“We don’t have enough time for everyone to learn from their own mistakes.”
One of my favorite baseball coaches said he tries to instill that philosophy in his high school players, implying it’s imperative to focus on every pitch, every play because each situation presents an opportunity and individual players never know when it might be their turn to react to a given circumstance.
As with most things baseball, this tends to be excellent life advice as well, which means it also comes in handy when analyzing government operations. That brings us to an ongoing situation just across the Mississippi River, in Davenport, Iowa, where the top story all week is the partial collapse of a downtown apartment building.
My main source since Sunday evening has been Grace Kinnicutt, a Sterling native and former Capitol News Illinois intern who has been tweeting updates (@GKinnicutt) and amplifying professional colleagues. Grace is a fine reporter on many fronts, but also lived in the former Davenport Hotel for six months last year, which brings a personal touch to an absolutely maddening story.
The human angle is perhaps the most obvious, as people outside try to account for missing loved ones. As of Thursday morning three individuals remained unaccounted for, two specifically believed to be inside the 107-year-old building. This calls to mind the issues identifying the seven people killed in a 72-vehicle pileup on Interstate 55 resulting the May 1 dust storm near Farmersville.
Then there’s the municipal angle, as city officials released hundreds of pages of structural engineering reports along with violation notices and vacation orders. A masonry contractor familiar with the area has shared his experience in bidding for work on the building and his assessment of its integrity, a different contractor did work that helped pass three city inspections since April 12.
Municipal officials everywhere ought to monitor (The Davenport building collapse) closely and evaluate whether their own processes would’ve yielded similar outcomes and what obstacles might prevent better resolutions in similar circumstances.— Scott T. Holland
Those two fronts collided midweek as the city had to scale back on plans to demolish the rest of the structure – a logical step given the danger a total collapse presents – pending a proper accounting of all the people and animals still inside.
The Associated Press is reporting on the situation as well (tinyurl.com/DavenportCollapse) noting a report issued last week “indicated a wall of the century-old structure was in imminent risk of crumbling, yet officials did not order residents to leave and said Thursday they relied on the engineer’s assurances that the building remained safe.”
Municipal officials everywhere ought to monitor this situation closely and evaluate whether their own processes would’ve yielded similar outcomes and what obstacles might prevent better resolutions in similar circumstances.
The Davenport situation is terrible but not unpredictable or unique. Government red tape earns frequent criticism, yet occasionally it’s the last thread preventing disaster.