The number of exceedances of National Ambient Air Quality Standards in Iowa totaled 81 through November 4, nine more than...

A new Shell gas station and 2,000-square-foot convenience store would be built on the site of a long-vacant gas station along...

Kwik Trip, Inc. is seeking a special use permit to allow construction of a convenience store, gas station and car wash along 53rd...

The number of Iowans exhibiting one or more "problem gambling" behaviors has increased to 16 percent, 369,000 people,...

A new commercial development consisting of a restaurant, retail and office space would be built adjacent to the new McDonald's south...

Air pollution exceedances reach 81 thru Nov. 4

The number of exceedances of National Ambient Air Quality Standards in Iowa totaled 81 through November 4, nine more than the total number recorded in 2013, according to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).

The vast majority of the exceedances so far in 2014 involved high levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution, with 63 of the exceedances recorded at air monitors in Muscatine.

While the primary source of SO2 pollution in Muscatine – Grain Processing Corp. (GPC) – has begun work on plant upgrades aimed at sharply reducing SO2 emissions, the community continues to have the poorest air quality in the state.

Pleasant Valley school district raises red flag over Riverdale plans to include ALCOA plant in urban renewal areas eligible for TIF rebates

Pleasant Valley school officials are raising a red flag over Riverdale's plan to include the ALCOA plant in its first-ever Urban Renewal Area, the initial step in making the multi-million-dollar manufacturing facility eligible for Tax Increment Financing (TIF) rebates on future expansion and renovation projects.

Granting TIF incentives for future plant renovations could cost the district millions in school taxes, funneling those monies instead to either city coffers, back to the plant or into contractor/developer pockets.

In LeClaire, more than $1 million in school taxes are kept by the city and rebated to developers each year under TIF projects. The school district has objected to LeClaire's continued long-term use of TIF for residential and commercial developments, but the city has ignored its objections.

"ALCOA has the second largest amount of property tax valuations in the Pleasant Valley Community School District," Supt. Jim Spelhaug wrote in the letter to Riverdale officials last week objecting to creation of the Urban Renewal Area. "Therefore, ALCOA’s property taxes comprise a significant portion of the school district’s property tax revenue and overall revenue.

Democrats are paying heavily for their political failures — and for ditching the working stiff

Dick Tuck, the legendary political prankster and wit, once ran for local office in San Francisco and lost. His concession speech, in its entirety: “The people have spoken — the bastards.”

Now, you know me — I wouldn’t say anything like that about the recent elections. It’s vulgar and I’m couth.

However, if the shoe fits…

Perhaps it’s safer to quote the Sage of Baltimore, H.L. Mencken, who said: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

The 2014 midterms were a Mencken moment.

Vacant Bettendorf gas station eyesore to get new life. . . as new gas station/convenience store

A new Shell gas station and 2,000-square-foot convenience store would be built on the site of a long-vacant gas station along Bettendorf's State Street if the new owner gets a setback variance from the city.

Business group submits 'wish list' for Bettendorf downtown/riverfront corridor improvements

The downtown Bettendorf business owners that are part of the Bettendorf Business Network have submitted an 11-point list of improvements they hope the city will undertake to upgrade the area.

Municipal odds and ends. . .

Bettendorf City Council members and city staff met recently to set goals for the coming year, but you won't find any information online about the sessions.

Even though the meetings with the city's Florida-based consultant were open to the public, no video or audio recording of the discussions were made. For that matter, there aren't any written minutes of the sessions. According to the city's attorney, the council just talked about its priorities, it didn't take any votes on its priorities. . . yet.

Consultant Lyle Sumek has billed the city more than $18,000 so far for this year's planning services, plus $345 for snacks and lunches for the council.

Kwik Trip seeking permit to allow gas station and convenience store along 53rd Avenue

Kwik Trip, Inc. is seeking a special use permit to allow construction of a convenience store, gas station and car wash along 53rd Avenue, just east of the new McDonald's restaurant in Bettendorf.

The request is expected to go before the city's Board of Adjustment at its Thursday, Oct. 9 meeting, and appears likely to again draw protests from neighbors who have voiced concerns about noise and traffic when the McDonald's restaurant sought a special use permit for a drive-up window, and, more recently, when a proposed restaurant on Falcon Avenue sought a permit for an outdoor patio.

We can conserve by not wasting stuff we don't actually need

By Jill Richardson

California is on the verge of becoming the first state to ban plastic grocery bags. Governor Jerry Brown says he intends to sign the bag-banning law California lawmakers approved in early September. The ban will go into effect at grocery stores and pharmacies next year and extend to liquor stores and additional kinds of retailers in 2016.

In addition to making it against the law for stores to give shoppers single-use plastic bags when ringing up purchases, the new law will also require stores to charge customers 10 cents for each paper bag they get. The kinds of disposable plastic bags used for loose or perishable items like produce will still be allowed.

