Iowa City Council candidates shared their ideas for how they envision the city’s growth and diversity both in the downtown and throughout the community.
The six council candidates spoke to a crowded room at the Iowa City Public Library at a forum hosted by the Johnson County League of Women voters on Tuesday evening.
The candidates are vying for three open seats on Nov. 5 election. Challengers Kingsley Botchway, Rockne Cole, Catherine Champion and incumbent Susan Mims are running for two At-Large seats. Royceann Porter and current city councilor Terry Dickens are running for the District B seat.
The candidates addressed several questions about the development of the city including affordable housing and density throughout the city. Growth to the city means approaching issues of diversity. Porter and Champion said with that growth, the city needs ensure that it establishes more affordable housing for an array of occupations. Champion said that includes working alongside the school boards own plans to address diversity issues.
“So we can develop neighborhoods that have different mixes of housing: apartments, larger houses, smaller homes, all within different price ranges to build true walkable neighborhoods,” Champion said.
Mims and Dickens added the city officials are already examining ways to make affordable housing more of a regional approach.
Challenger Rockne Cole said the city should make sure tax increment financing should be utilized more to build more diverse communities.
“If you look at the original purpose of tax increment financing, what it was really designed to do to provide an incentives for developers to do the right thing and that is to invest in high risk neighborhoods,” said Cole, who had been a strong opponent to the city’s use of TIF towards several of developer Mark Moen’s downtown projects.
Botchway said there needs to be more discussions about developments in other parts of the city.
“While I do think the downtown is a great place and a vital part of our community, we need to talk about other areas of Iowa City. The west side, the east side, the north side, other areas of Iowa City are very important, especially from an economic standpoint. ” Botchway said. “And it gets frustrating at times to just talk about the downtown.”
All the challengers noted the need to continue to address diversity throughout the city and noted the progress of city’s establishment of an ad hoc diversity committee. Multiple candidates said they wanted to see those efforts expanded.
The candidates were also in agreement on the need for a new county jail. It’s an issue that isn’t in the council’s, but all said the continuing debate on the fate of a new jail speaks to the need to look at law enforcement interactions with the community.
“A combination of giving fair and equal measure in our jail and justice system combined with different policing actions and different ways of approaching situations are what we have to do as a community,” Champion said.
All but Porter said they support retaining the 21-ordinance and the culture of the downtown has changed for the better.
“The federal government has said that the legal age is 21 and we need to follow that and if the federal government decides to change it to 19 then I’m with them to change that,” Dickens said.