Gravitt: Fighting for sanity in the Green Park

BY GUEST COLUMN | APRIL 09, 2013 5:00 AM

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Keep your eye on the prize. The Iowa City spring has begun, and it has nothing to do with the weather. Lee Hermiston reported in the Iowa City Press-Citizen (April 5) Iowa City’s Planning and Zoning Commission deferred weighing in on a rezoning application that could halt a controversial development.

The commission’s unanimous decision to take up the Iowa Coalition Against the Shadow’s application to rezone the lot at the intersection of College and Gilbert Streets from public to CB-5 at its April 18 meeting came after two hours of public comment both in support of and opposition to the application.

“A great deal of thought has gone into this,” said Commissioner John Thomas of the approximately 20 citizens who spoke about the matter. “It’s a major decision.”

“The purpose of CB-5 is to allow orderly transition from the central business,” said local attorney Rockne Cole, one of the Shadow group’s organizers. “That’s exactly what we want to happen. … All we’re asking is that the very first expansion from the central business district is not the highest building in the 170-plus year history of this community.”

Supporters of the Chauncey, including Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce President Nancy Quellhorst and Iowa City-Coralville Convention and Visitors Bureau President Josh Schamberger, said the Chauncey would be a destination point for the city.

“Our convention and visitors’ bureau is very excited about the proposed Chauncey,” Schamberger said. “We’re certainly hopeful the Planning and Zoning Commission will allow this exciting development to unfold.”

Supporters of the 22-story monolith, which is to cost IC real-estate taxpayers $13 million in TIF rollback, will dominate the College Green Park neighborhood as well as overshadow the Trinity Episcopal Church, are named by C. Wright Mills as the “Power Elite.” 

The City of Literature should make Mills’The Power Elite (1956) a citywide read.

The Power Elite is composed of men and women whose positions enable them to transcend the ordinary environments of ordinary men and women (taxpayers and residents); they are in positions to make decisions having major consequences (to the quality of life in Iowa City).

Whether they do or do not make such decisions is less important than the fact that they do occupy such pivotal positions: their failure to act, their failure to make decisions, is itself an act that is often of greater consequence than the decisions they do make. For they are in command of the major hierarchies and organizations (i.e. City Council) and organizations (Planning and Zoning) of modern society.

The power elite has determined that it will use TIF to redesign Iowa City. TIF is a Ponzi scheme.

The Johnson County/Iowa City TIF may not match point for point, but remember, Ponzi schemes are as recent as the housing bubble. An economic bubble: A bubble is similar to a Ponzi scheme in that one participant gets paid by contributions from a subsequent participant (until inevitable collapse). A bubble involves ever-rising prices in an open market (for example stock, housing, or tulip bulbs) where prices rise because buyers bid more because prices are rising. Bubbles are often said to be based on the “greater fool” theory. As with the Ponzi scheme, the price exceeds the intrinsic value of the item, but unlike the Ponzi scheme, there is no single person misrepresenting the intrinsic value.

However, the power of the people was felt at the Planning and Zoning Board meeting on April 4.

If we understand that Eye on the Prize is about Americans asserting themselves and letting the Power Elite know that they were then and are now determined to claim their rights as citizens.

Mary Gravitt
Iowa City resident

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