I have been relatively pleased with this fall’s city council election. The candidates have been focused on the issues, and at least publicly, negativity has been relatively modest. I don’t care if that is how politics is done at the state and federal level, that is not how we roll in Iowa City. Nevertheless, there are two issues that should be addressed: (1) the candidate’s age, and (2) length of time living here. Both are totally irrelevant to whether they are qualified to serve on our council.
One of the most divisive issues relates to length of time living here. Too often, it seems as if, according to some past and present civic leaders, there are two classes (at least two): those that are “real” Iowa City residents, meaning long term, and newcomers. The former, according to this view, are the ones that are supposed to run, and lead. The latter, well, if they wait along enough, and prove their worth, they may be granted permission to go behind the velvet rope and lead, but only if they are tapped to run by one of the insiders. We must REJECT this ‘insiders only’ view.
The reality is that if you move here, and make Iowa City home, you BELONG. I don’t care if you have lived here for seven days, seven years, or 70, you belong, and every right to fully participate in this community. That must include our governing bodies, and running for office.
Long term residents also are incredibly important to our community as well, but no more important than newly arrived residents.One of my favorite quotes comes from the great new urbanist, Andres Duany: “Locals are the experts in the art explaining why anything new is impossible.” Sometimes a newly arrived resident can see our flaws, and assets more clearly than we can. We must not be afraid to value and embrace new residents and dynamic new visions. Many of our friends at Rose Oaks were recent arrivals to our community. Their critique of affordable housing policy directly led to immediately improved policies that we long time residents completely missed. I hope some will run for office, or serve on our boards.
Secondly, I have been incredibly surprised by the out and out aged based prejudice against young adults in their mid-20’s. They cannot possess experience, skill, or vision because they are in their 20’s? Seriously? Are you really saying that? It is not only totally wrong to make such age based generalizations, it bears absolutely no relation to reality, historical experience, or even a remote relationship to the actual candidate.
Consider the contributions to our civilization from teens and 20 somethings:
- civil rights (many of the leaders were in college in and their 20’s);
- peace movement movement in the 60’s (college students were some of the very first US residents to realize how insane that war really was;
- Apple computer;
- the mouse;
- back to land movement;
- organic ag;
- the music (need i say more?);
- more recently, students against sweatshops;
- theory of relativity;
- game theory;
- Napster (I am too old to know what is cool now, its equivalent now)
- multi-family recycling (EcoHawks were a huge factor getting this done for our community);
- Seed Savers;
- NewPi. (forever grateful for those intrepid 20 somethings that started our beloved NewPi nearly 45 years ago);
- Hall right now has more experience than any candidate, and current councilor on climate change policy having worked with and along side the Energy District in Winneshiek County, one of the innovative renewable energy programs in this state! Decorah is way ahead of Iowa City on solar and renewable wind energy. It is true. Visit and see for yourselves;
- anything else you can think of?
In fact, twenty somethings have created so much innovation, it absolutely stunning that we have not elected more twenty somethings to public office.
This may all seem incredibly obvious to you. I agree that skill, value, and visions are important, but I do not believe age by itself tells anything about whether the candidate is qualified, or whether they possess the right “experience” to serve. Some of my local pipeline protest heroes are in their 70’s and 20’s. These groups came together over their values and vision. I don’t admire them because of their age, but because of who they are, and what they stand for.
I am proudly supporting Kingsley Botchway, Mazahir Salih, and Ryan Hall, not because of the number of years they lived here, or the number of times they have traveled around the sun, but because these dynamic leaders will give us hope in these dark times. They all possess the inclusive values, good judgment, positive attitude, and yes, the right experience to lead our community forward towards a more inclusive and prosperous future for all of Iowa City.
Let’s not only vote, but spread the word, and work for these dynamic progressive candidates. We have one week to go!
The above writing is from a Facebook Post on 1 Nov 2017.