[Note: This post can also be found on Facebook at “Jim Throgmorton for City Council” (www.facebook.com/Throg4IC?sk=app_190322544333196) in the Notes section of the left hand column.]
Throg4IC Position Paper #1
When first announcing my candidacy for the District C position on the City Council, I said, “We are lucky to be living in a lovely city, but we will be facing some significant challenges over the coming years. I believe my combination of experience, knowledge, skills and vision can help us respond in a way that enables us to make it an even better place.”
As many of you know, I served on the city council for a little over two years back in the mid-1990s. I learned a great deal about the city and about what’s required to be a good city councilor.
But that was 16 years ago. I am different, and the context is different. To learn more about what Iowa City needs at this moment in time, I have spent much of the past several weeks meeting with a wide variety of advisory groups and community leaders to hear what they think are the key challenges and opportunities facing Iowa City today.
I have also drawn upon my own prior experience as a city councilor and my 25 years of teaching urban planning at the University of Iowa to come up with my own sense of what is really important for us now
So what are those important challenges?
First, we need to ensure that Iowa City provides good jobs and has a strong tax base. This means we will need to attract new investments that build on our existing strengths, and to nurture networks for innovation and creativity. We will need to respond effectively to competition from nearby cities, especially Coralville and its very aggressive use of Tax Increment Financing. And we will need to respond creatively to future cuts in federal funds and possible state-mandated cuts in commercial property tax revenues. Over the longer term, it means taking actions that will enhance longer-term sustainability.
Second, we need to sustain Iowa City as a safe and welcoming place for all. The social tensions we have been experiencing are a natural part of change. We need to understand these tensions not as a problem limited to any specific neighborhood or part of the city but as a challenge for the Iowa City region as a whole. In order to be a safe and welcoming community, we need to enforce laws pertaining to criminal behavior effectively and fairly among all populations throughout the city. We need to invent ways to include low and low-to-moderate income housing in new developments throughout the region. And we need to work with the ICCSD School Board to ensure our city’s older schools thrive while meeting the changing needs of the district and its student body.
Third, we need to take actions that will promote long-term sustainability. This will require vision and leadership, vision that will position Iowa City as the core of a dynamic, affordable, sustainable and resilient region. One key action would be to strengthen IC’s downtown as a diverse place for creativity, innovation and fun. A second would be to maintain and improve our older neighborhoods, while also developing new neighborhoods (such as the “River Crossings” area south of Burlington Street) as compact, walkable, diverse places. A third would be to help businesses and residents save money, create good new jobs, and reduce carbon emissions by becoming less dependent on fossil fuels.
Last, we need to escape the trap of political polarization by resolving conflicts skillfully. This calls for city councilors who can actively listen to diverse views, treating all people with respect. And it calls for councilors who can facilitate mutually beneficial resolution of conflicts among people who have divergent interests.
Iowa City is a great place, but it is facing some important challenges. With experienced and visionary leadership, it can meet those challenges and become an even better place that will thrive long into the future.