Iowa City bridge may be named for Civil War general

July 23, 2009

IOWA CITY — The Highway 6 bridge in Iowa City may be named in honor of a Civil War general from Burlington.

The Iowa chapter of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War wants to name the structure for John Corse.

Les Weber, the group’s treasurer, went to the Johnson County Board of Supervisors informal meeting Thursday seeking the county’s blessing for the project. The board expressed support for it and will vote on a proposal next week. Weber plans to go before the Iowa City Council next week.

Two plaques would be put on the bridge. They’d be paid for by Weber’s organization. The state, which maintains the bridge, likely would mount the plaques, said Dena Gray-Fisher, spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Transportation.

The “Encyclopedia of the American Civil War” and other sources say Corse was a brevetted major general in the Union Army, which means he would have received the higher rank but not higher pay.


Old Iowa City council had spunk

July 9, 2009

By Gregg Hennigan

IOWA CITY – Former Iowa City Mayor John McDonald died Wednesday at age 65 after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer.

We’ll have a story and the obituary in Friday’s paper.

McDonald was on the City Council from 1982-93. He was Mayor from 1984-85 and 1988-91, according to City Clerk Marian Karr.

McDonald’s tenure on the council was well before my time, but I’ve heard stories about how those councils in the late-’80s and early ’90s could be, depending on your perspective, pretty entertaining and at times divisive. 

There were some strong personalities with differing views on the council. I asked Darrel Courtney, who was on the council from 1986-93 and served as mayor, about this Thursday when we were talking about McDonald.

It was “always very verbal,” was Courtney’s polite way of describing the meetings. As mayor, McDonald had a calming effect and was great at building consensus, he added.

I went back and looked in our archives and found some support for this.

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Iowa City Council to get chicken petition

June 30, 2009

By Gregg Hennigan

IOWA CITY – If the word “chicken” is directed at the City Council at tonight’s meeting, it probably won’t be an insult.

After three months of collecting signatures, organizers plan to submit a petition asking that people be allowed to keep chickens in residential areas. As of a couple of weeks ago, several hundred people had signed the petition.

Supporters of backyard chickens – which, along with urban chickens, is what the movement often is called – want city law to be changed to allow people to keep up to five hens, but no roosters, at their homes.

Click here for more background.

I’ll be covering the school board meeting tonight, but we’ll have a reporter check in on whether the petition is turned in.

The issue should not be discussed in any detail because it is not on the council’s agenda. Organizers plan to submit the petition during the public comment portion of the meeting.

City staff is collecting information on the matter for the council’s consideration, possibly later this month.


Iowa City franchise fees and city manager search update

June 30, 2009

By Gregg Hennigan

IOWA CITY – The City Council is ready to move ahead on franchise fees but will wait awhile on the city manager search.

Those were the main takeaways from Monday night’s work session. See stories here and here.

Because it was a work session, no formal action was taken. But the council made itself clear on those two issues.

On the franchise fees, the closest anyone came to speaking against them was Matt Hayek saying the fees shouldn’t be seen as a “panacea” for the city’s budget problems. Also, a few council members said they’d only support the fees if the money went toward public safety, including the hiring of more police officers and a staffing new fire station. But those are high priorities for the city anyway. 

On the city manager search, many of the council members said they saw the merits both to starting the search now and waiting until early next year, when the council potentially will have three new members following this fall’s election. A combination of being happy with interim City Manager Dale Helling and wanting one council to make the big decisions on the hire led the council to decide to wait.

The council fired former City Manager Michael Lombardo in April for undisclosed reasons.

Iowa City bar in the news again

June 22, 2009

By Gregg Hennigan

IOWA CITY – An Iowa City bar with a history of trouble is in the news again.

Iowa City police were called to Los Cocos early Sunday morning for a report of woman who had been stabbed in the stomach.

Just last week, the City Council voted unanimously to give the bar an six-month liquor license rather than the usual 12 months. Police Chief Sam Hargadine recommended the abbreviated term, citing the high number of calls his officers have received about the bar.

Some council members said they wanted to see big improvements from the bar at its next review, and it’s probably safe to say that isn’t the kind of start they or the owners were hoping for.

If you’re wondering why the council didn’t just deny the liquor license renewal, there are a couple of reasons. First, Hargadine said he believed the bar’s management was working to improve the situation.

Also, when a license is denied, a bar can appeal. Bars get to stay open during an appeal, and the process can take a long time. A couple of council members said they thought the six-month license would allow the city to revisit the matter sooner.

Backyard chickens update

June 15, 2009

By Gregg Hennigan

IOWA CITY – The Los Angles Times has a story today on backyard chickens that includes a couple of Iowa references.

The story mentions the Iowa City petition asking the city to allow people to keep up to five hens, no roosters, in residential areas. Organizers have said they plan to submit the petition to the City Council soon.

The city is collecting information on the topic for the council’s consideration in July, according to e-mails from city staff to people interested in the issue.

Law keeps new bars out of downtown IC

June 3, 2009

By Gregg Hennigan

IOWA CITY – The City Council Tuesday night approved a new law that essentially prevents new bars and liquor stores from opening downtown.

The council voted 5-2 in support of the third and final reading of an ordinance that requires a distance of 500 feet between drinking establishments anywhere in the city and 1,000 feet between downtown liquor stores that make 25 percent or more of their gross yearly income from alcohol sales.

Existing establishments will be grandfathered in.

The 500-foot and 1,000-foot limits cover the entire downtown area.

The change is the latest effort by the council to address binge drinking and the concentration of bars downtown, where the number of establishments with liquor licences has increased by more than 50 percent in the past 10 years.

Council members Matt Hayek and Mike O’Donnell cast the dissenting votes. They have said the distance required between bars would affect businesses outside of downtown that are not the target of the new law.

A copy of the ordinance can be seen after the jump.

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