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Public should make the rules

BY MATTHEW WILLIAMS | JULY 23, 2012 6:30 AM

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We as Iowa City residents elect individuals to the City Council to be our voice in local government and to carry out the requests and opinions of the represented population.

Now, putting every issue up for public vote isn't feasible, because if that were the case, it would take at least months for ordinances to move forward. Because of this, we, the residents of Iowa City, voted in the current city councilors because we believe they have the capability to make the decisions that best serve the public interest.

However, whenever it is feasible, the public should make the decisions on the various types of issues that occur in this town. This is our town: We should decide where our tax dollars are going.

The City Council's decision to ignore the 862 Iowa City residents' request to put the TIF funding for the purposed Marc Moen building up for public vote is an example of local government failing to represent the people who elected them.

At the City Council meeting on July 10, the council approved the use of tax-increment financing, commonly known as TIF, for a 14-story building, as reported by The Daily Iowan. The city will provide up to $2.8 million and that the building is set to begin construction in August.

Despite a petition that had 165 signatures more then the required 697 needed, the City Council went forward to provide TIF funding to the Moen Group.

Obviously, the City Council believes the building will have a positive impact on the community, because it was passed with a unanimous vote.

Councilor Connie Champion said the building is a "really good project for Iowa City; it'll benefit the community." She also said that at times, the council must make the decisions it thinks are best, despite the public's opinion.

"Sometimes, you make decisions for the long run that people disapprove of — you need to make the decisions of what you think is best," she said.

I agree with Champion that there are times where this can occur — however, this shouldn't have been one of them.

Providing TIF money to finance the new Moen project was clearly an issue the council needed to consult with the residents it represents. At least 862 Iowa City residents held a strong opinion on this issue: Their reasoning for signing a petition that should have given them the opportunity to voice those opinions through direct vote.

When it comes to the use of $2.8 million of our tax dollars, we should be the ones to determine whether that project receives our hard-earned money.

No matter if this new building has tremendous positive outcomes for the community, it's the people's right to decide where their money goes — even if they don't realize these potential positive outcomes.

This issue distanced the City Council from the people it represents as it virtually disregarded our right to decide what happens in our town. If so many people hold strong opinions on a certain issue, such as this, we the people are the ones who should decide the outcome.

Regardless of whether the council made a decision that will best serve the public's interest is beside the point; the point is the City Council completely disregarded the request of the people they were elected to represent.

The council is there to represent us and the voice of so many was to put the TIF funding for the Moen building up for public vote. In a democracy, the represented ought to make the rules, not seven individuals.


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