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City Council hopefuls talk violence

BY NICOLE KARLIS | OCTOBER 13, 2009 7:20 AM

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Iowa City residents showered Iowa City City Council candidates on Monday afternoon with questions about public safety, a franchise fee, and alcohol-fueled violence.

The forum, hosted by the Johnson County Task Force on Aging, marked the first time the six council hopefuls discussed issues together. Past forums did not include District B candidates Mark McCallum and current Councilor Connie Champion.

Candidates Terry Dickens, Susan Mims, Jeff Shipley, and Dan Tallon are running for the two at-large seats. The four hopefuls knocked out Jared Bazzell in last week’s primary election.

Champion, in her third term as the District B councilor, is opposing real-estate agent and UI alumnus Mark McCallum.

Each candidate had a chance to respond to questions from the roughly 20 people in the audience, starting with a public safety-focus.

“I believe some [recent violent activities] are an oversaturation of assisted housing,” McCallum said.

Other candidates agreed low-income housing is part of the perceived rise in crime in Iowa City’s Southeast Side.

“I definitely think the accumulation of low-income housing has created some of those problems,” said Mims, adding the city needs to take a look at spreading out the housing, possibly with an ordinance or zoning regulation.

Shipley, a UI student, suggested a more creative approach to reducing the violence.

He said he would like to see more citizens get involved, recommending “citizen-officer patrol,” when police partner with a civilian who is familiar with the neighborhood.

“We need to solve this as a community,” Shipley said.

But Champion, the veteran councilor who initially voted on Sept. 29 to defer the juvenile-curfew ordinance, said she feels the solution is hiring more officers and avoiding too much low-income housing in certain places.

“We simply can’t put any more low-income housing in that area, it’s being destroyed,” she said. “More police are going to help.”

Residents also asked candidates for their views on the pending franchise fee — an issue on which candidates are split.

“I’m totally in favor of this fee,” Champion said. “We need another source of income in this community.”

Other candidates, such as Mims, would like the see the franchise tax fee be a last resort.

“If elected, I want to analyze the budget and get rid of the franchise fee if we possibly could,” Mims said.

Tallon said he is opposed to the fee and thinks it could hurt the community.

“We have to think about people who can’t already afford to pay utilities,” the UI student said.

The City Council election is Nov. 3. The current city councilors will discuss the franchise fee on Oct. 20, when they will set a public hearing for the first week in November.


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