From Campaigning to Governing

[Note: This post is a slightly modified version of “Propose changes consistent with voters’ values,” The Gazette (January 5, 2016), p. 5A.]

First you campaign and then, if elected, you have to govern.

Campaigning and governing are different processes.

While the former can be inspiring and exhilarating, the latter can feel bureaucratic and boring except, that is, when new policies are adopted, new projects are initiated, interested parties strongly disagree about particular actions, or unexpected events occur.

The four people who were elected to Iowa City’s City Council on November 3 campaigned on themes orienting around the idea of creating an inclusive, just, and healthy city.

That all four of these individuals were elected surprised virtually everyone.

Supporters were thrilled and now rightly hope to see big changes in City government.

Others were dismayed and now fear that the new Council will be anti-development, micromanage the City staff, and undermine the city.

The new members will take office on January 2 and, along with returning members of the current council, begin governing by holding an organizational meeting two days later.

The new Council majority will rightly propose changes that are consistent with voters’ values as expressed in the November election. But what actually gets adopted and what City government actually does in 2016 will affected by the context provided by Iowa City’s Council-Manager form of government and the existing set of City policies, codes, budgets, plans, and personnel. Very little of this context can or will be changed overnight.

Change will instead take proceed incrementally, step-by-step, in a way that builds on what is already great about Iowa City but also leads in a creative new direction.

And every resident and every other business owner, property owner, and workers with a stake in the City actions will have a voice in determining the particular features of those changes.

There are several important steps the new Council has to take in the first month of its tenure: it must elect a mayor and a mayor pro-tem, develop a new Strategic Plan, ensure City staff continues to be led by a skilled City Manager, and respond to the proposed FY2017 Budget, FY2016-18 Financial Plan, and FY 2016-20 Capital Improvement Plan.

The new Strategic Plan is currently being developed and is unlikely to be adopted in final form until late in January. At the moment I anticipate that this plan will retain several key elements of the current Council’s Plan while also shifting it significantly in the direction preferred by the new Council majority.

Because this new Strategic Plan is currently being drafted, it would be premature of me to provide any specifics. At the moment it appears likely that some draft material will be available by the time the Council holds its first formal meeting on January 5.

First you campaign and then, if elected, you have to govern.

Stay tuned, and let your new Council know what you think.

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