Open letter to the Iowa City Council: Do not change the Ped Mall benches

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The design of new benches installed in the Ped Mall has drawn concern that they alienate the homeless. Monday, Jan 7, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Dear Mayor and Iowa City Council members,

I am opposed to making changes to the Ped Mall benches for the following reasons:

1. The city provided an opportunity for citizens’ input, at which time anybody that wanted to attend and see the proposed project could offer suggestions.

2. The city has opposed sleeping in the library, and should enforce this rule on the Ped Mall as well.

3. The artistically painted benches currently have not been removed (as of this writing) and should remain. They do not have the middle bar impeding full use of the bench.

4. Lying on the benches takes up all of the bench, and others aren’t able to use any part of the bench.

5. Lastly, the cost to the city and our residents shouldn’t be absorbed in the project budget, recognizing that all residents of the city, including churches and nonprofit organizations, had the opportunity early on in the process to make the suggestions that are being made now.

I wish you well in your decision. Perhaps in the future, more residents, churches and nonprofit organizations will attend focus groups on other projects and pay close attention, keeping in mind the constituents they serve and represent. Being an advocate for persons with disabilities gives me the opportunity to make certain that the construction of the Ped Mall project is ADA (American With Disabilities Act, 1991) compliant and user-friendly.

Harry Olmstead, Iowa City

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