Updated: Sep 9, 2021
If you’ve been with me on the campaign trail over the last few weeks, you’ve heard me share my vision for Cedar Rapids. And a top priority for me, is creating a vibrant, diverse downtown, surrounded by unique neighborhoods where current and future Cedar Rapidians want to live, work and play.
And I’m happy to say, we have an opportunity to take a leap forward toward that goal.
I announce to you today, my support for the gambling referendum that’ll be on the ballot November 2nd. But I’m not stopping there.
I support the referendum and should it pass, I am the candidate willing to step out and strongly encourage the city and developers to put it downtown. I know there’s been talk about other locations away from downtown…say, by the airport. Great location for commerce and business, just a missed opportunity to kickstart downtown development.
Instead, for this opportunity, let’s take advantage of existing infrastructure downtown like the city-owned hotel—make it a win-win by guaranteeing use of hotel rooms and putting parking into the development agreement. It would be a great complement to the proposed development at First & First West which will have entertainment and activities for the whole family.
Having grown up in the Quad Cities, I’ve seen firsthand the economic impact gaming can have on a withering downtown. Previously quiet streets, wake up and businesses take shape in empty storefronts. New life, new occupants at work and in downtown housing. Not to mention the incredible financial support to our local non-profits!
Speaking of that, another bold request: As Mayor, I also want to increase the amount of money dedicated to local non -profits from the casino board. Currently the casino gives back 3% to local non-profits. Let’s be bold and make it 5%. That would be historic by state gaming standards. That would translate, literally, into millions of dollars for our non-profits currently missing out on hotel-motel tax money and compounding losses from COVID.
Approving the referendum is step one—then there’s the approval process by the State Racing and Gaming Board. We’ve been disappointed before, but I’m optimistic this time around.
The landscape has changed significantly since I was reporter covering that vote. Today, we have new members on the Commission, we have more competition in Nebraska taking profits away from Iowa casinos, AND we have sports betting anytime, anywhere, on your phone.
Hundreds of jobs, construction and casino, millions of dollars for our non-profits and a lynchpin to downtown development.
If we come together as the 2nd largest city in the state and say an overwhelming “yes” to the gambling referendum, we give ourselves a tremendous opportunity to build the Cedar Rapids of the future.