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Matt Dalbey – Ottumwa City Council

By Ellis Codjoe, September 29, 2017

1. I am seeking my second term on the Ottumwa City Council to continue to be a representative of the citizens and to continue the progress and change initiated over the last 4 years. I want to see Ottumwa transform to a city that is steadily growing and providing a better quality of life for not just some but ALL its residents.
2. My primary focus remains unchanged. First and foremost is making sure the public safety components are in place to ensure the safety of citizens. Second is continuing to make sure Ottumwa is financially secure in that the resources are there to be able to carry out government functions and ultimately and most importantly help foster growth.
3. I have lived in Ottumwa my entire life of 39 years.
4. I started working at the age of 14 as a vet. tech. During high school, I waited tables at a local restaurant. I was hired by John Deere Ottumwa Works in January of 1998. I have been there since that time and continue to work there now. I will have 20 years of service this January.
5. My involvement in city government and volunteer activities is as follows:
Ottumwa City Councilmember (4 years).
Board member of the Ottumwa Board of Health (4 years).
Board member of the Ottumwa Storm Water Advisory Committee (2 years).
Council liaison to the cemetery and library boards (2 years).
Member of the Ottumwa Goal Setting Committee.
Member and Certified Elected Municipal Officer by the Iowa League of Cities (4 years).
Ottumwa Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors (2 years).
Mainstreet Ottumwa Board of Directors (4 years).
6. I graduated Ottumwa High School in 1996 with my diploma. I am currently finishing up my Associate of Arts degree at IHCC.
7. I really can’t name only one. I really admire the politicians that can withstand the influences of the office. Ones that can leave office knowing they did not compromise their values and who were honest in trying to change the things they could for the betterment of all the folks they represent and not just the agendas of a few.
8. Since my time on the council, I have seen a remarkable improvement in transparency. This council has made it a priority to be open as well as honest when communicating with the public. There is no excuse for anything less when we are dealing with public trust and with taxpayer dollars. There are always better and newer ways to communicate. One of the ways we have improved communication is with the replacement of the broadcasting equipment used during council meetings. We made this a priority in the past years budget. We also have the capability to live stream on YouTube and meetings are stored and accessible to the public at any time. I have always felt that if the public can’t hear or see what you are doing, they cannot stay informed and this leads to public distrust.
Inevitable reduction in property tax backfill and its budget impacts
The lack of solid middle-income job opportunities with benefits along with quality housing to support and increase our tax base.
Street repair and replacement in conjunction with sewer separation projects.

