City Council temporarily suspends Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Following close to three months since the Ad Hoc Truth and Reconciliation Commission began meeting, they will face a temporary suspension until April 15, with the council looking to hire three new commissioners due to the recent resignations.


Kate Heston

Bruce Teague, the mayor of Iowa City, leads the City Council meeting online at 7p.m. on September 1, 2020. Much of the meeting was focused around recent IFR protests and police brutality. Citizens feel the City Council has neglected their wishes.

Claire Benson, News Reporter

In a 5-2 vote, the Iowa City City Council voted to temporarily suspend the city’s Ad Hoc Truth and Reconciliation Commission until April 15.

Councilor Janice Weiner and Mayor Pro-Tem Mazahir Salih were the two council members who voted against this temporary suspension. 

The vote occurred after almost two hours of public comment, with the majority of commenters opposing a suspension of the commission, whether it be temporary or indefinite.

“I’m calling today just to urge the council to just give the new leadership of the TRC a chance to show you what we’re capable of,” Vice Chair of the commission Amel Ali said during public comment. “I’m worried that if you guys decide to make this pause today, you’re going to be letting BIPOC youth and young adults know that you don’t value our voices as it pertains to the future of our community.”

The council is looking to fill the three vacancies on the commission, those being the spots of former Chair Royceann Porter, Vice Chair T’Shailyn Harrington, and Commissioner Tony Currin, all of whom resigned last week.

With an amendment made to the original resolution proposed to suspend the commission, the council moved up the dates as to when they will accept applications for new commissioners as well as appoint new commissioners. 

Applications for these commissioner positions will be due at 5:00 p.m. on March 30, and the council is looking to appoint the new commissioners on April 6.

The commission will convene on April 15 in order to participate in a joint meeting with the council.

Moving forward, the council voiced the need for team building, trust, and effective structural support within the commission to ensure a promising future for the group.

“I believe that we must work towards the goals that we set; that’s our commitment as council,” Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague said. “The TRC is a vehicle to achieve those goals.”

Teague also said that by temporarily suspending the commission, this will allow the council and commission to strategize on how to best transform the commissions’ meeting space into a safe, welcoming environment for BIPOC and marginalized community members. 

Truth and Reconciliation Commission Chair Mohamed Traore voiced his commitment and dedication to the commission and work for racial equity and justice in Iowa City in a prepared statement he read during the public comment portion. 

“If you wish to suspend this commission, go ahead,” Traore said. “Just know this, I will not be suspending my work to pursue better outcomes for all individuals in our community. I believe in that mission far too much to divert my efforts.”

City Councilor Laura Bergus said the tasks assigned to the commission is some of the most difficult work the council has asked of city commissioners.

With only 85 days passing since the commission’s first meeting, Bergus said she thinks the commission has not had adequate time to create an overall trusting environment nor begin substantive work.

Bergus supported the temporary suspension of the commission, taking time to reflect and regroup, something she said is necessary after the unorganized meetings recently held by the commission.

“We need to be able to take a breath,” Bergus said.