💨Things rose. Did they converge?
February 17, 2021 | Letter. No. 34
Since last June, Iowa City has just about drowned itself in the consideration of recommendations on how to change the police department.
There are the 36 recommendations from the City Manager’s Preliminary Plan to Restructure the Police. There are 39 from the OIR review of June 3 when ICPD tear-gassed protesters. And there are tens more from the Community Police Review Board. Each point, a concept. Each concept, a review, a question, and maybe implementation. Maybe not.
Coming to meeting after meeting trying to track where and how and if change is happening can seethe a frustration. And like an old attendee of St. Mary’s once wrote, everything that rises must converge.
The topic of Tuesday’s work session was the aforementioned OIR report. The only person to take issue with any of the recommendations was Mayor Pro Tempore Mazahir Salih. But if you wanted to know which recommendation exactly, well:
“Since I’m the only one bringing concerns, it won’t move forward,” she said.
While she made sure her resistance was known, the specifics that might inform future discussion or policymaking were left ambiguous. I’ve written about this before with Salih. Increasingly, she’s shown a reticence to press on points of difference. Points that in the past have manifested real gains for the city’s most vulnerable like additional funds for affordable housing for the city's fiscal year 2020 budget.
This didn’t sit well with Nicholas Theisen, a frequent flyer in the public comment section:
“Your just cowards,” Theisen said. “… Even those of you who actually disagree with what ICPD has been doing, you all cower. You hide behind your positions. So honestly, Councilor Salih, if you want to speak out, speak out. If you don’t, then you are just as useless as everyone else.”
An Iowa Freedom Rider organizer or supporter calling a councilor a name like “coward” is not particularly novel now half a year in. Certainly not worth note, but the response was.
A bit after Theisen, Johnson County Supervisor and Iowa City resident Royceann Porter thanked the council for their work. Porter through her work with the Teamsters and myriad other groups has no small amount of earned clout for organizing in town. A Black woman in office, she’s been subject to more intense criticism than white counterparts. And during the protests, she— like many Black officials — was unfairly pressured to do something about the then daily marches.
She was publicly frustrated about the spraypaint back in June. By Tuesday night, she was tired.
“For anybody to come on here and try to put these people (city councilmembers) down and call them ‘cowards,’ no, you’re a coward,” Porter said. “… You just want to keep going back to the June 3. June 3 is just one day. June 3, 2020. Lots of things have happened since June 3.”
Lots of things have happened since June 3. Iowa City has committed and backed up its commitment to restructure the police department. They’ve created a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to capture and reflect the history and reality of racism in the city. They’re giving money to nonprofits to hire people to manage responsibilities formerly delegated to the police. And more.
But while these things are happening, June 3 happened.
Iowa City woke up on the front page of The Washington Post. And watched day after day as a crowd of protestors marched all across town larger because of the incident. The impulse to move on was so strong that the leadership of Better Together (Think Iowa City, the Iowa City Business Partnership, Iowa City Area Development Authority, and Iowa City Downtown District) reprimanded the Press-Citizen for running stories and pictures of the incident just two days after it happened.
I relate to the impulse, to the frustration at someone not moving on. I, too, relate to the frustration of not seeing my work come to fruition.
This was a small flare-up in an otherwise unremarkable city council meeting. It’s the kind of thing I might have omitted completely on a different night. But having watched it on repeat a few times now, I’m struck by how raw things are following the summer. How tired we still are months later. By how much processing and policymaking we’ve yet to do.
Your friendly neighborhood reporter,
Zachary Oren Smith
Will the UIHC’s North Liberty expansion get the greenlight?
When you read this, the big news story for today may have already happened.
This morning, a state board will hear arguments on whether to give an initial green light to the hospital system's proposed $230 million development.
The project would include a 36-bed facility to increase the hospital's reportedly strained capacity. But critics of the proposal, including Mercy Iowa City, have argued the capacity exists in the region; UIHC only needs to divert patients to other area hospitals when their beds are full.
Depending on the decision made by the governor-appointed State Health Facilities Council, the project could receive the needed go-ahead in the form of a Certificate of Need. Alternatively, the council could stop the project in its tracks. Wednesday morning, the five-member body will hear arguments.
Back in 2018, Mercy Iowa City similarly decried a rehabilitation project the UIHC was pursuing; a project, in effect, identical to one Mercy themselves were working on in the area. UIHC got their Certificate of Need then. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.
This morning, I have a story coming in the P-C looking at some the reaction to this project. It’s been an object of ire for private practices, outpatient surgery centers and community hospitals. But it managed a hat trick securing, the top city officials of North Liberty, Coralville and Iowa City.
I’ll be tuning in to the meeting and tweeting out the results. We’ll see what happens.
Zachary Oren Smith
P.S., I spend the better part of 30 minutes trying to shoehorn Lorde’s “Green Light” lyrics into this section but it kept feeling like too much because I’m too much. So just take a break and dance with me.
Iowa City lowers property tax rate, but not your taxes
Tuesday night, Iowa City Council set the maximum property tax levy rate. Since state regulations changed, they have to do this as part of the budget process.
Council set the rate for fiscal year 2022 at $15.67305 per $1,000. That is lower than $15.77, the FY2021 rate, but that doesn’t mean taxes were lowered. The average taxable valuation in Iowa City actually went up.
Another note: only a certain portion of residential property value is taxable. In FY2022, that rate is 56.41%.
For a $100,000 house between fiscal years 2021 and 2022, the taxable valuation (i.e., the amount the levy rate will be applied to) increased from $55,074 ($869 in taxes paid) to $56,409 ($884) — a difference of $15.
Clear as mud?
For the rest, Council thread:
🗳️ Early voting under fire - Iowa Legislature committee preparing to dial back Iowa’s early voting provisions. Bleeding Heartland has an analysis of the bill’s provisions that’s worth a read.
🖇️ Transphobic bills -
Legislature: “Gender theory activists” out here running amuck.
🏚️ Republican-sponsored bill seeks to roll back Section 8 discrimination protections in cities like Iowa City - That pretty much explains it.
💉 Start-stop vaccine shipments - After withholding vaccine shipments from five Iowa counties, the Iowa Department of Public Health reversed course, saying that vaccines were back on their way. The counties were part of a small number of counties reporting vaccine stock usage at a rate beneath 80%. While IDPH claimed the rule was to be an encouragement, not a punishment, The Buchanan County health department told KCRG-TV Friday the dispute would require it to cancel 400 vaccinations scheduled for this week. This was during the frigid, dangerous conditions of the last weeks.
🐘 Forecast: Red meat on the ballot in 2022, 2024 - A Republican strategist—yes, that one—was in The Register speculating about how the Legislature’s moves to amend the Iowa Consitution to proactively prevent new gun responsibility measures and to remove state-level protections for abortion rights in all cases including incest and rape.
🥑 A new pit for Aidan Avocado - A little defrost after all that ^^. Michaele Niehaus knocked it out of the park today yesterday with a heart-melting feature on a bb who experienced the cold for the first time after receiving a kidney transplant and the difficult road to getting a new “pit.”