Iowa City Ad Hoc Truth and Reconciliation Commission reinstated

With guidance from Iowa City Council, the Ad Hoc Truth and Reconciliation Commission has now been reinstated, with five newly appointed members and looking to hire a new facilitator as well


Kate Heston

Iowa City’s mayor Bruce Teague holds the online Iowa City City Council Meeting, broadcasted live on Youtube, on Tuesday, February 16, 2021. The meeting covered many topics, ranging from transit updates to police budgeting.

Claire Benson, News Reporter

The Iowa City Ad Hoc Truth and Reconciliation Commission was reinstated Thursday night, beginning its first meeting with four new commissioners.

Iowa City City Council appointed the new commissioners over the last two weeks: Sikowis (Christine) Nobiss, Chastity Dillard, Wangui Gathua, and Clifton Johnson. Daphney Daniel was also appointed last week, but she won’t take her spot until commissioner Layana Navarre-Jackson’s resignation takes place on April 23.

In a joint session between the commission and the council, the council provided guidance for the commission going forward, including how it would like to see the commission structure and use public comment to strengthen it. 

Before the commission’s suspension, Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague said public comment sections were lacking structure and created conflicts. 

“One of the challenges that we saw with the past meetings were members of the public, their voice is so important, and they were just jumping in even in the middle of when a chair has closed the public opportunity, and someone just wanted to chime in,” Teague said. 

The council suspended the commission in March after three commissioners resigned following a series of contentious and sometimes disorganized meetings. Commissioners prepared to take a vote of no confidence in former Chair Royceann Porter in early March, but she resigned from that position before the vote was taken. 

Shortly after, Porter, Vice Chair T’Shailynn Harrington, and Anthony Currin resigned from the commission. Raneem Hamad resigned after the council suspended the board.

Councilor Susan Mims said she thinks the commission should be aware of the allotted time allowed for each member of the public who wishes to speak during its meetings. 

“I would encourage you to think carefully about how long your public comment is, and how long the individual comments are allowed to be,” Mims said. “I would suggest in my personal opinion that if somebody really gives some thought to what they want to say, and to be a little more direct and organized in their comments, giving people say maybe three minutes maximum allows you to hear more voices within the same period of time.”

Mims also added that members of the public are able to contact commissioners via email or phone with questions, comments, and concerns among other things. 

“You have a lot of really important and hard work ahead of you,” Mims said. “To maximize the time that you can really have to work uninterrupted is important, while balancing that need for that public input.”

The City Council is also looking to hire a facilitator for the commission, along with considering a co-facilitator that the commission wants to discuss in subcommittee meetings. 

The Commission’s former facilitator, Jesse Case, resigned along with other former commissioners in early March.

Teague said in prior meetings where there was not a facilitator present, there were challenges that ensued, making him believe the commission should hire a facilitator before embarking on any intense, complex subjects.

Chair Commissioner Mohamed Traore said he would like to receive recommendations for facilitator candidates no later than Memorial Weekend. 

Traore said going forward, he would like the commission to serve as a safe space for all community members and encourage communication between commissioners and the community. 

“I would also just like to take this time to just apologize to anyone that may still feel that they were disrespected by this commission in the past,” Traore said. “If anyone does feel that way I would like to personally apologize from the bottom of my heart for that and say that we are still looking to speak to anyone and everyone that would like to work with this commission.”