🤠 There's a new tax increment in town
MMM a 'no' on COVID relief package, some notes on JoCo growth and more...
February 28, 2021 | Letter No. 37
While meetings haven’t exactly been quiet, there’s been relatively little to write about with Iowa City Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Iowa City Council appointed the nine-member group back in November as an advisory board tasked with informing the council's work to end systemic racism.
However, this week we have a potentially big item: the commission’s charter details a city-funded facilitator position. And providing he gets the votes, this week might see that position filled.
Jesse Case of International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 238 was selected as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's facilitator. The commission will interview Case on Monday. And Iowa City Council will vote on his contract Tuesday.
The contract in the packet compensates Case $64,000 for 16 months of work, a $53 an hour rate.
Also from Council:
Tax-exempting commercial improvements - City staff are seeking approval for a process they hope will increase energy efficiency and property values in commercial properties unable to use the TIF process. Owners would apply featuring not just how the project would improve value but how it would improve the property’s energy efficiency. Only improvements generating at least a 15% increase in building value are eligible. If approved, the value created by the improvement would be tax-exempt for three years.
Zachary Oren Smith
MMM a ‘No’ on COVID relief; passes with party-line vote
Early Saturday morning, the House of Representatives passed a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.
The American Rescue Plan would pay for vaccines and medical supplies, sending a new round of emergency financial aid to households, small businesses and state and local governments, Thomson Reuters reported. The bill includes a $1,400 direct payments to individuals, a $400-per-week federal unemployment benefit through Aug. 29, and additional support for rent and mortgage payments.
The vote was mostly down party-lines, 219 to 212. U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks joined other Iowan Republicans in the House to vote against the bill.
Friday morning, members of the Iowa City Catholic Worker House lobbied U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks to commit to more relief money. She was clear then that she was unlikely to support additional COVID-19 relief money until the $4.1 trillion already approved by Congress was spent down.
"If the president is willing to work in a bipartisan fashion--which has not been done for this $1.9 trillion package that President Biden is presenting--if he is willing to work in a bipartisan fashion, I'm willing to work in a bipartisan fashion with the President," Miller-Meeks said.
Democrats are trying to get the bill signed into law before mid-March when enhanced unemployment benefits and some other aid are due to expire.
Some pullouts from housing report update:
The Metropolitan Planning Organization of Johnson County released an update to its analysis of affordable housing in the area.
Here are some facts to keep in mind:
Pop Growth: JoCo > Iowa
From 2010 and 2019, Iowa's population grew by 4%. Johnson County grew by 15%.
Tiffin - 1,947 to 4,139 (+113%)
North Liberty - 13,374 to 19,227 (+44%)
Coralville - 18,907 to 22,259 (+18%)
Iowa City - 67,862 to 74,942 (+10%)
University Heights - 1,051 to 1,040 (-1%)
And lest I forget for a second time:
Lone Tree 1,400 to 1,481 (+6%)
Hills 703 to 804 (+14%)
Oxford 807 to 792 (-2%)
Shuey 577 to 655 (+14%)
Solon 2,037 to 2,690 (+32%)
Swisher 879 to 953 (+8%)
Non-family > Family (kind of)
From 2014 to 2019, "non-family" households (think people splitting housing costs by room) slightly increased for Coralville (+2%), Iowa City (<1%), and University Heights (1%). Fairly small.
North Liberty, by comparison, saw "family" households grew from 3,386 to 4,682; a growth from 57% in 2014 to 65% by 2019.
Tiffin is putting housing stock where its mouth is (and other headlines I’m sorry for)
If there was a cool table™️ in the report, it's this one showing how many units were added to the housing stock in the last five years.
Check out Tiffin’s growth:
Note that Iowa City and 3,252 new units accounted for nearly half of the 6,343 new units in Johnson County. In other words, Iowa City is growing.
BUTTT Tiffin is steady packing em on increasing its total number of units by 64% in just five years. If you’ve taken a drive out there, you know what this flash development looks like.
Take Five (+1)
(Less of a pairing, more of a meal. This week’s Tiny Desk with Kirk Franklin is a dopamine rush. Save it for when you blue. But don’t sit on it.)
🗳️ DeethBlog: Voting bill ‘Bad News’ - Grab a coffee (and maybe some waders) and check out John Deeth’s dive into how the early and Election Day voting limitation bill could impact Johnson County. It’s long and technical and will teach you something. And he’s not without humor! The section on satellite voting was particularly insightful.
💻 Iowa launches vaccine finder - On Friday, vaccinate.iowa.gov, a project of the Iowa Dept. of Public Health, went live. Little Village reported that serve as a centralized vaccine registration and appointment scheduling system.
🚚 Unionizing the blue vans - On Friday, Amazon workers in Iowa joined with workers in Bessemer, Ala. in the largest unionization effort in a decade, The Register reported. International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 238 claims they’ve approached 400 to 500 current or former employees tied to the distribution centers in Iowa City and Grimes. Amazon employs 1,320 workers in Iowa and is expanding into Bondurant.
🛌 Hotel/Motel another COVID casualty - Coralville is putting together its budget for fiscal year 2022 (which runs from July 2021 through the end of June 2022) and has confirmed a suspicion city staff have had for a while. The pandemic meant fewer heads in hotel beds; that translates to much less money from the Hotel/Motel tax. Even with the vaccine on the way, Coralville is expecting two-thirds of the revenue they anticipated in prior years.
🗳️ Iowa voting changes in context - I thought one of the better pieces of explanatory journalism this month was The Register’s look at how the Iowa Legislature’s proposed voting limitations compare to other states. Was interested to find that the national average is 22 days of early voting; the changes would put our early voting beneath that by two. The shortened Election Day poll period would actually be in line with many peer states.
🍕+🥣 The breakfast pizza wars have gone too far - Johnson County is steady rolling our eyes at Des Moines. And they really deserve it. Fong's Pizza introduced a new Loopy Fruits breakfast pizza. If you are like me and didn’t know what Fong’s was, this story from BuzzFeed News was an education.
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Zachary Oren Smith writes about government, growth and development for the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, at 319 -339-7354 or on Twitter via @Zacharyos.