California’s not the first place in the world to ban plastic grocery bags. In fact, one out of three Californians live in cities and towns — including San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles — that are already plastic bag-free. So are Boulder, Chicago, Santa Fe, Seattle, Austin, and lots of other places across the country.

Iowa problem gamblers growing; 1 in 5 Iowans negatively affected by gambling

The number of Iowans exhibiting one or more "problem gambling" behaviors has increased to 16 percent, 369,000 people, according to a recently released survey by the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The survey – "Gambling Attitudes and Behaviors" conducted in 2013 by the University of Northern Iowa Center for Social and Behavioral Research – also found one in five adult Iowans (18 percent) had been "negatively affected by gambling behavior of a family member, friend, or someone else they know."

Nearly 30 percent of Iowans reported "knowing a person with gambling problems," and 7 percent of state residents have experienced someone in their family having a gambling problem when they were growing up, according to the study.

The next round of an un-winable war beckons

By Amanda Ufheil-Somers

Once again, a U.S. president vows to eliminate an extremist militia in the Middle East to make the region, and Americans, safe.

And that means it’s time again for a reality check. Having failed in its bid to destroy the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, the United States is still trying to dismantle both organizations. Over the course of 13 years of war, that mission has spread to Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Mali, and West Africa, as militant groups on two continents have adopted the al-Qaeda brand.

Contrary to normal logic, the White House wants everyone to see this failure as a badge of expertise. As President Barack Obama vowed in an interview on Meet the Press, fighting the Islamic State forces “is something we know how to do,” mainly because we’ve been battling similar groups “for five, six, seven years.”

Restaurant proposed near new McDonalds south of 53rd Avenue, Bettendorf

A new commercial development consisting of a restaurant, retail and office space would be built adjacent to the new McDonald's restaurant south of 53rd Avenue under a site development plan to be considered Wednesday (9/17) by the Bettendorf Planning and Zoning Commission.

The nearly 9,000-square-foot commercial development at 2207 Falcon Avenue is being proposed by Mark Roemer, who developed the Crust Pizza restaurant on the east side of 18th Street and south of 53rd Avenue. The site development plan did not disclose the name of the new restaurant.

According to the city, Roemer also is planning to seek a special use permit from the city Board of Adjustment to allow the restaurant to have an outdoor patio area on the north side of the facility.

Build it and bikes will come

By Jill Richardson

Did you see the baseball movie Field of Dreams? Even if you didn’t, you’ve probably heard the phrase “If you build it, they will come” — which it immortalized.

Well, how about “If you don’t build it, they won’t come”?

When it comes to bicycles, cars, and public transportation, both sayings are true (even though one is decidedly catchier than the other).

I recently moved back to Madison, Wisconsin after spending eight years in San Diego, California. I used to bike to work when I lived here before and bike for fun on the weekends. Now that I’m back, I’m commuting by bike once again.

Three candidates on special Sept. 23 ballot to fill vacancy on Bettendorf Park Board

Three candidates are on the September 23 special election ballot to fill a vacant seat on the Bettendorf Park Board.

Thomas Dryg, of 3826 Brookwood Lane, David Pratt, of 220 Bechtel Road, and Sandy Smith-Henzen, of 914 14th St., are seeking to fill the unexpired term of Frank Braden, who was elected to the city council earlier this year.

Long history of Iowa border cities using Mississippi, Missouri Rivers for sewage disposal

Iowa has a distinguished history for being in the forefront of wastewater treatment innovations, but the state's border communities were holdouts in building sewage treatment plants and allowed to dump untreated municipal and industrial wastes into the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers long after other cities along smaller streams were required to treat wastewater, according to a history of Iowa's water pollution control published in 1974 by the Iowa Water Pollution Control Association.

Writing in "Iowa's Heritage in Water Pollution Control," State Sanitary Engineer Paul Houser noted that the state's largest border cities along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers were exempted from state stream pollution laws enacted in 1923 and 1949 "thanks to the lobbying power of the border cities and their industries.

"In fact, the exemption also included the lower 5,000 feet of any tributary, which was written specifically to protect the Sioux City meat packers dumping their untreated wastes into the Floyd River," Houser wrote.

City administrator asks council: should city accept high debt level for next five years?

Bettendorf City Administrator Decker Ploehn is asking the city council if it wants to stay the course on a 10-year expansion of city debt – now $132 million and within 17 percent of the legal maximum – to continue to fund an "aggressive" program for capital improvements from streets to so-called "WOW" projects under discussion.

In his presentation to the council August 25, Ploehn said historically low bond interest rates and the need to fix and expand streets in the city justify the high debt strategy adopted five years ago by the council. He also pointed out that additional significant bonding may be required for the possible WOW projects, which were listed as: development of I-80/Middle interchange; sports complex; replacement of city pool, fitness center and community center with a new recreation facility; and a potential riverfront development project.

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