Payne looks toward future

Michelle Payne is looking to recapture her spot on the city council.

The incumbent MidAmerican Energy official has lived in Iowa City since 2005 and has been involved with various boards and committees, including the Planning and Zoning Commission, since 2006.

Payne said some of her biggest accomplishments in office have been her work on the Riverfront Crossings District and providing affordable housing.

“I think it’s a positive thing for the community and in addition I have helped in working on affordable housing,” she said. “We want to continue to work on getting affordable housing for the elderly, those with disabilities, and working families.”

Payne said she has a long list of goals she wants to pursue if re-elected — including maintaining a financial strength for the city to continue services that residents expect, continuing to address neighborhood stabilization and revitalization, and assuring openness and accessibility to city government.

Payne was not able to vote on the proposed Chauncey Tower project because her position at Mid-American, but she supports its approval.

“I was hesitant of the original proposal, but I think the developer was careful and listened to the community,” she said. “Fifteen stories is pretty tall, but I think it’s a good project for the city and it will be a benefit to the city, the school systems, and the county.”

Payne said the hiring of new University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld is not a bad thing, though she did not follow the whole hiring process.

“I think [the state Board of Regents] hired him for specific reasons,” she said. “I think in any job, you should give people a chance to do their job.”

She noted that the City Council will treat Harreld just like it would treat anybody who got hired for the position.

“We need to work together with what we have and make the best decisions that affect both the university and the city together,” she said.

Iowa City Mayor Matt Hayek, who is not running for re-election, said Payne is arguably the best-prepared councilor he has served with.

“She pays very close attention to the packet materials and community input and she asks probing questions of staff during meetings,” he said.

Hayek also noted Payne take each vote very seriously and is always well informed before making a decision.

“She is driven by a sense of fairness that I admire,” he said. “She comes from a modest background and has worked hard her entire life. She was still putting herself through the University of Iowa when she was elected in 2011. This gives her an important set of life experiences that I think benefits the council.”

John Balmer, a former city councilor and Payne’s campaign manager, said he thinks Payne had good experience even before she was on the council.

“She was working with the community and through zoning issues and I thought that was a plus,” he said. “She has a solid work ethic and has had some significant responsibilities with Mid-American Energy.”

Balmer said Payne is a very well-rounded person.

“She balances a lot of different commandments and does an admirable job of that,” he said. “She’s a very well-prepared person and maintains commitment to her job.”

Payne said she views prosperity as diverse people living in harmony.

“I think prosperity is more than dollar signs,” she said. “It’s health and happiness and being happy with where you live.”

Payne said Iowa City is a great place that gets national recognition but, like most places, there are still issues that need to be addressed and hopes people go out and vote in the upcoming Nov. 3 election.

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