Thursday, October 26, 2017

The City Council Endorsements

It's almost November and that means Election Day is right around the corner for local offices, including Iowa City's own City Council! To be honest, I haven't really been as plugged into this race as I have in years past. I've never been very impressed with our City Council and I'm still sort of mad at myself that I let the Charter Review process sort of slip by me without even going to a meeting. (Sidebar: I honestly don't know where we're gonna be ten years from now, but damn it, I want to go to a meeting about shit like this next time! Iowa City deserves a directly elected mayor and I hate that City Council Districts don't mean shit, because the entire city can vote on the District races as well. My District should have it's own representation voted on by my district, damn it!)

But here we are again for another election and I'm actually rather pleased to find our new house in the southern end of District B, which means that we've actually got some skin in the District B game for once. I did some digging on the Gazette to get some candidate profiles for Susan Mims and Angela Winnike, but Ryan Hall, Mazahir Salih and Kingsley Botchway all have websites that are worth going too as well. Local political blogger John Deeth also has a pretty good breakdown on the local council race and the prospects for a resurgence of the Old Townie Guard in 2019. (In general, I agree with a lot of what Deeth says about local politics especially- perhaps less so with his thoughts on national politics. I think he's entirely correct about his City Council forecast, it's just that my thoughts on the new progressive majority are what they usually are when we get progressiv-ish candidates: what are they going to actually do?)

So, to the Endorsements!

For The At-Large Seats:

Mazahir Salih gets my nod right off the bat- like many candidates running this time around, 'affordable housing' seems to be the new hot issue for local politics, which to me is the biggest, 'no duh' issue of all time. Housing in Iowa City is ridiculous and the Missus and I both have pretty good jobs. If we didn't, it'd be damn near impossible to afford to live here. We're fortunate in that regard, but a lot of the community isn't. I hope that this focus on affordable housing includes upping the city's housing authority to actually bring some landlords to heel so we don't end up with another Rose Oaks fiasco ever again. While I hated that poor people were essentially evicted because of shitty landlords that had run that complex into the ground, the City should have the authority to make sure complexes like that never get to the point where the only viable solution is to gut them and start over. (I honestly don't know where they have the authority to do that or not, they might already- but if they don't, they need it and if they do, they need to get after the problem a bit better than they have.)

Salih also identifies the need to upgrade and maybe even regionalize local public transportation, which I like and also supports vibrant neighborhoods and community engagement- like making sure interpreters/translators are available for folks that need them. (I did kind of raise an eyebrow at "We need a serious focus on racial justice in policing," partially because I know my Day Job is doubling down on community policing and engagement and it seems like ICPD is following a similar trajectory that should help in that regard and partially because it's Johnson County and well, you should expect candidates for local office to say things like this. Either way, my philosophy working in and around LE has always been: 'Never stop looking for ways to do your job better' so there's always work to be done.)

Kingsley Botchway gets the second nod for the At-Large Seats. He's an incumbent and running for re-election and in general I tend to be anti-incumbent, but he's also done a good job. (As in: he hasn't popped on my radar for supporting something I vehemently disagree with.) Botchway is also a fan of affordable housing- so that's a +1 in his favor. He wants 'smart growth' to "support our local, small business throughout Iowa City." He also wants to "become a leader in addressing mental health through training and providing adequate funding." (I'm not sure if this is just in general or aimed at law enforcement specifically, but if you don't know this, you should, but my Day Job and agencies across the county are doubling down on this as well. I think the goal is to have most every police officer trained in Crisis Intervention and there's a Mobile Crisis Team on call for mental health issues- one of the many reasons I'm proud to work at the ol'Day Job. There's always things we can do better, but there's plenty we're doing right.)

For District B:

This was a tough one to call. I like that there's a Student Government Liason on the City Council, but I also agree that the student community despite their transitory nature is a permanent part of our community and has been underrepresented on the Council itself for decades now. So I don't hate the idea of someone like Ryan Hall running for City Council. I was a fan (and probably voted for, but can't actually remember now) Raj Patel when he ran a few cycles back, but the problem students have in running for City Council is that they usually have about as much chance as Frosty The Snowman surviving a dip in a volcano. I feel like Hall's progressive credentials and unabashedly progressive platform will undoubtedly appeal to a large chunk of the electorate, but it's the lack of specifics that bothers me. 

For instance, his website, while very pretty is long on statements like this: "Ending policies and practices that segregate wealth and race in Iowa City" and "Opening City Hall to all people" and "Cooperation among generations." I find these statements frustrating and puzzling. City Hall, unless it's closed, is open to all people last I checked. (Don't believe me? Just go and walk in. See. Problem solved.) Cooperation among generations? A nice sentiment to be sure, but what does it mean? And the policies and practices that segregate wealth and race in Iowa City? What are they? What does that mean? To be fair to Hall, his Gazette profile has a lot more specifics, but it's... still not enough. And when the Daily Iowan throws down with a column like this*, maybe your student support isn't as deep as you think it is. (Though again, to be fair, the premise of the column is somewhat flawed. Hall does have an address listed in District B. Barely in District B, but in there nonetheless.)

Alas, for Hall, he didn't close the deal- at least with me. So, Susan Mims gets the nod for District B. She's been a solid presence on the Council for awhile now and again, like Mr. Botchway, she hasn't popped on my radar for supporting something I vehemently disagree with. Her Gazette Candidate profile hits all the high points in terms of supporting inclusive zoning, affordable housing, but it was what was buried at the bottom of the profile that caught my eye. She supports the creation of a Behavioral Access Center for individuals in crisis, which would add an option for officers dealing with these people- other than the jail or the Emergency Room. I had no idea such a notion was even on somebody's radar, but I'm all about it.

*The author of this column may not be H.L. Mencken, but as DI Columnists go, she's turning into a consistently interesting read whose opinions often 'zig' when you'd expect a typical DI Columnist to 'zag' as it were. If you're a regular DI reader (which admittedly, I am not) make sure you read her stuff- it's worth checking out.

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