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UI faculty member seeks position on Coralville City Council

BY GABRIELLA DUNN | SEPTEMBER 17, 2013 5:00 AM

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Another University of Iowa official concerned with Coralville’s current financial foothold has entered the race for a seat on the city’s governing body.

Mark Winkler, the director of the Business Solutions Center at the Tippie College of Business, is vying for a city councilor spot in the Nov. 5 election.

Most of Winkler’s career has been spent in business development and strategic planning, which, he says, is his biggest asset as candidate for the position.

“I think I could bring a lot to the discussion and future direction of Coralville around future economics and growth and development,” he said.

In recent years, as the city’s debt base, particularly in regards to tax increment financing has increased, a number of local, state, and national experts have called for increased fiscal responsibility.

Among the most recent calls came in June, when Moody’s Investors Service lowered a number of bond ratings for the city.

Winkler said one of the council’s most pertinent issues will be the city’s debt.

As of June, the city’s outstanding debt obligations — nearly $279 million — stood as the third highest in the state.

“That was part of the motivation,” Winkler said about his decision to run. “I know government and business aren’t the same thing, but I think there’s always alternatives to some of the decisions that we’ve made.”

Winkler said one of these issues is putting too much taxpayer money at risk.

The issue of debt will be more immediate, because people are fearful of debt, he said. In the long run, though, the creation of sustainable economic development for Coralville should also be pursued, he said.

On Sept. 6, UI President Sally Mason released a statement to The Daily Iowan about university officials seeking government positions.

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

As far as Winkler’s candidacy goes, Coralville Mayor Jim Fausett said he was reluctant about his credibility for facing Coralville’s financial issues.

“As far as I know, he’s never attended a meeting or attended City Hall to talk with finance directors to know what the finances are,” Fausett said.

For Fausett, continuing to ensure property taxes are paid by incoming businesses will be of utmost importance.

Tony Roetlin, Coralville’s finance director, stressed the council’s need to continue focusing on issues pertaining to debt.

“I’ve seen a lot of focus from the current council and the work that they’ve done over the years as well,” Roetlin said. “It’s not a topic that hasn’t been focused on.”

With his background as a senior executive and his role as a board member of smaller companies, Winkler said, he knows how the collaboration of boards and business work from both the inside and outside.

Winkler’s candidacy follows the Sept. 6 announcement by Chris Turner, a UI professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, in also seeking a Coralville City Council seat.

Coralville City Councilor Tom Gill announced on Sep. 11 he will seek re-election to the position for a second term. David Petsel, Matt Adam, and John Lundell are seeking to become the next mayor of Coralville.

Fausett announced on Aug. 26 that he would not seek re-election after a 17-year term.


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