When Dubuque County’s new mental health and disability services director, Ann Cameron Williams, went before county supervisors in June, she advocated for greater representation and inclusivity on the Dubuque County Disabilities Council.
At that time, 13 of the 19 council positions were vacant or filled by members who had not reapplied for their position as their terms expired. Equally concerning, the council had no members who had actually experienced life with a disability or had a family member living with one.
Now, just three months later, Williams is leading robust meetings with a growing new membership on the council. Under her leadership, the newly restructured Dubuque County Disabilities Council seems poised to change the face of public disability advocacy in the county.
Williams’ determination to bring the voices of the disabled to the table served as a guidepost for development of the group. After a serious recruitment drive, the council is now mostly filled — with 18 people — most of whom have a disability. This week, Williams led the council through finalizing its mission statement and beginning to develop a strategic plan. Priorities include accessibility of public spaces and affordable housing, the creation of comprehensive resource guides for families, shifting cultural acceptance and competitive employment.
That’s an aggressive to-do list and an impressive, business-like approach. Credit goes to Williams for bringing the right people to the table. For more information about the council or department, email ann.williams@DubuqueCounty.us.
”Picture this: Chaplain Schmitt Island has become a beautiful gateway to the city. It is a gathering place for people, where the community comes together to celebrate. It is a place where natural beauty combines with impressive amenities and tourist attractions. It is another example of a community embracing, developing and promoting its riverfront.”
Those words were part of an editorial written more than 10 years ago as the master plan for Dubuque’s Chaplain Schmitt Island were first unveiled. Now that the beautiful Veterans Memorial Plaza has come to fruition, it’s time to focus on the next phase.
Dubuque City Council members recently named the implementation of the Chaplain Schmitt Island Master Plan as a top priority for city staff, paving the way for the city to pursue infrastructure and improvement projects at the island that holds Q Casino and the Mystique Community Ice Center.
Plans call for securing funding for a project to improve roadways leading to and within the island, along with developing new trails, including perhaps a boardwalk around the island’s perimeter.
It’s exciting to see the momentum propelling Schmitt Island toward its full potential. Visions turn into projects with the help of many hands and a melting pot of ideas. This vision is ripe for a public-private partnership to carry it to the next level. The Mississippi River is at Dubuque’s front door. We should be prepared to welcome visitors and show off our best attributes at every access point.
More than a year after Dubuque’s Linwood Cemetery went into voluntary receivership, the question of who will ultimately manage the Dubuque cemetery remains unanswered. Linwood is officially in the hands of the Iowa Insurance Division due to the cemetery’s unmet financial burdens. While that’s a temporary solution, no plans have been made for what comes next for Linwood.
Caring for the dead and treating their remains with respect is a high calling. It’s something that should matter to the entire community, not just the death industry.
The scenario at Linwood isn’t unique. Industry trends are impacting cemeteries across the country. Cemeteries in Clinton, Davenport and Fort Dodge, Iowa, have all come under state ownership in the past couple of years. After attempting to straighten out the finances, the state looks to cede ownership back to the community in which the cemetery lies. In the case of Linwood, that would be the City of Dubuque.
While city officials likely wouldn’t relish having to take on ownership of a 130-acre cemetery, therein could lie a solution to the financial difficulty. Cities are empowered to tax citizens for the care of cemeteries.
Moving that direction might not be palatable, but it’s a reminder that this problem isn’t going away, and it’s an issue for which the entire community bears responsibility. The state might be able to identify financial restructuring that could help Linwood be more sustainable. Receivership isn’t in itself a solution, but rather a beginning of the process.
As cemeteries face an uncertain future, community members and stakeholders must work together to seek solutions.