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Osgerby: Don't jeopardize Iowa City's reputation

BY PAUL OSGERBY | JANUARY 22, 2015 5:00 AM

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Earlier this month, the Iowa City Charter Review Commission held a special meeting, with an open forum for the public to comment in order to address some potential big changes to the City Council. However, it’s not quite as groundbreaking as publicized by the commission.

On Jan. 7, the agenda focused on extending the mayoral term from two to four years, restricting voting for council districts to residents from the area, and salary increases for city councilors and the mayor.

Does this really sound so monumental?

Considering the controversy swirling around the demolition of the historic Dubuque Street cottages, I’m not too convinced. A couple pay hikes to already relatively low public salaries (city councilors make $7,072 annually, and the mayor receives $8,070 per year, totaling $50,502 in salaries) and localizing voting within elections that generally have disappointing turnouts doesn’t address seminal issues that citizens are actually concerned about.

Additionally, increasing the mayoral term by two years does not alter much except prospective candidates in the future. Perhaps a pay increase would make that offer seem more lucrative, but it still remains rather insignificant in the public eye.

Iowa City has become obsessed with updating its vanity to house modern, upscale high-rises, lofts, and businesses at the expense of centuries-old buildings. It seems the council no longer cares about preserving the town’s historic image. To be fair, the council delayed a vote on the cottage issue at its meeting Tuesday, yet the councilors chose not to share their ideas on the rezoning.

Rather than looking into to options repurpose or restore old, decaying buildings, the council moves to demolish them in economic interest—from the late church at Burlington and Clinton Streets to the old Bike Library. The result: These pseudo-modern structures seen going up today that lack the original personality of the historic buildings.

Since the Charter Review Commission discussion, not much has been publicized about the upcoming changes. This speaks to the lack of impact these changes truly have on the public.

What residents are really concerned about is preserving the historic buildings of a historic town, as evidenced by the protests that ultimately forced public forums from the council. Iowa City has always had a quaint reputation for a City of Literature, and the recent influx of planned high-rises detracts from that.

The council may be trying to create an Iowa City for the future that is on pace with the University of Iowa’s development, but it shouldn’t jeopardize the historic reputation of the town with it.


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