot again. That would automatically place it on the ballot for every town that hasn’t already approved it.

Voters in Marion rejected the tax 2,227 to 2,044, or 52.1 percent to 47.9 percent.

“We’re going to talk about it Thursday night at our meeting,” Marion Mayor Paul Rehn said. “I still think that our people were confused. I would like them to know exactly what the ramifications are. And if they’re happy with the way they voted, so am I.”

Marion officials think voters didn’t understand that the local-option sales tax revenue would have helped pay for the city’s sewer project, a job that will likely be more expensive when the city has to bond for it.

Robins residents barely rejected the tax, by a vote of 290 to 281, or 50.8 percent to 49.2 percent. The result was irksome to Robins City Council Member Marilyn Cook because, as she sees it, the election’s only effect is to deprive Robins of the taxes its residents will pay in Cedar Rapids anyway.

Robins has little retail shopping or commercial business.
“We voted to give our money to Cedar Rapids,” Cook said.
The City Council’s next meeting is March 17, but they may call a special session, Cook said.

Center Point is also looking into holding a second election.

“We’re probably going to sit back and see what some of the other cities do as well,” Center Point Mayor Paula Freeman-Brown said.

Filed under: County Government, Other, , , , , , , , ,

Mauro: Dumping electoral college would have “negative effect”

Iowa’s Secretary of State Michael Mauro weighed in today against the popular vote bill, something the Gazette’s editorial page called an “end-run” around the Constitution.

The bill, which was approved by the Senate State Government Committee this week, would require Iowa’s presidential electoral votes be awarded to the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of whether the candidate wins Iowa.

Here’s a video voicing opposition to the bill.

The Electoral College system, Mauro said, was created to protect less populated states like Iowa to ensure they are included in the process.

“In the past twenty years Iowa has been a battleground state in determining our president. There’s a reason each party’s nominee visited our state days before Election Day – because our state still mattered,” Mauro said in a statement. “As I see it, toying with our nation’s current system could only have a negative effect on Iowa’s historically important role.”

State Senators Stacie Appel, John Kibbie, Thomas Courtney, Jeff Danielson, Dick Dearden, Jack Hatch, Pam Jochum and Steven Sodders voted for the bill, which left committee and goes to the full Senate some time soon.

Filed under: Other, , , , , , , , , , ,

Radio tower work to begin this afternoon

There’s a forested rise west of Walker called Spencer’s Grove.

The elevation is somewhere around 950 feet above sea level. That’s about 100 feet higher than Waterloo, 150 feet higher than Cedar Rapids and 300 feet higher than Iowa City.

The elevation, as well as the remoteness from airports and rivers that pilots use for sight navigation, make the spot perfect for broadcasting towers for TV and radio.

Three silent 2,000-foot towers stand there, halfway between the Wapsipinicon and Cedar Rivers, just across the line in Buchanan County. Each tower has its own hill, and each begins to blink red lights each night as dusk slides in from the east.

“You want to be as tall as you can to get the most coverage,” said Wayne Jarvis, the director of network operations for Iowa Public Radio.

Iowa Public Radio’s KUNI 90.9 FM transmits from the KCRG tower, the one furthest north, only a mile or two from Highway 150. The transmission line running up the tower failed Monday, and crews have yet to start working on the tower. WSUI 910 AM in Iowa City broadcasts the same daytime schedule as KUNI.

The problem is about 1,000 feet up the tower, Jarvis said, and a special crew had to be called in from out of state.

“Our tower crew ran into some weather difficulties and a truck broke down,” Jarvis said.

He expects work to begin this afternoon.

Filed under: Other, , , ,

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