Editorial | Daily Iowan Editorial Board endorses Megan Alter for City Council

Megan Alter will bring decisive leadership and a progressive vision to the Iowa City City Council.

Megan+Alter+poses+for+a+portrait+in+the+Daily+Iowan+conference+room+on+Oct.+7.

Larry Phan

Megan Alter poses for a portrait in the Daily Iowan conference room on Oct. 7.

DI Editorial Board


When voters send in their ballots or go to the booths in city elections this November, they will be choosing from three candidates to fill two open at-large seats for the Iowa City City Council — One of those votes should be for Megan Alter. 

The Daily Iowan’s Editorial Board interviewed all four candidates up for election, including Shawn Harmsen, who is running unopposed in District B.

The other two candidates for the at-large seats — incumbent mayor Bruce Teague and University of Iowa instructor Jason Glass — gave positive ideas, but Alter’s plans for neighborhood development, police reform, and affordable housing set her apart as the best choice. 

The City Council will consider important decisions in the coming months and years: the future of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, progressing a police reform plan, climate action, and much more. Iowa City needs clear, uncompromising progressive leadership to rise to these challenges — in the opinion of the Editorial Board, Alter presented the most promising and insightful vision for this future.

This is Alter’s second time running for the council. She ran before in 2019, but lost to current councilors Janice Weiner and Laura Bergus. 

This time around, Alter is laying out priorities that match the issues the city faces today. She said she wants to find ways to increase access to child care, boost housing affordability — both for longtime residents and for students — and bring development and retail to Iowa City’s South District, which she also calls home. 

That last bit is important. The South District has been a focus of Iowa City policy lately. The council recently gave first approval to a form-based code for the area, which would diversify zoning. It would help the council immensely to have a person at the table that lives and works in that community when those decisions are being made.

The board especially appreciated Alter’s desire to bring retail to Iowa City’s South District, where she explained that the only place in the area to buy new socks for her children is the Hy-Vee on Waterfront Drive.

“That’s inconvenient for me, but for somebody who is working a couple of jobs, or has public transportation as their only means, it becomes not just an inconvenience, but a major time suck to go all the way down the road to Highway One to Walmart, or to take your dollars out of Iowa City and go to Coralville, to the mall,” she said.

Alter’s focus on affordable child care as a central part of her platform was an issue no other candidate brought up during their interviews with the Editorial Board. 

“It is not simply a family issue, or a woman’s issue, but I suspect it has been ignored because of that,” Alter said. “I’m here to say loud and proud that women’s issues are child care is something that every sector of our community. It affects businesses, it affects the education system.” 

Policing

Where Alter most clearly stood out from her peers was on questions of policing and police reform. Alter presented a concrete plan for diverting calls for service away from armed officers, a vital step in addressing inequities and unnecessary violence in policing. She also supports a mental health liaison for 911 calls and would like to see more robust training on best judgement for officers. 

“​​You wouldn’t believe the number of calls that the first responders have to go out to, and it really is a mental health issue,” she said. 

Alter is the only candidate that supported unequivocally ending the Iowa City Police Department’s use of the county’s Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, a hand-me-down from the U.S. military that contributes to a menacing and militarized view of the police in the city. 

Alter is also opposed to replacing the vehicle with a smaller Bearcat, a possible solution proposed by the city council. 

“It looks scary,” Alter said about the vehicle. “It is a militarized vehicle, and then the Bearcat just looks like a smaller version of it. There are other options. I am all in favor of keeping civilians and the police safe, but it doesn’t need to look like they’re coming after the very people they’re trying to help.” 

Affordable Housing

Throughout the interview process, each candidate emphasized the importance of affordable housing. While her plan has its shortcomings, Alter’s vision for housing in Iowa City goes beyond those of her opponents. 

Alter’s experience living in the South District has led her to enthusiastically endorse form-based code and move the city away from traditional and single family zoning. Form-based code operates differently from traditional zoning in that it encourages developers to build structures based on neighborhood aesthetics rather than use. 

Furthermore, Form-based code encourages the building of mixed use property in which multi-family housing is built side-by-side with commercial businesses. As Alter emphasized, this will make the lives of Iowa City residents easier as they will have better access to basic necessities.

Finally, Form-based code provides a synthesis that developers and affordable housing advocates can get behind. Developers are given more flexibility in what and where they can build, freeing them from the over regulation of traditional zoning. As a result, the housing supply increases and price decreases making housing more affordable for residents. 

At the same time, developers are constrained in that they cannot just build luxury apartments with sky high rental rates. Instead, they have to account for the characteristics and desires of a neighborhood, and build property accordingly. Thus, getting the best of both worlds. 

The consensus

Shawn Harmsen, who is unopposed, had a similar platform to Alter’s, and we think he’ll make a great addition to the council. 

Other at-large candidates were promising on some of these and other issues, but we had our reservations about them.

Bruce Teague took similar positions, and he has the most experience, but his proposal to dismantle the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and restart it is an old idea that has already been done, with little success. And in his time on the council he has sometimes been an impediment to more transformative change. Jason Glass has experience on city matters and knows the issues, but his lukewarm positions on issues of meaningful changes to policing are concerning. 

As the city moves into the future, decisive leadership is needed to tackle the problems that we face — Megan Alter will bring that leadership, and she has the Editorial Board’s full endorsement.


Editorials reflect the majority opinion of the DI Editorial Board and not the opinion of the publisher, Student Publications Inc., or the University of Iowa.

Editorial board members are Caleb McCullough, Rylee Wilson, Josie Fischels, Hannah Pinski, Shahab Khan, and Sophie Stover.


 

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