Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Charter Review - My Proudest Achievement
I'm quite proud of polling no votes at all in my effort to be appointed to the Iowa City Charter Review Commission. One or two would have been the meh of indifference, but zero is an accomplishment. My campaign strategy of open hostility has been reciprocated with equal and absolute hostility, in a landslide of negativity.
I can now say that the city power structure sees me as more radical than Karen Kubby, and that may be the single proudest achievement of my life.
Rod Sullivan can share that honor, though he can comfort himself with the 41,937 votes he got for supervisor. All I have is that big, round zero, staring at me like an empty oval on the ballot, never to be colored in.
But I give the council credit for seeing their vulnerabilities. They knew they'd be bashed if they named an obvious Good Old Boys And Girls body, and of the nine names only two - ex-city manager Steve Atkins and defeated three term council member Dee Vanderhoef - are truly of the old guard.
For the record I called six out of nine correct: four of my six "locks" and two of my three wild cards.
But one of my five No Way folks was named, so I'll have to dine on boiled beret.
Adam Sullivan is an outstanding choice. In principle I like having someone who's 24 on the panel, but Adam's not just J. Random Some Young Dude. He's one of the smartest people I know with a perfect mix of cynicism and idealism. And while he's no longer a working journalist, Adam you'd sure better write about this ride. This blog post appears to be the only coverage anywhere about the appointments.
There's three other people I know well and think well of here. Karen is of course an Iowa City legend who I've worked for and with on many things. Andy Chappell is an assistant county attorney who also served on the 2004-05 charter review. And I worked with Mel Shaw far too briefly a few years ago.
I'm very surprised Bob Elliott didn't make the cut. I thought he'd be acceptable to the council majority, he gets along well with folks he doesn't agree with, and gets folks on board. Maybe a third former council member was one too many. Also surprised that Matt Hayek couldn't round up a fourth vote for Paul Burns.
Some hinted that my own application was a joke, since I openly mocked my own chances and asked for a creative rejection letter. I was, perhaps, the Slightly Silly candidate. But my agenda is entirely serious.
And maybe my agenda played a tiny role in shaping this commission. I myself am too toxic to touch, as are some of my specific ideas. But this isn't about me and never has been about me. I'm just another old straight white guy.
My complaint about the Iowa City government-power structure has always been its open contempt for the student population. It's that attitude, more than any specific policy, that I want to see change. I didn't really like making that stand on the weakest possible ground with a bunch of self-interested bar owners, but that's where the fight was.
The point is, there are a lot of more substantive issues which would play out differently if the student community had a real seat at the table. Forget the local culture wars over the bars. That's a game of Candy Land. The REAL fights are where the money is. In local government that's real estate and in Iowa City that's an extortion-priced downtown rental market. Bar money is just loose change compared to rent money.
You think people were mad when the students were voting to stay in the bars? What if they started voting on housing regulations or rent control? Maybe they'll never get the votes to do it, but with a couple kids on the council they could keep talking about it. Which is exactly why the Iowa City political structure is the way it is. To gain a seat, you have to win city-wide. The four year term is as long as an undergraduate degree plan.
Maybe this commission will look at some structural change. At least I know there's a few folks willing to talk, which is better than I had hoped.