Cityscape — June 2014
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Guest's Viewpoint

'The water level in the Cedar River is so low downtown that it is stagnant and stinks. When will the city fix that?"

There are days I just have to shake my head at the requests citizens bring to my office. I imagine you've heard some doozies as well. Sometimes I wonder if one of my predecessors hid the mayor's "magic fix-it wand" as a prank. Other times, I question if I was the only one that didn't sleep through civics class.

"I'm tired of the artwork on the second floor of the courthouse and have a better idea of what to put up."

I'm human, so I sometimes have to express my frustration: Don't they know that the city has nothing to do with the county courthouse.. .or the school district.. .or the military, Obamacare or immigration? Then, I take a deep breath and remind myself that it is a compliment.. .really. My citizens know who I am and feel comfortable bringing me their issues. Their questions reinforce the point that local government is truly the closest level of government to the U.S. citizen. As local, elected officials we live, work and play amongst the voters. We're approachable, relatable and conveniently located.

"I want to talk to the mayor about health insurance premium increases for retirees."

My citizens see the mayor's office as their access point to every level of government, or at least the place to turn when they don't know where else to go. Sometimes they just need to be heard. The trick is learning how to maintain, respect and enforce boundaries.. .and to always have tissues. I've been elected to do a job for the citizenry which puts me in a position to better understand the intricacies of government than the average citizen. That said, I have to focus my energies to be effective as mayor. Many of these questions can be redirected to a more appropriate office, and I'm lucky enough to have staff that can do so with grace. '

My neighbors are purposely aiming their yard light at my house to bother me, and I can't sleep at night."

Admittedly, some of these issues aren't for public officials to solve. I have considered running classes on "How to Be Better Neighbors," but have yet to find anyone that thinks they need to take it. Instead, I have learned to listen politely and try not to put on my problem-solver hat too quickly. I'd never make it home from the grocery store if I attempted to solve every neighbor issue brought to me in the aisles of Hy-Vee. But some days, I get lucky and get a question I can handle.

"I want to be Mayor. What do I have to do to get elected?"

To that I say, "Come on in, let's talk about this. Have you considered starting by serving on the planning and zoning commission?" You have to take these opportunities when they arise!

Waterloo Mayor Buck Clark
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