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?
Catherine Champion: I agree with you, there is a disparity in the arrest rates within the City for marijuana arrests. What I do know is that Iowa City is sending a group of people to Georgetown University in September to the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform, specifically to learn about ways to reduce disparities in ethnic and juvenile justice. This group includes representatives from juvenile court services, juvenile investigators, a police officer, the school district, a magistrate court judge and the County commissions. Iowa City is not alone in this issue and is currently looking for solutions.
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?
CC: Iowa City is a desirable community to live in due to a relatively national low percent in unemployment, excellent school system and high availability of social services. Increase in affordable housing stock will drive the market into equalizing/lowering prices. It will also raise the quality of those offerings. The city can develop a comprehensive plan to identify target housing prices, then partner with local developers to project and build the desired units.
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?
CC: Our statistical information points toward the need for a new jail and every year that we push this out, the cost rises. We are also sending inmates out of the county at a great cost. They are not available to their attorneys, family, services and support they need near them. Transport costs are high—financially, emotionally and time related. The current jail structure is proving to be inadequate … for everyone, and services provided are being cut to accommodate space.
I believe incarceration is an important and emotional issue for people, this combined with a large financial commitment draws hesitancy. Providing a well defined picture of a five, 10, 15 year outlook for jail cost, combined with a clear viewpoint of social and physical improvements, will help this dialogue.
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?
CC: Historically the relationship has generally been good. The opposition occurs with use of services versus compensation of shared services.
It is primarily a financial issue, due to cut funding and the need to meet budgetary requirements. I understand the position of both entities, funding cuts to the county has spilled into funding cuts to the city. TIFF’s have also hurt the county income and again, the effect is downstream.
Both the county and the city are trying to find ways to provide the services our community requires and balance their budget. It will sometimes lead to strained moments before resolution.
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?
CC: Our city has a long history of fiscal responsibility. I think our greatest challenge will be to manage the growth we desire in a sustainable and forward-thinking manner. Capturing new opportunities without saddling our community with excessive debt.
IowaCity, Iowa is an anonymous Facebook friend engaging the city’s social media community in light banter, conversation and debate.