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Editorial: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down
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Editorial

Editorial: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

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I-74 park

This rendered image is a concept plan for an elevator from Bettendorf's planned park to the I-74 walkway.

Thumbs Up …. To the news the federal government has approved a waiver to the Buy America law that will allow the construction of an elevator as part of the new Interstate-74 bridge project. The elevator will provide access from the pedestrian and bicycle lane on the eastbound span to the riverfront recreational trail below.

As Barb Ickes wrote, "The Buy America provision requires most steel, parts and components that are part of the entire $1.2 billion I-74 bridge project be made in the U.S. Last year, Bettendorf and the DOT learned that some of the parts needed for the $2.2 million letdown structure on the downstream side of the Illinois-bound span are not made in the U.S. Without the waiver, officials estimated, custom-made elevators would cost about twice their budgeted $427,000 and would add considerable delays to the project."

Waiting on the waiver caused at least a six-month delay. Now it looks like the elevators will be completed in 2023.

"It will happen; that is the key," Bettendorf City Administrator Decker Ploehn said this week. "I think it will be a wonderful addition."

We think so, too.

Thumbs Up … to Decker Ploehn, by the way. He was honored last month with admission to the Iowa League of Cities Hall of Fame. Ploehn, a former police chief in the city, has been a mainstay in Bettendorf since 1975. He became city administrator in 1990, and Bettendorf has been the better for it. So has the Quad-Cities. Ploehn is a common-sense leader and consensus builder who not only knows his city but has the kind of regional mindset the Quad-Cities needs. And when we think of the effort to get the new I-74 bridge built, we can think of no one locally who has been more integrally involved than Decker Ploehn.

He richly deserves this honor.

Thumbs Down … to the loss of another community and economic development director in the City of Rock Island. The city council was notified in late September that Nathan Parch, who had been on the job for only five months, resigned.

This is difficult news. Before Parch came on board, the city had been without a permanent person in that job since Chandler Poole was terminated in late 2019. And with City Manager Randy Tweet planning on retiring in December, Parch's resignation will leave two big jobs to fill. Mayor Mike Thoms said the plan is to get a city manager on board first, then turn to the community and economic development position.

That makes sense, but we hope the city moves quickly. One of the biggest challenges Rock Island faces is business attraction and expansion. Getting somebody in that job who is a good fit, and who stays, is a necessity.

Thumbs Down … to the nonsense in Washington, D.C., over raising the federal debt ceiling. A short-term deal was reached this week that kicks the can down the road until December. But, what then?

We hope that Republicans will do as they have in the past, and work with Democrats to raise the debt ceiling to ensure the proper payment of debts they have already accumulated. If they don’t, we hope that Democrats use their slim majority to raise it on their own. Being in the majority has its responsibilities. The Democrats plan to use the reconciliation process to pass its Build Back Better agenda, and if it’s necessary to raise the debt ceiling in December, they should stiffen their backs and use it for that, too.

Thumbs Up …. to the on-site legal aid clinic that’s been established at Jefferson Elementary School in Davenport, where parents and caregivers can access free legal help. The clinic, which is being run by Iowa Legal Aid, not only provides legal assistance, but also connects families with other resources, including rent, utility and behavioral health services.

Jefferson Elementary was chosen for the clinic due to its high percentage of students from families living in poverty. "For some families, (the assistance) is crucial," Principal Kamie Montoya said.

As Tom Barton reported, the partnership with Davenport schools was launched with the help of Scott County Supervisor Ken Croken, who has worked consistently to push for greater up-front help for children and families facing tough circumstances.

We’re grateful to all who were involved in providing this service, and we hope it is helpful to the families at Jefferson.

Thumbs Up … to the kickoff of the River Bend Food Bank's 35th Student Hunger Drive, which kicked off Monday and runs through Nov. 16.

Sixteen high schools are involved, and after a hiatus due to the pandemic, it is good to see this Quad-City tradition is back. Since 1985, students have provided an astounding 15 million meals in River Bend’s 23-county service area.

"We have an entire generation who understands the hunger issue because of their experience in high school, and who are now passing that on to their children," River Bend’s president, Mike Miller, said.

That’s an extraordinary record, not only for the amount of meals the drive has provided, but the lessons it has taught.

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