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Elliot: Rich people’s cathedral

BY BEAU ELLIOT | SEPTEMBER 17, 2013 5:00 AM

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I watch a cathedral of trees, all this green and green and green that make up my days. You haven’t lived until all you can see through your second-floor windows are the green of trees and the flitting of sparrows and cardinals and startlings.

Some of you may see starlings (the rats of the sky), but I see startlings. I know, there’s only one consonant difference. But sometimes, one consonant makes all the difference.

Oh, I know, sometimes one continent makes all the difference. Take Africa. The Mother Continent.

Of course, some people (mostly white, but who’s counting) don’t want to believe in that, just as they don’t want to believe President Obama is legitimately the president. (Or legitimately an American. Or legitimately — well, you get the idea.)

Startling, no?

Or maybe not. Maybe you’re one of those ultra-cool, hyper-hip people who show up in town from time to time and amaze us all. Whereas I’m the type of person who is startled that the Sun rises each morning. I mean, think of the cosmic odds. (And yes, Virginia, I understand that the Sun doesn’t actually rise; the Earth rotates. Whatever.)

Of course, I’m also startled by the City Council we seem to have hired (well, OK, elected) in an absent-minded moment. Or maybe it was an absent-voter moment.

Whatever, as we say these days when we have nothing else to say.

In any case, the City Council seems bound and determined to outlaw poor people from daring to exist on the Pedestrian Mall. Well, not the entire council; Councilors Jim Throgmorton and Susan Mims appear to be intelligent people who have at least brushed up against compassion a time or three. (Compassion, these days, is neither ultra-cool nor hyper-hip and so is not valued all that much. Our loss. But hey, cool and hip is where it’s at. Wherever it is.)

The City Council is scheduled this evening (at least of this writing) to vote for the third time to basically ban poor people from the Ped Mall. It’s a complicated ordinance, filled with this and that, and it never mentions the word “poor,” but the effect is to push poor people somewhere else, anywhere else but the central business district.

It’s all in the name of promoting “diverse” businesses downtown, of course. But in my highly biased opinion, if “diverse” businesses downtown want to promote themselves, they could buy more ads in The Daily Iowan. (Well, I warned you I was highly biased.)

Whatever happened to freedom of assembly? It is, by the way, in the Constitution: “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” It’s the First Amendment.

But apparently, in Iowa City, business trumps all. Which, I have to admit, seems to be the norm in the rest of the country as well.

Iowa City is supposed to be different, and the Iowa City I grew up in was. But the panhandlers, some people say, they’re annoying.

I don’t think they’re annoying. If I have a spare buck, which, I admit, is rare, I gladly give it up. But now, apparently, the buck stops. Here.

At some point in the future, no doubt, the way the city is going, all of us will have to prove ourselves worthy of being on the Ped Mall. Soon, there will be Iowa City credit monitors at the various entrances to the Ped Mall, checking your credit rating, and whether you’ve been bouncing checks, and if you have a history of shopping at Ped Mall businesses.

It’ll be a Brave New Ped Mall. A cathedral for the wealthy.


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