Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Oct. 29, 2009
Our View - Vote Lundell, Hoeft and Gill to lead Coralville
Two years ago, when Mitch Gross challenged incumbents John Weihe and Jean Schnake for two seats on the Coralville City Council, there were a lot of complaints about Gross' "impertinence" and "audacity" to challenge sitting councilors and to not sit back and wait his turn for an open seat.
That's how Coralville politics seemed to be evolving at the time, anyway. For the past quarter century, the city has adopted an aggressive strategy for economic development, attracting tourists and holding and expanding onto local industrial companies. Coralville's successes have come largely because its city administrator and its elected officials have been working so closely together that it's hard to see where one ends and the others begin.
But when Gross received more votes than either of the incumbents, Coralville started writing a new chapter of city history -- one in which residents (especially newer ones) aren't content to watch from the sidelines while the professionals do their job. Councilors now need to be aware that, despite the city's many successes in economic development, they risk alienating residents who place a higher value on other issues: such as neighborhood identity and accessible government.
That's why we're pleased to see a full slate of challengers taking on the three incumbents in this year's Coralville City Council race. And we're even more pleased to endorse one of those challengers, Bill Hoeft, to do the job.
Although most corridor transplants start out by living in Coralville and then move to Iowa City once they become established, Hoeft's family reversed that trend -- choosing to move to Coralville after his time as an Iowa City police officer. Hoeft's law enforcement background will serve the city well, and we appreciate his willingness to challenge some of Coralville's sacred cows -- specifically the city's involvement in the hotel business and other ventures.
We're also glad to hear Hoeft so strongly demand that Coralville enter the 21st century and start keeping and posting minutes for its council work sessions. That way the residents who can't make it to the meetings at least can keep up with the discussions online.
But we're also looking for stability on the council, and that's why we're endorsing incumbents John Lundell and Tom Gill. Lundell has been a model councilor for the past six years, and we think city government would benefit from his continued work and diligence. Gill, who has served for nearly two decades, recognizes the need for a new chapter in the city's history and the need for increased governmental transparency.
There are problems, of course, that arise when city administrators and elected officials work together too closely. The machine of city government sometimes gets to run so smoothly that those pulling the levers and pushing the buttons don't stop often enough to explain to the general public why that lever needs to be pulled or why that button doesn't need to be pressed. Yes, the combined energy and expertise help realize their vision for the city, but there also ends up being fewer opportunities for residents with conflicting (or even complementary visions) to enter into the discussion.
We think Lundell, Gill and Hoeft offer Coralville a complementary mix of stability and innovation.