Monday, September 12, 2011

UI Pressure on Patel?

UI Pressure on Patel?

Developments today in the city council race, but only one fact is agreed upon: city council candidate Raj Patel has resigned as nonvoting UI student government liaison to the city council.

After that, the stories are about as polarized as last year's results on the bar vote. It's playing out in a thrice-revised Press-Citizen piece and in the comments thread.
“Technically I resigned from student government, but I felt it was the only I thing I could do,” Patel said. “I was cornered. … I felt what they had done to me made it impossible to stay in that organization.”
The Official (TM) issue is an alleged "conflict of interest" between Patel's roles as liaison and as candidate. But as noted in the comments, "Anyone running for re-election simultaneously sits on the council and campaigns." (At press time, Mayor Hayek's resignation was not on the table.)

Patel campaign manager Michael Charles was direct:
“He really wanted to continue as city liaison, and it was in his interests and his intention to do that,” Charles said. “However, it had been made impossible to him — he was given an ultimatum by student government that he was going to have to take a leave of absence or he would resign. He had two options.”

Charles said the UISG executive council told Patel that there were legal conflicts of interest in serving as liaison and running for council, and that UISG was feeling pressure from UI administration.

The comments were even more direct:
Word on the street over the weekend was that (UI Vice President of Student Services) Tom Rocklin was trying to force Patel out of the student liaison position, and was leaning on the UISG president to help.
The denial from Rocklin:
“My response was that it was an important issue for them to consider, and they should act within their own governance documents and their own sense for what was appropriate,” Rocklin said Monday. “I really took no stand, and I still don’t have any particular position on it. It’s a student government matter.”
A nice pose of indifference, as required.

A denial from the UISG president, but is it a plausible denial? "Higgins said the suggestion of a leave came from UISG alone and that any talk of pressure from UI administrators is unfounded." If there's pressure, isn't there also pressure to say there's not pressure?

The problem with the "conflict of interest" argument is that the same exact situation came up two years ago. Student liaison Jeff Shipley ran for the council -- and served throughout his campaign, after his loss, and till his graduation at the end of the 2010 school year. Doesn't that, um, set a precedent?
Higgins said while the UISG administration two years ago “must have felt Shipley could have handled both responsibilities,” he and the current executive council want the liaison to be focused solely on that post.
Yeah. Riiiight. But consider some other factoids which Iowa Citians know well.

Jeff Shipley was never a real threat to win the 2009 election. He couldn't expand his support beyond campus, and turnout was abysmal.

After that election, two pro-21 council members, Terry Dickens and Susan Mims, replaced two anti-21s, and two council members flipped: Connie Champion from 19 to 21 and Matt Hayek from "I'll accept the voters decision" in 2007 to "I don't like what the voters decided" in 2010.

So we had a do-over in 2010, with the University all-in this time and Tom Rocklin as their point man on the "21 Makes Sense" (sic) committee. Raj Patel was one of the leaders of the pro-19 YESS committee. Some bad blood there, mayhaps? A gem from the comments: "At minimum this is another example of treating adult University students like children."

Also in the comments: fellow candidate Steve Soboroff. "Raj Patel is more than qualified to serve on council. He's very bright and up on all the issues. We need to keep University officials out of OUR town politics." Soboroff is not opposing Patel; he's running in the District A race against Rick Dobyns, the leading backer of the 21 side in the 2007 election. Patel is in the at-large contest with six other candidates including Hayek.

Which version makes more sense to you: the UISG president saying "it was voluntary, really, really" as the administration peers over his shoulder, or Raj saying he was squeezed out? Scaring The Powers That Be is one more sign that Patel is looking like a live round to possibly be the first student to win a city council race in 32 years. Stay tuned -- this oughta be good tomorrow.

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