Guest Opinion | Why I’m running for Iowa City City Council

Megan Alter writes why she is running for one of the two at-large seats for Iowa City City Council.

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I believe in the power, resilience, and ingenuity of the Iowa City community. This has always been true, but during these past almost two years, Iowa City residents have faced extraordinary challenges.

We have responded: protesting against racial injustice; painting the Broadway Street Mural; helping each other clear out damage while providing clean water, generators, and refrigerator space after the derecho; sharing information and online menus to keep local retail and restaurants afloat; standing up food drives and supporting non-profit campaigns.

We have shown up.

And we did it while we were socially distanced, worried about our jobs, our health, our loved ones, our bills, and our children. This is the power of the community in Iowa City. We must continue to find ways to harness this power, not just in crisis or pandemic. We must build our future with gratitude for one another and with the determination to make a better normal.

I know the powerful results that community efforts can create based on my own experiences as a co-founder of NESTS (Nurturing Every Students Together Safely). We conceived and stood up micro-hubs for students and families struggling against barriers that COVID-19 revealed and intensified.

From the beginning, our focus was to provide students with technological and educational support. Quickly, we also incorporated food security, stress relief, and child care.

But here’s the thing. It wasn’t nearly enough. We know that NESTS helped some students and families, but the lack of access to fundamental needs is frankly staggering. Why? And why are these fundamental community needs too often thought of as family issues or even simply as women’s issues?

The bleak truth is that COVID-19 revealed economic and racial inequities in our community that extend well past education. Too many people already encounter barriers as part of their daily lives, and they have for far too long.

When I speak of barriers, I mean things like the lack of affordable child care, lack of basic retail located throughout Iowa City, lack of training and paths to professional networks and opportunities, and a lack of affordable housing, let alone choices about where to live in Iowa City.

Too often it falls to women in households to take care of children, to take care of shopping, and to manage family budgets. I want to raise awareness of these issues as municipal ones and to do something about them.

We rely overly much on too few structural supports. When the Iowa City Community School District is not dealing with a pandemic, providing food, child care, physical and emotional safety are also expected services.

School staff, teachers, student family advocates, and facilities workers all have made it their jobs to help kids and families as best they can. It is heroic; it is still not enough. We need to reexamine the solutions we have in place and we must find better ones.

Good change, good trouble, and good opportunities can happen locally if we make them happen. If we harness the passion and focus of the community with the policy and funding capability of the local government, Iowa City will be stronger than ever.

The issues we face are all connected: equity issues are economic issues that are community issues. Let’s take this momentous opportunity to make Iowa City a place where everyone has the opportunity and access to enjoy it. This is why I’m running for City Council: Let’s make a better normal together. I firmly believe we can and that we will.

 

-Megan Alter, Iowa City City Council Candidate

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