10. I have had four years on the city council presently. This has given me a good background in city operations and budget development. This year I will receive my Certified Elected Municipal Officer certification from the Iowa League of Cities. This certification requires attendance at League meetings and completion of city management and budget courses. This has given me a solid background in state law as it applies to cities and what the avenues are to get things done. I have been on the board of directors on several city organizations which allows me to see things from not only a city side but from a business side as well as a citizen perspective. Lastly, I have attended and been involved in as many meetings as possible not only at the city level but state level as well. I am determined to know as much as possible and learn as much as possible to help me grow as a good city leader.
11. With the city facing the financial challenges that it is from the state, combined with a stagnant population growth, the key to property tax reduction is relatively easy to figure out but extremely difficult to achieve. When more business and residents move into the city the more tax revenue is generated and received by the city. If growth continues in increase at this level a point will be reached where enough revenue will be generated to sustain city operations. It is at this point that high tax levies created to cover city expenses by a few can now start to be reduced due to the increase in entities who are paying taxes. A good city leader must support growth of business from small local business to large retail and industry.
12. The city can continue to increase abatement of derelict housing that plagues Ottumwa. This type of housing continues to decrease our total valuation and does not appeal or provide quality housing for young adults and millennials. At the same time we address this problem, replacing the old with new quality homes is necessary. It is important to address the needs for housing in your community and not just encourage homes that are outside the range of what folks can afford. We must continually promote new single-family home construction and look for ways to do this with private investment and developers.
13. It is important to understand that the street repair program needs to follow sewer separation improvements. It is confusing and irritating to the public when they see streets in need of replacement not get immediately done, however, it would be a waste of taxpayer money to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a street reconstruction just to have to tear it up in a few years to separate the sewers. As for a push to fix all streets at once you must remember the city can only borrow or bond for an amount of money not to exceed 5% of the total assessed valuation of the city. This would not be practical or possible. We should continue to replace streets on a “worst first” basis as the sewer separation allows.
14. There are things that we can do now and many things that have changed over the past several years. Our civic center has increased the quality of their entertainment venues. Mainstreet Ottumwa has initiated new forms of downtown entertainment such as movie night in Central Park, Third Thursday bike and car shows, and farmers markets are among a few. Market on Main has developed into a facility that provides entertainment on a weekly basis along with helping small entrepreneurs’ start small business. Outstanding community volunteers have stepped up to plan and initiate events such as RAGBRAI and Fly Iowa. In the past, we did not promote or open streets and things like this to encourage entertainment in Ottumwa. When I ran for council four years ago I saw this as a huge problem and took steps to change it. We no longer could afford to “just say no” to things like this or not pay attention. This council continues to feel this way, and in conjunction with these organizations have made these things possible. We need to also be aware of new entertainment options. One such option would be a casino. When you look at other cities who have figured this out, they reap the benefits not only from an entertainment standpoint but a financial one. Most property tax levies are substantially less than ours made possible by the requirements of casinos to aide cities. This is something we cannot continue to say we are opposed to and still complain that property taxes are too high.
15. Like stated before, we must continue to be open to new and better forms of entertainment. Continue to improve what we have now by not shutting the door on new ideas especially when they give folks real tax relief possibilities.
16. I do support the efforts that have begun to transform the downtown from old derelict buildings to ones that not only address housing, but ones that are attractive to small local business. Being responsible on incentivizing these with programs like white-box will continue this change. Downtown apartments are almost all full which speaks to the success of this initiative. Many times, the guidelines on these grant programs determine where they can be used. I think as we continue with these they will hopefully be able to be expanded to other areas as downtowns improve.
17. In order to retain our impeccable bond rating we have to make sure our general fund balance does not fall below 17 percent of our expenditures. This current council set reserve ratios at 17 percent. This had never been done by resolution before. This sets a benchmark that will guide responsible financial decision making to retain that rating. As for privatization, remember we privatize city street improvement projects and other maintenance or repair projects almost always. When it comes to strictly city services those are best done by city employees. We have to be open to opportunities that may arise from time to time could potentially be good for private entities to operate.
18. Whenever the city participates in recruitment efforts of retail, we should try to keep new retail from cannibalizing current retail. I also believe you must be responsible with incentives. They should be judged regarding the amount of jobs they offer and the earning potential of these jobs. Obviously if they provide better paying jobs or more of them, the incentive should be equivalent. We cannot afford to just hand out large amounts of money for whatever comes along. We should incorporate claw backs as well in the development agreements so that we can capitalize our original investment back in a short time and put in writing some things that will increase the amount of time they are here. With our most recent big retailer this council and city staff asked these questions as they developed a responsible incentive. The incentive was in line with the amount and pay of jobs as well as it was to be used on infrastructure that would stay in Ottumwa. This council also has expanded the commercial abatement for small and local business when they invest money in improvements to their businesses to city wide and not just within certain districts. This gives every local business the chance to catch a break on taxes when expanding or simply improving.
19. For prosperity to happen in Ottumwa, growth in population is the most important factor. The kind of growth is also important. Industry and manufacturing most generally provide jobs that pay a wage or salary that can sustain a family. When good paying middle-income jobs are added to a community growth will follow. With this growth in population brings the need for more retail to sustain and accommodate daily living. The most important thing Ottumwa can do for its future is to retain its current industry and accommodate ones looking to locate here.
20. A large part of the responsibility for improved unemployment within a county certainly falls on the shoulders of its county seat. Therefore, the role of a city council is so important. We know that job opportunities go hand in hand with reducing unemployment rates. We also need to realize that there are many entry level jobs available in this area now that pay a livable wage and some pay in excess. A good city council should always do its part to help locate good jobs to the area if we as a community make sure to be as “employable” as we can. We all have to start our road to success somewhere. That is our responsibility. A good qualified and motivated workforce is a large piece of job recruitment.

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