Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2013, 8:35 pm

Burrage, Barnhill go for Davenport 5th Ward seat

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By Stephen Elliott,

Davenport voters elect a mayor and all 10 city council members on Nov. 5. Following is the second of a series of stories about the candidates for the half-dozen seats for which there are contests,

DAVENPORT -- Reapportionment leaves two incumbents facing each other for the Fifth Ward aldermanic seat on Nov. 5.

Ald. Sheilia Burrage, current holder of the seat, faces Ald. Barney Barnhill, who was moved from the 7th to the 5th Ward by redistricting.

Both see budget-related issues as the council's primary concern.

"We have the most solvent pension plan there is," Ald. Burrage said, referring to the State of Iowa. "As times continue on, we need to look at ways of bringing in more businesses that create jobs that create more tax money in order to continue to carry that position as a solvent fund."

Ald. Barnhill, too, said growth is critical.

"We have laid off 78 workers since 2012," Ald. Barnhill said. "We've streamlined our 13 departments. We're right down to the marrow.

"For example, in 2013, we have a $196 million budget. In 2014, it will be $188 million," he said.

He said pensions are a major issue.

"Sixty-seven percent of our operational budget goes towards retirement benefits and health benefits for our firefighters and police," Ald. Barnhill said. "It's unsustainable. It's our number one lobbying issue in the state.

As for the process of bringing in a land-based casino, Ald. Burrage said the casino was a learning experience for everyone.

"We know more about buying a casino than we ever did," Ald. Burrage said. "We were right there learning every intricate part."

Ms. Burrage said the problems came with the size of the undertaking. The city initially wanted to run it's own land-based casino, investing millions of city money. It was an idea that Ald. Barnhill said he was against.

He said the casino process was not handled well by the city.

"We spent a lot of money we shouldn't have spent," Ald. Barnhill said. "It's frustrating to me. Our city administrator pushed this (city-owned casino).

"That's what this was all about. He convinced some of my colleagues that we would have this revenue stream of $10 to $11 million to bail us out. The problem was you wouldn't make a damn dime for 10 years.

"I'm not going to hang that (city-owned casino) on the hardworking shoulders of our taxpayers."

Ald. Barnhill said the city will eventually get, "that garish looking carnival (Rhythm City Casino)" off the river and inherit about five acres of downtown riverfront.
Davenport's Fifth Ward aldermanic candidates

  Sheilia Burrage

Age: 66

Address: 2324 Jefferson St.

Occupation: Customer service representative for AT and T Mobility

Education: Graduate of Davenport Central High School. Took 12 hours of college coursework.

Political experience: Davenport 5th Ward Alderman. Running for second two-year term. Was a precinct captain and alternate election judge.

 Barney Barnhill

Age: 75

Address: 3017 Grand Ave.

Occupation: Retired. Taught and coached in Davenport school system for 29 years. Taught government and world history. Coached wrestling and golf.

Education: Both undergraduate and graduate work at University of Iowa. Teaching certificate at St. Ambrose University.

Political experience: Davenport alderman since 1992. Mayor pro tem.