As the city council election draws near, Little Village posed the same set of questions to four candidates. The answers will be published one candidate at a time through October.
Little Village: A recent national study by the American Civil Liberties Union has found that the state of Iowa ranks worst in the nation in the ethnic disparity of marijuana arrests. Johnson County is number three on this list in the State. There has been much discussion of racial disparity in arrests within the City, and statistics suggest that local law enforcement is disproportionately arresting and more harshly punishing African Americans. What do you feel the City Council can do to help reverse this trend?
Kingsley Botchway: There is not an easy answer to this question and I believe it needs to be handled on many fronts. On one front, we need data. There are too many anecdotal stories about what the police are doing and not enough hard evidence to sway the naysayers to see that there is a systemic problem. We need a racial equity report (already proposed in the Ad Hoc Diversity Committee’s recommendations) that would give us a better idea where the problem lies, so we can focus on coming up with a solution.
On another front, we need to create alternative adjudication programs. I helped write and revise a manual on an alternative adjudication program involving drugs in North Carolina, where attorneys, caseworkers, police and judges all worked together towards treatment, not incarceration.
We also need to change the way we think about law enforcement: We need to investigate further and implement a community policing model, where officers engage and rely on the community more. This creates relationships founded on trust and mutual respect, two aspects that are currently lacking from the dynamic between the police and the minority community.
Chicago is an example of a city where there was a similar dynamic. The city has chosen to develop the CAPS (Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy) program in response to the minority community and police department turmoil.
On another front, in Iowa City we need community acknowledgement that the blame does not solely lie with the police department. We need the community to step up through community organizations and churches, get educated about their rights, accept responsibility for their addition to the problem and meet the police department halfway.
LV: The cost of living in Iowa City has always been high, as compared to other cities in Iowa. What will you do to discourage the rise in housing costs, reduction in services and help facilitate more affordable housing and services for lower income individuals?
KB: First, I would change the name from “affordable housing” to something else. The term tends to give off a negative connotation that serves as a roadblock to true, meaningful discussion about housing costs.
Secondly, I would look at dealing with this issue by employing multiple strategies. One strategy would be for housing developments to build efficient energy housing in an effort to lower costs. Another strategy would be to promote “affordable housing” through targeted tax and fee exemptions.
Lastly, the city should provide incentives to developers for building “affordable housing.” These three strategies are by no means an exhaustive list, but these are the best strategies that incorporated not only assistance to the occupant and developer, but also the new plan to push the city to “go green.”
LV: The County has tried unsuccessfully several times to pass a referendum for a new jail. What is your opinion on the idea of a new jail, and what steps should local government take to gain greater success at passing the referendum? Or do you feel the current proposals by local elected officials are sufficient enough?
KB: I think a new Justice Center is necessary. The current Courthouse and County Jail aren’t up to adequate standards as far as accessibility, efficiency and structure. That being said, I want to see, on paper, specific programs tied to the next proposal. Programs that seek to provide treatment and not incarceration. The same program I mentioned in the first question, but incorporating other aspects such as alcohol dependency.
LV: There has been a perceptible tension, if not a rift, between the City of Iowa City and the Johnson County Board of Supervisors over each body’s proper share in the financing of shared public services. This began with the new Iowa City Animal Shelter and spilled into SEATS funding. What do you think are the differences in responsibilities between the two bodies and what will you do to help repair this problem?
KB: I honestly need to do more research on this issue. If anything, I think there needs to be more discussion between City of Iowa City and the Johnson County Board of Supervisors on the responsibilities each share in financing of shared public services and come to some agreement on where the line is drawn.
LV: What do you feel is the most important issue facing residents of Iowa City, and if elected what makes you the best candidate to seek a resolution to that issue?
KB: The most important issue facing residents of Iowa City is diversity. This is such an important election because Iowa City seems to be making a real effort in recognizing its diversity. It’s an important time, because if left without serious thought and planning, we could end up with serious racial issues bubbling to the surface and creating a black eye for Iowa City.
I am the best candidate to see a resolution to this issue because I provide a perspective no other at-large candidate can bring to the table. I’m not saying that, just because I’m black, I’m the only one who can speak on and handle diversity issues. However, my unique perspective from being a minority and my participation on countless diversity committees, allows me to see racial bias in seemingly unbiased actions and resolutions. The City Council needs that type of perspective, if we are serious about moving forward on diversity issues.
IowaCity, Iowa is an anonymous Facebook friend engaging the city’s social media community in light banter, conversation and debate.