Susan Mims’ eight years of experience on the Iowa City Council is evident as she speaks about the issues. Mims can readily cite 15-point plans the council has adopted and weigh the benefits of different approaches to zoning regulations, while discussing the issues that face Iowa City.
Instead of running for reelection to her at-large seat this year, Mims is seeking to represent District B on the city council.
“[S]ince I knew Terry Dickens was not going to run again in District B, and I live in District B, I thought I would go ahead and put my name in in District B and that opened up my at-large spot to really anybody in the community,” Mims said.
Mims said the city has a good financial position — “We have a triple A bond rating” — but more needs to be done to attract jobs.
“We need a variety of jobs, for people of various skill levels. I think we need to work with the unions and their apprenticeship programs to connect people with those programs,” Mims said. “I’ve talked to union leaders about those programs — most of them are located in Cedar Rapids — but they can’t find people to fill those [programs]. And we have people in this community who feel they can’t find jobs. It’s a mismatch, between the people and their skills, and some of the jobs available.”
Affordable housing is another issue that needs to be addressed if Iowa City is to continue to grow, according to Mims.
“We are a very, very expensive community in which to live. Part of that has to do with the University of Iowa and all the students. But also we’re a community where a lot of people want to come to live,” Mims said.
Mims pointed to a 15-point plan the council has adopted to address the issue, and funds the council has dedicated to promote affordable housing, but cautioned “we cannot, as a city, put enough money forward to solve the affordable housing problem ourselves.” That means the city should work in partnership with developers to solve the problem. Mims said a new approach to zoning regulations should help.
“We’re working on—this will be ongoing—form-based code,” Mims explained. She said the form-based approach to zoning encourages a mixture of different types of housing units (single family, multi-family and commercial) in a single neighborhood. Mims added such an approach can create more housing stock while minimizing sprawl, and increase affordability.
“You get a variety of price points in your housing when you do that sort of zoning with a form-based code,” she said.
Mims said she has also been “supportive of the tall buildings that we have built downtown. I think we can do more of that, but we need to be cautious about how many and where those are at.”
Mims moved to Iowa City from her native Vermont in 1977 to attend the University of Iowa, and has lived here ever since.
“I think it’s important that people know how well respected Iowa City is from a national perspective — how many people want to come here,” Mims said. She added that although being a desirable place to live brings with it certain challenges, “In the big scope of things, those are great problems to have.”