Monday, August 9, 2010

Our View - Vote Bazzell Dickens, Mims, Shipley

Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Oct. 3, 2009

Our View - Vote Bazzell Dickens, Mims, Shipley

On Tuesday, Iowa City voters will go to the polls to winnow the field from five at-large city councilors to four. As city residents decide which names to keep on the ballot for the Nov. 3 city election, we suggest they vote for:

• Jared Bazzell, a full-time student at the University of Iowa who works in the UI business manager's office;

• Terry Dickens, a downtown business owner;

• Susan Mims, a financial adviser and former president of the Iowa City School Board; and

• Jeff Shipley, UI Student Government liaison to the Iowa City Council.

The remaining candidate, Dan Tallon, would bring an interesting perspective to the council. As a University of Iowa student who has grown up in subsidized housing and has served in the Iowa National Guard, Tallon's life experience is very relevant to some of the thornier questions facing the council. But his answers during his Editorial Board interview suggest that he is not as familiar with the specific issues facing the city as:

• Bazzell, who is coming to the end of his studies at the university and is looking to stay in Iowa City;

• Dickens, who has spent a lifetime in the city and has worked well on downtown issues;

• Mims, whose school board experience makes her well prepared for dealing with budgets as well as for dealing with intense criticism that comes with being an elected official; and

• Shipley, whose responsibilities as UISG liaison basically means he has served as a non-voting member of the council.

Regardless of which at-large candidates move on to the next round, city residents need to continue their current level of public engagement long after the elections are over and the campaign signs have been taken down.

As City High student Hussam Albrasy writes in his letter on today's Opinion pages, "We citizens are the ones who can change these problems. ... Write letters, organize meetings and do whatever you can to let the government know what you want. But don't just sit back and watch without doing anything."

Over the next month, the candidates and their supporters will explain why they are the best qualified to help the city:

• Improve public safety so that southeast residents no longer feel afraid in their own homes, northeast residents know they have a fire station close enough to respond quickly to emergencies, downtown patrons can walk around without having to worry that someone's going to pick a fight with then.

• Cut the city's budget so voters can have confidence in the council's ability to make painful but necessary sacrifices on quality of life issues in order to provide for improved public safety and essential city services. (Especially now that the city is looking to impose a 2 percent franchise fee that will be passed along to utility users.)

• Address the many concerns that have been raised about the city's public housing program and the other subsidized housing programs overseen by city staff. (And address them in a way that doesn't belittle the average residents who might not know all the intricacies of city government.)

• Overcome the council's reputation for being anti-business and work to attract economic development opportunities to grow the city's tax base.

We urge readers to get out and to vote for the candidates they think will live up to those promises. But we also urge them to stay vigilant and well informed to ensure that the candidates actually do live up to their promises.

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