Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Iowa City Charter Amendments 2

Iowa City Charter Amendments: A Ride In The Wayback Machine

Yesterday we at John Deeth Blog noted the Iowa Supreme Court taking up the aborted 2001 Iowa City charter amendments:

  • Periodic retention votes for the city manager and police chief
  • making permanent the city's Police Citizens Review Board
  • issuing citations for nonviolent misdemeanors like public intoxication, instead of making arrests.

    Here's more on yesterday's hearing.

    Today I'll travel in the Wayback Machine of my memory and look at why, as I recall, these three items were considered so important in the summer of 2001 when the petitions were passing.

    Eric Shaw. Still burned then, still burns now. Then-police chief R.J. Winklehake was never really held accountable, and a public vote would certainly have been accountability.

    Giving PCRB Some Teeth. The Police Citizens Review Board was one of the minimal mea culpas that came out of the Shaw murder, and it looked at various allegations mostly involving Driving While Black cases. But it had no real authority.

    Unelected Power. The image of elected council members repeatedly turning to the unelected city manager with expressions of "what do you think, Steve?" was getting to be a bit much.

    The 2000 Jail Vote. Folks weren't buying it - the jail lost in every precinct in the county. Part of the problem was then-sheriff Bob Carpenter who thought "the sheriff says we need a new jail" was rationale enough, believed only his plan should be considered, and resented anyone else having an opinion. He also had no ability to sell the issue to a Democratic party he'd abandoned in all but name. As for the rest of the jail backers, the issue was addressed only in terms of space needs, and there was a serious disconnect to any social justice or sentencing reform issues.

    The Drug War and the related Iowa City War On Young People. The third item, simple citations for minor alcohol/drug offenses, was a shot back at the Go To Iowa City, Get A Police Record mentality perpetuated by Winklehake and then-County Attorney Pat White.

    We'll know in a couple months whether these get on the ballot or not. How would these issues play now, in a context six years removed from the signatures?

    There have been positive changes with the elections of Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek - who's actually addressed mental health and mandatory sentencing issues - and County Attorney Janet Lyness. And Winklehake is retired and out of town, though his replacement Sam Hagardine seems to be of the same mold.

    The war on the young wages on in Iowa City, but these days seems more firmly centered at City Hall. The 21 Bar referendum turns up the heat. So maybe, on the off chance that these amendments make the ballot, they'd still address issues that need addressin'.

    But I have some other ideas in my dream world; more tomorrow.
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