City Council candidates aligned on American Rescue Plan funds for excluded workers in forum

All four city council candidates answered questions Tuesday night concerning the American Rescue Plan, racial inequity, and Johnson County’s use of the MRAP. An opinion all four candidates shared was the desire to pay excluded workers with money in the American Rescue Plan.


Gabby Drees

At Large candidates Megan Alter, Jason Glass, Bruce Teague, and District B candidate Shawn Harmsen respond to questions prepared by the Johnson County League of Women Voters at City Hall Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021.

Emily Delgado, News Reporter

All four candidates running for the Iowa City City Council agreed that money from the American Rescue Plan should be allocated to excluded workers. The candidates spoke about their campaigns at a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Johnson on Tuesday night.

The forum was open to the public and was streamed online. In  person, two people were in attendance.

The Fund Excluded Workers Coalition — a coalition of several Iowa City and Johnson County activist groups — had previously held a rally on Sept. 7 and spoke at the City Council meeting during public comment. 

All candidates agreed that Iowa City should be taking care of excluded workers. 

The Fund Excluded Workers Coalition considers excluded workers to be those who received no federal COVID-19 relief money, including undocumented immigrants and previously incarcerated people.

“I think that needs to be a priority. I think we should use some of those funds immediately, in fact it should have been done by now,” at-large candidate Jason Glass said. Glass went on local television to say that the excluded workers should get direct deposits. 

Mayor Bruce Teague, who is seeking reelection, said that although there was a proposal to use money from the American Rescue Plan for infrastructure, the city should focus on giving back to the excluded workers. 

Four candidates are vying for a spot on the City Council in November. Teague is the only candidate currently serving on the council. Glass, Teague and candidate Megan Alter are running for two at-large spots on the council. Shawn Harmsen is the only candidate running for District B. 

“We really want to take care of those who got hit the hardest,” Harmsen said.   

The question of Johnson County’s use of its mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, or MRAP, sparked disagreement between the candidates. 

Glass told a story about a shooting that happened near his daughter and was thankful that the MRAP was near. 

“We absolutely need to have guidelines for how to use that equipment,” Glass said. 

Megan Alter, At-Large Candidate, argued that although she understands that the MRAP is present for protection, it does not appear like protection.

“​​I absolutely think that the police have to be literally physically protected as do residents potentially,” Alter said. 

Alter, a resident of the South District, spoke about how alarming it is for kids and residents of the South District to see the MRAP on their streets. 

Alter also added that there has been conversation that the MRAP could be replaced with a less intimidating vehicle but still be armed. 

“Luckily, there might be some other options out there, vehicles which can provide that armored protection without looking like it’s rolling up to take over and start a firefight with insurgents in the middle of a neighborhood in Iowa City,” Harmsen said. 

Harmsen stated that he believes that police protection and community should be able to coexist. 

The question of how the council is going to address racial inequity was asked and Harmsen answered by saying that the council needs to support groups like the Truth and Reconciliation Commision.

Glass also supports the work of the TRC and added that the council  must listen to other voices in the community, like the Black Voices Project. 

Candidates finished the hour-longforum by addressing topics that weren’t talked about during the evening. 

“I think it’s a disservice that we spend so much time talking about some issues of law enforcement, and that we have not spent enough time talking about how we collaborate and bring people together on solutions for that,” Glass said. 

Glass brought up the gun violence that has happened in Iowa City in the last year and half, which resulted in 22 people being hit with five homicides. He added that he believes the fire department needs to be developed more as its staffing has not increased in 10 years. 

Mayor Teague emphasized the need for providing opportunities for every resident in the city. 

I think that there are opportunities for all of us, but we do have to contribute in some aspects and make sure that we all excel,” Teague said.