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Editorial: Council must heed diverse voices

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | NOVEMBER 04, 2013 5:00 AM

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On Tuesday, voters at Iowa City polling booths will have the choice between keeping the membership of the current City Council largely intact or bringing in new faces to fill three open seats.

Four candidates are fighting for the two at-large spots on the council, and another two are hoping to win the opening for District B. Rockne Cole, Kingsley Botchway, Councilor Susan Mims, and Catherine Champion (daughter of Councilor Connie Champion, who isn’t running this year) are the candidates in the at-large race. Councilor Terry Dickens faces contender Royceann Porter in District B.

The new council hopefuls have made a name for themselves in Iowa City. Cole was one of the cofounders of the Iowa City Coalition Against the Shadow, a group dedicated to stopping the construction of the controversial 20-story Chauncey building. Botchway headed a city committee focused on diversity and issues involving minorities, of which Porter was a member.

These challengers have been quite critical of the current city administration, and through their campaigning have pushed the city to look at issues of diversity, inequality, affordable housing, and economic development outside of downtown.

“I not only want to emphasize diversity as far as looking at how we treat minority populations, but also diversity of business, and diversity of thought,” Botchway told The Daily Iowan in an Oct. 24 article. “Right now, we’re very downtown-centric, so an economic-development plan that really speaks to the entire Iowa City is something I would really like to see.”

The number of recent high-rise developments in the downtown area, including the Chauncey building and the soon-to-be-opened Park @201 building, is also something Cole hopes to address.

Earlier in the year, Cole spearheaded a request to rezone the plot of land the Chauncey would use, at the intersection of College and Gilbert Streets, from PB-10 zoning to PB-5, effectively blocking the development. However, that effort was voted down by the council.

Cole said he would be focused on stopping the building if elected.

“I will not compromise the city’s liability if there’s a binding contract, but if there’s not, I’ll push the reset button, and I’m going to stop any part of that process that is not legally binding,” Cole said. “We need to ensure that if they’re talking about using our tax dollars, that everyone has access to that housing, that it’s real workforce housing.”

The issue of affordable housing is one that Porter has zeroed in on in, challenging the assertion that the city is doing enough to create such amenities.

“Affordable housing is totally an issue here in Iowa City, and we need to maximize funding for creating enough affordable housing,” she said in an interview.

The current City Council often seems to split down predictable lines in voting. For better or worse, the body’s votes are often unanimous or opposed solely by Councilor Jim Throgmorton. If the three open seats were filled with fresh blood, it would certainly upset the balance of power in the council, with new perspectives on the city’s issues.

Regardless of who is elected, the councilors must address the issues that have been raised by these new candidates, or they will appear tone-deaf in a time of changing demographics and priorities in the city.


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