By Joe Younker
My three-year-old daughter has a favorite phrase. Ask her to put on her shoes or pick up her toys, odds are her response will be “It’s not necessary.” I am borrowing her phrase. It applies to rhetoric employed by some city council candidates and their supporters.
What I mean is: It is not necessary to frame the important issues facing our city as “us vs. them” propositions. Unfortunately, that is how some candidates — the self-styled “progressives” — seem to view the issues. For example, in a Press-Citizen opinion piece, one “progressive” candidate challenged readers stating, “The late great Pete Seeger once asked his followers, ‘Which side are you on, brother, which side are you on?’ We stand on behalf of the entire community rather than the politically connected few.” Apparently, membership in the “politically connected few” class simply requires disagreeing with a “progressive.”
Iowa City, however, is more complicated than a line from Pete Seeger’s cover of an old union song. Changes in property tax laws will cost Iowa City between $36 and $50 million over the next ten years. Despite that revenue hit, the next Council must address serious — and expensive — issues: affordable housing, smart growth, racial equity, fragile neighborhoods, policing practices, flood prevention, infrastructure improvements, funding for social services and transportation, among others. How will Iowa City thrive in the midst of a $50 million deficit over the next ten years? That is the Core Question for the next Council. Dissent for the sake of dissent and over-the-top rhetoric will not lead to an answer. Cooperation and pragmatism will.
Unfortunately, for some “progressives” and their supporters, the will to cooperate and be pragmatic is lacking. Moreover, they tend to paint all who disagree with them with the same brush. If you are not with them, you are against them. You are part of the Chamber-backed-in-the-pocket-of-the-developers-elite.
This approach is not necessary. It is not productive. In fact, it is possible to support the Chauncey Tower project and still be committed to affordable housing. It is possible to own a downtown business and still be committed to a strong social safety net. It is possible to grow in a way that strengthens our fragile neighborhoods.
It is impossible, though, to address the issues and answer the Core Question without cooperation and pragmatism. Candidates in the other “slate” understand this.
On November 3, please remember what is necessary — a thoughtful answer to the Core Question.
Joe Younker is an Iowa City resident.