Jason Glass, candidate for Iowa City Council, discusses policing, affordability and being called ‘moderate’

Jason Glass –.Adria Carpenter/Little Village

During his campaign for Iowa City Council, Jason Glass has maintained an upbeat tone, stressing what he considers to be positive aspects of the city while proposing ways he’d like to build on those positives. That approach isn’t unusual, especially in a first-time candidate like Glass. But what was unusual was the way he launched his campaign in May.

Glass didn’t say if he was running for the open seat in District B or one of the two at-large seats on the ballot, just that he was running for city council. He told Little Village shortly after his announcement that because all voters have the opportunity to vote for both district and at-large seats, he didn’t find the distinction between the two that great. He eventually decided to run for an at-large seat.

Jason Glass was born in Fairfield, and attended the University of Iowa, where he studied business, earning a BBA in Management and Organizations, and played in the Hawkeye Marching Band and the Pep Band. He was also in the 34th Army Band of the Iowa National Guard, which he’d joined his senior year in high school to help pay for college. Glass still serves in the Guard, and is now a staff sergeant and drum major of the band.

Glass has worked in human resources for most of his career, and is currently a lecturer in UI’s Tippie School of Business. He also has a small consulting firm, providing services related to human resource issues.

Glass said he grew up being interested in public service and politics, and while his focus on public service hasn’t changed, Glass said his approach to politics has.

“I was registered as a Republican for a long time, and worked in party politics in that party for a while,” he told Little Village. “I changed my party registration over a year ago. I stopped identifying with that party five or six years ago.”

Glass changed his registration to No Party Preference.

City council elections in Iowa are nonpartisan, but Glass said he will take that approach beyond his role on the council, if elected, and not endorse or oppose any candidate at the local, state or national level.

“I will absolutely criticize policies or statements or ideas that I disagree with,” Glass said, but added he would not extend those criticisms to the politicians promoting or enforcing those policies.

According to Glass, the choices Iowa City faces as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic have created a unique moment of opportunity to make changes for the future. He also said the protests following the murder of George Floyd last year played a major role in influencing his decision to run. Glass was serving as vice chair of the city’s Human Rights Commission when the protests occurred, and the commission became deeply involved in discussions of how the city should address systemic racism in the justice system and the proper role of police.

Glass said the issues of “equity, police reform and law enforcement” he has faced on the commission would be areas he’d want to focus on as a member of the city council.

“There are a lot of things that Iowa City is already doing that are really positive,” Glass said.

“Finding more ways to have police not be involved with negative interactions, especially on nuisance matters, that only creates opportunity for escalation is something I very much favor,” he added. “But I’m not an ‘abolish’ person. I don’t think [the police] can disappear in the near future. I think armed officers are needed in certain circumstances.”

In September, Glass published a post on his campaign site and on social media dealing with a specific policing issue that has been widely discussed this year: the armored vehicle maintained by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and used by local police departments, including the Iowa City Police Department.

Since the summer of 2020, there has been an increased focus on how the former military vehicle, a mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicle acquired in 2014 through a Department of Defense program that provides surplus military equipment to law enforcement agencies, has been used, and whether local law enforcement agencies should have such a vehicle. Critics point to the frequency with which the MRAP has been used in neighborhoods whose residents are largely people of color, and the fear and discomfort that has caused. The sheriff’s department claims the vehicle is necessary, and used in situations where officers lives would be at risk without it.

“So that I’m clear: Our public safety officers at the city and county level need an armored vehicle as part of their equipment and to suggest otherwise is irresponsible and dangerous,” Glass wrote. “I didn’t particularly like the program that we acquired the MRAP from. I too am concerned about over-militarization of police and whether it can cause unnecessary escalation of situations. I hear residents that feel the MRAP is unwelcome, even traumatizing, in their neighborhoods.”

He goes on to say he is open to replacing the MRAP with a Bearcat, a smaller armored vehicle.

“However, the Bearcat would cost over $200,000,” Glass said. “That’s a lot of taxpayer money that could be used for any number of worthy causes, to replace a vehicle that we received for free. It’s a tough call, but I would lean toward making the purchase of the Bearcat given the advantages mentioned.”

He added that whatever armored vehicle is used, there should be “strict guidelines on its use” with “transparent civilian oversight to review its uses and assure such guidelines were followed. We should do more to work with residents and neighborhoods to educate them on the vehicle’s use and importance.”

During his interview with Little Village, Glass also said affordable housing would be a top priority if elected. He said “a holistic approach” is needed.

“It can’t just be subsidies for housing,” he said. “That alone won’t move the needle an inch. Mental health service, child care, neighborhood services, housing density, all that has to be addressed.”

Glass said he often finds the discussion around affordable housing to be frustrating.

“Too often it gets boiled down to ‘developers are evil and residents are getting screwed.’ I’m not a big fan of demagoging one side or the other.”

Glass is also not a fan of being described as a moderate.

“I don’t like the term ‘moderate,’ because I think it often times refers to someone who doesn’t have strong opinions one way or the other,” he said. “I think of myself more as, I’m willing to listen and change my opinion based on good arguments that I can sink my teeth into. I have a mix of views that don’t fit neatly into a side.”

Also in the race for the two at-large seats on the Iowa City Council are Megan Alter and Mayor Bruce Teague. (The mayor of Iowa City is always a member of the city council elected to a two-year term as mayor by the other members of the council.) Glass’s decision to run for an at-large seat left Shawn Harmsen with no opposition for the District B seat.

The election for Iowa City Council will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 2.

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