Gravitt: The Iowa City oligarchy has spoken

BY GUEST COLUMN | MARCH 28, 2013 5:00 AM

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In 2012 during the Regenia Baily administration, small businesses and their welfare and workforce was the concern of council, but this has changed with the Matt Hayek administration, as illustrated in the Nov. 26, 2012, DI, “Small businesses see boost,” by Cassidy Riley.

In its third year, Small Business Saturday prompted a near 30 percent increase in sales at one local business, and area businesses reported significant boosts as well.

The upbeat mood is echoed nationally — “[Small] businesses create two out of every three new jobs in America, helping spur economic development in communities across our country and giving millions of families and individuals the opportunity to achieve the American dream,” President Obama said in a statement to Small Business Saturday supporters.

Ritu Jain, the owner of Textiles, 109 S. Dubuque St., said her sales Nov. 24 went up 30 percent over the previous year.

“I had more people mention Small Business Saturday than I ever had before,” she said. “People made a point of telling me they liked shopping locally.”

Jan Weissmiller, a co-owner of Prairie Lights, 15 S. Dubuque St., said local businesses are worth supporting because of their economic impact.

“Local businesses are the tax base for any community,” she said. “The more you spend your money outside of your local community, the more loss there is to the tax base. If we want to have a civilization, we need to have small businesses that are supporting the tax base.”

Weissmiller said this tax base for the community supports the growth of infrastructure in the city, including roads, schools, and shelters.

Small-business owners assist the community in other ways.  Both Textiles and Charlie Nusser, the son of the owner of Hands Jewelers, 109 E. Washington St., give generously to charities and support community projects.

All this is well and good, but what about the New Pioneer Co-op, which contributes more than its fair share to the community, and the Bike Library, a green sustainable business. They do not depend just on holiday sales for profits but their future in Iowa City is endangered. Their present locations, Washington and Van Buren and the disputed lot on College Street. Council’s Orwellian Doublethink and Duckspeak determine their destinies. 

Doublethink is a simultaneous belief in two contradictory ideas.  Here is how protagonist Winston Smith described doublethink in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Duckspeak is to quack like a duck; to speak without thinking. It can be either good or bad, depending on who is speaking, and whether or not they are on your side.

The locations for both the Co-op and the Bike Library are problematic and is covered over by the council’s communiqué that council cannot support commissioning a building built for a specific business, 404 Plan does, even though the Co-op and Bike Library are only two of a multitude in a plan that includes affordable housing for incomes ranging from $43,000 to $60,000 (transient renters vs. homeownership).

However, the Decision Matrix used for selecting the 20-story Chauncey is rank with the fetidness of collusion and favoritism, which violates the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection” clause.

The 404 Plan would avoid hollowing out the middle of the city from those who are not sheltered by TIFs from paying real estate and use taxes. This was the failure of the urban-renewal plans of the 1960s where too many middle class and working class families were locked out because of unaffordable housing.

Mary Gravitt
Iowa City resident

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