Davenport mayor touts city’s investment in road work, riverfront and violence prevention | Politics and elections

Mayor Mike Matson touted Davenport’s investment in roads and infrastructure, flood mitigation, and violence prevention as evidence the city is tackling residents’ top priorities. 

Matson delivered his annual state of the city address to a roomful of city partners and Scott County civic leaders at Rhythm City Casino Resort Monday.

Recent city surveys have shown residents’ top priorities to be: quality of city streets, quality of neighborhoods, police services, and efforts to attract and retain businesses. 

“Those are what people continue to ask us. That’s what they want us to focus on and that’s what we’ll be doing,” Matson said.

When it comes to quality streets, he noted the city’s $47 million capital budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 includes $22.6 million for streets and sewer repairs, including $4.45 million for neighborhood street improvements and $4.6 million for high-volume street repair.

“People call me, they call the staff, they call the council number: ‘My goodness, you have a lot of roadblocks. My goodness, you have a lot of barricades, I can’t get down this road,'” Matson said, adding the short-term pain of traffic delays are an unavoidable reality to achieve the long-term gain of improved and better-maintained roadways.

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“We understand. We hear you,” Matson said. “And we’re going to keep fixing the streets. And (you’ll) keep seeing barricades and keep seeing roadblocks and keep seeing things being fixed. It takes a long time to do 900 miles of road.”

Davenport’s major road construction project this season is the reconstruction of a one-mile stretch of 53rd Street, a busy four-lane thoroughfare lined with restaurants and retail.

Work includes the addition of a center left-turn lane, construction of a 5-foot-wide sidewalk on the north side of 53rd Street and the installation of an 8-foot-wide multi-use path to the south.

With lane closures, some residents have complained and city officials have warned of long traffic delays during busy times. 

Matson, though, said the temporary traffic delays will be worth it for the new road to be in place. 

City moving ahead with violence prevention

Matson said the city has also hired a coordinator earlier this month to lead a violence-prevention strategy.

Davenport has experienced a spike in gun violence since 2020, which city officials have pledged to take steps to address. 

The city’s group violence intervention strategy involved making contact with those most at-risk of committing or being victims of violence and offering support services and emphasizing the consequences of engaging in violence. 

Matson said the city interviewed five finalists and selected DeAmbuir Carter, who has experience in counseling and corrections.

Carter and participating organizations talked face-to-face with three at-risk people in its first week, Matson told the audience. He declined to name the organizations or provide details on the circumstances of the talks, but said the three notifications were “very successful,” meaning the three people were thankful someone came and talked to them directly, Matson said.

“We’re done talking,” Matson said during his address. “We’re going to get this together, work with all the nonprofits, all the different agencies to make this group violence intervention approach (work). We’re already executing it. We’re already doing it.”

The Coordinated Assessment Program is another violence-prevention program promoted by the city and other local governments that identify and connect young people and families in need of services, such as housing and therapy, with the goal of stabilizing households.

That program started last year, and dedicated staff with Family Resources have fielded more than 200 referrals. 

Matson also touted the city’s long-term plan to mitigate flooding along Davenport’s riverfront and said the city would continue to carry out the plan.

After a record 2019 flood breached a HESCO barrier, sending floodwaters downtown and cauing millions of dollars in damage, new calls came to better protect the downtown from floodwaters. Davenport hired consulting company HR Green, which recommended phasing in flood-mitigation measures, including elevating parts of River Drive, upgrading storm sewers, building earthen berms and installing new pumping stations.

The first construction project of the city’s flood mitigation plan is underway this summer — storm sewer improvements that will allow Davenport’s East River Drive to open for traffic at the intersections of 3rd and 4th Streets during flood events up to a stage of 22 feet.  

“We put it into action to protect our assets,” Matson said. “River Drive stays open, keeping the view of the river and not having something gigantic piece of metal or cement.”

The city also plans improvements to parks, including adding Wi-Fi to five public parks this summer, and awarded a contract to start construction on a new fire station.

What did others have to say? 

Superintendent TJ Schneckloth said Davenport Community Schools are following the city’s continuation of the Coordinated Assessment Program and Group Violence Intervention closely. He said the school system makes the bulk of referrals to the Coordinated Assessment Program in order to help meet students’ needs both at school and at home.

“We work very closely with the city and the city administrators as we believe being proactive. Getting resources to students and families is what is ultimately going to help people,” Schneckloth said. “… We have a lot of confidence in them (city leaders), and they’re very collaborative with the schools with everything that we’re trying to do.”

Kyle Carter, the executive director of the Downtown Davenport Partnership, said Davenport has built “a lot of forward momentum,” despite the challenges of the pandemic.

Looking ahead, Carter said implementing the city’s flood mitigation plan will be key to the downtown’s prosperity.

“Actually getting the flood mitigation plan approved and then beginning construction of the first phase of the plan, for downtown, obviously, that’s just paramount,” he said. “And it was it was just very encouraging to hear that reiterated today.” 

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