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Vote Tallon and Mims in City Council primary

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | OCTOBER 05, 2009 7:20 AM

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In interviewing the five primary candidates for Tuesday’s City Council primary, the Editorial Board weighed a variety of integral factors. Candidates had to have a grasp of both student and nonstudent issues, a well thought-out and, ideally, ambitious platform, and a readily apparent dedication to the university and community writ large. While less ideologically driven than other higher offices, we also considered candidates’ general governing philosophy. After the primary, the current field of five will be whittled down to four; voters may select two candidates on the primary ballot.

We urge residents and students to cast their two votes for Dan Tallon and Susan Mims.

Tallon, one of three students running, stands out in the claustrophobically crowded race for the student vote. Pro-business platitudes don’t dominate his rhetoric like UI senior Jared Bazzell’s, and Tallon lacks the ideological dogma of Jeff Shipley, also a senior. Tallon, a loquacious 20-year-old, is a junior.

Tallon’s original ideas — while arguably inchoate at times — piqued our interest, and his campaign centers on such cost-of-living issues as rent. He would also bring a working-class and military background — he’s currently in the Army National Guard — to the council. Tallon’s passion for helping the disadvantaged is apparent, and his engaged and confident demeanor would translate well as a city councilor.

Compared with the other council candidates, Tallon’s singular focus on rent issues is an aberration. He eschewed explicit rent control, instead advocating a surcharge on apartment complex owners, which would then be used to help lower-income people struggling to pay rent.

Tallon also proposed designing a city-run website that would compile information on all previous landlord infractions and repeated infraction on rental properties. The website — which could also include rental rates — would “foster competition” and help consumers compare different apartments and houses, he said.

Tallon’s views on other issues are conventional, yet palatable.

He argued the council should focus on curbing binge drinking rather than underage alcohol consumption. He said the council needs to look at developing businesses outside of downtown. And he endorsed after-school programs and community-based efforts — rather than the proposed curfew — to deal with violence on Iowa City’s Southeast Side.

In interviewing the 52-year-old Mims, we were struck by the sheer depth of her knowledge of the issues. Her answers are straightforward and well-informed.

While her platform isn’t marked by particularly fresh or vivacious ideas, she’s no neophyte, and her prior experience bodes well. As president of the Iowa City School Board, she was partially responsible for hiring Superintendent Lane Plugge — a process sure to help her in the search for a new city manager. Mims, a financial planner at Heartland Investment Associates, would also bring important insight on budgetary issues.

While we didn’t unanimously support Mims’ policy positions, we found them relatively favorable as well.

She said she was skeptical of the council’s emphasis on PAULA ratios in awarding liquor licenses but supported potentially constrictive limits on how many shots of alcohol there can be in a drink.

Mims, whose husband is Iowa Associate Athletics Director Fred Mims, called herself a “reluctant supporter” of the proposed underage curfew. She admirably qualified that tepid approval by advocating police use the proposal as a tool to get kids off the streets late at night rather than issuing a slew of citations.

Mims, like other candidates, also stressed the need to alter the perception of the City Council as anti-business. She said she supported levying a franchise fee to pay for a new fire station.

Mims and Tallon have widely divergent backgrounds and levels of experience. But they do have one thing in common: They’re the two best councilor candidates.


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