Candidates touch on downtown improvements


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With the Iowa City municipal elections less than two weeks away, the city hosted a public forum on Thursday night in which candidates discussed their various platforms and answered questions.

Hosted by the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce, the forum served as an avenue for citizens and the candidates to outline their concerns on a number of issues.

“Education is part of our mission, so to educate our members and the voters on the council is critically important to the economic development of our community,” said Chamber of Commerce Vice President of public policy Rebecca Neades.

All candidates in the running for City Council participated in the forum: Kingsley Botchway II, Rockne Cole, Catherine Champion, Susan Mims, Terry Dickens, and Royceann Porter.

Although the forum covered a range of topics, many candidates spoke extensively on what should happen in regards to improving downtown Iowa City.

Many candidates emphasized the point of diversifying the types of businesses downtown, which has been an important goal in the city since the passage of the 21-ordinance three years ago.

“Besides the sprucing up of downtown and making things look a little better, I believe that we have gotten some other alternatives downtown, but we need to continue looking at additional opportunities for those students and young people under the age of 21,” Mims said.

Botchway expressed similar sentiments, saying that downtown has done little to promote alternatives as of yet.

Although the council is involved heavily in downtown development, Champion took a different view and said that instead of directly working to change downtown, the city government should work with agencies in order to minimize tax increases that come with governmental improvement of the area.

Though the meeting focused heavily on downtown issues, Botchway and Porter repeatedly pointed out the city needs to do a better job of focusing on areas of Iowa City other than the downtown district.

“We need to look further than downtown and look to see an economic plan that speaks to the entire Iowa City, so the economic development also can grow to other community members who don’t have the opportunity to contribute downtown,” Botchway said.

Cole discussed how Iowa City could be a leading arts and economic center in the state, but in order to do this, the center must focus on bringing its distinctive side into the light.

“We need to emphasize our monopoly over the unique,” he said. “We need to promote those unique cultural institutions that you can only find within the city of Iowa City.”

The forum was well-attended by citizens eager to learn about candidates before the Nov. 5 election.

“I love these events,” 30-year Iowa City resident Holly Hart said. “I think it’s really good for people to hear from the candidates, see how they convey their ideas. Oftentimes, it’s one of the few events and ways to get firsthand information about the candidates.”

Overall, Neades believes that the event served its purpose of being an educational tool for the community.

“I feel like people really got a sense of the candidates, and how they feel about issues, how they work with others, and how they’re able to communicate their positions,” she said.

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