Speaking at the annual State of the City address Wednesday morning, Council Bluffs Mayor Matt Walsh was critical of a just-ended City Council campaign too often marked with social media divisiveness.
“Candidate support no longer involves hearing diverse ideas from both sides and then aligning yourself in favor of a candidate that best exemplifies your core beliefs,” Walsh said. “Cyberbullying of opposition candidates has become acceptable and all too prevalent.
“Today’s strategy is to assemble a base group of similarly minded individuals with some degree of continuity who then can source, distribute and leak biased information. It stems from a belief that the most effective way to affect change and gain voter support is through overt and often over-the-top public criticism of the opposition.”
Walsh, in our view, was spot on in his comments. Unfortunately, it’s a political strategy that began at the highest — and best-financed — levels of the political food chain and has cascaded downward to local government politics. It’s all too exemplary of the old adage that crap flows downhill.
Walsh also — and also unfortunately — hit the nail on the head when he noted the very real possibility that the increasing level of negativity and the growing lack of civility will keep qualified candidates from running in the future. Candidates and elected officials should rightly anticipate criticism and/or opposition for positions and decisions, not character smears based on totally unsubstantiated allegations of wrongdoing.
Moving to the more traditional focal points of a State of the City message, Walsh was again spot on in focusing the bulk of his comments on the impacts of Missouri River flooding and what appear to be changes in the climate and the impact of those elements on the day-to-day and future operations — and fate — of the city.
In 2019, countless Council Bluffs residents were forced to deal with flooding in their basements as the ground surrounding their homes became — and remained — saturated. City officials were faced with some $10 million in unplanned sewer collapse expenses. Walsh also pointed to the fact that the city had budgeted $800,000 for street repairs — a figure that ballooned to $1.3 million — much of it attributable to changes in what has been the “norm” for Council Bluffs’ winter weather.
Walsh’s weather-oriented comments Wednesday morning echoed those made by the three winners of Tuesday’s City Council election. Chad Hannan, Joe Disalvo and Roger Sandau all mentioned flood prevention and mitigation among a list of the top issues city officials and residents will, of necessity, be forced to continue to tackle. They are issues with potentially significant impacts on future economic development, housing development and growth (or reduction) of the city’s property base.
We agree with Walsh that Council Bluffs is on a positive path, but many of the challenges that will face the city going forward will not be met with easy or cheap “fixes.”
“We all have unique ideas, and we don’t always agree; but we should agree to (work together) to make this a better community,” he said.