Monday, August 9, 2010

Printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Oct. 30, 2009

Our View - Vote Champion, Dickens, Mims for Iowa City

On Tuesday, Iowa City residents should elect Susan Mims and Terry Dickens to the two at-large seats on the City Council and re-elect Connie Champion to the District B seat.


Iowa City voters have four choices for replacing outgoing at-large councilors Amy Correia and Mike O'Donnell:

• Dan Tallon: A University of Iowa student and member of the Iowa National Guard, Tallon knows firsthand what it's like to grow up in subsidized housing and to rely on government programs and services to keep a family intact. Although he sometimes had trouble focusing his answers in candidates' forums, he brings an energetic "let's throw everything to the wall and see what sticks" attitude when it comes to streamlining city government.

• Jeff Shipley: The council's current liaison with the University of Iowa Student Government, Shipley basically is asking residents to give him a vote and thus force the rest of the council to take his ideas seriously.

Although we appreciate the number of ideas that Tallon and Shipley bring to this debate, they have suggested many non-starters that show they don't yet have a pragmatic sense of what's politically viable (selling the Senior Center), economically feasible (selling the parking ramps even though they are making money) or just good policy (relying less on employees and more on volunteers to staff the city's services from recreation centers to fire stations.)

• Terry Dickens: A home-grown Iowa City business owner who understands firsthand the issues downtown and who, as a former student of Mark Twain Elementary, has a personal investment in addressing issues on the southeast side.

• Susan Mims: The most seasoned candidate of the bunch, Mims already knows what it's like to suffer the slings and arrows of public life. In her time on the School Board -- which ended in 1999 with an unsuccessful attempt at re-election -- Mims dealt with many of the same issues that will face her as a city councilor. As a financial adviser, she has the necessary attention to detail and the bottom line. And, having raised four black children of mixed heritage in Iowa City, she knows the challenges and opportunities in the cross-cultural issues facing the city.

At this point in the Iowa City's history, we think the council and the city would be served best by Dickens and Mims.

District B

With the five first-time council candidates throwing out so many suggestions for cutting the city's budget, we've appreciated incumbent Connie Champion's ability to explain what options are feasible, what options are worth further study and what options are non-starters.

In fact, over the past 12 years, Champion often has asked probing questions and made statements that cut to the heart of the complex issues facing the council. We don't think her votes always live up to the answers to her tough questions, but we've appreciated her no-nonsense style.

Her challenger, Mark McCallum, has done very good work renovating old buildings to become jewels, rather than eyesores, in their neighborhoods. And he brings up many good points about the concerns local business owners have with the proposed franchise fee to pay for more police and firefighters. Unfortunately, McCallum hasn't been able to answer pragmatically Champion's question about what more can be cut from the city budget to allow for the new police and firefighters that could come with the fee (a fee that Champion acknowledges is basically a backdoor tax).

We endorse Champion for re-election and we hope she helps the council finish its unfinished business.

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