Prall: Council's cottage decision disappointing


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The decision making done in Washington D.C. can't be accessible by everyone, there are just too many of us. And States? Not as big, but just as impossible to have a meaningful influence.  That's when residents of the U.S. find comfort in the participation city councils afford the general populace.  They connect the governed with the governing, and having a say in what goes down in our city shouldn't be a privilege, but a right.

That's what is so upsetting about a recent decision by Iowa City's City Council. The Council voted to tear down three Cottages on Dubuque Street deemed historically significant by the Historic Preservation initiative.  The cottages significance is largely due to their pre civil war construction.

In a stroke of backroom exclusion, the Council held a special session that avoided public debate and input.  So much for having a voice.

Considering the vote was 4-3, it isn't wild speculation to consider what might have happened if the public could have had a say on what happened to culturally significant sites in Iowa City. Last week, Iowa City’s Historic Preservation Commission voted to protect the cottages.

As a resident of Iowa City, I enjoy the varied architecture and sights. They certainly create an alluring backdrop for those looking for a community invested in their rich heritage.  Change can be great, but change introduced by cheating the citizens of Iowa City out of their say on the matter is neglectful at best.  

The cottages currently house Tsun Kung Fu, The Book Shop and Suzy's Antiques and Gifts.  On the 13th, a group of concerned citizens stood outside the cottages to memorialize them and in protest of their destruction. Members of the community, along with the Friends of Historic Preservation, are concerned about what demolishing the cottages means for Iowa City.  They believe this to be a slippery slope, and question whether the City Council will allow any culturally significant buildings to remain as the city grows in wealth and population.

In a place with as much growth and economic potential as Iowa City, there is bound to be a lot of power vested into the City Council.  Unlike federal or state government, however, local government is intended to listen to the individual as well as the collective. 

Removing this critical element of government damages public trust and respect, regardless of whether the Council would have come to the same conclusion had it heard out its constituents.  Think "Parks and Recreation" without Leslie Knope.  Looking forward, I hope to see local power given to the locals of IC.

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