Thursday, May 28, 2015

Jim Throgmorton for City Council

May 28, 2015, 12:16 p.m.

Why City Council Membership Matters

Jim's coordinates:

Treasurer: Dick Dorzweiler, 917 Bluffwood Dr., Iowa City IA 52245-3517


Facebook: Jim Throgmorton for City Council


Why I'm Supporting Jim Throgmorton and Why You Should Vote for Him Anyway

Senators Wayne Morse of Oregon and Lyndon Johnson of Texas seldom agreed. But they had a mutual respect of sorts. In many of Texas' 254 counties support for Johnson from the independent liberal from Oregon was not going to provide much political advantage. So as Morse put it to Johnson, "I'll come to Texas and campaign for or against you, whichever will do you the most good." That's how I feel about Jim.

For those followers of this blog who do not look upon me as universally delightful: because I do not wish to do Jim Throgmorton any harm, I want to make unambiguously clear why my support of him should not dissuade you from voting for him, too. He and I differ on many issues, and we certainly differ as to matters of style. The reasons I am supporting him are reasons every Iowa City resident ought to find persuasive, regardless of party or ideology.

It was in Kazakhstan that the realization came to me that the respect one is accorded is a function of the square of the distance they are from their home base. (Kazakhstan is as far from Iowa City as anywhere on Earth.) Example: Former UI President Dave Skorton was probably the ablest university president in the country. When the Regents ran him off he was immediately picked up by Cornell University -- at three times the salary. He's now been picked from some of the country's ablest to head the Smithsonian Institution. His reputation was enhanced by the square of the distance the east coast is from Des Moines.

As Joni Mitchell put it in "Big Yellow Taxi":
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone
"You don't know what you've got/Till it's gone." Not incidentally, those lyrics have some relevance to what the current majority of Iowa City Council members have been up to these days.

When it comes to public service, I think competence matters.

Not that that's the only qualification. Willingness to work hard, to compromise, belief in the relevance of data, people skills, a capacity for heart-felt empathy for others, giving an extra effort for those least able to represent themselves, those Jesus called "the least of these," a sense of justice and fairness -- all also matter.

Nor does competence only come with advanced degrees. Frankly, I think the Supreme Court did a better job when at least some justices came with experience as former state governors and U.S. senators, than now, with a preponderance of former academically accomplished judges.

But Jim has it all -- the academic credentials and knowledge, the experience of service on the Iowa City Council, a down-home easy manner, and the best of the other qualities that any public interest-oriented official ought to have.

Jim Throgmorton is a real Iowa City treasure as a City Council member, someone we ought to encourage to keep at it as long as he can stand this often-thankless job. He holds a Ph.D. in urban and regional planning from UCLA. He taught the subject for 24 years as a professor at the University of Iowa. He keeps up with the literature and is knowledgeable regarding cities' "best practices." He has had two tours of duty with the Iowa City Council (1993-95; 2011-present) and is otherwise embedded in our community and its culture. In addition to Iowa City and Los Angeles, he is familiar with Chicago, Kansas City, Louisville, and a number of other cities in this country and Germany.

He would be a welcome, substantial addition to any American city's city council -- regardless of size.

Problem is, he's here in Iowa City, where we seldom fully appreciate our own.

Maybe we should send him to Kazakhstan for a short visit and then have those folks tell you about him.

What you do know is that the fellow we feel comfortable calling "Jim," and who himself felt comfortable walking to this Uptown Bill's gathering in shorts, might there be honored and referred to as "the honorable Herr Professor Doctor James Throgmorton" -- making him feel very uncomfortable, wishing he was back with us in Iowa City.

Here is what he had to say to us on May 27, 2015:

Jim Throgmorton Announces Candidacy for Iowa City City Council
Uptown Bill’s, 730 S. Dubuque St., Iowa City
May 27, 2015

Thank you for coming here today. Your support has sustained me over the past 3 and ½ years, and your presence means a great deal to me. Thanks especially to Tom Gilsenan for allowing us to meet here.

Today I’m announcing my candidacy for an at-large position on the City Council, and I ask for your support.

With your help, we can build on what’s already great about Iowa City and lead it toward becoming a Just City, a place that’s good on the ground for all, both now and in the future. [Photo credit: Jim's Facebook page.]

When announcing my candidacy for City Council four years ago I said, “We are lucky to be living in a lovely city, but we will be facing some significant challenges over the coming years. I believe my combination of experience, knowledge, skills and vision can help us respond in a way that enables us to make it an even better place.”

Over the past 3 ½ years I’ve done my best to make sure your City government responds skillfully to the challenges we face. If you watch any Council meeting in person or on Cable Channel 4, you’ll see the work I’ve been doing to make sure that it does.

[The text in this blog essay gives you some sense of Jim Throgmorton the City Council member. For some more personal insight to Jim Throgmorton the person, give this brief 7-minute YouTube video a listen.]

These efforts have contributed to some important improvements, especially with regard to reducing racial disparities and improving racial equity.

But to a great extent we Iowa Citians have also lost our way. We stand at a crossroads, conflicted over which direction we want to go in the coming years.

Two contending visions might guide the way.

One vision might be called “Boomtown.” Those who rely on this vision claim that cities like ours must compete with other cities, both near and far, to attract businesses and a “creative class” of Internet-savvy workers. Guided by a desire to expand the economy and increase the tax base, this Boomtown vision has been invigorating parts of our city in ways that many people like. And those who benefit most directly from this vision claim that all we need to do is stay the course. If it ain’t broke, they say, don’t fix it.

But for far too many Iowa Citians, our city is broken! For them, the Boomtown vision accommodates the interests of a few while ignoring those of the many. It’s rapidly changing the city they love into a place that will soon be unrecognizable. And by dramatically discounting the risks of climate change and the long-term value of biodiversity, it’s undermining our children’s prospects for a healthy future. [Jim delivering this announcement at Uptown Bill's. Poor photo quality provided by Nicholas Johnson.]

The second vision might be called the “Just City.”

Those who share this Just City vision believe that Iowa City should be good on the ground for all, both now and in the future, and that the long-term health of the community depends upon it.

The Just City vision would lead to a city that is substantively democratic, economically healthy, affordable, and resilient.

It would lead to a city in which all residents know in their bones and in their daily experience that City government works for them too.

It would lead to a city that nurtures and rewards creativity of all kinds.

It would be a unique place that residents love and visitors long to visit time and again.

The conflict between these visions has become increasingly acute over the past few years. Rather than keep replaying this conflict, as if we have learned nothing, we should turn the best of the Boomtown wealth, energy and creativity toward building a more Just City.

This turn toward the Just City calls for a City Council that’s willing to change course.

Most important, I believe the City Council should:

• Modify its official practices to be more open and responsive to all of the city’s residents,

• Adopt a much more fair and trustworthy process for using Tax Increment Financing,

• Invest City resources in ways that directly benefit people in the lower half of the income bracket, especially with regard to producing more housing that regular people can afford,

• Make greater progress toward improving racial equity and reducing racial disparities, especially throughout the criminal justice system,

• Invest in older core neighborhoods and strengthen our neighborhood schools,

• Treat the mitigation of climate change as a serious matter. This would include adopting a biodiversity management strategy that sustains all forms of life.

In brief, it is time for Iowa City to alter course. This new course will build on what is already great about our city.

And it will lead us toward becoming a Just City, the kind of place we’ve always claimed it to be.

Thank you. I’d be happy to elaborate on any of these points, and take any questions you might have.

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