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Chapter gets involved in Coralville city election

BY REBECCA MORIN | OCTOBER 10, 2013 5:00 AM

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After launching a new social media campaign this week, one local chapter of a national group is continuing efforts to inform Coralville citizens on the city’s debt crisis.

Americans for Prosperity is a national organization committed to educating citizens about economic policy and mobilizing those citizens as advocates in the public-policy process.

The state’s chapter of this group decided to get involved because of the large debt crisis, said Mark Lucas, Iowa director of group.

“This is happening in my backyard, and they brought this on [themselves],” Lucas said. “I would much rather focus on Obamacare or cutting taxes for Iowa, but the city of Coralville forces us because this [debt] is out of hand.”

Although many groups don’t usually get involved in local elections, Lucas said that is what makes interest group “unique.”

“Americans for Prosperity is unique in that regards,” he said. “Such as the Heritage Foundation or Organizing for Action, they focus on a campaign, but we focus on the issues, and that’s why we’re so unique.”

Lucas said the members’ goal is to not support a specific candidate but to focus more on educating voters on the debt crisis.

“It creates an issue that affects the entire state; they diverted taxes away from the School District and invested it in the Iowa River Landing,” Lucas said.  “It’s a pretty big issue, and one of the biggest reasons is because the leadership don’t know how to use [Tax Increment Financing] properly.”

According to a report released in June, the city’s debt is nearly $279 million, the third highest in the state as of last summer.

“What we need to do is have fresh eyes in what’s happening in the city of Coralville,” said Gerry Ambrose, a real-estate agent with Ambrose and Boyd Realtors. “We need a mayor, and not someone from the inside — an insider simply has the same philosophy.”

However, one state official does not agree with the group’s involvement in the Coralville City Council election.

“It’s a very extreme right-wing agenda, and it’s the Koch brothers trying to control more of the country,” said Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville. “City elections are meant to be nonpartisan, and this organization has made a very partisan election.”

Johnson County Supervisor John Etheredge said citizens should do their own research on the candidates and any organization getting involved with the campaign.

“The thing about organizations getting involved is that they are still made of people, whether they are state, national, or local,” he said. “I would be doing a lot of research to see what the candidates align with, and also check information on what the organization believes.”

The interest group’s Iowa chapter created a Facebook page and Twitter account to target Coralville residents. Lucas said the members also started a phone bank last week to inform Coralville citizens about the debt.

However, Americans for Prosperity is not the only organization involved with the municipality’s city council campaign. Citizens for Responsible Growth and Taxation has allegedly donated funds to several candidates’ campaigns. As of Wednesday night The Daily Iowan could not reach a representative from the group.

Coralville City Council candidate Laurie Goodrich said she had initial conversation with a group during summer but did not fit the criteria the group was looking for.

“I don’t think we need that in Coralville,” she said. “They were ready to spend five weeks and do all the campaigning and they would do all the paperwork in the running.”

Mark Winkler, a candidate for Coralville City Council and the director of the Business Solutions Center at the Tippie College of Business, said he will only accept donations from individuals, not organizations.

“I know some businessmen that may be part of those group, but they have not identified as belonging to those groups when speaking to me,” he said. “I’m not representing a group, just residents of Coralville and taxpayers.”


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