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Payne: make IC more accessible to businesses

BY MARY KATE KNORR | OCTOBER 31, 2011 7:20 AM

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One Iowa City City Council candidate said city officials should be more accessible to local businesses.

"I would like … to make it easier for business people, developers — people like that — to deal with the city staff, so that we're not looked at as kind of a brick wall," said council candidate Michelle Payne, who is a University of Iowa student. "[I want to] make it easier for people to do things in the city, not have to jump over such high hoops that they feel they have to jump over today."

Payne told The Daily Iowan the biggest issues that face Iowa City officials are open communication between officials and businesses. Payne, at a meet-and-greet held Sunday afternoon, also said the city faces budget problems that could be addressed through attracting more people to the area.

"We have great selling points for marketing [Iowa City] and getting not only people to come here just to visit, but also getting people here to stay," Payne said. "The budget is probably the biggest issue that we have … and economic development can offset some of our budget problems."

Local business owners said they need a more approachable city staff.

"That's what I want — more access to getting something done," said Sandra Navalesi, the owner of Dulcinea, 2 S. Dubuque St. "Perhaps if one could get more access directly, that would be good, too."

Some small businesses are unhappy with the recent actions of City Council.

Robert de Blois, the owner of Micky's Irish Pub and Grill, 11 S. Dubuque St., said the council's attempts at "calming" downtown Iowa City are hurting small businesses.

"[City Councilors] call it calming. Calming is another word for slow," de Blois said. "[Slow] means [small businesses] go bankrupt."

Payne noted she has worked with city officials as well.

"I have dealt with city staff at least on a monthly basis for the past five years," she said. This experience, she said, sets her apart from many of the other candidates.

Bill Nusser, the owner of Hands Jewelers, 109 E. Washington St., said Payne's plans for Iowa City sound promising.

"Making small business[es] feel that the city is more accessible is a strong campaign goal," Nusser said. "I personally feel that the city is very accessible, but many business owners don't."

Payne is the operations supervisor at MidAmerican Energy, and she has served on Iowa City's Planning and Zoning Commission since 2005.

"She's done well with MidAmerican, and that's a big job," Nusser said. "She has been promoted well [and] in terms of her business background, it's very legitimate."

Navalesi said a business background would be a positive for a newly city councilor.

"Iowa City does need to be more proactive in doing positive things that are going to make people want to come here," Navalesi said. "I think [a city councilor with business experience is] probably what's going to help."

Payne has also served on the Board of Adjustment in Iowa City.

"She's very dedicated to the things she does," said Cheryl Bock, who hosted Payne's meet-and-greet. "She's meticulous in her work and … she doesn't wear blinders. She opens her eyes and her ears to everyone's needs."

Payne said overall her business experience and common sense are two of her most valuable qualities as a City Council candidate.

"I'm the type of person who is always going to ask 'why,' " Payne said. "I'm not going to stop asking until I get … not just an answer, but an answer that I'm satisfied with."


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