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July 11, 2006

Davenport things...

An open riverfront with unfettered public access equals good. Limited public access and blocked views equals not so good.

That's my conclusion after watching the Quad-Cities riverfront evolve for 34 years. Where factories and levees once made it generally difficult -- or impossible -- to get to long swaths of the river, green space, bicycle paths and public amenities now reign on both sides of the Mississippi.

The change isn't happenstance, but the result of conscious, sustained commitment by people and governments in both Iowa and Illinois. The right commitment it's been, too, in the long-term picture. That's why it's sad when some portion of the riverfront closes up.

Davenport's allowed one such closure, with its approval of Rhythm City's plan for a 10-story hotel at the site of the old Dock Restaurant, and is now facing a request for a second one. A developer want to throw up an eight-story luxury condominium building at 1065 East River Drive, in a .64-acre tract between Wakeen's Family Boating Center and the Boathouse Restaurant, both of which lease land from the city.

The site of the proposed condos, including river frontage, is privately owned, but the city gets two chances to review the idea. J.J. Conlon, the developer, wants the zoning changed from light industrial to planned development district, and wants to swap the river frontage for city-owned land on the non-river side. Maybe there's a decent deal to be made there, if city fathers think more high-rises on the riverfront is really the right plan. I don't.


The city's now facing what was likely an inevitable challenge to the speed cameras the council decided last year to stick up at various places around town. The computerized system detects speeding cars, takes a picture that captures the license number and in due time the speeding ticket arrives in the mail.

A guy named Thomas Seymour got one and decided to fight it, contending that there's no proof he was driving the car and that he is in effect being asked to prove he's innocent, which of course is backward to the way things are supposed to work. The Iowa Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has joined the case.

The city argued in court that the tickets are civil rather than criminal matters, and therefore the presumption of innocence has nothing to do with it. There'll be more arguing before a judge rules who's right.

I'm hoping he goes with Seymour. The speed cameras and the red-light cameras bring a Big Brother-feel to the town that's unpleasant, though that might be tolerable if the cameras provided some measurable increase in safety. Haven't seen any statistics that would indicate that's the case. What's measurable is the revenue to the city -- $220,000 or so in just more than 10 months.

The picture I get is that the cameras are nothing more than automated, city-sanctioned pickpockets.

Posted by jcb at July 11, 2006 10:30 AM


Right on both counts, John. Giving up city riverfront for some rich folks is a poor idea at best, and downright insulting to the rest of us, at worst. And speed cameras are nothing but a revenue-producing invasion of privacy. Down with both!

Posted by: Vita at July 12, 2006 05:28 PM

I thought the city, through development of the River Renaissance plan, had targeted the area in question for greenspace/park. Guess such plans should have a big asterisk *unless a high-rise developer comes up with a better idea.

Can't agree with you on the speed cameras. Never has been an inherent civil right to drive a car. If you're not obeying the law and abusing the privilege, you can be fined. Whether the ticket is written by a police officer with bad handwriting or recorded by a camera, it doesn't have anything to do with civil liberties or privacy.

If you want to complain about invasion of privacy, I'd worry more about the federal government's wholesale prying into telephone calls. . . for our own protection against terrorists of course.

Posted by: greg at July 12, 2006 07:52 PM

It should be interesting to see how many people want to live in a luxury highrise next to a mainline railroad track that is likely to get a lot busier in the years ahead as ethanol plants come on line all over the midwest and the DM&E, sister to the IC&E, builds its new track to access the coalfields of Wyoming. I've read that Rochester, Minnesota is suing the DM&E over its proposed increase to 30 plus mile-and-a-half-long coal trains per day. How many of those trains will be making their way through downtown Davenport with their whistles blowing setting off warning signals at every crossing?

Posted by: freda at July 13, 2006 02:24 PM