Iowa City City Council to restart search for Truth and Reconciliation Commission Facilitator, extend commission end date

The Iowa City City Council concluded it need to allocate more time to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to accomplish its goals. The council recognized the TRC needs a facilitator to be successful on Tuesday.


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

The Iowa City City Council is advising the city’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission to put out another request for proposals for a facilitator to support the work of the commission after rejecting the commission’s first choice of a firm to facilitate in September.

The council also agreed at its Nov. 30 work session that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission should have more time to complete its work. The ad-hoc commission is currently set to end its work in June 2022.

The council approved $200,000 to hire a facilitator for the commission in August and participated in discussions with the commissioners about potential facilitators.

In September, the council voted down the commission’s choice for a facilitator firm, Kearns & West, because of concerns from councilors that the out-out-state company wouldn’t be able to work with the needs of the community.

Many councilors said they were still reluctant to support an out-of-state commissioner at the council’s Nov 30. work session.

Truth and Reconciliation Commissioners were not involved in the discussion at the work session, but members of the commission were present in the audience.

Councilor Susan Mims expressed her disappointment in the council’s swift dismissal of an outside facilitator form.

“Heaven forbid we do an outside facilitator, who even said they were going to spend a fair amount of that money in this community, hiring people to do that work in this community,” Mims said.

Mims was in favor of Kearns & West, the firm the Truth and Reconciliation supported, as it had experience nationally and internationally with reaching social justice goals.

“​​And at the last moment, the majority of this council pulled the plug on the TRC, and I think that is shameful,” Mims said.

Mims said that the council is asking the TRC to look for another facilitator after they have chosen one that they saw fit for their work.

“My concern is the TRC is left with no choice,” Mims said. “But to potentially hire a second rate consultant, somebody who does not really have that kind of national and international experience in helping the TRC…  I think that’s an issue. They need a facilitator and they need a relevant one if we want them to do the best work possible.”

Councilor Mazahir Salih said she believes an outside facilitator will not be beneficial to the community, and expressed that she will remain firm in her decision.

“If they come back to us again. Next month, my vote will be the same, because the concern is not being resolved,” Salih said.

The council agreed that the TRC is important and a sensitive topic to Iowa City.

“When we think about social justice and the city of Iowa City, the intent that the TRC had for our community, it was with great hope that it was created,” Teague said.

Teague said the unification of people of color in the Iowa City community is essential for the facilitator to be successful.

“I understand that as the BIPOC community that we are represented by having a TRC in place. One thing that I’ve been saying consistently is we need to be unified,” Teague said.

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