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It's just the suburbs

BY BENJAMIN EVANS | JULY 06, 2012 6:30 AM

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My mother has an obsession with moving — it's one of those things that I'll never understand, like why eating fried butter on a stick is a good idea or how kissing your dashboard after you run a red light keeps cops from pulling you over.

The only tolerable thing about moving from house to house to house (eight in total) was that, well, we never moved to the dreaded suburbs where creativity and the road less traveled goes to die a slow and agonizing death.

And then one weekend (as I wept over my stained, cherry, hardwood floors, which complemented the English-style windows and winding, '20s oak staircase) my parents told me they were going out to pasture: Mother had finally found the house of her dreams … in the suburbs.

But moving to the suburbs is like going over to the Kardashian household for dinner: Once you get past the face-lifts and obvious boob jobs, it's really just having a bunch of regular people who prefer personal shoppers to culturally inclined merchants.

So, don't get too worked up about Coralville's economy transcending Iowa City's — I have lived in the suburbs, and I know no Von Maur or ice-skating arena can beat the culture Iowa City has cultivated through its people.

OK, so yeah, Coralville earned around $722 million in 2011 — only about $20 million off from Iowa City, according to the Iowa Department of Revenue Iowa Retail Sales and Use Tax Report.

And yes, it will probably pass us next year or the year after.

But when people come up to me and says, "Iowa City's economy is going to be surpassed, and we're not going to be able to survive next to Coralville," I don't know what the hell they are talking about.

Come on — we are an UNESCO City of Literature next to Prague, for God's sake. Let's have a little bravado and sing from the rooftops. It's not like we are going to slip off the page into oblivion.

We have Prairie Lights — you know, one of the top independent bookstores in the nation, which has a killer espresso bar that can actually make a cappuccino. Not to mention UI is home to the Writers' Workshop, the renowned M.F.A. program sought out by writers from all over the globe.

I know I gripe about the drinking reputation the UI has, but look past that. We have Dirty John's beer selection (and wine selection) and its House of Glass to match, which literally sells kegs of Stella Artois.

We have the Englert and the Yacht House and Hancher and the Riverside Theater. People attend the opera and go to concerts; they go to poetry readings and paint park benches.

Don't you see? It's the people who live here who make the culture and take in all Iowa City has to offer. It's not like they are magically going to acquire the taste for Panda Express over A Taste of India. It's not like the guy drinking Old Fashioneds is going to opt for a Bud Light.

Yeah, OK, obviously, it's easier to get Gap jeans at the Coral Ridge Mall. But why would you buy Gap jeans if you have been buying denim from Ragstock for the past five years?

Independent businesses should be subsidized, rent control for small upstarts should be looked into, and there should be a great debate over TIF funding for the Moen Group. There should be entrepreneurs and venture capitalists beside local subsidies and government micro loans. And there should be more talk of getting rid of crappy bars to make way for a more sophisticated clientele.

But to be worried about Coralville's economy surpassing us?

Come on — it's just the suburbs.


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