Letter to the Editor Regarding John Millar's Survey Spam

We received this E-mail, from … let’s say “Concerned Citizen” — who wished to remain anonymous:

Good morning,
I want to offer my belated thanks to you and Bob Burton for the July 29th Your Town Now column, Here’s Looking At You, John Millar. I am deeply concerned about Millar’s lack of qualification and success, as detailed in the column, but also his (and the city/university’s) determined mission to bring national chains to downtown Iowa City.

Today a survey was sent by email to the entire University of Iowa population in pursuit of this mission. The subject line read, [UnivAdm] Retailer and Restaurant Experience of Downtown Iowa City, and you’ll find the full text below.  In the survey you will find questions related to the national chain mission, including the following: Which specific retailers and restaurants would you like in Downtown Iowa City? (multiple answers are appropriate). All answers are national chains. Nowhere are there options for keeping downtown IC local. The only mention of local business is in question #8: If you shop Downtown Iowa City, what are your top three reasons? One answer choice is: Like to suport local business. There are comment sections, but one actually solicts complaints about the downtown IC retail experience. Not only is this a waste of $55,000, it’s an utter shame.

Thank you for your time and devotion to this matter, and local issues in general.

Concerned Citizen

Thanks, Concerned, for the kind words.  Aside from the concerns expressed in your letter, the more I look at this survey, the worse it gets.  Leaving aside it’s completely unscientific nature — hey doing a proper survey requires time, money, and expertise! — the thing is basically a push poll, that pushes respondents towards Mr. Millar’s foregone conclusions.  This report is going to be a joke. If you gave nearly anyone $55K to do a study of the downtown area, they could do  a better job.  Why not, I don’t know… ASK SOMEONE LOCAL???

Divaris Real Estate has been commissioned by the City of Iowa City and the University of Iowa to create a strategic analysis of retail opportunities in Downtown Iowa City.

We are seeking ideas related to enhancing the shopping experience in the downtown area.  We’d like to know what you like now about downtown and what you would like to see changed or added?

Please help us by providing answers to the on-line questionnaire at

Your assistance is greatly appreciated in this effort.  Thank you for your help!

Distribution of this message was approved by the Provost, the VP for Student Life, and the VP for Human Resources. Neither your name nor e-mail address was released to the sender. The policy and guidelines for the UI Mass Mail service, including information on how to filter messages, are available at: