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UI official seeks position as City Councilman

BY MICHELLE KIM | SEPTEMBER 09, 2013 5:00 AM

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A long-time Coralville resident known as a professor and researcher at the University of Iowa, has announced to seek a position as a Coralville City Councilman.

Chris Turner, a University of Iowa professor in the department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, announced he is running for Coralville City Council Friday, mainly to put more emphasis on financial responsibility and economic growth.

Throughout his career, he has not only been cited in the Congressional Record as having the “Most Significant Work” in a Congressional budget period, but his work has been continuously funded by the National Institute of Health since 1986 by various grants totaling over $20 million dollars.

UI President Sally Mason said as at least one other university staff members is running for office, discussion on a particular candidate would not be appropriate.

However, she said she supports UI students and faculty members getting involved in city government.

“I believe firmly that our students, faculty and staff should participate in our democracy by running for office, voting, and being informed citizens. I deeply appreciate anyone who chooses to serve the public and the communities where they live and work,” she said in a statement Friday.

Of his house payments, Turner said his taxes have doubled in the last ten years and he is paying 40 percent of that in property taxes.

As a councilman, Turner hopes to support new economic growth in Coralville, without the taxpayers being so heavily burdened.

“What I’d like to see Coralville do is reduce the debt, get out of debt, and make it a livable place.” Turner said.

Not only is Turner concerned with the amount of money Coralville borrows, he hopes that the city will stop doing so.

But Coralville Mayor Jim Fausett, who on Aug. 26 announced he would not seek re-election, said the city has not increased property taxes for the last four years and that it’s in a stable financial situation.

The Coralville resident has held the mayoral seat since 1996.

In a June report, the national credit rating firm Moody’s Investor Service, said the city of roughly 20,000 needs to cut its outstanding debt obligations — nearly $279 million and third highest in the state as of last June.

“I believe our current council is well informed and are completely fiscally responsible,” Fausett said in an email. “I believe Mr. Turner or any candidate for the Coralville City Council or Mayors Office needs to make an effort to become familiar with the city’s financial situation before making statements indicating otherwise.”

Tony Roetlin, director of finance of Coralville, said the city has been a growing community and has managed growth over the years.

“[Coralville] has ambitious goals and has done a lot for citizens and businesses, and are trying to make the best decision for all of their constituents and sort of the whole city, as opposed to something narrower,” Roetlin said.

In the release, Turner noted some Coralville businesses, such as the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, Backpocket Brewery, commercial office space, and condominiums are not turning enough profit to pay for themselves, and as a result are causing property taxes to rise, debt to grow, and the credit firm to downgrade the city’s bonds and debt.

“We have had to borrow large sums of money that Coralville citizens – current and future – are responsible for paying off, and when our financial condition is downgraded, it will be much harder and much more expensive to get lending for actual essential projects like fire stations, sewer repairs, or sanitation needs in the future should those needs arise,” he said in the release.

Jacob Simmons, a manager at Backpocket Brewery, said as a private company, they do not release financial information to public. In addition he said the company has met all their obligations under their lease with the city of Coralville and are in no way looking to the city for financial support.

“The lease has been personally guaranteed by investors of Backpocket,” Simmons said. “The city has little to no exposure.”

This year, Turner will serve his last full year as a UI professor. As a retired professor he will be working part time as a researcher. His upcoming retirement made him become more concerned about property taxes and what his monthly expenses will be.

“Because someone is willing to lend you money, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea,” Turner said. “When people are hesitant to lend money you know it’s a bad idea. That kind of sums up why I’m running for city council.”


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