As I get deeper into the primary race for Board of Supervisors, I find myself really dialing in the many issues that are important to me. It’s important we provide the voters a real sense of how we are each different from the other. This essay is the first in a series where I will do just that.
Many of my supporters have waged a protracted battle against the encroachment of urban sprawl into our rural and agricultural areas. I’m a strong believer that we have to be better, more responsible stewards of our land. We have to grow responsibly. But my vantage point on that issue is different from that of many others. I see the issue not only as someone concerned with protecting our rural and agricultural areas, but also as a long-time resident of Iowa City’s southeast side. I’m not anti-development per se, but I am anti-irresponsibility and usury development practices.
When my family moved to Iowa City 11 years ago we lived on Brookwood Dr., right behind Mark Twain Elementary School. It was a great starter home for us and I became a passionate supporter of that neighborhood and Twain School. In fact, it was my tenure as PTO president at Twain that sparked my interest in serving the community and since then I have been a staunch advocate for Twain and other schools that share similar challenges over the years. I have run for ICCSD Board twice.
Education remains a huge focus for me and my plan is to remain an advocate for our schools and a partner with the school district from a seat on the Board of Supervisors. I have a high level of institutional knowledge when it comes to the Iowa City Community School District, more than many, if not all, the candidates in this Supervisors contest. I know the school district’s policies and people incredibly well. I know their challenges and many of those challenges exist at the county level as well. One such challenge: the need for inclusionary zoning and affordable housing throughout the area.
A few years ago, my wife and I decided to become foster parents. We are more-than-a-little familiar with the challenges so many children in our community and our state face. We felt we’d need a bigger home than our place on Brookwood Drive, so we moved across the highway to Hollywood Boulevard. Our new home had been recently remodeled and was available at a high asking price, but we decided the home–and the neighborhood–were worthy of our investment. It’s been a great move for us. We brought our son Coleton into our home and the neighborhood has welcomed us and supported us through tough times.
Here’s where we come back to my thoughts on development. My home was a Parade of Homes showcase home in 1968. Think about that for a second. In 1968 our home was a model for the best our builders and developers had to offer. Now think about how a lot people think about my southeast neighborhood. The comments I’ve heard over the years have rarely been kind, to put it lightly. But I love this neighborhood. I love my neighbors. I see potential for rebirth and renewal here. I believe if we focus on what we have, what we’ve already made, and continuously strive to support and improve the lot for all our citizens, we can have a vibrant, diverse, respectful and forward-thinking community so many of us want to have.
As long as we keep building further and further away from our community centers and running this race to the edges, we will never address the bigger problems we face. As long as we leave behind the developments we’ve built and let them decay instead of rejuvenating them with infill development and rehabilitation we will be trapped by our own avarice for the new while forsaking the only recently new. We have to look at these problems generationally, and for the past 50 years we haven’t. That is not a recipe for sustainability. It’s a recipe that serves the few in the short term, offering them financial gain, and will decimate our communities in the long term. Communities are about people. If we don’t serve all the people we will destroy our community.
So yes, I am an opponent of urban sprawl. I’m against developing our rural and agricultural areas into patches of beige boxes in otherwise verdant landscapes. But the reasons I am against sprawl cannot be classified as singular. They are many. In this essay alone, I’ve touched on just a few of the ways irresponsible development can undermine a community–social justice, child welfare, and education are all challenged by these practices.
Until we recognize that development without consideration of the short- and long-term costs to rural areas and the existing housing stock and neighborhoods, we will continue to make the same mistakes our forbears have made. We will pass the challenge of facing these errors to our children. We can do better than that, but we have to elect people at every level of government that will fight the fight. That’s why I ask for your vote in the primary election for Johnson County Board of Supervisors. I’m ready to fight.
There are, of course, other issues I’m championing in this election, too. Check them out below. Coming soon: a few thoughts on how we can actually save money in the county budget to help serve those in our community with the greatest need.