Tuesday, October 29

Want Representation? Progressive Voters Need to Show Up in Iowa City

There is an important City Election around the corner and, for some, it is already "over"--they've early voted. But for the rest of us, we have until  Tuesday Nov. 5th at 8 pm to vote. And why should you?

In the last 4 years, we have seen more changes to city ordinances that affect the civil rights of people in our community than in the past. Why should that be a concern to you? Because it will cost all of us in the long run, either in the resources for collecting of petty fines, the addition of police officers, or in the constant cash flow to downtown businesses being seen as a unfriendly place to go and yet always with a hand out to "create" business.

Our current city council is truly downtown business-centric and, in their actions, they think whatever is good for downtown business is good for the city. In the meantime, the businesses on the east, southeast, and west sides of town are struggling. In part, it is because of years of representation of the core, largely to the exclusion  of the outlying areas of town. With 33 neighborhood associations, it is clear that residents here value other parts of town than just the hub.

However, to have a voice that advocates for outside of downtown, we have to elect people who understand the needs and have a desire to strengthen all parts of the town so that jobs can be created closer to where they live, shop, and where their children go to school.

Now that downtown has its own taxing entity, it should mean that other resources are freed up to assist the outlying neighborhoods to make improvements without all the TIF funding. And there has been some movement in that direction. However, they are for mostly to improve walk-in medical facilities that had fallen to disrepair by a large landlord rather than for affordable housing, child care facilities, and other needed services that people value.

Further, our city needs to continue finding ways to grow sustainably, improve bikeable and walkable and public transportation features so that the number of cars on the roadway can decline over time. Building on a more compact footprint should create economies in some cases, but has not proven so in the core of the city. Therefore, it is incumbent that in other parts of town, smaller communities within the community need to have the basic shops, housing, and other resources so that we have a city that can support all kinds of workers, not just those with higher incomes. When people have to spend more than 35-40% of their wages on housing, they can't afford other necessities or to save money to invest in themselves or their community. Affordable housing near work, schools, and shops allows a person to be less dependent on owning a car and more likely to be stable in their home.

There are three people running for the City Council who understand the needs of a diverse and vibrant community. They are Royceann Porter, Kingsley Botchway, and Rockne Cole. Voting in the bloc of them will balance out who is represented and will ensure that progressive minded people who are equally interested in how Iowa City grows with the livability and sustainability of it have multiple voices on the council.

Do yourself and your values the service of voting for these three great choices, our great city and its future are in your capable hands.

Monday, April 22

Do We Dare Understand?

Like many of you, when I heard about the explosions in Boston, it frightened me. And that is what terrorism does, it frightens and begs explanation. As the story unraveled and we learned that the terrorists were two brothers who had emigrated to the US with their family, something changed. Yes, they set off bombs and yes, people were killed, but now they were not "foreigners" but disaffected immigrants who's reasons for doing what they did are largely unknown. It didn't make their acts any less horrific, but the narrative changed.

And then the manhunt and the mortal wounding of one of the brothers. Citizens of Boston being told to stay off the streets while police and military personnel combed the area for the suspect. Finally, there was a celebration when the wounded suspect was  reported to authorities who swooped in with explosive flash caps, robotics, and heat seeking technology and brought the seriously injured brother in.

And then the flag waving began. People who wanted to show themselves and perhaps the world that America and its ideals won't be stopped by bombers sang loudly at sporting events and unfurled the flag for all to see.  They proclaimed as loudly as possible that we are indeed the "land of the free and the home of the brave."

And that is the part that I have a hard time  understanding. Why do we need to wave the flag every time that something unspeakable happens? Is it possible that our own propaganda has been in the background of these events. Is it possible that we can just appreciate the fact that something that could have been, and I say this with the utmost respect to the persons who were killed and injured and their families and friends--far worse?

We may be a great and enviable people, but we are also confused. We are largely navel gazing and don't want to be concerned by other peoples' concerns as long as we are okay. Then, when something terrible happens, we thank God for making us special, but apparently not too special, and drag out Old Glory to remind others of why we are great and enviable.

We need to think about the difference between what we aspire to be and what we actually do. I do not know what the Tsarnaev brothers were thinking or the Columbine or Newtown gunmen or Timothy McVeigh, but I do think that they observed the difference between our flag waving ideals and the way we do business. Many people have made similar observations in the past, present, and will in the future. Many have acted in ways that address the grievance in a positive way, as opposed to engaging in senseless violence. And I suspect there will always be bipolarity between those pusing positive and by-any- means-necessary change.

Do we dare understand the motivation of these monsters? Or do we look in the mirror and agree that whatever shortcomings the US of A has, it is still the Greatest Country on Earth and we are proud to be Americans. Wrap the flag around that idea and get back to me.