Iowa City voters have the task of electing three city council candidates on Nov. 5 elections. Four candidates are running for two at-large seats and two candidates are vying for a District B seat, following city councilor Connie Champion’s decision to not seek another term.
Several issues have remained at the forefront for candidates and the community, including Iowa City’s future growth and development.
All candidates agree development is important for the city’s future — but as projects unfold for the new Riverfront Crossings district and debate continues over a proposed high-rise along Gilbert Street, visions differ on how that change should take place.
As neighboring Coralville elections focus on the city’s debt and use of tax increment financing, Iowa City residents are looking to council candidates to ensure the city remains a good financial standing.
Diversity is another issue whoever wins will need to address. From affordable housing, disproportionate arrests among minorities and efforts to see a more diverse representation throughout the city, diversity has been a continued discussion among the community and city leaders.
The 21-ordinance is once again on the ballot this election and while discussion continues on its effectiveness, the issue has lost much of its steam and most council candidates have said they support keeping the ordinance.
Kingsley Botchway II, the 28-year-old deputy auditor of elections, sees growth as important for Iowa City’s future but suggests city leaders are often too focused on the downtown as the only place to develop instead of ways to grow surrounding neighborhoods.
“It’s very downtown-centric,” Botchway previously told The Gazette. “When I talk about an economic development plan, I speak about an economic plan that really talks about the entire city.”
Botchway, who is involved in several community groups including the Police Citizens Review Board and former chairman of the city’s Ad Hoc Diversity Committee, said diversity is a topic of growing importance to the city and there is a need for more minority representation in city leadership.
Catherine Champion likes to tout Iowa City as the place where she grew up and went to school. The 47-year-old and daughter of city councilor Connie Champion said entrepreneurship throughout the city’s business districts is a vital component for the continued growth of the city.
As the owner of two downtown retail stores, Catherine’s and Cheap & Chic, Champion has maintained active in the downtown including the past president of the Iowa City Downtown District.
Champion said addressing the variety of diversity issues takes a community-wide partnership to better develop goals to reduce issues like the disproportionate minority arrests rates that have been documented.
“It’s a decision of the whole and we will work as a whole to solve the problem,” she said.
Rockne Cole said that while economic development and continual growth are important for Iowa City, preserving certain aspects of the city are equally important and that includes protecting defined neighborhoods.
The 38-year-old is suing the city for its partnership with developer Mark Moen to build a high-rise near downtown, which is near a transitional zone between the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. Cole, a member of Iowa Coalition Against the Shadow, said it’s not about Moen, but making sure developments benefit the community and not just business.
“The issue is we shouldn’t have one development vision govern the vision of downtown growth,” Cole said. “We should have a more diverse strategy and have other developers’ input as well.”
The immigration lawyer said the city leaders need to focus more on making sure citizens and minority voices are heard throughout the community.
Susan Mims, a financial planner, is running for a second term on the council. She has been involved in the decision-making of several hotly debated topics including the development of high-rise projects downtown.
Mims said when considering projects like this, its important projects provide a long-term benefit to the community, especially if tax increment financing is involved.
“We’re very cautious, we’re way below what we could do,” Mims said of the city’s TIF use.
The 56-year-old also said diversity is an important issue city leaders and the community need to continuously work on. Mims said one way would be a community policing model “where we’re able to get our police out into various parts of the community and really get to know people and people really get to know the police as individuals.”
District B candidates:
Terry Dickens, the 58-year-old and owner of downtown jewelry store, Herteen and Stocker, sees economic development, affordable housing, and safety as important issues in the community. He favors development that is centrally focused in the downtown and building up on existing infrastructure.
“When you start building outside (of downtown), you add more sprawl, more roads, it takes up more green space,” Dickens said, adding he doesn’t think city leaders have used tax increment financing too heavily in the development of downtown and instead have tried to use caution with the funds.
Dickens is running for a second term on the council but is seeking for the District B seat following current seat-holder, Connie Champion, decided not to seek another term.
Royceann Porter believes the city council lacks minority representation and said she hopes to bring that perspective to city leadership. Porter, a Shelter House case manager, said she wants to see more affordable housing, increasing living-wage jobs and to embrace diversity throughout the community.
“Affordable housing is a problem in Iowa City,” Porter said at a League of Women Voters candidate forum in October. “I work with a lot of families in the community who just cannot afford to pay the rent in Iowa City with a $7.25 or even $8 an hour (wage). It’s really ridiculous and affordable housing is something the council should be looking at.”
The 47-year-old is involved in a slew of community organizations including the Police Citizens Review Board, the Coalition for Racial Justice and the Housing Fellowship Board of Trustees.
Porter has admitted she’s not versed in a lot of the development lingo, but as a council member she would do her best to listen and learn.