I had the chance to meet many of the candidates for Iowa City City Council while I was running for school board and I know many of the members of the current council from working together and discussing issues at length. All the council people I know, I know to be good people, with the best interests of their community at heart. The candidates I have met touch those watermarks as well.
So as an interested participant in our representative democracy I’ve ruminated recently on the phrase, “representative democracy,” as in “of the people, by the people, for the people.” I’ve also been listening to American history audiobooks while I walk the dog lately and that’s got me waxing philosophic about the nature of our grand democratic experiment in its beginnings and how we enact those principles now.
As an advocate for the schools I have been a vocal supporter of equity in our classrooms and in our communities. I have also pointed out frequently that the city government bears much historical responsibility for the divides in our community and needs to stand with the schools and the people of Iowa City to build a city that is in its practice the town we want in principle.
And so as I approach my choice for council I’ve asked myself, “Who most represents a vision for Iowa City that I can support, that represents the largest number of shared goals, and offers the promise of a more representative cross-section of our community ?”
While the candidates all, I’m sure, have the best interests of our community in mind, I’m concerned that three of them will largely view that commitment through a similar lens. I respect these folks and appreciate their willingness to serve their community. But perhaps the time has come for Iowa City’s leadership to become more representative of the vibrant, diverse, forward-thinking community it is.
The next step to making Iowa City the community it desires to be in principle but is not in practice is to elect Rockne Cole, Royceann Porter and Kingsley Botchway II this Tuesday. Each of them, as one part of a whole body, will bring the new perspectives we need to understand our whole community.
In Cole, we have a progressive voice with ideas and energy that will force us to reassess ourselves and our community, to truly see what we have done well, but also how we can better match the expectations of a town that is not only a lovely small community, but also the only UNESCO City of Literature in North America, a town that rallies around the shared experiences of spirited high school football games, but also houses a world-class Big 10 university known for its commitment to the arts and academics.
In Porter we have a vocal leader of a community that has historically had no voice in our town. That voice is desperately needed and it needs to come from within. Our town has changed over the last thirty-plus years. We have become more diverse and our leadership must reflect that diversity.
In Botchway we have a man not afraid to become part of the conversation. I met Kingsley several times as our campaign paths crossed. I heard him stump at Democratic committee meetings, Republican committee meetings, picnics, the farmers market, and much more. I was impressed by his intensity and his willingness to listen to all comers and he is another voice that will help balance our diversity conversation.
I don’t agree with all these candidates on every issue. As I choose candidates in this election I’m not as interested in whether or not I agree with them in lock step as I am in whether or not they will be welcome, productive new voices in the difficult conversations we must have as a community if we’re to live out the values we claim as a representative democracy. In Rockne Cole, Royceann Porter and Kingsley Botchway II we have three candidates who will do just that.