Best Practices


Mayor Terranc M. Duggan

Boards and Commissions Review

The City of Dubuque recently developed a process to allow the City Council to review the relevancy and current performance of the city's boards and commissions. The process applies only to citizen boards/ commissions which were established by ordinance or state law. Ad hoc committees and joint or regional boards/commissions are not included in the review.

The ultimate goal of the study is to identify means of improving the performance of commissions and, in turn, increase the satisfaction of those serving as commissioners. The areas addressed in the study include: commissioner recruitment and appointment process, commissioner orientation/education, city council-commission-staff interaction and roles, and commission operations. Among the information items provided to the City Council prior to meeting with the individual boards and commissions:

  • All relevant enabling legislation, ordinances, and by-laws.
  • List of chairpersons and primary staff persons.
  • Agendas and attendance records for meetings held during the previous year.
  • Employee time and cost information for staffing commission activities.
  • Gender compositions of commissions.
In addition, the City Council is provided relevant history, current practices, and applicable forms for commissioner recruitment/advertising, commissioner appointment and commission operations.

Staff also conducts a survey of nine other major cities in the state to identify their current practices regarding: commissioner term limits, qualifications for appointment, compensation, recruitment/selection/ appointment process, appointing power, and number of commissioners appointed to each commission.

Finally, among the most revealing and useful information provided to the City Council are questionnaires completed by each of the city's 22 commissions and a staff-compiled summary of those responses. Among the areas addressed by the questionnaire: the current appointment process, number of commission members, term of office, meeting frequency and length, attendance, orientation of new commissioners, role and purpose of the commission, staffing, City Council-commission-staff interaction, commission's current relevancy, and conflict of interest issues.

Although the individual meetings with the commissions have not yet taken place, the City Council has already eliminated one commission, and there are expectations of changes to the appointment process, operating procedures, and select commissioner duties.

Contact: City Manager's Office, (319) 589-4110


Dubuque Reaches Out with Affordable Means of Shelter (DREAMS)

The city has taken a proactive approach to eliminating abandoned buildings one at a time before blocks of slums and blight develop. The Dubuque Reaches Out with Affordable Means of Shelter (DREAMS) program is a public-private project that reduces abandoned/uninhabitable housing while helping low- and moderate-income families purchase homes. This partnership includes donations of dollars and services from the City of Dubuque, lending institutions, businesses, the Dubuque County Extension Service and the Dubuque Community School District.

The City purchases abandoned/uninhabitable homes and offers them to first-time home buyers. City funds are used to purchase derelict homes, write-down acquisition costs, and provide second mortgages to cover rehabilitation costs in order to keep monthly payments affordable. Dubuque's four major lending institutions participate and provide the money for long-term, low-interest fixed-rate mortgages.

A key component of the program is the educational course to assist homeowners in achieving continued success. Classes are held for 12 weeks. Topics include FNMA "Guide to Home Ownership," financial management, home maintenance, minor repairs, energy conservation, safety, housekeeping, interior decorating/design, economical shopping, bartering, and moving preparation. The classes seem to inspire the students to economize, pay off debts, and become concerned and active citizens.

City staff members counsel families regarding floor plans, contractor selection, inspections, and state/local certification codes. To manage mortgage delinquencies, a committee is available to work with homeowners to restructure finances before home ownership is threatened.

To qualify, families may earn no more than 80 percent of the area median income. In addition, the family may not have owned a home in the past three years.

Thirty families have completed the educational curriculum. In addition to the program houses, participant families purchased seven other homes of their own choosing.

After only two years, positive results from the DREAMS program are numerous:

  • Appraised values increased an average of $46,000.
  • Property tax revenues increased.
  • No delinquencies.
  • Renovated homes exceed minimum housing quality standards.
  • Adjacent property owners improved homes.
  • Reduction of abandoned/uninhabitable property units from 40 to four.
  • Due to owner occupancy and property improvement, criminal activity decreased in certain areas.
Contact: City Manager's Office, (319) 589-4110

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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